The Corner

The Swiss Model

I haven’t studied Joe Biden’s proposal for dividing up Iraq into more autonomous regions. But I do think it’s a serious idea. Indeed, three years ago I wrote:

But the main and obvious reason why I bring up Switzerland is that I am flummoxed by the fact nobody else has done so in all the talk about rebuilding Iraq. Switzerland is peaceful now, but it was formed by warring tribes of Germans, Italians, French, and Romansch, and divided along religious lines in a strategically vital region of Europe not unlike Iraq’s place in the Middle East. It seems to me the Swiss model is almost precisely what the Iraqis need. Militarily, Switzerland is a threat to no one but invaders; its neutrality and armed pacifism are a matter of national pride, as is its desire to be a force for good in the region and the world. It’s rich, stable, improbably happy — and, yeah, just a little boring in the eyes of the rest of the world. In a sense, History has ended in the Swiss Alps, and that’s the way everyone likes it. Who would be crying in their beer if we could say the same thing about Iraq?

Again, without knowing all the details, I think the best argument against Biden’s proposal is that it’s too late. Biden should be congratulated for engaging the Iraq question productively, but I think the iron is no longer hot enough to revisit this sort of thing and turning the Sunni areas over to the Sunnis right now might be a recipe for a very nasty mini state. Anyway, John R. Thomson and Hussain Hindawi have more substantive thoughts in the issue elsewhere on NRO.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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