If Democracy Fails, Try Civil War

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Some folks think U.S. troops should leave Iraq promptly. Others worry that a premature departure could mean civil war and re-exporting battle-hardened jihadists from a terrorist haven in Iraq.

But Richard A. Falkenrath, former White House deputy homeland security adviser and now a think-tanker, recently had a different take: Everyone should just relax. This Iraq thing will work out fine for the United States even if Iraq implodes into civil war.

Musing about the war on terrorism at a symposium last week at the Brookings Institution, where he's a senior fellow, Falkenrath tossed out another notion, a variant of the "flypaper" theory President Bush has used, that the fighting in Iraq has drawn the terrorists there, "so we don't have to fight them here."

"A lot of Sunni terrorists have gone there," conceded Falkenrath, a former Harvard professor. "They are becoming more formidable . . . [with] real on-the-ground training."

"But they're also starting to engage the Shiites and engage in a sectarian conflict to a larger degree," Falkenrath said. "And it's possible -- this is a hypothesis -- but it's possible that they will be consumed in an Iraqi civil war rather than getting re-exported as more formidable Sunni terrorists in the coming years."

"Now that's a bad circumstance for Iraq, no question," he said. "But it may be that it is something that" reduces the chance of an attack on "the far enemy." (That would be us.) So we're golden. Either we get prosperous democracy or a raging civil war that keeps the bad guys tied up.

Some Options for Brownie

And now, the winners of the In the Loop "Brownie's Next Gig" Contest. This was to suggest a suitable job for former FEMA chief Michael D. Brown :

1. "Umbrella holder for Michael Jackson." -- Ed Sheehy of Falls Church.

2. "The next Iraqi information minister." -- A U.S. government official in Romania who explained why with a quiz. "Who said each of the following," our winner asked, Brown or Saddam's flack, Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf?

· "There are no American infidels in Baghdad, never."

· "Our nation is prepared, as never before, to deal quickly and capably with the consequences of disasters."

· "Our initial assessment is that they will all die."


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