Ignorance is easy

Middle East Report, Spring 2007:

Twin specters hang over the Middle East of the American imagination—the perceived rise in the geopolitical power of the region’s Shi”˜i Muslims and the dark shadow cast by the sectarian reprisals that increasingly propel the Iraqi civil war. In the United States, pundits and Democratic presidential candidates point to the first specter as the ominous unintended consequence of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which, according to what is now conventional wisdom, strengthened majority-Shi”˜i Iran at the expense of the US-sponsored order in the Persian Gulf. The Iraqi civil war, meanwhile, is the newest evidence for Americans that conflicts in the Middle East are intractable because they are, at root, religious. Many Americans have turned against the Iraq war not because the invasion was launched on false pretenses or lacked UN approval, but because they now see the well-intentioned US military trapped amidst what Newsweek called “violent sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, the two main branches of Islam that have been at odds for centuries.” In Washington, former war supporters like Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) have taken to calling for “passing the torch to the Iraqis, who are the only ones who can handle this ancient—I’d say primitive—sectarian dispute.”…