Today, Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Max Boot continued to cheerlead for the “success” of the surge in Iraq in an online debate. Boot insisted that Iraq has met two-thirds of the original 18 benchmarks, that the government’s offensive in Basra was successful, and that the so-called Sons of Iraq will always remain loyal to the Shiite-controlled Iraqi state.
Boot concluded by conceding that there are walls separating Sunni neighborhoods from Shia, but dismissed the fact by stating simply that “there are walls around many gated communities in the U.S. too”:
It’s true that there are walls around Dora and other Baghdad neighborhoods. … But then there are walls around many gated communities in the U.S. too. The walls per se are not evidence of reconciliation, I’ll grant you that. But nor are they evidence that reconciliation is impossible. They are one of the important security measures implemented in the past year that is reducing violence and making possible political progress—which is real, whether you admit it or not.
There is a world of difference between American gated communities — where at least 7 million families have chosen to live — and the walls that divide Baghdad. The policy, begun last April, of walling off neighboring communities with a “12-foot high, three mile long wall” is hardly the benign trend Boot describes. The move was widely condemned by the Iraqi press, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered a halt to its construction almost immediately. As one Iraqi put it, “This will make the whole district a prison.”
Despite what Iraq war hawks are willing to admit, the surge has transformed Baghdad into an ethnically-cleansed and religiously divided city that bears little resemblance to its former character.
Last year, Boot lauded the wall plan as an updated form of “‘concentration’ zones or camps“:
It is, in essence, an update of the old plan known as “concentration” zones or camps. The latter name causes understandable confusion, since we’re not talking about extermination camps of the kind that Hitler built, but rather of settlements where locals can be moved to live under guard, thereby preventing insurgent infiltration. The British used this strategy in the Boer war, the Americans during the Philippine war, and many other powers took similar steps in many other conflicts. In Vietnam they were known as “strategic hamlets.”