Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Police Action?

Peter Khalil, the the director of national security policy for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq from August 2003 to May 2004, has an interesting piece in yesterday's New York Times (read it quick or you'll have to pay). In it, he argues that the Iraqi military being built will not be able to effectively quell the insurgency "even if their ranks increased to 500,000 through rushed training." On the other hand, he says a much smaller force,
a force of 25,000 or so highly trained Iraqi internal security troops, operating
at the pointy end of the spear, with the remaining bulk of Iraqi forces in a
supporting role, might be able to do the job. That's because counterinsurgency
is not about numbers; the quality of the security forces, not their quantity, is
the key. . . The answer lies with specially trained Iraqi internal security
forces, separate from the standard military, including mobile counterterrorism
units, light-infantry police battalions and SWAT teams. There are now only a
handful of battalions with such training. Yet, with the help of intelligence
coordination and American logistical support, they have been effective. They
performed well alongside coalition troops in Falluja and Samarra, and pulled off
a hostage rescue in Kirkuk in which the Americans provided only logistical
Police battalions? SWAT teams? Could one of the Bushies be suggesting that the appropriate strategy for dealing with terrorism might be, um, law enforcement?

Ever since this whole debacle began in the aftermath of 9/11, we have been right and they have been wrong on issue after issue. Iraq had no WMDs and no connection to bin Laden or 9/11. We needed more troops and resources to capture bin Laden. The invasion of Iraq was a blunder that has yet to result in a joyous spontaneous outburst of democracy. And, yes, terrorism is best dealt with through a coordinated strategy of law enforcement and diplomacy, rather than with a strictly military solution. Taking terrorists seriously as an enemy military force gives them precisely the kind of legitimacy they crave, while large-scale military actions inevitably kill and maim more people than the terrorists could ever hope to and build support for their causes.

As these ideological knuckleheads learn slowly through trial and error what their opponents in the reality-based community have been trying to tell them for years, do we get any credit? Do the Bushies ever say to Joe Biden or General Eric Shinseki or Juan Cole, "oh, hey, you guys are right about that?" Hell no. In fact, during the campaign, they apparently convinced a majority of Americans that no one but the ideologues could be "trusted" with the Global War on Terror because nobody else was belligerant enough. "It's better to be strong and wrong" and all that crap.

So here's the next prediction for the Right to ignore: elections aren't the answer. Any new government in Iraq needs to be agreed upon by negotioation among the factions. Majority rule is not really the answer in such an ethnically divided society. When I suggest they are not ready for democracy, I am not being racist, I am saying that Iraq does not have traditions of minority rights. As long as minorities fear that the slim majority (religious Shiites)will try to use the government to impose their beliefs on the rest of the public through control of the state, they will resist. Only a state in which minority rights are protected from majority rule can hope to be stable.

Could it be that the neocons can't see this in part because of their alliance with a religious minority (Conservative Evangelical Christians, at about 28% of the American population) that wants to impose its beliefs on the rest of the public through control of the state?

The best strategy for dealing with terrorism is to stop committing acts of terrorism.
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