Sunday, August 22, 2021

Pulling Out

Al-Nouri Mosque, Mosul, under reconstruction with UNESCO funding in 2020, via Archinect.

Ex-Proconsul Paul Bremer, the former viceroy of Mesopotamia, would like you to know that he's a champ at nation-building, through the Wall Street Journal. I'm dubious.

Of course the young Iraqi government had to call for a return of the US-led coalition to rescue them, but that's not the point. They also got plenty of help from Iran. 

The big thing that happened to Iraqis, though, was a crack in the eternal pattern of alternating dominance between the Shi'a majority and the Sunni minority, when the Da'esh (a Sunni Arab coalition of Salafist fanatics and the secular Sunni officer class from Saddam Hussein's army, who had all lost their jobs under the incompetent rule of [checks notes] Proconsul Paul Bremer, and joined the ISIS forces because they needed work) laid siege to the Sunni city of Mosul: for once, Sunnis in resistance in Mosul, Kurds to the north, and Shi'ites to the south, all faced a common enemy and had a sense, however vague, of belonging to a common thing, a res publica. That plus the resignation of the dreadful and implacably anti-Sunni prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and the excellent management strategy of the Obama administration, which I wrote about that November.

I'm not going to tell you that Iraq is fixed now—it isn't, by any means—but progress has been made, and I think you can trace it especially to the way the pullout forced Iraqis at all levels to start making their own decisions and governing themselves, something they'd lost hope of doing around the time of the rise of Saddam Hussein. That's the thing I've been saying about nation-building, that it has to come from the inside. You can't ship in a proconsul and get him to do it for you.

And Bremer is really not entitled to boast about it, since everything he did was harmful.

Meanwhile, it's been striking me that the same kind of thing could have happened in Afghanistan:

Indeed, maybe it still could, as that anti-Taliban movement I was telling you about gets going:

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