Friedman says Iraq's woes aren't caused by the political fringes, here or there, but by the political center of both countries.
Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld told us we are in the fight of our lives against a new Islamic fascism, and let’s have an unprecedented wartime tax cut and shrink our armed forces....let’s send just enough troops to topple Saddam — and never control Iraq’s borders, its ammo dumps or its looters...let’s use the war as a wedge issue to embarrass Democrats, frighten voters and win elections...let’s not do one serious thing about ending our oil addiction...
....It truly, truly baffles me why a president who bet so much of his legacy on this project never gave it his best shot and tolerated so much incompetence. He summoned us to D-Day and gave us the moral equivalent of the invasion of Panama.
But there is not only a problem at the center of U.S. policy. We are also failing in Iraq because of what the Shiite and Sunni mainstreams — not the fringes — are tolerating...
...The short history of the Iraq war is that the Sunnis in Iraq, and in the nearby Arab states, refused to accept one man, one vote, because it meant bringing the Shiite majority to power in Iraq for the first time...For two years, the Shiite center in Iraq put up with the barbaric Sunni violence directed against its mosques and markets — violence the U.S. couldn’t stop because it didn’t have enough troops, and because the Sunni center inside and outside Iraq tacitly supported it.
But eventually the Shiites snapped, formed their own death squads, turned to Iran for military aid, and focused more on communal survival than on making Iraq’s democracy work...where the Iraqi center stops and the violent fringes start is no longer clear.
The dominant struggle in Iraq today, writes the Iranian-American analyst Vali Nasr in his provocative new book, “The Shia Revival,” is not “the battle of liberty against oppression, but rather the age-old battle of the two halves of Islam, Shias and Sunnis. This is the conflict that Iraq has rekindled, and this is the conflict that will shape its future.”