Liberal Grace

Monday, October 09, 2006

Partition for the historially challenged

I implore the conservatives not to ignorantly stumble into partition like they've done everything else.

In the coming months you'll be hearing more and more about partitioning Iraq.

Peter Galbraith has been the leading proponent of this and the cosnervatives swiftboated him as a "cut and runner" for it.

Rumors are that Bush is going to adopt the partition proposal in the next year. It will certainly become a louder debating point as Iraq continues to spiral into civil-sectarian war, seeming like unplanned partition.

Partitions have always sounded better in theory than in messy reality. I can think of cases where countries were divided up and there has been has been horrific blood letting: Israel out of Palestine; Bosnia out of Yugoslavia; Eritrea out of Ethiopia.

But the granddaddy of them all was Pakistan out of India. I strongly recommend that anyone who is enthusiastic about Iraq's partition, read about India's partition. Not to change your minds but just to understand why America has a moral responsibility to make it go as violence-free as possible.

I suggest Freedom at Midnight for the average person because it reads like a novel. The sections on the violence of partition are vivid and chilling. I've read this book a couple of times.

Probably even better is Liberty or Death - India's Journey to Independence and Division by Patrick French. If you like history written like history (rather than like a novel) this is the better book.

I've had both Indian and Pakistan friends recommend this book which is a good testimony to its balance. In contrast, both my Pakistani and Indian friends dislike "Freedom at Midnight" which, I suppose, is another kind of testimony to its balance.

It seems like partition of Iraq is probably inevitable. The south, oil-rich area will break off into an Iran alliance. The Sunnis will resentfully get their less-rich area. The Kurds will get their slice of the pie, likely drawing Turkey into the fighting. I'm sure the Devil has his plans for Baghdad but I have no idea what will happen to it.

But, just remember, these areas aren't cleanly all Shiite, Sunni and Kurd -- any partition will involve refugee roads, land seizures, soaring unemployment and, yes, the bloodshed of innocents. Let's just hope the Bush administration takes partition seriously and works effectively to keep it minimal. (What are the chances of that?) For starters, I suggest they bone-up on previous partitions.

Never, ever, let any politician convince you that it will be a cake walk.

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