September 19, 2003

The Situation in Iraq Mark

The Situation in Iraq

Mark Danner has a pretty gloomy piece up at the NYRB. But he's a talented writer, pretty judicious, and so well worth reading. This part describing the Iraqi resistance is what gets me worried:

"This is the dynamic that various opponents of the occupation must try to sustain. By whatever means, they aim to produce in Iraq growing political anger and discontent and to focus that anger and discontent on the occupiers, thus alienating more and more Iraqis, who might join the anti-occupation forces, actively support them, or at least count themselves sympathetic to the cause. Since the numbers of the armed opposition, as Paul Bremer noted, are far too small to defeat the Americans militarily, their strategy relies on provoking the Americans to take actions that will create among Iraqis the broader support needed to sustain a guerrilla war."

We can quash the Ba'athist resistance, Saddam Fedayeen and assorted foreign infiltrators over time if their numbers remain relatively constant and trend downwards as we kill and/or capture them. The problem is that heavy-handed counter-guerrilla operations might well increase their ranks.

I think that's the key concern policymakers and the military leadership should be wrestling with right now. Basically, how to catch the bad guys without creating more of them.

Bring on the Gendarmarie

To help with this task, as I've argued before, I think we need to have many more constabulatory-type forces in the theater. Professionally trained military police might help us handle local sensitivities better per some of Danner's concerns.

In this vein, I'm beginning to think, more and more, that this whole effort to get large U.N. peacekeeping contingents into Iraq is somewhat misguided. Especially given the actual countries that are often bandied about as most likely to send troops.

Indians are loathed by many jihadist type Muslims and will therefore also constitute a prime terrorist target. We shouldn't involve neighboring countries (like Turkey) as they will very probably pursue their national interests in a manner that may well conflict with American objectives. Bangladeshi forces are not of particularly high caliber (I remember visiting the Bangladeshi UN battalion in Bosnia in the mid-90s. It wasn't pretty).

What we likely need instead are highly trained European military police types.

On this, remember Joe Wilson, Mr. Yellowcake?

Over at TPM, Josh Marshall has an interesting interview with him. I disagree with much of what Wilson says, (including his opening contention that we are "fucked" in Iraq), but he makes a good point here:

"We don't do national policing. We do state policing, we have a national investigatory agency, the FBI, but we don't do national policing and we particularly don't do it in the way that it probably needed to be done in the aftermath of the Second Gulf War. The Europeans do. The French have a national Gendarmerie, the Italians have the Carabinieri, the Spanish have the Guardia Civil. They do national policing; they train to military standards; they follow a military-style doctrine; they have military-style discipline. It is an organization that is for all intents and purposes paramilitary, but it has policing functions. They would have been perfect for that. When I was political adviser to CINCEUR [Commander in Chief, United States European Command], we did the Bosnia intervention. One of the things we did early on from our European command headquarters was go around and talk to these countries about how they could use their national policing force as an adjunct to our own military presence--understanding that it was the role of the military to win the battle, put in the interposition force, in the case of Iraq fight the insurgency--but you probably had better type forces, in terms of what their training was, in terms of what their understanding of their mission was, in terms of what their resources and capabilities and armaments were, for a policing-style operation."

This rings pretty true. We need more professional constabulatory types to ensure we don't lose too many hearts and minds as we clamp down on the Ba'athist remnants etc. This is where the Euros can perhaps give a real hand. (Note that speaks of Germany helping train MPs rather than contributing any German nationals). Getting those types of forces into Iraq is likely where we should focus once we get the U.N. resolution.

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