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Snoozing on Sunni Awakening

Yesterday The New York Times ran a front-page story entitled, “In a Force for Iraqi Calm, Seeds of Conflict”. The valueless mouthful of a headline itself seems to advertise the strain reporters Alissa J. Rubin and Damien Cave must have exerted in order to shape the essentially positive story into something ominous.

The piece is about Iraq’s Sunni “Awakening” groups—the local security forces who’ve turned against insurgents and who continue to be invaluable in the rebuilding of the country. The Times reports that these groups could spell disaster because in the long-term they may amount to nothing more than a well-armed, well-trained anti-Shia military force.

Well, anyone who’s really concerned about that can’t also complain about the disbanding of the Iraqi Army. Saddam’s military was a deadly exercise in Sunni dominance. Awakening groups are far preferable to the former Ba’athist army for several reasons. The first being U.S. oversight. “Americans obtain biometric data on every Awakening group member to try to screen out known insurgents,” whereas no such practice would have been possible with the army. The second important difference has to do with goals. The Awakening exists in order to bring security to Iraq. Saddam’s army would almost have surely been a rolling crime wave over the past four years. The most important difference, however, is that Awakening groups are taking pride in the self-determination that comes with citizenship. Whatever problems lie on the horizon may be tempered by Iraq’s increasing sense of genuine statehood.

Ever since the undeniable success of the troop surge The New York Times has been scrambling to rediscover a tragic narrative in the good news. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a New York Times headline in the near future that reads, “Regional Neighbors Find Iraq’s Prosperity Gauche; Success Could Ignite Clash.”


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