Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Militias and Identity

Both Juan Cole and Spencer Ackerman are blogging about moves by the new Iraqi government to hand security responsibilities over to Shi'ite and Kurdish militias. This is a political argument being made with regard to both de-Ba'athification and the presence of foreign troops, and has become the on-the-ground reality in some areas. The obvious problem, however, is that these militias are tied to political groups with an ethnic or sectarian basis, so when they go to fight the largely Sunni insurgency, it starts looking very much like an communally based civil war. The good news is that most Iraqis prefer not to identify themselves by means of their religious affiliation - Iraq is not Yugoslavia, regardless of the template the Western media is applying to it. However, if the insurgency continues and groups like the Badr Brigades and Peshmerga begin applying extreme measures in fighting it, then they will experience some of the same hostility as American forces. Precisely because they represent groups flying and Shi'ite and Kurdish identity respectively, this could easily turn into resentment against those groups leading to the very balkanization of Iraqi society which I've argued before hasn't really existed in the past.


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