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A Civil War Required?

I've been thinking a lot about the situation in Iraq. I'll admit to been discomfited as soon as it became obvious that there weren't stashes of nerve gas, anthrax, etc. there, much less the chemical lab trucks Colin Powell described to the United Nations as being as ubiquitous as UPS trucks.

However, he is obviously a bad actor, and I could rationalize it. But it now looks like we are getting in the middle of a cross fire between religious factions.

Let's put some long view perspective on the topic, place some disparate data together and see if a skein of argument results. First, about 146 years ago, the U.S. splintered into two political entities, and proceeded to fight a horrific civil war that resulted in casualties of about 3% of the population (source: Wikipedia). According to the late Shelby Foote, who wrote the definitive history of the U.S. civil war, the war created America. Second, in the immediate two centuries or so following the death of Christ, there were multiple Christian movements. In a vast over-simplification, we can say that two key camps emerged, one that became today's mono-theistic religion that articulates salvation through Grace, and a second, gnosticism, that claimed (a kind of) salvation through mastery of specialized, secret knowledge. The Gnostic, or at least some of them, believed in a complex cosmology of aeons, demiurges, and some additional angels not seen in the current mainstream Bible. Over the next two hundred years or so, the monotheistic Christian movement emerged, and gnosticism is largely relegated to a historical curiosity.

A few centuries later, Muhammad died, with Abu Bakr becoming the leader of the Islamic movement (Caliph). Twenty years or so later, Muhammad's son-in-law became the Caliph. Subsequently over the next 100 years or so, believers who thought the method that elected Bakr should be the method of establishing leaders -- this became the Sunnis. And, those who thought hereditary lineage should prevail became Shia. (For a concise history see the BBC summary at http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/Islam/subdivisions/sunnishia_1.shtml ).

The conclusion: perhaps we need to get out of the way and let the Iraqis have their Civil War. If they have casualties at the same rate we did, they would actually have a similar number: about 865,000. If the Iranians joined in, then 2,000,000 or so would need to be killed or injured. Along the way, they might settle which branch of Islam survives....
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