Something is missing in the debate about the war in Iraq. The discussion in the Congress and on the airwaves focuses on troop levels: whether to escalate the war, hold the current level of roughly 140,000 troops steady, or withdraw U.S. troops altogether. On one level, this makes sense. With 3,000 dead soldiers and more wounded, Americans want to know when their nightmare will end.
On another level, while a military withdrawal will “end the war” for Americans, the nightmare will continue for Iraqis. At bottom, a resolution to the Iraq conflict will involve a political settlement among Iraqis. Absent from the American discussion is any consideration of the political reality in Iraq, and what can be done to reach some kind of solution. When we get around to talking about the actual dynamics of the situation in Iraq, the discourse usually does not move beyond a simplistic and sometimes racially tinged discussion of “sectarian violence.” We should reject this view, which is based on the stereotype that “tribal” Muslims, motivated by ancient, primal hatreds, cannot stop themselves killing one another.
Any discussion of Iraq policy should be based on a solid empirical picture of the situation in Iraq. How much do you know about the nature and scale of the conflict? What solutions are our leaders proposing? Here’s a pop quiz to test your knowledge.
- Of the following politicians or groups, which tend to favor unity in Iraq, and which tend to favor dividing the country through some form of federalism or partition?
a. Nouri al-Maliki
b. Moqtada al-Sadr
c. Tariq al-Hashemi
- According to the Iraq Study Group Report, approximately how many foreign fighters are currently operating in Iraq?
- Match the presidential candidate with his or her proposed withdrawal date:
a. Barack Obama
b. Joe Biden
c. Dennis Kucinich
d. Tom Tancredo
March 31, 2008
End of 2007
The following presidential candidates are opposed to scheduled withdrawal. Match each to his or her proposed strategy.
a. Hillary Rodham Clinton
b. Chuck Hegel
c. Tommy Thompson
d. Chris Dodd
Redeploy American troops to Kurdistan.
Move troops out of the cities and move them to the borders.
Put a cap on the number of American troops and require congressional authorization for any additional forces.
Let the Iraqis vote on whether American troops should stay.
Which of the following is the greatest source of funding for insurgency in Iraq?
a. Iran and Syria
b. Operations within Iraq
c. Saudi Arabia
- According to the BBC, how many of Iraq’s 26 million people are currently refugees, and how many are internally displaced?
a. 1.8 million and 500,000
b. 2 million and 1.8 million
c. 500,000 and 1.8 million
- When is the potentially divisive referendum on the future of the northern city of Kirkuk scheduled to occur?
a. December 2007
b. December 2008
c. December 2009
- According to the International Crisis Group, which was the single most “polarizing” event in Iraq since the beginning of the war?
a. The bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra in 2006.
b. The election for and drafting of the permanent constitution in 2005.
c. The killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006.
Answers: 1) Supporting unity: B and C. Supporting federalism: A; 2) C; 3) Clinton: 3, Hegel: 2, Thompson: 4, Dodd: 1; 4) B; 5) B; 6) A; 7) B.
Jared Malsin is a senior in Berkeley College. His column appears on alternate Mondays. Sofia Fenner is a senior in Morse College.