"A civil war is a war in which parties within the same culture, society or nationality fight against each other for the control of political power."Pundita,
"Ethnic cleansing is a well-defined policy of a particular group of persons to systematically eliminate another group from a given territory on the basis of religious, ethnic or national origin. Such a policy involves violence and is very often connected with military operations. It is to be achieved by all possible means, from discrimination to extermination, and entails violations of human rights and international humanitarian law."(1)
I'm writing in response to your essay on a US civilian reconstruction corps to stabilize US post-conflict military action in other countries. I think your criticism of the corps overlooks the most important problem with the corps idea: The corps would place foreign solutions and workers on a country instead of using the locals.
The worst problems the US encountered in post-invasion Iraq were created by US actions to limit the involvement of Iraqis. Recall the CPA directive about de-Baathification and the decision not to restart Iraqi state-run factories that were shut down due to the invasion and subsequent looting.
Have you seen Fareed Zakaria's most recent article for Newsweek? He argues that the most effective "surge" would be re-employing Iraqis and restarting the state-run factories. I think he has a strong point:
Paul Brinkley, a talented deputy under secretary of Defense, is trying to get the bulk of these state-owned factories up and running. He's already restarted a bus factory in Iskandariyah, south of Baghdad, and the experience has been telling. Hundreds of workers still in the area showed up for work and the machines are now humming busily. There have been no attacks on the factory.The problem is getting the funds to restart the factories. Here is an amazing fact: "Washington has pledged $18 billion for reconstruction in Iraq but refuses to spend a penny to start up Iraq's state-owned enterprises."
"The insurgents attack people working for the police, Army or the Americans. They do not want to alienate locals trying to make ends meet," said one official working on the project.
Of the original 193 state enterprises, 143 could be restarted soon, says Brinkley. Management and workers are desperate to get jobs.
Meanwhile, Iraq's government is in such disarray that it can't move new projects through the system.
According to Zakaria, the total bill for restarting all the factories, which would employ 150,000 Iraqis, would be $100 million -- which is as much money as the US military spends in Iraq in 12 hours!
So if you want a strong argument against the corps, I'd say the outlay considered for the corps is best allocated to restarting factories and other solutions that involve Iraqis.
Jan in Reston"
I read the article you sent. Mr Zakaria is looking at the situation in Iraq as a manifestation of civil war and asking how the US can best remain neutral in the war while tamping down the violence. His recommendations flow from that interpretation of the situation.
I don't think civil war is the best description of the violence we've seen since the new government was formed in Iraq. I think the violence more closely follows the definition of ethnic cleansing. Entire Sunni neighborhoods have been displaced by Shia militias. In his public comments about the cleansing, Iraq's president strikes me as blowing smoke -- in the way Sri Lanka's president did in the early 1980s in his comments about the violence against the island's Tamils.
Sri Lanka's government set about to systematically cleanse Sri Lanka of the Tamil minority. While this was going on, Sri Lanka's president wrung his hands on the world stage and decried the violence against Tamils, which he blamed on rogue elements in the Singhalese-controlled military and rowdy youths on a rampage.
What happened in Sri Lanka was that the British overlords promoted an educated minority Tamil class to positions of power in the government and in business -- at the expense of the Singhalese majority. When the British pulled out, this left the privileged Tamils (not the stateless ones, which the British imported from India to work on the plantations) at the mercy of the Singhalese majority, which gained control of the government.
By the early 1980s, Sri Lanka's government had launched an unofficial but methodical plan to strip the well-off Tamils of their business holdings and savings. The government froze bank accounts and expropriated property -- the latter by torching businesses under the guise of riots and then reclaiming the property. The government also gave the green light to the military (by then almost purged of Tamils) to engage in ethic cleansing: to drive the landholding Tamils from Sri Lanka by any means necessary, including massacre.
An outsider coming on the situation in Sri Lanka at that time would have said, "There's a civil war going on here." No, it was just that many Tamils on the island had adopted the motto of the Jewish Holocaust survivors: "Never again." They had gotten guns and guerrilla training from outside -- from India and the Tamil expat communities all over the world -- and were fighting for their existence with everything they could muster. I don't think that civilians fighting against massacre by government forces can be called a civil war.
Now if you overlay that situation on today's Iraq, you can find strong parallels. The Sunnis know they have no chance of regaining control of the government; I think at this time most of Iraq's Sunnis engaged in fighting perceive themselves in a simple struggle against extermination and confiscation of their property. So I am unwilling to chalk up their fight to civil war.
In any case, what is happening for certain in Iraq is that a long-oppressed majority is claiming their majority status, and with all that entails in a country with no democratic tradition.
I note that Zakaria's argument ignores the import of one of his observations. He writes that the CPA decision to shut down Iraq's state-owned businesses "crippled the bulk of Iraq's non-oil economy, threw hundreds of thousands of workers into the streets and further alienated Sunnis, who were the country's managerial class."
That last point could be why the US has balked at restarting those businesses. On the face it's a terrible decision but there is a job-training problem, if Shia Iraqis insist on getting hold of managerial jobs that only Sunnis traditionally held.
In short, it's not just about restarting factories and putting "Iraqis" back to work. The question is who gets the jobs at the factories and in particular the plum high-paying ones.
One might say it's hairsplitting to argue whether the present Iraq violence should be termed civil war or ethnic cleansing. Yet at the level of problem-solving it's crucial to nail down what is actually happening. If there is a struggle over which ethnic group gets the jobs, this problem is running alongside the one of widescale unemployment. In that event it would be leaping over a step to simply reopen the state-owned factories.
Maybe the step would be a jobs lottery or throwing together some version of an affirmative action program, or a combination of measures. And the region in which a factory is located could also determine which ethnic group holds greater claim to jobs.
None of these ideas are palatable from the free-market viewpoint, but the first priority is to defuse situations that lead a majority group to cleanse a minority.
So while in the abstract it's a great idea to restart all those factories, in reality the situation could present a good argument for a foreign reconstruction corps. It might be better in this type of situation for the local government to dole out welfare and food programs at the very start of the stabilization phase and have a corps of foreign managers take over the running of industries shut down by war. At least until the greatest power-sharing issues have been hammered out between the majority and minority representatives.
That plan generates problems, which I touched on in the earlier post; namely, who would protect those foreign managers if they weren't wearing guns?
I do not like getting into the position of defending Thomas Barnett's idea for a Department of Everything Else; as I noted in the earlier post, I have reservations about a US civilian reconstruction corps for stabilizing external conflicts. But actually the situation in Iraq is fertile ground for the DEE idea.
This said, I appreciate your point about favoring locals for the reconstruction of their country. Yet every country situation is unique, no matter how many parallels one might find in another situation. So it's dangerous to get too theoretical about how best to stabilize a country that has been wracked by war.