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June 22, 2014

Column: Partitioning Iraq may be country's best hope

In coping with overseas debacles, American politicians often fare better at playing the Blame Game or patting themselves on the back than they do with preventing problems or figuring out how to resolve them.

It was that way a generation ago with China and Vietnam, and it’s that way now with Iraq. News from the ethnically divided country barely hit newspaper headlines and TV screens before writers and politicians started assessing blame.

“Who lost Iraq?” asked foreign affairs columnist and CNN weekly host Fareed Zakaria. “The Iraqis did, with an assist from George W. Bush.”

“Six Reasons Obama Lost Iraq,” countered Ben Shapiro on breitbart.com, citing the “power vacuum” after the 2011 U.S. troop withdrawal and “the chaotic situation” in neighboring Syria due to President Barack Obama’s inaction.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has made a career of blaming Obama for refusing to follow his advice, insisted on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that, “Gen. (David) Petraeus had the conflict won, thanks to the surge” of which McCain was a prime advocate. “But the president wanted out, and now we are paying a very heavy price.”

In a sense, they’re all right. Blame is shared by almost everyone who has dealt with Iraq for the past century, from the British who created an inherently illogical country after the Ottoman Empire collapsed to most groups and individuals who have wielded power since.

Iraq’s current problems stem directly from Bush’s 2003 decision to invade the country, inspired by what proved to be a futile effort to find weapons of mass destruction. Overthrowing President Saddam Hussein removed a horrific dictator but also undercut Iraq’s stability.

Subsequent action by Bush’s transition appointees to eliminate Hussein’s political and military infrastructure left an unstable government propped up by U.S. aid and troops. Instability has persisted since, exacerbated by the way the majority Shiites excluded or oppressed the Sunni minority that ran Iraq during Hussein’s rule.

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