Across the Islamic Small Wars, one may wonder about the validity of the state concept in “states” barely holding it together across inchoate and uncooperative political campuses.
In some places, the answer to “Why can’t y’all just get along?” is “We all just don’t want to get along.”
Let’s take this imagined internal dialogue two steps further:
“We believe that something has been taken away from us, and we can steal it back with vengeance.”
“We believe we can achieve something greater and can force it into existence.”
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Part of what binds the contemporary functioning democracies of “the west” may be the experience of the corruption and tyranny of the feudal systems that preceded them. The collective memory contains the inspired eruption of deeply repressed contempt and hatred for “ruling classes” and with it the smell and taste of blood spilled in ways and in volumes that would today cast al-Nusra in Syria as the pale ghost of a minor devil.
In essence, all those pretty open democracies so peacefully gathered around the Mediterranean have been no strangers to sectarian warfare, mass beheading, industrialized death by every nefarious means available, and settlement, at times, through only the complete destruction of an armed foe.
Those Europeans “all get along” amid battle scarred landscapes and in the presence of cemeteries ranked with men too young for death because well they know how sickening nasty the war business can get, and they no longer want any part of it — and if they must be part of it, it’s going to be as short and violent and decisive an engagement as it may be made.
We may be entering an area, or may be already within one, in which great private interests, no less than in feudal days albeit with greater subtlety, arrange their political environments out of sight of constituted and official governments.
Mafia defined by greed becomes the true underlying or hidden governing model, and the units of analysis: families and clans of note with business interests attending.
The politicians have handlers, payoff masters, as it were.
In the letting of contracts and jobs, it may appear that nepotism trumps merit, and it may be so.
How to tell?
Who are the auditors and where are they?
Where are the journalists who report with integrity?
What is to temper power?
Where is the state leader brave and canny enough to promote an open conversation while carefully reigning in the only the elements intending to destroy core democratic political process?
The New York Times reports that the United States is quietly rushing dozens of Hellfire missiles and low-tech surveillance drones to Iraq “to help government forces combat an explosion of violence by a Qaeda-backed insurgency that is gaining territory in both western Iraq and neighboring Syria.”
This happens in the context of the deaths of more than 8,000 Iraqis in 2013, the highest level of violence since 2008.
The President Who Lost Iraq « Commentary Magazine – 12/26/2013.
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Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq told CNN that he was “shocked” to hear U.S. President Barack Obama greet al-Maliki at the White House on Monday as “the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq.”
Iraq’s leader becoming a new ‘dictator,’ deputy warns – CNN.com – 12/13/2013.
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While Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been catching flak as another Washington-sponsored dictator in the making, one cannot assign to him the year-long uptick in sectarian tit-for-tat violence and terror even if assertions launched against him should prove true. Example:
Leaders of the popular uprisings in 6 Sunni provinces told me that the wave of terror which has claimed the lives of 7,000 people so far this year in Iraq is his responsibility, because he controls the military, the police, the intelligence services and all aspects of security in the country. Iraq is rapidly spiralling down towards a renewed insurgency and Maliki’s only response is to marginalise the Kurds, label the Sunnis as terrorists and turn a blind-eye to the systematic discrimination and violence against other ethnic minority groups.
European MEP in Erbil says “Maliki’s authoritarian policies are tearing the country apart” – CNN iReport – 11/27/2013.
Is the hearsay true?
Prove it — or call it slander.
What would the most balanced leader do if (setting out with a fair neutral force at his disposal) he were confronted with crimes against his constituents — all of them in representation — accompanied by accusation of sectarian preference in the operations of his government promoting attacks that in turn promote revenge?
Would he investigate the crimes as crimes only wrapped in political or religious cover and go on with the business of producing an institutionally open, responsive, and responsible government?
Or would he revert to the loyalty of his own and reconstruct a government built on deep wells of suspicion expressed in the application of tyrannical force against all suspected challengers not of his own affiliation?
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“Regretfully, the Arab revolutions were able to shake the dictatorships but were not able to fill the void in the right way,” Mr. Maliki said. “So a vacuum was created, and al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations were able to exploit it and to gain ground.”
Iraq’s Maliki Blames Rising Extremist Violence on Syria – Washington Wire – WSJ – 10/31/2013.
In the Arab world, deflections of responsibility inevitably produce harm. They are part of lying (by omission: regulars here know the refrain: “to hide something; to get something”) as well as avoiding engagement with the values that in fact weaken the state in such a way as to make it a prize for factional contests through the usual means — intimidation, murder, terror — rather than a central forum for factional arguments in accord with Roberts Rules.
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And the violence shows no sign of letting up. Suspected Sunni Islamist militants on Christmas day set off three bombs in the heavily Christian Dora district of the capital, killing at least 38, including 24 who died at the conclusion of a church service. Western regions of the country were on edge on Sunday after the Shia-dominated government’s security forces arrested a popular Sunni lawmaker and killed his brother and five guards in a raid.
International companies aim to set up shop in Iraq despite violence – FT.com – 12/29/2013.
The bungling, if it was that, doesn’t help in Iraq’s difficult environment — and is it possible to balance that “Shia-dominated . . . security force” with greater Sunni and Christian complements?
Beyond that, so one might urge: get over the sickness in the head that divides others in the world into those worthy of one’s respect and those deserving of contempt, and that to the extent that they may be slaughtered at will: God did not authorize the humans judging to make such judgments.
(Reuters) – Fighting erupted when Iraqi police broke up a Sunni Muslim protest camp in the western Anbar province on Monday, leaving at least 13 people dead, police and medical sources said.
The camp has been an irritant to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shi’ite Muslim-led government since Sunni protesters set it up a year ago to demonstrate against what they see as marginalization of their sect.
Fighting erupts as Iraq police break up Sunni protest camp | Reuters – 12/30/2013.
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Iraq’s security forces have almost entirely abandoned the successful formula of population-focused counter-insurgency developed by the US-led coalition, instead falling back on counter-productive traditional tactics such as mass arrests and collective punishment.
BBC News – Analysis: Iraq’s never-ending security crisis – 10/3/2013.
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The Iraqi government is now making many of the same mistakes the United States made back then: It is alienating the Sunnis and occupying their communities with a heavy-handed, military-led approach that doesn’t differentiate between diehard militants and the mass of peaceable civilians.
Yes, Iraq Is Unraveling – Foreign Policy – Michael Knights – 5/15/2013.
The phrase “weak government” may itself be weak.
If the potential strength of a coalition of the moderate (well representative of population overall and intent on peace) does not display in firm martial ability, it invites fracturing along the more parochial lines associated with private financial, psychological, and religious agenda.
In essence, the state as a political whole may prove too weak to restrain the restive energies inhabiting its body — it literally cannot contain itself — and it then fails as a reliable political element.
Autocratic attempts to contain latent fracturing through repression may work as presently suggested by the Egyptian narrative that has developed between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt’s still nascent, still potential democracy.
However, the same in Iraq, as the screws tighten, may isolate state authority and invite a civil contest so incoherent with mixed factional motivations that the fighting cannot be resolved through compromise and accommodation — nor may it be won as the point of it becomes a continuous and ill-defined struggle beneath the delusion that there is something greater yet to be won when plainly there is not.
Peace is to be won first and foremost.
Without it, nothing else can be done.
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