The Partition Possibility

One measure of how

the situation has gotten in Iraq: the foreign
policy establishment is beginning to mention the P-word:


Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus
of the Council on Foreign Relations, has even argued in
the Nov. 25, 2003 New York Times that

"President Bush`s new strategy of transferring power
quickly to Iraqis, and his critics` alternatives, share
a fundamental flaw: all commit the United States to a
unified Iraq, artificially and fatefully made whole from
three distinct ethnic and sectarian communities. That
has been possible in the past only by the application of
overwhelming and brutal force… The only viable strategy,
then, may be to correct the historical defect and move
in stages toward a three-state solution: Kurds in the
north, Sunnis in the center and Shi`ites in the south."

[The Three-State Solution, Leslie H. Gelb, NYT,
November 25, 2003. If you can`t access the article
in New York, here it is in


Both partition and the nation-state
are viscerally unpopular with global New Class
mandarins, from the late

Pierre Trudeau
on the left to Bob (“I
think the nation-state is finished
“) Bartley on
the (very)
center-right. There seem to be two reasons: a deep
ideological revulsion from the fact of human
differences—from the fact that people are not plastic;
and a preference for complicated government structures
that produce more jobs for intellectuals in the
"managing diversity"

When the setting is favorable for
partition, such as in

, the bien-pensants uniformly favor
multi-ethnic polities. They only turn to the
nation-state as a last resort—in other words, when
conditions are so desperate that partition probably
won`t work very well either.

Even when the great and the good
are fighting for de facto secession, as in the

War, they cloak their actions in paeans to
multicultural unity. The result of our interventions in

was the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from
Croatia, the effective partition of Bosnia, and a
combination of the two in Kosovo. Yet,

Bill Clinton
still declared with a straight face,
[T]he principle we and our allies have been
fighting for in the Balkans is the principle of
multiethnic, tolerant, inclusive democracy."

Baloney. Peace and democracy didn`t
come to the Balkans until the various states and
statelets became monoethnic, intolerant, and uninclusive.
But, shhhh, you`re not supposed to mention that.

There are about 200 independent
countries today, up by almost an order of magnitude
over the early 20th Century. So clearly there has been
great demand across the human race for more localized

For example, just 100 years ago,
there were only two Scandinavian states instead of the
five that exist today.

broke off from Sweden in 1905,

escaped the Russian empire in the nick of
time in 1917, and, after a long apprenticeship,

won formal independence from Denmark in

Decolonization was relatively
popular with international elites. But they`ve
repeatedly sniffed at the idea of further restructuring
the successor states to allow more ethnic
self-expression. Yet there are examples, such as the
1965 split between

Overseas Chinese-dominated
Singapore and indigenous

Malaysia. Free of each other, they
have separately evolved into the two most successful
equatorial countries.

Secession promotes honest
government because it makes a people dependent upon
their own resources. For example, Slovakia`s
quasi-communists seceded—more accurately, were
evicted—from the wealthier Czech Republic in 1993. After
awhile, the Slovaks noticed that they didn`t have the
Czechs to sponge off of anymore. So they kicked the old
Bolshies out and instituted free market reforms that

Steve Forbes

In contrast,

was once far more prosperous than
Iceland. But the two North Atlantic island countries
have moved in opposite directions since the 1940s.
Iceland became independent. Newfoundland

joined Canada in 1949. The hardy work ethic of
the Maritimes was quickly corrupted by the largesse of
the mainland Canadian taxpayers. The Alberta
journalistic prodigy

Colby Cosh


seasonal economies have been built up around
Unemployment Insurance eligibility, notably in the
Maritime Provinces. Plants and service industries throw
open the gates for a few weeks a year, just long enough
to get a town full of adults eligible–and then work
slows down mysteriously, tragically, as everyone goes
home to await their


Iceland built its own

welfare state
too. But the Icelanders themselves pay
for it, so it has been self-limiting.

