Thursday, February 17, 2011

Not The Last Semi-Authoritarian Regime?

I was going to joke that, with all these Middle East protests, soon only Iraq would have a semi-authoritarian regime. The current government there has been cited as one of the most corrupt in the world, but I have been thinking that most Iraqis are tired of upheaval and would need a few years off before engaging in large-scale political activism. And, as if to forestall protests, Maliki said he would not run for prime minister for a third term.

But now there are small protests in Iraq and efforts to make them large protests. So maybe we will see a larger movement. The problem in Iraq is that it is the Middle Eastern country most fractured along ethnic and sectarian divides. Protests there would not take the form of "people vs. government" so much as "people vs. people vs. government," in violent competition to see what group might prevail. We saw this situation already in the civil war that flared prior to the surge, Awakening Councils, and the near purging of Sunnis from Baghdad. And with some of the U.S. military still there, it would be hard for us to maintain the distance stance we have kept from other protests. After all, this is the country that the U.S. had a direct hand in "liberating." Can we allow it to appear to need to be liberated again?

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