|Stephen L. Carter, a Bloomberg View columnist, is a professor of law at Yale University, where he teaches courses on contracts, professional responsibility, ethics in literature, intellectual property, and the law and ethics of war.|
The resignation of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has led critics of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy to insist that there is no longer any reason to withhold military assistance from Baghdad in its struggle against the jihadist group Islamic State. This blast from an editorial in this morning’s Wall Street Journal is typical: “With Mr. Maliki gone, so too goes Mr. Obama’s alibi for unseriousness.”
But this argument rests on the claim that the obstacle to successful multi-ethnic government in Iraq was Maliki himself -- not either the State of Law party he led, or the larger problem of ethnic separatism in a country invented by the U.K. between the wars. It’s useful to remember that the Kingdom of Iraq, as the British styled it, was torn by ethnic strife from its formation. The British put the Sunnis on the throne in 1933, and one of their first acts was to put down revolts by restless Shiites (and Yazidis).
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