Two recent editorials in the Washington Post explored alternative roles for the United States in Iraq. Both Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Julia Taft made important points in their desire for a change in U.S. policy.
Lugar rightly claims that forging a united Iraq will be difficult, if not impossible, because deeply rooted divisions exist between the various factions there. Lugar fails to take into account that these divisions are much older than Iraq, and that allowing Iraq to become several separate states could be the answer to our prayers.
Americans come from a largely homogeneous society. Unified by the Judeo-Christian religious tradition and language, they find it difficult to comprehend that Iraq has only existed in its present form since the end of World War I. Comprised of three distinct cultural groups, Iraq could comfortably partition itself into Sunni, Shi'ite, and Kurdish states. Ms. Taft would rightly point out that this would create legions of refugees. Lugar would worry that oil might stop flowing, and that U.S. and Israeli security interests might not be served.
When making policy vis-à-vis foreign states, the United States must remember that its own needs and desires are not paramount. The citizens of a country have the right to choose their form of government and the kind of society they wish to live in. In supporting other countries' attempts to accomplish their goals, we build good will. Business owners place a monetary value on good will, and the United States would be wise to heed their example.
It stands to reason that three smaller Iraqi states would be less of a security threat than a single, unified Iraq. Political factions unable to form a unified front to supply electricity to their own people are unlikely to unite in agression against their neighbors. Furthermore, the Israelis are armed to the teeth and well able to defend themselves.
Fears about disruption of the oil supply are unfounded. As long as there is money to buy oil, oil will flow. OPEC was founded on this principle, and will make sure that oil supplies are stable.
Finally, the United States owes reparations to the people of Iraq for destabilizing their country, and supplying security protection for refugee populations moving from one area to another is an appropriate way to make such reparations.
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