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Location: People's Republic of Madison, Wisconsin

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Iraqi Civil War: Making it work for you

It now seems inevitable that we will shortly withdraw from Iraq. When we do, the country will collapse into civil war. (You think that it's a civil war now? Ha! You ain't seen nothin' yet.) The question now is how we can minimize the damage and maximize the benefit from that event.

The most obvious fact is this war involves Sunni vs. Shiite. (There's also an ethnic dimension, but I have no suggestions there.) Both Islamic traditions are producing hoards of radicals bent on conquering the infidel. But in Iraq, these radicals mostly want to kill each other. We should help them do it. That way Iraq can continue to be the dumping ground (it was never actually the breeding ground) for terrorists. If we don't, then Afghanistan will become the new dumping ground.

The main concern here is that one group or the other might win before they succeed in blowing each other to bits. Then we would have either the new Taliban or Iran West. So we need to figure out who is more likely to win, and impede them. The Arab Sunnis have traditionally run Iraq, and are more experienced in such things, but there are two or three times as many Shiites, and they have Iran's backing. My money would be on the Shiites. One way to offset this strength would be to encourage the Saudis to back the Sunnis (the Saudis are probably horrified by the thought of a Shiite-run Iraq, especially a militant Shiite theocracy allied to Iran.) With any luck, we might even induce the two biggest state sponsors of radical Islam to go to war against each other.

Ok, there a couple of downsides to this. I would feel sorry for the few percent of Iraqis who actually wanted to build a free secular society. But after we leave, they're screwed anyway. The Kurdish region has been the most successful in Iraq, and might even be worth saving. We could still deploy some troops there to protect them, and have bases from which we could attack Iran as necessary. The biggest risk is that a war between Iran and Saudi Arabia would definitely send oil over $100/barrel. That would be unpleasant, but it's better to face the problem now than to go through it in a few years, when half a dozen Islamic countries have nuclear weapons.

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