Democracy Arsenal

« Petraeus Doesn't Know if His Strategy Makes America Safer | Main | A Thought on the Peaches and Ryan Show »

September 12, 2007

David Brooks' Partition Figment
Posted by David Shorr

Anyone else get David Brooks-induced whiplash from his 'Road to Partition' column yesterday? Seriously, I don't know if I've ever seen so many switchbacks within the space of 760 words. Early in an article about the grounds for hope, Brooks quotes the harsh sectarian position of moderate Shiite MP Shatha al-Musawi and notes that "When conflicts become struggles for moral capitulation, they take forever to end." All the recent talk about how counterinsurgencies take a decade had me worried, but now apparently it's going to take forever! Yikes!

Brooks' concluding graf seems to read al-Musawi's mind. She's "unwilling to reconcile," yet "doesn't want to die in some cataclysmic civil war." Since there wasn't anything in the direct quote to indicate such a position, exactly what sophisticated journalistic technique is Brooks using here?

"Despite al the debates over the data, violence over all is on the decline." Ooops, better leave that for Ilan. Oh, not only is the Anbar miracle replicable, it's part of a "tribal revolt against extremism" that is apparently already spreading like wildfire. But that's not really what I wanted to talk about. Brooks takes Amb. Crocker to task for his "dubious assertions" regarding Iraqi leaders' emerging openness to power-sharing, and then in the next breath talks about a new effort by "sane sectarians ... to create a segregated yet inhabitable Iraq."

So here is the partition solution again, which is now not merely the obvious answer or natural drift of things, but portrayed as conscious project. Funnily enough, I agree with Brooks that the proper objective at this point is to "ensure that Iraqi sects compete for power in less violent ways." But trying to arrange a partition is a terrible way to achieve that objective. Telling the sects and tribes that now we're going to set boundaries and divvy up authorities only raises the stakes for the power struggle; why does anyone think that would have a calming effect? Anthony Cordesman has it right when he says "Partition is anything but soft." I also want to talk about something else that Brooks mentions, preventing genocide, but that's the subject of another (less snarky) post.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference David Brooks' Partition Figment: