Sunday, June 17, 2007
Think Locally, Act Globally?
I'm not sure what to make of this survey from the recently released Pentagon report on security in Iraq. When asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, "I feel safe and secure in my neighborhood", 77 percent of Iraqis replied that they agreed. On the other hand, only 32 percent agreed with the statement, "I feel safe and secure outside of my neighborhood."
Here's a graphic breakdown of the results, province by province (p. 26):
Unfortunately, the same question wasn't asked in any previous versions of the report, so there's no way to compare the results over time. A similar question that was asked both in this month's report and the one from March, though, was "How would you describe the tensions in your neighborhood today?" vs. "How would you describe the tension in the country today?" The contrast between perceptions of local tension and national tension was just as dramatic, even if both clearly trended towards less tension over the last six months. (The survey, which appeared in March's report, was conducted in January.)
Now if this were a sign of serious progress against sectarian violence, you'd expect not only for the responses to trend positive, but for the gap between local and national perceptions to narrow significantly. And they haven't. Besides, as the number of daily casualties indicates, violence against civilians has remained steady since the surge, even if the Pentagon no longer categorizes it as sectarian.
On the other hand, it could be confirmation that the partitioning of Iraq into ethnically cleansed communities -- within which one feels safe but outside of which one doesn't venture -- is already a fait accompli. And the fact that this has done nothing to reduce sectarian violence seems to undermine the argument, advanced notably by Joe Biden, that dividing the country into ethnically segregated regions will head off civil war.