Historians catch up with Jihad Watch. I was recently sent a piece from a blog saying that we were “racists” for never believing that democracy would take hold in Iraq the way it did in Japan and Germany after World War II. This charge ignores, of course, the fact that neither Hugh Fitzgerald nor I have ever argued this on the basis of race, but on the basis of the ineluctable Sunni/Shi’ite hostility, and of the strong attachment to Sharia, which both Sunnis and Shi’ites regard as the law of Allah and hence preferable to any law based on human consensus. “Historians Offer Dismal Iraq Forecast,” by Charles J. Hanley for The Associated Press:
To historians and others pondering Iraq, forecasting a final outcome for that sad land is like finding your way through one of its “shamal” sandstorms. You may not know where you’re headed, but you know it’s going to be dark.
The Middle East historian David Fromkin sees a breakup of the jerry-built nation. Phebe Marr, doyenne of Iraq scholars, sees “distrust and suspicion” too deep to overcome. “Bleak,” concludes Baghdad University’s Saad al-Hadithi.
“At the moment,” said the British historian Niall Ferguson, “a happy ending has a 1-in-100 look about it.”
In interviews with The Associated Press, few experts see much chance that President Bush’s plan to add 21,500 troops to the U.S. force in Baghdad and western Iraq will suppress either the anti-U.S. insurgency or the bloody underground warfare between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, or induce a political settlement among the Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions.
The Senate this week is expected to begin action on a nonbinding resolution repudiating the Bush troop buildup. The measure was introduced by the Democratic-majority but has attracted some Republican support.
Mohamed el-Sayed Said, of Cairo’s al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said he expects the growing U.S. political opposition to the war will lead at some point to a redeployment of American troops to northern Iraq’s Kurdistan and to elsewhere in the Gulf region.
After that, said this Arab scholar, “events will take their own course, which is basically generalized civil war.”