Sunday, August 27, 2006

Ethnic Relocation in Iraq

“Ethnic relocation” has an unpleasant ring to it because we, as Americans, live in and support a multi-ethnic society. However, the reality of civil war and possible genocide in Iraq may require us to put the niceties aside and consider options to avoid the bloodshed. The current policy is just not working.

This blog has raised the issue of partition in Iraq before as an alternative to the administration’s unchanging policy in the face of a deteriorating situation. Today, in the Los Angeles Times, Michael O’Hanlon explores how this might work. He writes,
There is what might be called a "Plan A-" option — facilitating
voluntary ethnic relocation within Iraq while retaining a confederal governing
structure. We should offer individuals who want to protect themselves and their
families the chance to move to an Iraq territory more hospitable to their
ethnicity and/or religion.

To a substantial extent this is happening already, but the 100,000
or more internally displaced Iraqis have received scant help or protection to
date. With Plan A- as a policy, not an accident, the international community and
Iraqi government could help offer housing and jobs to those wishing to move, as
well as protection en route. Houses left behind would revert to government
ownership, to be offered to individuals of other ethnic groups who wanted them,
in what would largely become a program of swapping. Funds for some new home
construction would be needed as well.

Obviously, this idea would only work if Iraq's government, through a
strong consensus of its Sunni Arabs, Shiites and Kurds, endorsed it. Most
Iraqis, in fact, still say they want an integrated country, but if the civil war
gets much worse, that option may no longer exist. In that case, reluctant Sunnis
could be persuaded if it was made clear that the confederal governing body would
distribute all Iraqi oil revenue equitably on a per capita basis, not by
geography. Former Baathists, up to a certain rank in the party, also should be
quickly "rehabilitated" and allowed to hold jobs and run for office.

For Americans who cherish the notion of multiethnic democracy, actively
facilitating voluntary ethnic segregation would be a tough pill to swallow. Some
might even go so far as to claim it unethical, making a mockery of the moral
purpose we claimed to be furthering when we liberated Iraq from Saddam Hussein's
cruel rule.

But what would truly mock our initial goals would be outright defeat
followed by genocide — perhaps similar to what happened in Bosnia in the early
1990s. There, 200,000 people died; in Iraq, which has five times the population,
the death toll could be much worse.

Although we should generally favor and support multiethnic democracy,
it is not our most important objective — especially not in today's Iraq, where
it may no longer even be achievable. For people trying to cope with the
country's daily perils, staying alive is a higher priority than living in a
diverse neighborhood.

Iraq still has a chance to turn out better, even if our current
strategy fails. If we can encourage future ethnic relocation to occur
voluntarily and peacefully, rather than through murder, rape and intimidation,
we can still salvage an imperfect but real success that ultimately leaves most
Iraqis better off than they were under Hussein. And in contrast to Bosnia, where
land swaps occurred only after the civil war had largely run its course, Iraq
might use such a policy to nip a broader war in the bud.

Radical solutions far different — and far more promising — than "stay
the course" need to be designed now. "Give up hope" is not one of

Read the complete piece here.

1 comment:

LaReinaCobre said...

Why are we involved in the governing of Iraq?