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Repeating failures, volume 32,491: building walls in Iraq

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Over the past week, we learned that the U.S. was building a wall in Baghdad to separate Sunni Arabs in Adhamiya from Shia to the east. The wall was described by U.S. officials as "one of the centerpieces of a new strategy," and was apparently supposed to provide security.

If this news sounds familiar, it's because we've tried building walls before, in both Tal Afar and Mosul, where we built berms to try to manage the flow in and out of those cities. How did that work out? Latest Tal Afar headline: "Curfew imposed on Iraq's volatile Tal Afar." Latest Mosul news: Gunmen kill 23 in Mosul . . . suicide car bomb kills ten . . . mass abductions.

So the efficacy of this kind of plan is dubious at best. But as an added bonus, the wall is also yet another instance of the U.S. completely failing to understand (let alone act on) the politics of, y'know, Iraq itself. You see, the Arab world can have a fairly specific reaction to "protective" walls. Prime Minister Maliki, in objecting to the plan, said it reminded people of "other walls."

What "other walls"? In the U.S., maybe we'd think of the Berlin Wall, or perhaps even the proposed wall on our southern border. We might not immediately consider the separation barrier in the West Bank being established by Israel, which Israel says is for protection but which infuriates Palestinians and much of the Arab world. Generally speaking, imitating Israeli policies is not going to get you very far in the Arab world. Especially when you're earning enmity for something that's not going to work anyway.

The wall is a recycled bad idea masquerading as a new strategy, and has already been torpedoed by Iraqi leadership. Further, this administration's continued failure to understand -- or even consider -- the Iraqi perspective on our actions continues to cripple our efforts and get our troops (not to mention tens of thousands of Iraqis) killed.

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