Wednesday, November 12, 2003

But Partition worked so well for India and Ireland

Signs of panic everywhere about Iraq: Bremer hops on a plane with zero notice to attend a meeting at the White House, and now the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (VRC) sounds worried, as evidenced in one of its most reliable barometers, the Wall Street Journal online editorial page, OpinionJournal. First, they display one of their usual symptoms of stress -- devoting a huge amount of text to a side issue, all the better to avoid thinking about why the main VRC agenda has gone so pear-shaped. In this case, it's an extended discourse on how Tom Daschle's filibuster will be a disaster for the Democrats, a thesis that seems predicated on the assumption that all Americans will sit through the 30 hours of speeches on C-Span.

But the real crisis quickly bubbles to the surface. In a brief commentary on today's soft-target attack on the Italian police post in Nassiriya, they state:

Attacks such as this one are unusual outside Baghdad and the rest of the "Sunni triangle." If it turns out that the attackers came to Nasariyah from the triangle, it may be wise for the coalition to restrict access to the relatively peaceful north and south

This seems unusually specific and prescriptive, and yet monumental in what it proposes for Iraq -- and remember that seeming crackpot ideas on the outer rings of the VRC have a way of working themselves into serious policy advice very quickly. Because they are proposing the partition of Iraq. In the build-up to the war, the sales pitch from the White House was always that there was no hidden agenda to break up Iraq. They had to say that, because invading a country to break it up is not the kind of thing one normally admits to. But to the extent that they read up at all on Iraq's history -- or listened to Bernard Lewis -- it's impossible to believe that a look at the old Ottoman map of Iraq didn't look interesting to them. The Turks never thought of Iraq as a country, and ran it as the three provinces of Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra. The map is at the bottom of this BBC page. Our guess is that it's one of those old maps that's about to come back into fashion.

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