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Is Iraq Like Bosnia?

In his column today about Kirkuk and the future of Iraq, Tom Friedman writes:

[O]n the big unresolved issues — how will power be shared in Kirkuk, how will the Sunnis who joined the “awakening” be absorbed into the government, how will oil wealth and power be shared between provinces and the central government — the different ethnic communities still don’t want to compromise much either.

To help resolve these issues, Friedman suggests a special Iraq envoy, "a big, tough, full-time mediator." He concludes:

After we invaded and stabilized Bosnia, we didn’t just toss their competing factions the keys. President Bill Clinton organized the Dayton peace talks and Richard Holbrooke brokered a deal that has lasted to this day. Why are we not doing in Iraq what we did in Bosnia — when the outcome here is 100 times more important?

Friedman's proposal definitely has something to be said for it, but the question is whether an envoy is nearly enough. Whatever the merits of the Dayton talks, they did not solve the fundamental problem in the Balkans. They were a band-aid, even if a necessary one. It took four years, the loss of many thousands of lives, and a NATO intervention to get to where we are today (the vastly improved, still problematic status quo). An Iraqi envoy might be necessary for a problem like Kirkuk, but the fear is that crucial issues are still a long way from resolution, regardless of the presence of American negotiators.

--Isaac Chotiner