Five Ways to Prevent Iraq from Getting Even Worse

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 6 months ago

At the Small Wars Journal, there is a discussion thread that points to a Time article entitled “Five Ways to Prevent Iraq from Getting Even Worse.”  The article recommends a change in course under five headings:

  • Clean out the rogues.
  • Deal with al-Sadr.
  • Bring the Sunnis back.
  • Wake up the neighbors.
  • Get tough: then get out.

Each rubric deserves a long discussion and not all of them are right (talking with Iran or Syria), but two are of particular interest here.  On the first, the author says in part:

The Bush Administration’s strategy has hinged on standing up credible Iraqi security forces to take over responsibility for the country’s security. So far there are 311,000 U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers and police, of varying capabilities. While that’s close to the goal of 325,000, the real problem is less about quantity than loyalty. To anybody paying attention, it’s clear that the security forces, broadly divided between the police under the Interior Ministry and the army under the Defense Ministry, are the main vectors of the widening civil war. The bureaucracies and the fighters have been infiltrated by militias, notably the Mahdi Army of Shi’ite radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Iran-backed Badr Organization, affiliated with the dominant party in the Shi’ite coalition that controls parliament. Many policemen and soldiers are more loyal to their sect leaders and militia bosses than to the Iraqi government. In Baghdad, for instance, many police vehicles and Interior Ministry offices bear stickers and posters of al-Sadr. Sunni victims of sectarian violence routinely accuse the police and army of looking the other way when the militias unleash havoc–or worse, joining in the killing.

To continue the discussion, the Small Wars Journal Editor grabbed a post that John Robb made at Global Guerrillas concerning this same article:

TIME’s Aparisim Ghosh reports that General Peter Pace belatedly has convened a group of young officers to answer the question: Why are there almost as many U.S. troops in Iraq now as there were two years ago when, in the interim, more than 300,000 Iraqi security forces have been recruited and trained?

I provided one answer to this question two years ago, when I wrote about loyalist paramilitaries (October 2004). The answer involved two elements. The first was outsourcing security, particularly in the British controlled south and Baghdad to “loyalist” paramilitaries. The second was incorporating paramilitary members into the new Iraqi security forces, particularly since they were more willing to fight than the general population. In classic US fashion (a reflection of the paucity of strategic thinking in our general staff), training to the numbers (quantity) and the early effectiveness of the unit in a fire fight (expediency) was deemed more important than loyalty of the unit to the government. The long term implications were not considered.

The result is that over the last two years the US military has actually created an environment that is conducive to a bloody and chaotic civil war. By partnering with paramilitaries, we accelerated the development of those forces that would take the war to the Sunnis.

This is certainly thematically analogous with our counsel, and I have called leaving al-Sadr alive the biggest mistake of the war.  I have spoken clearly on the issue of force size and projection and the lack of troops necessary and adequate to effect security, and I have spoken out against the reliance on proxy fighters and pointed out that the Iraqi troops sometimes hinder rather than help the U.S. efforts.  But John Robb points to yet another unintended consequence of this reliance on proxy fighters.  We accelerated the development of the very forces who would undermine the government we were attempting to create.

At the time of writing of this post, Fox News is reporting from an embedded reporter with the Army in Baghdad while they are searching and arresting a senior Police officer who has been operating with the Militias he was supposed to be policing.  Police by day, arbiter of death by night.

As an answer to al-Qaeda in the al Anbar Province, the Iraqi government has a compact with some of the tribes to assist in patrolling and policing the cities.  While the Strategy Page (highly respected, and properly so) said of this arrangement that Iraq gained the equivalent of three divisions, I said that at best they had three divisions of recruits, and that some of these may not be worth having.

This is truly a land of many wars, with Shi’ite-on-Shi’ite violence, Shi’ite-on-Sunni violence, Sunni on al-Qaeda violence, al-Qaeda on Sunni, Shi’ite and U.S. violence, Shi’ite-on-Kurd violence, Shi’ite-on-U.S. violence, and Iran-on-U.S. violence.

