Professor Marc Lynch provides a fascinating (and depressing) summary of Jim Fearon’s thoughts on Iraq.

In other words, once a civil war starts it is unlikely to end until one side wins. In Iraq, Sunni-Shia fighting hasn’t yet come close to producing either a clear victory or a stable equilibrium reflecting the real balance of forces on the ground: each side reasonably believes that further military action could help its cause, and that the other side believes the same. This creates what rational choice theorists call a commitment problem: there is no reason that Sunnis would believe that the Shia would continue to honor any agreements made under US auspices once the Americans left. Fearon concludes that “Civil wars for control of a central government typically end with one-sided military victories rather than power-sharing agreements, because the parties are organized for combat and this makes trust in written agreements on the allocation of revenues or military force both dangerous and naive.”

Read the whole post. My question: Although things look very bad now, was it crazy to hope/predict before the war began that Iraq had a chance to turn into a stable democracy after the removal of Saddam, that a better run occupation might have succeeded, or was the whole enterprise a neo-foolish pipe dream to begin with?

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