(The following is a modestly revised and slightly reoriented version of a post that can be found at The New Republic's Open University.)
During discussions of Iraq, many people have suggested that with the fall of Saddam, primordial hatreds have bubbled up to the surface. On this view, the current situation is what it is because long-suppressed ethnic and religious antagonisms are now in full bloom. The problem with this view is that ethnic hatreds are usually not primordial. Part of what we have been witnessing is a kind of rapid "ethnification," in the form of a social cascade.