“There’s been a certain amount of pop sociology in America … that the Shia can’t get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There’s almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq’s always been very secular.”
William Kristol on PBS – April 2003
David Atkins posting at The Political Animal does a really good job of explaining how Iraq got where it is today. And yes, it is the Neocons fault – the same Neocons who are urging that we go marching into Iraq again. The entire post is worth a read but I’ll give you a few teasers.
The less sophisticated neoconservative responses are to simply deny the truth or the importance of these losses, or to somehow blame them on political opponents who either actively opposed the invasion or were dragged into tepid support of it under threat of jingoistic political attacks in a country rabid for revenge against “the perpetrators.”
The more intellectual neoconservative answer has been to minimize the immediate losses while focusing on the ultimate legacy of the invasion from a bird’s eye view. They argue that removing Saddam Hussein from power will have been the right decision in the long run, that a free and democratic Iraq will ultimately be an ally of the West and an invaluable geopolitical prize, serving as a bulwark against extremism. It’s a dispassionate dodge, but one that has always been hard to fully discredit because of the very “we’ll have to wait and see” nature of the argument.
But over a decade after the invasion and with Iraq seemingly entering a disastrous sectarian civil war, it seems abundantly clear that whatever the long-term effects of the invasion may be, the near to mid-term result has been to empower Shi’ite theocrats in Iran, and to radicalize Sunni factions in Iraq. As of this writing, Sunni extremist groups expressly intent on establishing a global caliphate are threatening to overrun Baghdad. The corrupt Shi’ite government of Nouri Al-Maliki is counting on and receiving support from the Ayatollahs in Iran.
Those who advanced the invasion and occupation had zero knowledge of it’s culture and managed the occupation in the most incompetent manner possible.
The radical Sunni threat from ISIS and its allies is even more dangerous, and was precipitated directly by the invasion. Whatever Saddam Hussein’s crimes may have been (and they were many), his regime was not ardently theocratic. Indeed, under Hussein Sunnis in Iraq avoided much of the radicalization that befell fellow sectarians in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and elsewhere. With Saddam gone and a corrupt and unresponsive Shi’ite regime in his place, Iraq has suddenly become a ground zero for Sunni extremism.
In an attempt to salvage the situation in Iraq the United States is going to be forced cooperate with the very nation the Neocons see as the greatest threat, Iran. How ironic!