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Fear: Chief Source of National Unity

It's better to be feared than ignored.

By Will Offensicht  |  September 26, 2007 defines "nation" as a group of people who are united enough to have their own government.  That sounds good, but there are exceptions.  From 1945 until he died in 1980, Marshal Josip Borz Tito ruled Yugoslavia with an iron hand.  He kept order by killing anybody who talked about tribal divisions.  I remember thinking of Yugoslavia as a nation.  Was it really?

When Tito died, Yugoslavia split apart.  People who'd lived in the same towns for years, who'd gone to the same schools, who'd played soccer together since they were kids, started shooting each other.  The phrase "ethic cleansing" was invented in Yugoslavia.

The only thing that united Yugoslavia was Tito's secret police.  Once Tito was gone, tribal hatreds came back and the place went to pot.

Iraq was a united nation under Saddam, but we found mass graves all over the place. says:

'We've already discovered just so far the remains of 400,000 people in mass graves,' said British Prime Minister Tony Blair on November 20 in London. The United Nations, the U.S. State Department, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch (HRW) all estimate that Saddam Hussein's regime murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

The dictionary definition of "nation" suggests that a group of people find themselves united and then they form a government, but it can work the other way. Tito had the guns and the muscle to form a government; he forced unity on his people.  Yugoslavia was united, but the only thing on which Yugoslavs agreed was that they were afraid of Tito's police.

Saddam murdered 400,000 people, but he achieved unity in Iraq.  The butcher's bill was staggering, unity came at a high cost in blood, but unity there was.  Nobody knows how many "innocent people" have died since Saddam's government fell, but it's a lot.  The butcher's bill has been high, but there's no unity.

Will there be unity in Iraq?  Saddam proved that fear can unite Iraqis enough to get them to stop killing each other, but it's not clear that anything less will do the job.