…in Iraq may be coming due. The US and Iraq were glad to go their separate ways back in 2011: the Administration had promised a bugout, and Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki, heading a narrowly sectarian Shiite government, figured without the hated Yankees he could get his ethnic cleanse on. But the Sunnis (including a persistent strain of ex-Ba’athists who honed their insurgency skills at American expense, and a separate strain of al-Qaeda Islamists) and Shiites (the most barbaric of whom form two groups: Iranian-inspired and Iranian-controlled) are neither one strong enough to exterminate the other.
Hognose’s Law of Wars of Identity is this: In a War of Identity, where you’re not fighting for some objective like a border or a beachhead, but because of who the other guy fundamentally is, there are only three possible outcomes:
- One side defeats and exterminates the other. (Have you met a Carthaginian lately? The Punic Wars were Wars of Identity, and this is how they ended).
- One side defeats and assimilates the other. This was the fate of many Native American nations, for example.
- The war reaches an Equilibrium of Violence at a level of conflict that is acceptable to both sides. Examples of this are too many to count.
A war of identity does not end with a negotiated settlement, usually. That is just a period in which the parties agree to set the Equilibrium of Violence bar a little bit lower.
The identity need not be of very long standing, as long as it is believed with heart and soul. “Hutus” and “Tutsis” are largely artificial creations of 19th Century Belgian colonial administrators, for example. That offers hope that Wars of Identity can be resolved then, because they can be stirred up at relatively short notice.
Iraq is the latest battleground in the War of Identity between Shia and Sunni strains of Islamic militancy, a war that’s persisted since the 7th Century, even as both strains occasionally make common cause against kufr (infidels) and practitioners of shirk (polytheism, which to a moslem includes Christians). And the Shia that the US put on top — not deliberately so much as through our blind adherence to Wilsonian 14-points academic ideas of good government — have discovered they can’t stay there without US dollars, equipment, aviation, and special operations forces. In the Washington Post:
[V]iolence began creeping up in the capital and across the country as Sunni Muslim insurgents lashed out at Shiites, angered by a widespread belief that Sunnis have been sidelined by the Shiite-led government, and with no U.S. troops to keep them in check.
You have to love the Washington Post / Associated (with terrorists) Press. “Violence” itself is the actor here, the subject, the malevolent force. You certainly can’t blame the people. Heck, it was probably somebody’s “assault rifle” in his gun safe in Wyoming. Don’t verbs have subjects any more in the land of “layers and layers of editors?”
More than 5,000 Iraqis have been killed in attacks since April, and suicide bombers launched 38 strikes in the last month alone.
Again note the bizarre subjects in that sentence. The passive voice mows down unspecified “Iraqis” in windrows, and suicide bombers apparently train, equip, and motivate — as well as “launch” — themselves. Who’s killing whom is apparently not of interest to the writers and editors of the Post. They’re all just being whacked by He Who Shall Not be Named: “Violence.”
In our world, and we have been students and instructors, and yes, deliverers of violence red in fang and claw, the violence itself is never driving the train. It is applied by human beings, for human ends, and treating all violence as alike and eliding its sources and motivations pretty much guarantees you will never understand the conflict.
Al-Maliki is expected to ask Obama for new assistance to bolster its military and fight al-Qaida. [Iraqi Ambassador to the USA Lukman] Faily said that could include everything from speeding up the delivery of U.S. aircraft, missiles, interceptors and other weapons, to improving national intelligence systems. And when asked, he did not rule out the possibility of asking the U.S. to send military special forces or additional CIA advisers to Iraq to help train and assist counterterror troops.
Well, would you volunteer for that mission? For this government, that has been reluctantly giving up the facts of what happened to the last bunch it sent in harm’s way, in Libya, but that apparently wrote them off at the time, then lied about it, and then compounded the lie by openly expressing contempt for the dead? (As the then-Secretary of State spat, “What difference does it make?” that a few expendable security contractors and low-level functionaries are dead). Sure, sign us riiiiight up. Not.
If the U.S. does not commit to providing the weapons or other aid quickly, “we will go elsewhere,” Faily said. That means Iraq will step up diplomacy with nations like China or Russia that would be more than happy to increase their influence in Baghdad at U.S. expense.
Oh, there’s the stick. The carrot is, what, exactly? They’ll pay us for the guns and planes with their oil wealth. Well, fine and good, but we better not sell them anything we’re not ready to face ourselves, because one day we will.
One recalls the answer to the conundrum of the Vietnam War: Identify the friendlies, and put them on ships out to sea. Then nuke the whole place.
Then sink the ships.
It would apply better to Iraq and even better still to Afghanistan.
Our only national interest in either place is that it does not become a nest of terrorists that threaten our interests, or in Iraq’s case, that threatens the world oil supply. (Although the latter is a much larger problem for the Europeans than for us, and it wouldn’t be a problem for us if the same Administration now puzzled by Iraq wasn’t even more bemused by domestic oil and natural gas production.