Some Basic Facts About Ethnic Cleansing
Matt Yglesias is on vacation until his new ThinkProgress blog launches August 11. But he IMs to ensure I don’t miss this argument in the new Steve Biddle/Mike O’Hanlon/Ken Pollack Iraq piece in Foreign Affairs:
It is worth noting that separation resulting from sectarian cleansing was not the chief cause of the reduction in violence, as some have claimed. Much of Iraq remains intermingled but increasingly peaceful. And whereas a cleansing argument implies that casualties should have gone down in Baghdad, for example, as mixed neighborhoods were cleansed, casualties actually went up consistently during the sectarian warfare of 2006. Cleansing may have reduced the violence somewhat in some places, but it was not the main cause.
I had to reread this to make sure I didn’t misunderstand. Ethnic cleansing is a violent process of extirpating members of a rival ethnicity or sect. If the ethnic cleansing occurred in 2006, of course casualties went up consistently. This argument makes no sense.
But there’s actually a broader point to make. Ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity. The U.S. quite rightly intervened in the Balkans in the 1990s to stop it. The horrors of ethnic cleansing are unfathomable to those who haven’t experienced them. What you really, really shouldn’t do is treat other people’s ethnic cleansing as a debaters’ point. It’s perverse, isn’t it, the way that ethnic cleansing that occurred during a U.S. occupation can be treated so nonchalantly by Washington polemicists.