The West`s experts on Africa have
been strongly resistant to the redrawing of the

old colonial boundaries
, even in an egregious case
such as

, where two million have died in the 20-year
long civil war. The brown-skinned, Arab-speaking,
Muslims from the north and the black-skinned, local
language-speaking Christians and pagans from the south
have been fighting for

most of the 47 years

, partly because the



make them slaves.

The simple solution would be to let
the Southerners vote on whether to

. This issue will be on the table when

peace talks
reopen in Kenya this week—but there is
essentially zero pressure from the West for this
rational step.

In contrast, Sudan`s neighbor
Eritrea has turned into perhaps Africa`s leading success
story precisely because of its fervent nationalism. This
was nurtured during a long war of secession against its
Ethiopian overlord, culminating in legal independence
only in 1993.

Robert D. Kaplan
wrote in the

April 2003 Atlantic Monthly:

the West promotes democracy, market liberalization,
military demobilization, and the muting of ethnic
hatreds as necessary to domestic tranquility, Eritrea,
at least for the moment, provides a rejoinder to all
that. The country has achieved a degree of non-coercive
social discipline and efficiency enviable in the
developing world and particularly in Africa—and it has
done so by ignoring the West`s advice on democracy and
development, by cultivating a sometimes obsessive and
narcissistic dislike of its neighbors, and by not
demobilizing its vast army, built up during a
thirty-year conflict with Ethiopia, unless there are
jobs waiting for the troops."

Kaplan notes that capitalism also
works better in Eritrea. Unlike most of Africa, you get
a receipt with every purchase because store clerks don`t
want to rip off their employers who are, after all,
their fellow Eritreans.

Gary Brecher
, the

War Nerd
blogger, commented:

is like Prussia: a tiny state of hard people who`ll take
on anybody. The Eritreans rebuilt an entire railroad
with their bare hands. Imagine what that must`ve looked
like: hundreds of thousands of ordinary people, whole
families, digging rock and hammering track for no pay,
out there in some of the hottest, driest, nastiest
landscape in the world. And it wasn`t because the
authorities terrorized them into it: it was for the good
of the nation."

Of course, there`s no doubt that
Iraq presents a particularly difficult case for
partition (or anything else). Part of the Fertile
Crescent, the original home of agriculture and towns,
is on the road to Asia, Europe, and Africa, and thus
consists of layers upon layers of ethnicities.

As Gelb says, Iraq basically has
three ethnic groups: the Shi`ite Arabs, Sunni Arabs, and
Kurds. But there are numerous other groups, notably the
Turkomen, who are related to local powerhouse Turkey.
The boundaries between these groups are often indistinct
and the populations dappled across the map. Finally,
each ethnic group is highly subdividable into all sorts

tribes, clans, sects, and extended families.
For example, some of the Kurds are not Muslims, but are

who believe in reincarnation, never wear the
color blue, and worship Lucifer.

The other major problem is Iraq`s
abundant oil. Who gets it?

Partition goes most smoothly, as in
Iceland, when the departing people take little with them
besides their diligence. At the other extreme is the

, site of a horrific war that has killed over
two million over the ownership of the country`s
minerals. The people of the Congo produce so little
taxable wealth that the politicians hardly care whether
they live or die. All that matters to the warlords is
who gets to collect the checks from foreign mining

In Iraq, the situation isn`t much
more promising. Some of the oilfields are in the Shi`ite
south, some are in the north, on the border of the Kurds
and Sunnis, and there is a potential for new strikes in
the largely uninhabited

western desert
. All this means that war over oil
ownership seems possible at some point.

But this war will happen with or
without partition.

The great fear implicit in partition is always: Where
does it all stop? With Iraq, we simply don`t know how
far dissolution would go, whether outsiders would be
tempted to intervene (notably Turkey, concerned about
the precedent for its own Kurds) or what new order would emerge from the process.

But does anyone have any better

[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and

movie critic

The American Conservative
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