Our guest blogger is Peter Juul, a Research Associate at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
In a recent post, our good friend Ilan Goldenberg over at the National Security Network recommended the “three nos” on Iraq advanced by the Center for a New American Security as a guide to U.S. policy: no regional war, no al Qaeda safe havens, and no genocide. This of course has a lot of rhetorical appeal – who can be in favor of those three things? The problem is that the three no’s really aren’t very helpful when it comes to addressing the challenges posed by Iraq and examining ways to advance U.S. national security interests globally.
The overall problem is that the three nos framework constitutes mostly a wish list not unlike the Bush administration’s early fantasies of a secular, pro-Israel democracy on the Tigris. As the old saying goes, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. Beyond this basic conceptual problem, there are three main problems with the three nos.
First, it ignores the fact that large scale sectarian cleansing, if not outright genocide, has already occurred in Iraq and is even occurring TODAY, with the U.S. troop presence at its likely maximum. Most people are aware of the Sunni-Shi’a sectarian cleansing that happened at the height Iraq’s civil war in 2006-2007, which led to the murders of tens of thousand and displacement of millions — even while the surge was being implemented. But less visible is the plight of Iraqi minority groups, particularly Christians. Just last month sectarian violence forced large numbers of Iraqi Christians from Mosul, their last major safe haven. Canon Andrew White, the vicar of St. George’s church in Baghdad, estimates only 200,000 Iraqi Christians of a population of 800,000 remain in the country. All of this has occurred despite the presence of 140,000-plus U.S. troops in Iraq; the three nos ignore the fact that massive sectarian cleansing has already occurred despite the presence of hundreds of thousands of American troops in Iraq –- and this of course raises the question of how useful the three no’s framework is beyond a rhetorical device and mantra Americans can repeat to make themselves feel better. The tough work is actually in crafting a policy that simultaneously advances U.S. interests and actually improves the situation for Iraqis. Read more