the art & adventures of tracy durnell


April 21, 2007


Bricks in the wall

Oh great, "American military commanders in Baghdad are trying a radical new strategy to quell the widening sectarian violence by building a 12-foot-high, three-mile-long wall separating a historic Sunni enclave from Shiite neighborhoods." Walls have always been positive in the past, right? I mean, the Jewish ghetto that was supposed to protect Jews, the Berlin Wall, the walls along the U.S.-Mexico border that force illegal immigrants to cross dangerous deserts? Tell me how this strategy is radical or new--it's a classic!

It's true that building a wall will reduce interactions between Sunnis and Shia in the area--they will now chiefly occur at the established passages through the wall. Perhaps the Americans think that because they know the locations of these passages, they will be able to concentrate their patrols there and better control what and who goes through. In turn, the passages will present better targets for killing the other sect by concentrating people in one location.

A wall is a short-term solution to a long-term problem, and a response to the effects of problems rather than the causes. According to the NYTimes article above, "many Sunnis across Baghdad complain that the Shiite-led government has choked off basic services to their neighborhoods, allowing trash to pile up in the streets, banks to shut down and health clinics to languish. So the wall raises fears of further isolation." Dividing people with a physical barrier perpetuates psychological categorizations of 'us' and 'them', which will in turn maintain the desire to kill each other. The only way I can see this potentially being positive is if construction of the wall is coupled with major efforts addressing the roots of the problem, which I do not know, but would guess include the lack of balanced government representation, infusion of religion into government, desire for and justification of revenge, and the fear, anger, and stress of living through a civil war.

Labels: , ,