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IRAQ: The Downside of Mercy (08/22/2005 entry)

In a Strategy Page post on why the Sunni insurgency has been and continues to be so strong:

The fighting in World War II was brutal, with much of the pain being inflicted on civilians. Germany lost over five million dead, Japan over three million. The bombing and ground fighting destroyed the homes of civilians, 255,000 in Germany and 2.2 million (because of their more flammable construction) in Japan. At the end of World War II, the civilians, who supported the dictatorships, had been hammered. They were beaten, and willing to accept new arrangements.

Such was not the case in Iraq in 2003. Smart bombs and a short war kept the civilian casualties low. The Sunni Arabs did not appreciate their good fortune, and, instead, saw an opportunity to continue fighting, to terrorize their conquerors and regain power.

Doubtlessly, if more had been killed during the invasion, there would be fewer to fight today. But I’m not sure that this really holds water.

More likely, though is this later in the article:

No one will say it out loud, but the implied threat is that, either the Sunni Arabs turn against al Qaeda and the anti-government terrorists, or have the Kurds and Shia Arabs (80 percent of the population) go to war with the entire Sunni Arab community. This becomes more a possibility as the Iraqi army and police forces grow larger. The Sunni Arabs dominated the military and security forces for decades, but the Kurds and Shia Arabs are rapidly catching up. The United States does not want this civil war to happen, but has to deal with the fact that it already has. The terrorism of the last two years has targeted Kurds, Shia Arabs and government supporters in general. The Iraqi majority have not restrained themselves, but they have not had the military and police forces capable to striking back. Now they do, and the violence against Sunni Arabs has been increasing.

I’ve pointed out previously that the much-feared civil war in Iraq has been going on for years already. And that worse things could happen. Still, that’s not what we’re after and major open warfare (as opposed to today’s tribal clashes) would be a Bad Thing, especially for American troops caught in the middle.

Comments

  1. I’m not so sure preventing ‘civil war’ in Iraq should be a goal of our government. The history of any nation will include revolution, civil war, the rise of the state, and other growing pains. This makes standing in the way of Iraq’s necessary civil reckonings futile, and somewhat arrogant. After all, imagine how you’d feel if, living at the time of our civil war, any extraneous body, or some flaccid European functionary, had criticised our nation’s military resolution of it’s seemingly insoluble differences. -Steve

  2. You are comparing apples with oranges. WWII was total war where the civilian population of Germany and Japan suppported the governments. As such cities were considered legimate targets. In Iraq only a small percent of civilians supported the regime and the US did not target civilian cities. Now an invasion of Iran would be a different story. Even though its popoulation does not like the current government, they would rally around, if they were attacked, especially if it was the great Satan.

  3. Steve: Yes, I’m also not certain that preventing a civil war should be our goal. But stability is important, too, so we better do everything we can to address the ‘seemingly’ insoluble differences. torcik: *I’m* not comparing them, the writer at Strategy Page is. I, in fact, am more than a bit skeptical of the claims in the first part of the story.

  4. Frankly, the best thing for Iraq may be for the Shi’ites and the Kurds to tell the Sunnis, ‘Either Join up with the new government and sign on with the constitution, or we’ll simply tell the Americans to do whatever they feel the need to do in your areas.’ Then, when the Sunnis make their decision, the Iraq government, its military and our armed forces can act accordingly. Remember, the only times in recent history(last 1000 years) during which this region has ever really been quiet and peaceful were when the Mongols conquered it and when the Ottoman Turks controlled the area.