Towards A Good Samaritan World

Friday, December 08, 2006

Robert Kagan approves of the Iraq Study Group report. But Iraqis seem skeptical:

Amid growing Iraqi criticism of the findings of the Baker-Hamilton commission, senior government figures yesterday expressed bewilderment at a proposal to take the police force out of the hands of the interior ministry and put it under the control of the ministry of defence.

The report claimed the problems with Iraq's police - poor organisation and training, corruption, sectarian divisions and infiltration by militias - were so profound that only a radical reorganisation would enable them to carry out their mission "to protect and serve all Iraqis".

But a senior security adviser to the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, dismissed the proposals. "Like too many of the Baker report's recommendations, it is likely to cause more problems than it solves," he said. "The interior ministry needs cleaning of some bad elements, and we are doing so. Transferring the national police lock, stock and barrel to the defence ministry is unworkable and unrealistic."

Or hilariously hostile:

The title is an Iraqi proverb which may be roughly translated as follows: Entrust the cat to guard a piece of mutton fat; meaning what do you expect if you put a tomcat in charge of guarding a piece of fat?

There seems to be some real geniuses in Washington. I must say, the brilliance of these gentlemen really makes me speechless. It seems that the commission charged with preparing a report dealing with the Iraqi question has come up with the inspired solution that the matter should be entrusted to Iran and Syria of all other, after the U.S. washes her hands clean and go home to live in tranquility never to meddle in world affairs again. Of course it is not stated in these terms but rather couched in reasonable sounding phraseology: gradual reduction of troops; involvement of neighboring states such as Iran and Syria to help resolve the problems etc. etc. Well! Well! Well! Iran and Syria above all and by name, too!! I congratulate these astute gentlemen on this amazing discovery. The world hold its breath in waiting for the official issue of this great report, that President Bush is awaiting impatiently to enlighten him as to the proper direction of the Iraq policy.

But really, it is not right to burden these poor elderly gentlemen with such hard work; it is rather inhuman; what with the problems of old age, Alzheimer’s disease and all that. One fully understands their inclination towards rest and quiet retreat. No wonder we hear of reports that the President is not very enthusiastic about the recommendations of this report, although politely the white houses announces respectfully that they are awaited and will be considered carefully. Of course, if the United States does withdraw altogether and leave the Iraqi government out in the cold to manage on its own, the latter would have no option but to acquiesce into an alliance with these two regional powers, as the least evil of all available courses. At least neither of these two regimes is going to be as bent on genocide against the Shiites and the Kurds as others might be. Neither could be very interested in seeing the Saddamists , Al Qaeda or any such groups, take over. Indeed the outcome of the American project would be the creation of an Iranian-Iraqi-Syrian axis, an axis in which Iraq would be the junior and powerless partner, forced to follow all the dictates of its seniors. Deprived of all western support it would be desperate for any help from anybody who can help it fend off the savage sectarian and genocidal assault that would undoubtedly be raging in the country. Apart from Turkey, there are no serious military powers in the region to rival these two. Turkey would have to be satisfied or it might well intervene militarily and complicate matters. God only knows what might happen, but whatever that might be it cannot be good.

I'm in favor of referenda in Iraq, generally. So far, elections have exhilarated the Iraqi populace, mobilized millions, and been potent symbols of liberation, while demoralizing the enemy. The problem is that the party/political system is underdeveloped, and uncertainty is too great for there to be implicit long-term electoral accountability. That's the advantage of having Iraqis vote on a what rather than a who: people know what they're voting for, or against. Problems of name recognition and political communication are dodged.

Why implement the Baker commission findings if they're unpopular in Iraq? I say: break them down into self-contained parts, and hold 3-5 referenda (or one referendum with multiple initiatives), and implement the parts that pass the electoral test. Of course this would apply only to the intra-Iraq parts, not to broader regional diplomacy.


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