Wednesday, October 25, 2006

NYT Op-Ed Writer Makes Sense on Iraq!

Steve Sailer steered me to this great op-ed on just why Iraq seems so intractible to some sort of overarching democratic solution to its myriad inner conflicts. Along with David Brooks, John Tierney is just about the only sensible NYT Op-Ed writer, although like a broken clock, Thomas Friedman occasionally lurches into sane commentary: Here is an excerpt that Sailer quotes from the NYT behind-the-curtain Op-Ed writer:
Rampant individualism is not the problem in Iraq.

The problem is that they have so many social obligations more important to them than national unity. Iraqis bravely went to the polls and waved their purple fingers, but they voted along sectarian lines. Appeals to their religion trumped appeals to the national interest. And as the beleaguered police in Amara saw last week, religion gets trumped by the most important obligation of all: the clan.

The deadly battle in Amara wasn’t between Sunnis and Shiites, but between two Shiite clans that have feuded for generations. After one clan’s militia destroyed police stations and took over half the city, the Iraqi Army did not ride to the rescue. Authorities regained control only after the clan leaders negotiated a truce.

When the U.S. invaded Iraq, American optimists invoked Germany and Japan as models for their democratization project, but Iraq didn’t have the cultural cohesion or national identity of those countries. The shrewdest forecasts I heard came not from foreign policy experts but from anthropologists and sociologists who noted a crucial statistic: nearly half of Iraqis were married to their first or second cousins.

Unlike General Thurman and other Westerners, members of these tightly knit Iraqi clans don’t look on society as a collection of individuals working for the common good of the nation. “In a modern state a citizen’s allegiance is to the state, but theirs is to their clan and their tribe,” Ihsan M. al-Hassan, a sociologist at the University of Baghdad, warned three years ago. “If one person in your clan does something wrong, you favor him anyway, and you expect others to treat their relatives the same way.”

These allegiances explain why Iraqis don’t want to give up their local militias. They know it’s unrealistic to expect protection from a national force of soldiers or police officers from other clans, other regions, other religions. When the Iraqi Army ordered reinforcements to go help Americans keep peace in Baghdad, several Iraqi battalions deserted rather than risk their lives defending strangers.

Instead of trying to transform Iraqis into patriots and build up national security forces, the U.S. should be urging decentralization. The national government should concentrate on defending the borders and equitably distributing oil revenue, ideally by distributing shares of the oil wealth directly to citizens.

Oil is the curse that just keeps on cursing, as Venezuela and Algeria, both retards compared to their petro-starved neighbors Colombia and Morocco, have learned. Nothing keeps a kleptocracy alive or populists raving more than oil---the Saudis and other Gulfies are the exception.

When the Iraqis find a way to divvy up fairly their bonanza proceeds, I personally will rejoice, because it has hardly ever been done before, anywhere, anytime. Ask the Ibos in Nigeria.

No comments :