“The Central Truth,” by Thomas Friedman, New York Times, 8 September 2006, http://select.nytimes.com/2006/09/08/opinion/08friedman.html (full text at Boca Guy, donkey o.d., Free Democracy, and Peking Duck).
The short history of the Iraq war is that the Sunnis in Iraq, and in the nearby Arab states, refused to accept one man, one vote, because it meant bringing the Shiite majority to power in Iraq for the first time. The Sunni mainstream, not the minority, believes Shiites are lesser Muslims and must never be allowed to rule Sunnis. Early in the Iraq war a prominent Sunni Arab leader said to me privately, ‘Thomas, these Shiites, they are not real Muslims.’
For two years, the Shiite center in Iraq put up with the barbaric Sunni violence directed against its mosques and markets – violence the U.S. couldn’t stop because it didn’t have enough troops, and because the Sunni center inside and outside Iraq tacitly supported it.
Friedman makes to claims that are almost right
The Iraqi Sunni Arabs oppose democracy. This is a central realization that the Bush Administration has denied. The Sunni Arabs demand a centralized Iraq, because they hope for a return of their 15% minority government over the whole State. The Sunni Arabs reject democracy by supporting anti-democratic forces such as al Qaeda in Iraq and the Baath Party. However, he is wrong that this means Sunni Arabs in neighboring states oppose democracy, too. The Muslim Brothers, for instance, supported the Iraqi elections because they want to build momentum for elections in Egypt and Syria.
The Multinational Force in Iraq has not protected the Shia majority. Or rather, MFI has attempted to appease the Sunni Arabs by subverting democracy. The Bush Administration has calculated that, by stabbing Iraqi democrats in the back, we can stop Iraqi Sunni Arab terrorists from attacking civilians, policemen, infrastructure, and soldiers. Friedman is wrong that we “couldn’t” stop this — we often came close, such as putting the Fallujis in protective custody. We could achieve military victory. However, Bush does not have the spine to win.
Unfortunately, Friedman’s anti-dementia medicine wrote off while he was writing the last paragraph
Just staying the course will not contain it. But before we throw up our hands on Iraq, why not make one more big push to produce a more stable accord between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds over how to share power and oil revenues and demobilize militias. We still don’t have such an understanding at the center of Iraqi politics. It may not be possible, but without it, neither is a self-sustaining, unified Iraqi democracy.
Translation: Why not try to appease one more time, but this time, in a BIG way.
Neville Chamberlain, the Great Appeaser, originally chose Lord Halifax as the next Prime Minister of Britain. Halifax’s plan would have been to continue the policy of appeasement against Germany, accepting German domination of Europe in the wake of her invasion of Poland. Fortunately for history Halifax knew he was spineless and demurred, allowing Winston Churchill to lead the United Kingdom. Halifax knew his own policy would be disastrous.
Let’s hope Bush comes to the same realization, and leaves Iraq now. Let’s hope Friedman comes to the realization or, at least, lays off the crazy pills.
Update: Barnett sound like he agrees.