John Robb cleverly adds to our list of reasons to reject the use of proxy fighters in a land so divided as this one, and therefore I see no reason to jettison my thematic rejection of the strategy to date: we have relied too heavily on proxy fighters, we bypassed urban areas and dropped conventional operations, thus too quickly adopting counterinsurgency operations, we have not been timely by dragging the war out four times as long as it should have taken, and our force projection has been woefully inadequate.

Despite the failure at the top of the military chain of command, U.S. troops are the best in the world and they prove their bravery daily.

Concerning incorporation of the Sunnis into the mainstream of Iraqi culture and government, I predicted that this was coming, and that it would involve much emotional anguish in the U.S. due to peace-making with those who had killed U.S. troops.  Michael Rubin gives us a more pragmatic set of reasons to be concerned about this direction:

While it’s fashionable to say de-Baathification caused the Sunni insurgency, in reality terrorist violence is proportional to that policy’s reversal. In order to maintain security after the April 2004 siege of Fallujah, the coalition restored former Baathists. Car bombings increased 300 percent within a month. In Mosul, once deemed a model city of reconciliation, Gen. David Petraeus appointed senior Baathist Gen. Mohammed Kheiri Barhawi to be police chief. Petraeus’ decision was a triumph not of pragmatism, but of naïveté. Barhawi provided intelligence, equipment and arms to terrorists, finally handing over every police station in the city to the insurgents in November 2004.

Far from winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis, re-Baathification antagonized them. Not all Iraqis had joined the party, and the refuseniks suffered for their morality. Non-Baathist Ph.D.s could not even work as schoolteachers and had to beg for food. After Saddam Hussein’s fall, they joined schools in droves, eager to rebuild their country. Re-Baathification meant firing competent new teachers to reinstall corrupted predecessors who, as the Baath Party archives show, had created blacklists of 14-year-old students under their charge.

Realists may say foreign policy should be centered on U.S. interests, not justice. Here, too, though, re-Baathification has failed. It has not assuaged insurgency. Not only does offering concessions to violence encourage violence, but also by extending an olive branch to unrepentant Baathists, diplomats may have furthered Iranian influence and worsened militia violence. Many Iraqi Shiites distrust Washington, not for occupying Iraq in 2003, but for failing to do so 12 years earlier when they rose up to oust Hussein, only to suffer retaliatory massacres. It should not surprise that Iraqi Shiites look at U.S. outreach to Baathists as a sign that the younger Bush will betray them just as his father once did.

While some arrangement must be made with the Sunnis in order to go forward with a unified Iraq – if there is to be one – the use of Sunni proxy fighters, arming the Sunnis, and in any way aiding a civil war between the Sunnis and Shia are certainly not among those helpful suggestions for a plan for the future.

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

You are currently reading "Five Ways to Prevent Iraq from Getting Even Worse", entry #360 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Iraq and was published October 28th, 2006 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

