BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The lower-middle-class neighborhoods that Lt. Col. Jeff Peterson's troops patrol have been the epicenter of Iraq's civil war for most ofPeterson apparently finds time to read Parapundit between his duties in Iraq! More somberly, he adapted based on his experience on the ground. Unlike the clueless quixotics in Washington, when conventional tactics came up short, Peterson looked for alternatives:
the past year. "Every issue facing Baghdad writ large is in our area," he says.
In recent weeks, Col. Peterson has tried a controversial approach to calming his sector. As Sunnis and Shiites have separated into their own neighborhoods, he has resisted the urge to encourage reconciliation or even dialogue. Instead, he has erected massive concrete barriers between the sects.
His vision is for a series of small, homogenous, gated communities, each consisting of a two-block square. Each would be built around a market, a mosque and a generator. "The goal is to provide the neighborhoods with a chance to protect themselves, without having to rely on coalition forces, the Iraqi government or the militias," he says.A sort of neighborhood watch group. Peterson's separation appears to be working. In October, when troops constructed the barriers, 54 Iraqis were killed in the area patrolled. In November, the number slid to 43. January found 39, and February dropped to 25. Good for him. His ingenuity is accomplishing what DoD planners have consistently failed at for four years.
How he got to that point -- after months of bloodshed and failed experiments -- illustrates a lot about both the possibilities and limitations of the U.S. vision for Iraq.
Walls have been especially effective in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and Jordan are looking at versions of their own, and Israel's almost impervious security fence has been an astounding success.
The Lt. Colonel's strategy is a local variation of that put forward by Leslie Gelb and introduced politically by Delaware Senator Joe Biden. The latter two favor a weak central government to ensure some equitability in petrol dollar distributions, but want most power to reside in regional governments broken down broadly into a Kurdish north, Sunni center, and Shia south. Peterson's strategy is a microcosm of what Biden wants at the national level.
In the words of Philippe Rushton:
Likeness leads to liking. People have a need to identify and be with others like themselves. It is a powerful force in human affairs.The propositionalist solutions to conflicts across the globe that refuse to acknowledge anything other than shallow cultural differences are bound to continue to fail.