Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Phebe Marr Places Iraq Crisis in Historical Context

Renown scholar and author of The Modern History of Iraq Dr. Phebe Marr delivered a fascinating speech at this year's Iraq Forum. For many Americans, their first introduction to Iraq was Saddam Hussein's abrupt entrance onto the world stage on August 2, 1990 with Iraq's annexation of Kuwait and the subsequent 1991 Gulf War. But of course Iraq's modern history predates 1990 and has tremendous relevance to what's happening today. Spanning four decades, Marr brings Iraq's recent history to life. She documents key events that illuminate current trends, and explains why the past must be considered in finding the best way forward.


Panel 1 Part 1 (28:59) from Sarah Shannon on Vimeo.

Dr. Marr begins her address with a brief chronicle of the turbulence that overwhelmed Iraq beginning with the 1958 military revolt up until the U.S. occupation in 2003. Although the most recent wave of refugees and internal displacement may be the largest in Iraq's history, it is not the first. Military coups, a brutal dictator, numerous wars, failed uprisings, and more than a decade of sanctions created previous waves of refugees. Understanding those occurrences can help explain the present crisis, as well as the social and political upheavals since the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

As Marr explains, the creation of a “political vacuum” in post-Hussein Iraq was a catalyst for a sequence of trends that contributed to the humanitarian crisis. Yet Marr's prognosis is refreshingly measured. She sees little value in "happy talk" or pronouncements of "The End of Iraq." Instead, she offers an historical framework on which to build practical solutions. Click the video above and watch the introduction by Prof. Marc Lynch (aka Abu Aardvark in the blogosphere) and Dr. Marr's engaging presentation.

2 comments:

Chus said...

¿What do you think about this video: The truth about Iraq?

Emily Gunning said...

This video is very interesting- especially as it pertains to identity from an Iraqi woman's point of view. I do not doubt that the average Iraqi cares little about the Sunni-Shiite rift. However, in the higher echelons of the government and military certain sects of the population have historically been marginalized. I believe this chasm exists in Iraq as a post-war development as well and a factor that was exasperated by war. When there is a strong, pluralistic government ruling a state, people will not feel as threatened or compelled to retreat to religious, ethnic, or sectarian identities. Constant instability, weak leadership and a lack of diverse representation can trigger division as sects pull together to protect their interests and communities.

 
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