26th MEU (10)
Abu Muqawama (12)
ACOG (2)
ACOGs (1)
Afghan National Army (36)
Afghan National Police (17)
Afghanistan (679)
Afghanistan SOFA (4)
Agriculture in COIN (3)
AGW (1)
Air Force (32)
Air Power (9)
al Qaeda (83)
Ali al-Sistani (1)
America (12)
Ammunition (45)
Animals in War (4)
Ansar al Sunna (15)
Anthropology (3)
Antonin Scalia (1)
AR-15s (122)
Arghandab River Valley (1)
Arlington Cemetery (2)
Army (61)
Assassinations (2)
Assault Weapon Ban (26)
Australian Army (5)
Azerbaijan (4)
Backpacking (2)
Badr Organization (8)
Baitullah Mehsud (21)
Basra (17)
BATFE (64)
Battle of Bari Alai (2)
Battle of Wanat (17)
Battle Space Weight (3)
Bin Laden (7)
Blogroll (2)
Blogs (8)
Body Armor (18)
Books (3)
Border War (8)
Brady Campaign (1)
Britain (31)
British Army (35)
Camping (4)
Canada (2)
Castle Doctrine (1)
Caucasus (6)
Center For a New American Security (8)
Charity (3)
China (10)
Christmas (9)
CIA (26)
Civilian National Security Force (3)
Col. Gian Gentile (9)
Combat Outposts (3)
Combat Video (2)
Concerned Citizens (6)
Constabulary Actions (3)
Coolness Factor (2)
COP Keating (4)
Corruption in COIN (4)
Council on Foreign Relations (1)
Counterinsurgency (216)
DADT (2)
David Rohde (1)
Defense Contractors (2)
Department of Defense (136)
Department of Homeland Security (19)
Disaster Preparedness (3)
Distributed Operations (5)
Dogs (8)
Donald Trump (2)
Drone Campaign (3)
EFV (3)
Egypt (12)
El Salvador (1)
Embassy Security (1)
Enemy Spotters (1)
Expeditionary Warfare (17)
F-22 (2)
F-35 (1)
Fallujah (17)
Far East (3)
Fathers and Sons (1)
Favorite (1)
Fazlullah (3)
FBI (22)
Featured (179)
Federal Firearms Laws (18)
Financing the Taliban (2)
Firearms (834)
Football (1)
Force Projection (35)
Force Protection (4)
Force Transformation (1)
Foreign Policy (27)
Fukushima Reactor Accident (6)
Ganjgal (1)
Garmsir (1)
general (15)
General Amos (1)
General James Mattis (1)
General McChrystal (42)
General McKiernan (6)
General Rodriguez (3)
General Suleimani (7)
Georgia (19)
Google (1)
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (1)
Gun Control (702)
Guns (1,332)
Guns In National Parks (3)
Haditha Roundup (10)
Haiti (2)
Haqqani Network (9)
Hate Mail (8)
Hekmatyar (1)
Heroism (4)
Hezbollah (12)
High Capacity Magazines (12)
High Value Targets (9)
Homecoming (1)
Homeland Security (1)
Horses (1)
Humor (15)
ICOS (1)
IEDs (7)
Immigration (64)
India (10)
Infantry (4)
Information Warfare (2)
Infrastructure (2)
Intelligence (23)
Intelligence Bulletin (6)
Iran (169)
Iraq (378)
Iraq SOFA (23)
Islamic Facism (53)
Islamists (81)
Israel (18)
Jaish al Mahdi (21)
Jalalabad (1)
Japan (2)
Jihadists (80)
John Nagl (5)
Joint Intelligence Centers (1)
JRTN (1)
Kabul (1)
Kajaki Dam (1)
Kamdesh (9)
Kandahar (12)
Karachi (7)
Kashmir (2)
Khost Province (1)
Khyber (11)
Knife Blogging (3)
Korea (4)
Korengal Valley (3)
Kunar Province (20)
Kurdistan (3)
Language in COIN (5)
Language in Statecraft (1)
Language Interpreters (2)
Lashkar-e-Taiba (2)
Law Enforcement (3)
Lawfare (6)
Leadership (5)
Lebanon (6)
Leon Panetta (2)
Let Them Fight (2)
Libya (14)
Lines of Effort (3)
Littoral Combat (8)
Logistics (50)
