Sunday, December 23, 2007
The Global Awakening
Kevin Drum already took care of what the Maliki government's promise to disband armed Sunni groups once they've calmed "restive areas" means for our efforts at establishing a stable Iraqi state. So I'll limit my observations to the fact that defining "Awakened" as "pointing the weapons you bought with our money at somebody other than us" is obviously incompatible with the notion of a central government with a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Our enthusiasm for it as a method reveals not only the legal fiction that is the current Iraqi central government, but also our acceptance that arriving at a more legitimate replacement will almost certainly require the outbreak of a full-scale Iraqi Civil War.
On a broader level, though, the Anbar Awakening model needs to be understood as part of an emerging temptation in American foreign policy circles to accept the fragmentation of multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian states to their lowest common denominator. An outright Iraqi Civil War will almost certainly result in the partition of Iraq into three separate states, even if the degree to which they'll be federated remains to be seen. That's the direction the Anbar Awakening model leads to, and that's how it needs to be understood when it's proposed for defusing the insurgencies in Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan.
The problem in Iraq is similar to that of Kosovo, namely that there are other regional powers that have interests diametrically opposed to ours. Just as Russia has its reasons to oppose the Western-backed unilateral declaration of independence in Kosovo, so do Turkey and Iran have vested interests in preventing the emergence of a Kurdish region that increasingly resembles an independent nation-state. The same can be said for Pakistan and Iran vis a vis Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal areas.
America's fatigue with nation-building is understandable. But if accepting the atomization of failed states simply displaces the instability of local conflicts to the regional rivalries between global power, we run the risk of trading shortterm tactical convenience for longterm strategic advantage.