Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Thoughts on Ethnic Tensions

This post by Daniel Larison got me thinking.

I recall there eing some concern about Iraq's ethnic fractiousness prior to the invasion. It may not have been a big concern by a lkot of people, but it worried me.

So any claims that Iraq's ethnic diversity has not contributed to the civil warrish aspects of the current conflict are, in my opinion, rather suspect. Likewise, claims that the ethnic conflict is a non-factor that pro-warriors made up as an excuse for why the war was going badly I find similarly unpersuasive. Finally, any claim that the intra-Iraqi conflict in Iraq is simple two-sided, whether it be terrorists against freedom-loving Iraqis, or patriotic Iraqis against collaborators is, in my opinion, simply an attempt to overdmplify for the sake of the appearance of moral clarity.

Nonetheless, I do not think that Sunnis and Shiites, even in Iraq, are necessarily destined to be at each others' throats and in an eternal struggle against one another.

Rather, the issue simply is that you have three major factions (Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs, and Kurds) and a host of smaller ones, all of whom have different goals and all of whom view their sectarian allegiances as more important than their allegiance to the central government - not just in an abstract moral sense, but in a political sense as well (as a counterexample, most Americans would probably not feel so much loyalty to a church that was actively trying to overthrow the government that they would not report the church to the authorities).

?This makes it difficult to get the people to govern themselves as a single unit. A dictator can impose order, but without some form of strong central authority keeping things together, the different factions get violent with one another simply because they have competing ideas that are incompatible. (And of course in the last twenty years at least there has been a lot of ethnic tension developed because of the political arrangements, with an ethnically Sunni Arab dictator lording it over everyone).

Merging Canada with the U.S., for example, would cause a lot of conflict due to very different ideas of government between the two nations. It's not that we are in conflict with one another; it's that our goals as nations are different. For the most obvious examples, look at gun control and state-provided health care.

So in my minds ethnic strife was inevitable the minute a power vacuum in Iraq occurred, whetehr or not the ethnicities had a long history of conflict.

That is all.

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