Volume 6, Issue 48: November 29, 2004
It is almost a given in todays political discourse that the way to secure, stabilize and bring freedom to Iraq is through a single political leader and regime that can unite the major regions and conflicting ethnic groups. But, is there a case for decentralizing power instead?
The answer is yes, according to Ivan Eland, director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute, who proposes wholesale political decentralization for Iraq in his new working paper, A Way Out of The Mesopotamian Morass? The Case for a Partitioned Iraq.
Eland -- who has just delivered a talk on U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East at a conference in Jordan -- says that there are two main reasons for the chaotic violence in Iraq. The first is the presence of the U.S. occupation, which incites a guerilla insurgency. The second is conflict among rival ethnic groups -- namely the Sunnis, various Shiite factions, and Kurds. Eland explains that the Sunnis fight because they fear the harsh paybacks when the majority Shiite population likely wins control of the Iraqi central government in future democratic elections. Furthermore, the radical Shiite al Mahdi militia under Moktada al-Sadr fear being marginalized in a post-U.S. Iraq controlled by the more moderate Shia. Meanwhile, [t]he sentiment in Kurdistan for independence is rising -- half the population of northern Iraq has signed a petition in favor of having a referendum on that issue.
Eland argues that any attempt by an outside authority to impose a federation could very well end in civil war. Before Britain created Iraq, the separate provinces had never been united politically, had no feeling of collective nationality, and had three different ethnic groups subdivided by tribal loyalties . And similar to Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia, the only way Iraqs fractious populace has been held together has been by the brute force of arms.
Although at this point, [a]lmost any policy option has drawbacks those alternatives with the best chance of success would withdraw U.S. forces rapidly, accept Iraqs fractious nature, and allow Iraqis to have genuine self-determination that would probably result in some sort of decentralized government.
Eland explores the different options of decentralization, such as a confederation or the partitioning of Iraq into three separate states, and concludes that permitting Iraq to have self-determination -- and a likely decentralized form of governance -- is not a perfect solution, but it is likely the best way out of what has become an ill-advised military adventure. This policy alternative would allow the United States to act more in accordance with its founding principles, to cut its losses in credibility from an unnecessary invasion and a looming long-term quagmire, to remove a huge financial albatross around the necks of taxpayers, and to say it removed a dictator and gave Iraq the best change for future peace and prosperity.
See "A Way Out of the Mesopotamian Morass? The Case for a Partitioned Iraq," by Ivan Eland (Independent Institute Working Paper #55, 10/13/04)
To purchase THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland, see
Center on Peace & Liberty
Ivan Eland's speaking engagements:
-- December 2, 6:35 am (PT). KRSH-FM 95.9 (Santa Rosa, CA). Tune in to Doug Smith's radio show for a chance to win a free copy of THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES by Ivan Eland
-- December 2, 8:40 am (PT). KFTY-TV Channel 50 (Santa Rosa, CA). Ivan Eland will be interviewed live on television.
-- December 2, 7:30 pm (PT). Ivan Eland will speak at the World Affairs Council of Sonoma County. Spring Lake Village Auditorium, 5555 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa, CA. No reservations req'd. For more information, phone Phyllis Kindt, Publicity Chair, at (707) 538-8899.
-- December 5, 7:45 am (PT). KPIX-TV Channel 5 (San Francisco, CA). Ivan Eland will be interviewed live on television.
Does last week's U.S. military victory in Falluja represent a turning point in the Iraq war? It's too early to tell; history is replete with examples of would-be victors winning a battle but losing a war, and Iraq shows a few signs of falling into that category, according Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty.
"Although effective U.S. deception about the direction of the attack on Falluja probably surprised, trapped and killed a significant number of guerrillas, many got away. In this war, the insurgents have shown themselves capable of learning, and they will probably be less prone in the future to slug it out with a more powerful enemy," writes Eland, in his latest op-ed.
"After U.S. forces have devastated Falluja, the idea that paltry and delayed U.S. assistance for reconstruction will win Fallujan 'hearts and minds' is ludicrous.... If the guerillas are not decisively defeated [in Mosul and other insurgent strongholds], they'll win by waiting until the U.S. public is tired of the pointless carnage and demands that U.S. forces withdraw from the Iraqi war zone.
"Unfortunately, Iraq is then likely to descend into chaos and civil war. So despite Bush administration boasting of killing 1,200 guerrillas in Falluja, the future of Iraq looks grim indeed."
See "Failure after Falluja," by Ivan Eland (11/29/04)
Center on Peace & Liberty
To purchase a videotape of "Understanding Americas Terrorist Crisis: What Should Be Done?" (featuring Gore Vidal, with Robert Higgs, Lewis Lapham, Barton Bernstein, and Thomas Gale Moore) see
Speaking of Jordan, author Norma Kouri's international bestseller, HONOR LOST: Love and Death in Modern-Day Jordan, illustrates another modern-day tragedy -- what might be called the presumption of victimhood at the expense of the facts.
Khouri's scathing indictment of "honor killings" of women in the Middle East landed her fame and fortune -- and initially helped expose that despicable practice. But it apparently took so much liberty with the truth that "hoax" is not too strong a word to describe her work of would-be non-fiction, according to Wendy McElroy, research fellow at the Independent Institute and editor of LIBERTY FOR WOMEN: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-first Century.
Revelations of Khouri's falsehoods -- one journalist with the JORDAN TIMES listed 73 errors in HONOR LOST -- have set back the cause Khouri ostensibly meant to help. Amal Sabbagh, Secretary-General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women and a seasoned warrior in the battle against "honor killings," was particularly incensed by Khouri's hoax.
"The irony is heartbreaking," writes McElroy. "Jordan is one of the most 'advanced' Arab nations; it leads the Muslim world in officially and publicly condemning honor killings. But now the world's image of Jordan and its acknowledged problem has no relationship to those realities."
Concludes McElroy: "The sad Khouri saga is not an indictment of honor killings. It is an indictment of how society has so fallen in love with victimhood that it took 18 months and an international effort to debunk a claim that should have immediately collapsed of its own weight. But, then, that would have required asking a question."
See "The Victims of 'Victimhood'" by Wendy McElroy (11/24/04)
To order LIBERTY FOR WOMEN: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-first Century, edited by Wendy McElroy, see