Thursday, August 28, 2008

Biden and Iraq

I haven't said anything about Obama's pick of Joe Biden as his running mate. But I will now: I'm in favor of it, I think Biden presents a good complement and energizes the ticket in a way that most of the other reported candidates would not.

My impression of Biden before this campaign was, probably, somewhat negative. I didn't know too much about him, was basically familiar with the plagiarism and the occasional running off at the mouth, knew he was considered strong on foreign policy. However, in the early debates, he intrigued me, not enough for me to ignore the fact that he had no chance, but enough so to make me pay more attention to him.

And I like people who take contrarian views, who challenge conventional wisdom, and Biden was willing to talk about the partitioning of Iraq. The more I thought about that, the more I thought there was value in at least considering that, despite the reality that nobody else was.

While I'm still not certain that partitioning was or is a good idea, it would solve one problem. If we ever do leave Iraq, and sectarian violence emerges, we will face the dilemma of having to go into a country in which certain sizable factions don't want us. Potentially, we would have to violate a nation's sovereignty in order to clean up a mess that a lot of Americans would feel honor-bound to ameliorate (we broke it, we bought it).

In my April review of Samantha Power's book, A Problem from Hell, I wrote this:
(I think I'll leave the large question of sovereignty to a later post. I need to work out the extent to which claims of sovereignty affect my feelings here; suffice it to say now that that issue complicates the kind of intervention that Power feels the U.S. needs to demonstrate.)
While this post is still not my last word on the big issue of sovereignty, it is true that sovereignty complicates any body's intervention in the affairs of a foreign country. It has happened when nations have been accused of internal genocide, and it would do so if Iraq fell into that level of strife.

At the very least, partitioning would solve a part of the problem. If there is an Iraqi Kurdistan, and the Shi'ites decide to clean up the Kurds once and for all (and claim the oil therein), we can plausibly assist the Kurds in defense of their own nation in a way that would be much more difficult if the Kurds simply occupy a small section of the larger country.

Again, I'm not necessarily convinced that a partition of Iraq is appropriate, certainly not without the agreement of their people. But it has impressed me that Joe Biden was willing to think about it, and, perhaps, he can bring this kind of thinking to the problems that will face this administration. It's certainly worth a shot.

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