John Derbyshire: Joe Biden Was Right—Partition Iraq! But That Was Back In 2006
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See, earlier, by Steve Sailer: The Partition Possibility, November 30, 2003

Adapted from the latest Radio Derb, available exclusively at

Big news of the week: the arm-wrestling bout with Iran. Again, as I said last week, there is no market here for Great Game strategizing. I'd like for us to tip over the chess-board and walk away.

The whole thing just fills me with despair and disgust at the sheer colossal stupidity of American foreign policy. Trillions of dollars, thousands of lives, tens of thousands of maimed and disfigured, for what?

Doesn't anyone have to answer for it all? Doesn't anyone at least get reduced to the ranks of ordinary citizens with ordinary jobs, instead of wallowing in extravagant government pensions, corporate directorships, and six-figure speaking fees?

I guess not. They're the nomenklatura. They can do as they please. I more and more find myself thinking there are tumbrils and guillotines in our future, and not minding the thought very much.

I have a couple of sidebar points about the Iran business, though.

  • First sidebar point. I read with interest that there were mass casualties from a crowd stampede at the funeral for General What's-his-name, the Iranian bigshot we blew up with a drone last week. Apparently the streets of the general's home town were too narrow for the crowds to be properly managed.

Quote from the New York Times:

The head of Iran's emergency medical services said 56 people had died and 213 were injured … as millions of people flooded the streets of Kerman to witness the [funeral] procession.

[Iran Fires on U.S. Forces at 2 Bases in Iraq, Calling It 'Fierce Revenge,' by Alissa J. Rubin et al.; January 7, 2020]

For us Cold War babies, that brings to mind Stalin's funeral in Moscow, March 1953. Again, crowds overwhelmed the crowd control measures and many people were crushed or trampled to death. [How Stalin’s demise resulted in the deaths of dozens of Soviet citizens, by Oleg Yegorov, Russia Beyond, March 15, 2019] Nobody knows the numbers: Estimates start at a few dozen.

So, one for the memo file: If you're in a totalitarian dictatorship when someone really important dies, stay away from the funeral procession. It'll be on TV anyway.

(If you're in a civilized country, the issue doesn't arise. I followed Winston Churchill's funeral cortege all through the streets of 1965 London without mishap. But that was when Britain was a civilized country. Nowadays things might be different.)

Stopped clocks are right twice a day, though, and Joe Biden has occasionally been right. I'm looking at the op-ed cosigned by Joe Biden and the late Leslie Gelb, a Council on Foreign Relations panjandrum, back on May 1st, 2006. It makes melancholy reading thirteen years and eight months later:

It is increasingly clear that President Bush does not have a strategy for victory in Iraq. Rather, he hopes to prevent defeat and pass the problem along to his successor. Meanwhile, the frustration of Americans is mounting so fast that Congress might end up mandating a rapid pullout, even at the risk of precipitating chaos and a civil war that becomes a regional war.

Our frustration was mounting so fast! Thirteen years and eight months ago! That's precisely five thousand days ago this Wednesday, if my calculator has not deceived me. Five thousand days! Imagine how much more frustrated we must be now!

And: "Congress might end up mandating a rapid pullout." Congress! [Laugh.]

That's not my main point, though. My main point is a bit further down in Joe and Leslie's op-ed.

After noting the ineffectual nature of Iraq's so-called "governments of national unity," Joe writes, or agrees with Gelb writing, the following:

The alternative path out of this terrible trap has five elements.

The first is to establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions [See map at right, via the WSJwould each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security.

 [Unity Through Autonomy in Iraq, by Joe Biden and Leslie Gelb; NY Times, May 1, 2006]

Yesssss! Partition!

Iraq is a bogus country. It should be three countries. All right, that's not precisely what Joe wrote, but he and Gelb were headed in the right direction.

Below, another map of the (rough) divisions that might be negotiated, via an Iraqi blogger:

Partition of Iraq is the Best Solution for Iraq, Semnak Lairam, February 7, 2018

Biden's idea echoes perennial themes: Human differences matter! Good fences make good neighbors!

But the rest of the foreign policy Establishment was of course aghast. Iraq's borders are sacrosanct! they swooned.

If only they'd felt the same way about America's.

So yes, sure, Joe's a clown. But even a clown is right once in a while.


John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.

For years he’s been podcasting at Radio Derb, now available at for no charge. His writings are archived at

Readers who wish to donate (tax deductible) funds specifically earmarked for John Derbyshire's writings at can do so here.


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