The debate we had today about the new war in Iraq was one of the reasons I’m still doing this after fourteen years. I get to make an argument and have the smartest critiques come back at me pretty damn quick. It’s like my own personal interactive Wikipedia of ideas. I’m not persuaded by most of the emails, but I have shifted a little bit toward a less deeply bleak mood. I hope Dish readers realize that what matters is not what I have to say but what the Dish itself slowly unearths after my sundry provocations.
And they lead to further questions. Mulling some of this over this afternoon, I think much of my misgivings comes from the fact that I see no way to put “Iraq” back together. I’m not simply emotionally reacting to being so wrong in the early stages last time around; I’ve internalized some of the things I thought I had learned. Among them: sectarianism matters. In 2003, we thought we were going there to depose a dictator and establish a democracy. What Iraqis saw was the removal of a Sunni dictatorship in favor of a Shiite autocracy. To move a country like Iraq from one sectarian column into another is a huge event in the long-running Shi’a-Sunni battleground.
Bill Kristol, among others, insisted that sectarianism no longer existed in Iraq. But we discovered it was by far the most powerful thing in Iraq once the dictatorship ended. Which brings me to a simple point: I don’t believe the Sunnis will ever give up the struggle. With a weak Shiite government, a Sunni insurgency is now permanent. The only way this will be resolved is through a struggle between the Sunni autocracies and Shiite Iran in a contest to forge a new boundary for the sectarian divide. And that struggle will go on for a very long time. The idea that the US can intervene to end this, instead of merely exacerbating it in the medium term, goes against the entire experience of the 2003 – 2011 occupation.
Maybe the forces of global order have to be brought to bear. But my fear is that those forces do not ultimately bring order. They brought about ISIS in the first place. Is this far too pessimistic? Maybe. I wonder if there has been a previous example of a major Middle East state switching its sectarian allegiance from Sunni to Shi’a. But pessimism in the Middle East is often merely realism. And what we’re trying to do now is surreal.
You can follow the full debate here and here and here. My further thoughts here. We covered the suspension of Bill Simmons from ESPN – and the future of independent journalism – here and here. We also noted that the NFL’s current crisis has a real historical precedent. Plus: talking zombies!
Many of today’s posts were updated with your emails – read them all here. You can always leave your unfiltered comments at our Facebook page and @sullydish. 24 more readers became subscribers today. You can join them here – and get access to all the readons and Deep Dish – for a little as $1.99 month. Buy a gift subscription for a friend here. Dish t-shirts and polos are for sale here.
A reader cheers us up more than he knows:
I just want to say the Dish has been great the last few months. Even during your time off as the world crumbled, we got great insight from the people who guest-blogged and general staff. It was great seeing such a focus on climate change, and really was awesome to get a woman’s touch on the blog and talking about abortion from a perspective different than yours. Since you’ve been back, you’ve rightly been critical of Obama and this nonsense going on in the Middle East. I’m fully inclined to agree with your assessment of his actions, while I hold out a sliver of hope that this doesn’t escalate, and he finds some excuse to cut the strikes off after allowing the hawks to get their beaks wet.
But the reason I want to write you most of all, is I’m amazed at how much more I read the Dish compared to other websites I enjoy (Vox, Slate, Salon, Mother Jones). Do you know why I read the Dish more? It’s not because I don’t want to read articles on those sites. I’m not too turned off by the tone of stupid articles that occasionally appear (all publications have articles I find stupid).
No, it’s because of their god damned ADS! I could deal with banner ads. I could deal with rollovers that cover the entire screen until I hit “X” and push the ad back to the top of the page. But now, every single one of those sites runs video ads that launch when you open the site. In the side of the page, a video plays. Guess what happens next? My fucking Internet browser freezes or crashes. As much as I want to read these sites, the people running the sites are making it impossible for me to do so. So impossible, in fact, I find myself reading them less and less.
I work in digital ad sales. User experience matters to us at our site. You know what website has the best interface that I can hang out on all day? It’s the Dish of course. Thank you for being ad-free.
See you in the morning.
(Photo: An anti-war demonstrator sits near Downing Street on September 25, 2014 in London, England. Parliament will vote on possible military action against Islamic State when it meets on Friday. By Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.)