Sunday, November 16, 2003

What Iraq Needs II

Max Boot suggests in today’s NY Times that it’s time to implement aggressive counter-insurgency programs in Iraq. Boot points out that whereas conventional military operations in Vietnam resulted in large numbers of casualties – including civilians – and largely meaningless tactical victories, the counter-insurgency programs run in Vietnam produced meaningful results, i.e., keeping the villages and hamlets in which they operated out of VC control.

The counter-insurgency programs run in Vietnam that Boot explicitly discusses are CAP, Cords, Kit Carson and Phoenix. All of these programs had one thing in common: heavy Vietnamese involvement – military, civilian, southern and north. Any successful counter-insurgency program run in Iraq would require the same level of local cooperation and involvement.

Two weeks ago we wrote that what Iraq needs is an equivalent to the Marshall Plan – we argued that the economic and political enfranchisement of the Iraqi population would serve as a dagger thrust into the heart of Al Qaeda and follow travelers, and that the economic development needed for this would require massive investment on the part of America and its allies in Iraqi infrastructure, institutions, etc. [Of course Iraq’s being a major oil producer may to some extent mitigate the need for outside funding and, just as importantly, help to lure private investors with the promise of significant return.] But there would be another advantage to this kind of investment in Iraq – it would mean putting down roots. Right now the world is looking to see just how much we can take in Iraq – and no one less than the Iraqis, friend and foe alike. Massive American investment in non-military assets in Iraq would serve as a statement of purpose – we are there for the long haul. We are not going to build up Iraq – with our money – only to leave it unprotected.

Vietnamese cooperation in U.S.-run counter-insurgency operations had a variety of motives: hatred of communism (and often first-hand knowledge of how it functioned in North Vietnam), ethnic and tribal rivalries, etc. Local rivalries will certainly play a part in counter-insurgency operations in Iraq, in fact it is in these kinds of operations that such rivalries – generally considered an obstacle to law and order – could be exploited to our benefit. But there will be no large, ideologically unifying force to bind Iraqis to their American allies. The Iraqis may hate Baathists, but the Baathists are deposed. Needless to say, no one will be fighting along side Americans out of a hatred of Islam. Significant Iraqi involvement in counter-insurgency operations in Iraq will require one thing above all else – confidence that the U.S. isn’t going to pull up stakes and abandon its allies into the hands of their enemies. Nothing would foster that confidence like massive, non-military U.S. investment in Iraq.


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