Friday, April 30, 2004

Iraq insurgency: Looks like we are re-Baathifying—though that may be too little, too late 

Well, it sure is easier to buy the Iraqis off than to kill them all and let God sort them out. Looks like someone in the Bush regime wised up. The signal, I imagine, was Chalabi saying they could bought the Baath party, and hence security, a year ago. $200 million looks cheap now, eh? The essential Juan Cole writes:

There are everywhere signs that the United States has embarked on a policy of re-baathification, rehabilitating thousands of ex-Baathists and putting them to work. Fifty former Baath officers met with Minister of Defense Ali Allawi on Thursday, expressing their deep disappointment with the current make-up of the new Iraqi army. The policy has two goals. First, it is aimed at mollifying the Sunni Arabs, who have given the US so much trouble in the past year, and from whom the high-ranking Baathists were largely drawn. Second, it serves as a threat to insurgents and Shiites, that if they continue to make trouble, they will be facing the aides of Chemical Ali.

Whoever made the decision to pull back and try to put an Iraqi face on the confrontation in Fallujah had more good sense than has been demonstrated by American leaders recently in Iraq. A bloody invasion of Fallujah had the potential of greatly deepening Iraqi and Arab hatred for the United States. It remains to see whether the new Iraqi force is up to the task of restoring order and quelling the fighters. The police in Fallujah have so far been ineffective, often admitting that they refuse to fight Iraqis on behalf of the Americans.
(via Informed Comment)

Of course, what might have brought realpolitik-style "good" results a year ago might not bring results today. Things change. Krugman writes:

All the information I've been able to get my hands on indicates that the security situation in Iraq is really, really bad. It's not a good sign when, a year into an occupation, the occupying army sends for more tanks. Western civilians have retreated to armed enclaves. U.S. forces are strong enough to defend those enclaves, and probably strong enough to keep essential supplies flowing. But we don't have remotely enough troops to turn the vicious circle around. The Iraqi forces that were supposed to fill the security gap collapsed — or turned against us — at the first sign of trouble.

And all of the proposals one hears for resolving this ugly situation seem to be either impractical or far behind the curve.

Some say we should send more troops. But the U.S. military doesn't have more troops to send, unless it resorts to extreme measures, like withdrawing a large part of the forces currently in South Korea. Did I mention that North Korea is building nuclear weapons, and may already have eight?

Others say we should seek more support from other countries. There may once have been a time — say, last summer — when the U.S. could have struck a deal: by ceding a lot of authority to the U.N., we might have been able to persuade countries with large armies, like India, to contribute large numbers of peacekeeping troops. But it's hard to imagine that anyone will now send significant forces into the Iraqi cauldron.

Some pin their hopes on a political solution: they believe that violence will subside if the U.N. is allowed to appoint a caretaker government that Iraqis don't view as a U.S. puppet.

Let's hope they're right. But bear in mind that right now the U.S. is still planning to hand over "sovereignty" to a body, yet to be named, that will have hardly any power at all. For practical purposes, the U.S. ambassador will be running the country. Americans may believe that everything will change on June 30, but Iraqis are unlikely to be fooled. And by the way, much of the Arab world believes that we've been committing war crimes in Falluja.

I don't have a plan for Iraq. I strongly suspect, however, that all the plans you hear now are irrelevant. If America's leaders hadn't made so many bad decisions, they might have had a chance to shape Iraq to their liking. But that window closed many months ago.
(via The Times)

Well, unless we can get the Sunnis to run the country for us like they ran it for Saddam (perhaps with our mercenaries helping them do the work our Geneva Convention-bound regular troops can't do). After, all the worst of the Ba'athists are a lot like the CPA/RNC folks: they will do literally anything to gain and hold power.

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