Monday, August 22, 2005

A plan for Iraq

Juan Cole is the best expert blogger out there, regularly winning the coveted Koufax award.

Today he proposes a 10 point plan for stabilizing Iraq, which I'll excerpt:

  1. US ground troops should be withdrawn ASAP from urban areas as a first step.…
  2. In the second phase of withdrawal, most US ground troops would steadily be brought out of Iraq.
  3. For as long as the elected Iraqi government wanted it, the US would offer the new Iraqi military and security forces close air support in any firefight they have with guerrilla or other rebellious forces. (I.e. we would replicate our tactics in Afghanistan of providing the air force for the Northern Alliance infantry and cavalry.)…
  4. With the agreement of the elected Iraqi government, the US would prevent any guerrilla force from fielding any large number of fighters for set piece battles. Such large units of militiamen attempting to march from Anbar on Baghdad, e.g., would be destroyed by AC-130s and other US air weaponry suitable to this purpose. This tactic cannot prevent the current campaign of car bombings, but it can stop a full-scale Lebanon or Afghanistan-style civil war from erupting.
  5. In addition to the service of its air forces, the US would offer targeted military aid to ensure the stability of the Iraqi government.…
  6. The US would help rapidly build an Iraqi armor corps. The new Iraqi military's lack of tanks is almost certainly because the US is afraid they might be turned on US troops in a crisis. Once US ground troops are out, there is no reason not to let the Iraqi military just import a lot of tanks and train the new Iraqi army in using them.
  7. The US should demand as a quid pro quo for further help that elections in Iraq henceforward be held on a district basis so as to ensure proper representation in parliament for the Sunni Arab provinces. This step is necessary if there is to be any hope of drawing the Sunni Arab political elites into the new government.
  8. The US should demand as a quid pro quo for further help that the Iraqi government announce an amnesty for all former Baath Party members who cannot be proven to have committed serious crimes, including crimes against humanity. Former Baathists who have been fired from the schools and civil bureaucracy must be reinstated, and no further firings are to take place. (This step is key in convincing the old Sunni Arab elites that they won't be screwed over in the new Iraq.)
  9. Congress must rewrite the laws governing US reconstruction aid to Iraq so as to take out provisions that Iraqis must where possible use US companies or materiel. All of the reconstruction money should go directly to Iraqi firms, so as to help jump-start the economy.
  10. The US should join the regular meetings of the foreign ministers of Iraq's neighbors, with Condi Rice in attendance, along with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, employing a 6 + 2 diplomatic track to help put Iraq back on its feet through diplomacy and multilateral aid.…
It's interesting, because I cut a paragraph describing almost exactly the first few points, including part 3, in a post a few days ago. The post was running long, but I basically said we should shift American forces to a responsive role, provide air support and security at key positions, but mostly let the Iraqi's sort it out. Would there be some instability? Maybe, but only to the extent that there's resentment bubbling under the surface that would find an opening until local police develop a rapport with the people and establish their authority.

I thought I even published those lines, but I guess I cut it, probably because I'm not an expert on Iraq or military affairs. It's nice to see someone who is backing up my intuition.

Remember that American democracy wasn't without its fits and starts, the Whiskey rebellion being the classic example. George Washington saved the Union there by showing the power of the nation with an indigenous force, rather than externally imposed order. Iraq needs the same experience.