Democrats are disparaging Iraqi security efforts and criticizing the
Bush administration for not pressuring Iraqis to do more. In response,
the Bush administration is said to be creating a specific timetable of
milestones for the Iraqi government to disarm militias, reduce sectarian
violence, and increase stability and security in the country.
Such rhetoric makes for good domestic politics, but it demonstrates
the height of imperial arrogance. The U.S. invasion and occupation has
ripped wide open the already fractious social fabric of Iraq, already
torn by three previous wars—the Iran-Iraq War, the first Gulf War, and
the combat over the no-fly zones imposed on Iraqi territory between the
Gulf War and the U.S. invasion.
The unleashing of a sectarian civil war after the U.S. invasion was
predictable and predicted, even by the U.S. intelligence community. In
the wake of the incursion, the inept U.S. dissolution of the Iraqi army
and the removal of Baathist party members from the Iraqi government
severely weakened the prospect of any successful Iraqi effort to deter
or quell such strife.
Criticizing the bravery and loyalty of new Iraqi security forces is a
way to divert attention from the failures of the U.S. military strategy.
The U.S. military, even after the debacle in Vietnam, disdained learning
how to fight counterinsurgency warfare and continued to buy costly
weapons for a war against a major conventional adversary that no longer
The U.S. military’s reflexive use of heavy firepower, especially air
power, has caused excessive Iraqi casualties and turned the Iraqi people
against the United States. Recently, increased violence in Baghdad in
response to redoubled U.S. security operations shows that U.S. forces
are part of the problem in Iraq, not the solution.
Until it was too late, the United States underemphasized winning the
hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, the most crucial element of waging
successful counterinsurgency warfare.
In short, U.S. politicians are essentially blaming Iraqis for not
squelching the chaos and mayhem created by the United States. Yet, if
the best military in world history cannot disarm militias and pacify
Iraq, how does the U.S. government expect the inexperienced Iraqi
security forces to do so?
The Iraqi central government’s authority is not extensive because
Iraq is already effectively partitioned into decentralized fiefdoms
policed by sectarian and ethnic militias. Furthermore, the shaky Iraqi
government is dependent on the political support of the radical Shi’ite
militias that it is supposed to be disarming.
Even the U.S. military is afraid to make more enemies by disarming
these militias, which aren’t yet launching widespread attacks against
The United States is giving the Iraqi government a timetable of
benchmarks to enhance security with the implicit threat that if they are
not met, the United States will penalize the Iraqis or change its
military strategy. Such threats will have little effect, because the
Iraqi government is incapable of disarming the militias and otherwise
So perhaps the Bush administration is setting up the Iraqis for
failure so that an excuse can be found, after what looks to be an
election debacle at home, to begin a slow withdrawal of U.S. forces from
A slow withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, like “Vietnamization”
during the later stages of the Vietnam War, will only delay the
inevitable—policy failure—while getting many more U.S. service men and
women killed in the meantime.
Instead, the U.S. should withdraw its forces rapidly to motivate the
Shi’a and the Kurds running the government to share Iraqi’s oil wealth
with the Sunnis, thus buying their agreement to peacefully accept the
already partitioned Iraq.
Militias would not be disarmed by the central government, but would
police their own designated areas. In fact, the central government would
remain only as a confederate shell or be dissolved entirely. Although
not perfect, this scenario is Iraq’s last hope to avoid an escalating
civil war and give Iraqis the hope of some peace and prosperity.
Ivan Eland is a Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute,
Director of the Institute’s
Center on Peace &
Liberty, and author of the books
The Empire Has No Clothes, and
Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy.