Sectarian Cleansing in Baghdad

SECTARIAN CLEANSING IN BAGHDAD….Last night Barron YoungSmith pointed to a peculiar passage from a Foreign Affairs article on Iraq written by Stephen Biddle, Michael O’Hanlon, and Kenneth Pollack. The topic at hand is the decrease in violence over the past couple of years:

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 shook my head at this for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t know of anyone who claims that Baghdad’s sectarian cleansing was the “chief cause” of the reduction in violence. One of the causes, sure, along with the Sunni Awakening, the Mahdi Army ceasefire, the surge, and some other factors, but not the chief cause. Has anyone actually made that argument?

Second, though, was their odd claim that if sectarian cleansing really shared some credit for reducing violence, you’d expect violence to go down while the sectarian cleansing was taking place. Huh? Wouldn’t you expect violence to go up during the cleansing and then decline after it was completed? And wasn’t that exactly what happened?

Anyway, I see I wasn’t the only one with that reaction. In fact, Matt Yglesias seems about ready to explode with frustration that he doesn’t have a blog of his own this week to make exactly this point….