It's now relatively common for people to say ethnic cleansing has paved, or will pave the way for political stability in Iraq. (For example, I remember Colin Powell alluding to a needed "bloodletting" at last year's Aspen Ideas Festival.)

But--in part because the idea is so simple and seemingly so seductive--I've never been totally convinced. So, despite their lack of impartiality, it's interesting to see Mike O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack's big new Foreign Affairs article push back on that point:

"It is worth noting that separation resulting from sectarian cleansing was not the chief cause of the reduction in violence, as some have claimed. Much of Iraq remains intermingled but increasingly peaceful. And whereas a cleansing argument implies that casualties should have gone down in Baghdad, for example, as mixed neighborhoods were cleansed, casualties actually went up consistently during the sectarian warfare of 2006. Cleansing may have reduced the violence somewhat in some places, but it was not the main cause."

Of course, it's near-impossible to disentangle all the causes of Iraq's recent drop in violence. But as we're debunking the "surge fixed everything" theory of Iraqi politics, we should cast a critical eye on the "ethnic cleansing fixes everything" lobby's claims as well.

--Barron YoungSmith