This is the second part of an excerpt from an interview I recently conducted with Dr. Eric Davis of Rutgers. The first part can be found here and a full interview which focuses exclusively on economic development will be published by the Education for Peace in Iraq Center in a week or so. If you haven't read the first part, I suggest you give it a quick look before reading on.
Matteo: So I take it you would be totally against the soft-partitioning of Iraq?
Dr. Davis: That is a horrible idea. It is like saying let’s divide up the United States and put all the Italian-Americans in one part, all the Jewish-Americans another part, and all the Irish-Americans in third part. Then this huge percentage of the population comes out and says, “Wait a second. We’re Irish-Italian, we’re Jewish-Irish.” What do you do? Do you start cutting people down the middle? That is ridiculous. Why would we assume there would be less violence? I think this would lead to more violence. There is already violence between the Sadr organization and the Badr, and it was just seen in Amarah in the south a couple months ago. Once a central government is partitioned and weakened, the ability of a central, national army to come in and repress this violence is further compromised. Even if the partition was able to happen, it would add to the violence, not undermine it.
Matteo: As a result of the high level of violence many Iraqis are fleeing from their homes and settling in areas inside Iraq that are dominated by their respective sect. In other words, there seems to be a de facto partitioning occurring. How can we reverse this trend?
Dr. Davis: I think the capture of militia squad leaders and political criminals will have an effect like putting down crime in Chicago in the late 1920s and 1930s. Political stability will return and the economy will begin to function at some minimal level. At this point, many people will go back to their old neighborhoods because they had close ties with their neighbors and there will be no sectarian problems. It is really the militias that come into neighborhoods and start forcing people to leave. It is not the neighbors that go to a neighbor’s house and put a sign up. It is the militias that come and realize what sect lives in the neighborhood and what families that they want to get rid of. First they will deliver a letter to the door, and then they will knock on the door telling them in various stages to leave or be killed, and of course, the people will leave.
I don’t think we don’t know enough about this process. I think that not enough emphasis is being placed on the fact that in many of these neighborhoods, the former neighbors are protecting each other, not trying to benefit from the misfortune of one another.