October 30, 2005

Because that's where the power is

When asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton is said to have replied: "Because that's where the money is." I can't believe how little attention is paid to the Americanization of the Iraqi army because, at least in the Islamic middle east, that's where the power is. With a (hoped-for) monopoly on force, the Iraqi army will inevitably be the most important political force in Iraq. What's more, the army is the one place where it's considered legitimate, even in a democracy, for the government to enforce cultural norms. In this case, secularism, pluralism, and democracy. Here's one place where they seem to get it (via Instapundit):

The Sunni Arabs knew that the management and leadership skills necessary to run an army or police force were not easily acquired. It took years of training and experience. There was no way the Kurds and Shia Arabs could quickly replace those Sunni Arab officers and NCOs. Thus Sunni Arab terrorists would drive out the foreign troops, especially the deadly Americans, and, then the Sunni Arabs would take over again. But then something very, very bad (for the Sunni Arab takeover plan) happened. Battalions and brigades of Iraqi troops began to show up, commanded by Kurds, Shia Arabs, and some turncoat Sunni Arabs, that could do the job. Currently there are 207,000 Iraqi soldiers and police that are trained and equipped for operations. There are sufficient leadership to deploy 120 army and police battalions for combat operations. About three dozen of these battalions are well enough led to undertake security operations without American supervision.

The US's destruction and rebuilding of the Iraqi army was a strategic objective, not a tactical mistake. No effort to remake Iraq could succeed, even by half, without it. De-Baathification is the Iraqi version of Kemalism: Atatürk did the same thing in Turkey, and built an institution which is still a cultural and political force today. Not quite democracy, but a lot better than the alternative. And something from which, in time, democracy might evolve.

UPDATE: For an example of Turkish democracy, see this. Mind your Qs and Ws!

Posted by David Boxenhorn at October 30, 2005 06:09 PM | TrackBacks
Comments & Trackbacks

Who are you to argue against the wisdom of Thomas Friedman!
Does he believe that de-nazification in post WWII Germany was also a tactical mistake?

Posted by: David Gerstman at October 31, 2005 02:47 AM Permalink

The real long-term strategic question is whether the newly independent Iraqi state will continue to be an American ally after the U.S. military leaves. Otherwise, it may well use its American-trained Iraqi army for, shall we say, unintended purposes.

Posted by: Zman Biur at October 31, 2005 03:31 PM Permalink

Any corporate acquisition consultant could have told them standard operating procedure: Take control through the existing hierarchy, use them to organize layoff of most personnel but retain a skeleton maintenance crew, then gradually replace those over the next couple of years.

Posted by: caffeind at November 12, 2005 07:15 PM Permalink

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