Long Guns (1)
Lt. Col. Allen West (2)
Marine Corps (252)
Marines in Bakwa (1)
Marines in Helmand (67)
Marjah (4)
Media (39)
Memorial Day (3)
Mexican Cartels (24)
Mexico (33)
Michael Yon (5)
Micromanaging the Military (7)
Middle East (1)
Military Blogging (26)
Military Contractors (4)
Military Equipment (24)
Militia (5)
Mitt Romney (3)
Monetary Policy (1)
Moqtada al Sadr (2)
Mosul (4)
Mountains (23)
MRAPs (1)
Mullah Baradar (1)
Mullah Fazlullah (1)
Mullah Omar (3)
Musa Qala (4)
Music (16)
Muslim Brotherhood (6)
Nation Building (2)
National Internet IDs (1)
National Rifle Association (28)
NATO (15)
Navy (22)
Navy Corpsman (1)
NCOs (3)
News (1)
NGOs (2)
Nicholas Schmidle (2)
Now Zad (19)
NSA (3)
NSA James L. Jones (6)
Nuclear (56)
Nuristan (8)
Obama Administration (218)
Offshore Balancing (1)
Operation Alljah (7)
Operation Khanjar (14)
Ossetia (7)
Pakistan (165)
Paktya Province (1)
Palestine (5)
Patriotism (6)
Patrolling (1)
Pech River Valley (11)
Personal (44)
Petraeus (14)
Pictures (1)
Piracy (13)
Pistol (2)
Pizzagate (21)
Police (327)
Police in COIN (3)
Policy (15)
Politics (374)
Poppy (2)
PPEs (1)
Prisons in Counterinsurgency (12)
Project Gunrunner (20)
PRTs (1)
Qatar (1)
Quadrennial Defense Review (2)
Quds Force (13)
Quetta Shura (1)
RAND (3)
Recommended Reading (14)
Refueling Tanker (1)
Religion (140)
Religion and Insurgency (19)
Reuters (1)
Rick Perry (4)
Rifles (1)
Roads (4)
Rolling Stone (1)
Ron Paul (1)
ROTC (1)
Rules of Engagement (75)
Rumsfeld (1)
Russia (29)
Sabbatical (1)
Sangin (1)
Saqlawiyah (1)
Satellite Patrols (2)
Saudi Arabia (4)
Scenes from Iraq (1)
Second Amendment (223)
Second Amendment Quick Hits (2)
Secretary Gates (9)
Sharia Law (3)
Shura Ittehad-ul-Mujahiden (1)
SIIC (2)
Sirajuddin Haqqani (1)
Small Wars (72)
Snipers (9)
Sniveling Lackeys (2)
Soft Power (4)
Somalia (8)
Sons of Afghanistan (1)
Sons of Iraq (2)
Special Forces (26)
Squad Rushes (1)
State Department (19)
Statistics (1)
Sunni Insurgency (10)
Support to Infantry Ratio (1)
Supreme Court (3)
Survival (16)
SWAT Raids (54)
Syria (38)
Tactical Drills (1)
Tactical Gear (3)
Taliban (167)
Taliban Massing of Forces (4)
Tarmiyah (1)
TBI (1)
Technology (16)
Tehrik-i-Taliban (78)
Terrain in Combat (1)
Terrorism (94)
Thanksgiving (7)
The Anbar Narrative (23)
The Art of War (5)
The Fallen (1)
The Long War (20)
The Surge (3)
The Wounded (13)
Thomas Barnett (1)
Transnational Insurgencies (5)
Tribes (5)
TSA (15)
TSA Ineptitude (11)
TTPs (1)
U.S. Border Patrol (5)
U.S. Border Security (14)
U.S. Sovereignty (17)
UAVs (2)
UBL (4)
Ukraine (3)
Uncategorized (46)
Universal Background Check (3)
Unrestricted Warfare (4)
USS Iwo Jima (2)
USS San Antonio (1)
Uzbekistan (1)
V-22 Osprey (4)
Veterans (2)
Vietnam (1)
War & Warfare (216)
War & Warfare (40)
War Movies (3)
War Reporting (18)
Wardak Province (1)
Warriors (6)
Waziristan (1)
Weapons and Tactics (59)
West Point (1)
Winter Operations (1)
Women in Combat (19)
WTF? (1)
Yemen (1)

May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006

about · archives · contact · register

Copyright © 2006-2018 Captain's Journal. All rights reserved.