Ethnic cleansing ‘sad but tranquilizing’?

ETHNIC CLEANSING ‘SAD BUT TRANQUILIZING’?…. When it comes to the war in Iraq, George Will has not always been entirely unreasonable. He’s denounced neocons, and in a surprisingly hard-hitting 2004 column, described the war as “untenable,” compared it to Vietnam, and said the war could “unmake” Bush’s presidency.

With this in mind, I was a little startled to see this Crooks & Liars clip of Will from Sunday’s “This Week” on ABC. Will said:

“Baghdad is the problem and while we debate what to do about Baghdad, the Shiites are changing the facts on the ground in Baghdad through incremental, not at all stealthy, rather rapid ethnic cleansing so we may get a monochrome Baghdad out of this, which would be sad but perhaps tranquilizing.”

The whole transcript is not available online, but to offer some context, the roundtable discussion was addressing the likelihood of an escalation, with as many as 30,000 additional troops in Iraq. Melinda Henneberger, from the Huffington Post, had just commented on the potential problems with the strategy, including her take that “this is only going to escalate the problem in Baghdad.” It prompted Will to make his “sad but perhaps tranquilizing” remark.

I’ve been trying to come up with some explanation for what in the world Will was talking about here, but I’m afraid I’m at a bit of a loss. Watching the video, it certainly sounded as if Will was characterizing ethnic cleansing in Baghdad as having an upside.

One could argue, I suppose, that there will be “tranquility” when one side of a conflict finishes annihilating their rivals. A widespread massacre, once complete, can do wonders for producing a degree of serenity. But in what moral universe does that make it preferable?

Will might find it helpful to clarify these remarks sometime soon.