Before it slipped my mind completely I wanted to bring a very interesting post from Missing Links to your attention.  In the post the blogger, Badger, comments on a televised discussion on Al-Jazeera.

The part that I found particularly interesting was this:

It is worth considering the nature of this debate, alongside the comparable “debate” in America, on whether the Iraqi situation is “civil war, yes or no”. The trick here is that if you can pin the “civil war” label on Iraq (meaning essentially “sectarian conflict”), then in Dhari’s terms, this would be seen as no longer a political struggle at all, but a religious war. America would supposedly become a non-combattant, supposedly turning into a humanitarian assistant and peacekeeper. And America’s continued involvement would thus be justified.

There’s a cruel irony here.

For many Americans proclaiming the situation in Iraq a “civil war” is synonymous with an obligation to withdraw from Iraq.  If Missing Link’s analysis is correct, for at least some in the Middle East if the situation is a civil war, then we’re obligated to stay.

5 comments… add one
  • I’ve never quite understood why a declaration of civil war implied a necessity for withdrawal. There are good reasons for leaving, but “civil war” isn’t automatically “game over.” We could theoretically back one side and pick the winner. The question is how you’d pick the lesser of these two evils.

  • Funny you should mention that, MT. I alluded to that possibility in my post from a couple of days ago on negotiating with Iran and I’ve been working out the details of a post laying out the alternatives for that in my mind for the last week or so.

    The line of reasoning on civil war = withdrawal generally goes something like this.  We can’t put our soldiers in the middle of a civil war taking fire from all sides.  My view has been that we can if the alternatives are worse.

  • What I’m having trouble with — and I imagine you are as well — is figuring out where our best interests would lie. Assuming always that we protect Kurdish independence, we could back the most likely winners, the Shiites, but only if we believe that it would split them from Iran and leave them as a Shiite counterweight to Shiite Iran. And only if it wouldn’t irreperably damage our relations with Saudi Arabia. That all seems like a pretty high wall to climb.

    The other play is to back the Sunnis. Keeps us tight with Saudi and Jordan, (and just maybe peels Syria away from Iran) creates a counterweight to Iran, but means we’re backing terror-supporters and Baathists. If that’s the play we’d have to wonder why we don’t just release Saddam from jail and roll the clock back to 1980. And all that is setting aside the bloodbath that would be required for Sunnis to regain enough of Iraq from the Shiites to be a viable state.

    A third way would be to be very old-school British about it, play the sides against each other by backing whoever cuts us the best deal.

    I can see playing pick-the-winner in a civil war as a theoretical proposition, but as a practical (and moral) question I can’t see how to square that circle. I’d like to read your thinking on it.

  • Ken Hoop Link

    reading Takhallus’ imperialistic hubris in his manipulative comments makes me respect Pat Buchanan and the out-nowers of right and left all the more.

  • Ken:

    Actually, I do call for us to leave now. I think the war’s lost. But I’m discussing the issue in the abstract, as an intellectual puzzle.

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