2003 April 26 Saturday
Why Deep De-Baathification Of Iraq Is Necessary

Former Soviet dissident Dr. Yuri Yarim-Agaev provides the best arguments I've found so far for a deep de-Baathification of the Iraqi government.

Second, allowing Baathists to keep their political positions would greatly undermine our credibility and ability to carry out democratic reforms. Many Iraqis would see us more as supporters of the old regime rather than liberators. This could cause the emergence of anti-Americanism among the most supportive and pro-democratic people of Iraq, and that would be the last thing we need.

Third, the Baathists are staunch ideological enemies of freedom, democracy, and capitalism. Although quite cynical about their own ideology, they deeply believe that a free market is chaos, and democracy is merely a propaganda tool for fooling the populace. They may readily pay lip service, but, if left at their positions, would actually sabotage democratic and free market reforms.

I strongly urge you to read Yarim-Agaev's full article. He makes many excellent points. He argues that there are plenty of professionals with the needed skills who are not Baath Party members. Also, many of those who rose in the Iraqi government did so because of their membership in the party and at the expense of more competent people who were not party members.

Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post reports that de-Baathification does not appear to be a priority of the US government.

De-Baathification in Iraq does not seem to be a high priority for U.S. policy. Iraqi citizens insisted it be inscribed as an important part of the 13-point statement issued at the end of the political organization meeting in Ur on April 15. They had to overcome procedural objections from U.S. organizers, who underestimate the potency of this issue.

I do not have confidence in the Bush Administration's approach to how to handle post-war Iraq. It is looking increasingly likely that they will continue to make major mistakes in their attempts to create a new order in Iraq.

The State Department is predictably more foolish that the Defense Department.

The State Department has argued that some mid- and low-level party members can and should be rehabilitated, as they have the experience to keep the country running; opposition leader Ahmed Chalabi - who has strong Pentagon support - has called for the Baath Party to be "uprooted." But some experts say an aggressive US effort to "de-Baathify" Iraq without broad international support and input could backfire.

Yet the US Defense Department, by not providing enough boots on the ground to maintain order in the absence of a real government, is creating the conditions that will increase the pressure for bringing Baathists into the post-war administration in order to restore order.

International support (or the lack thereof) is irrelevant. What is most important is to get Saddam's apparatchiks out of of power and keep them out of power.

I think the US government is taking the easiest route to dealing with a lot of the problems in Iraq. Because it lacks sufficient force on the ground to keep order it has to allow former regime police of questionable loyalties and questionable competence and fairness to go back out on the street. It also has to tolerate the rise of militias that could turn Iraq into something more like Afghanistan or like Lebanon during the Lebanese civil war.

Long time exile Saddam regime opponent Kenan Makiya opposes the use of Baathists to restore order.

A U.S. general stepped forward and gave a report about how in Najaf and Kerbala, a local committee is getting the police force back on the streets. "Who are they?" asked Makiya. "Do you know who they are?" The retired general didn't have an answer. "They are all Baathists!" the exiled professor insisted. Makiya was adamant that Baathists should not be returned to positions of authority, even if it means the streets will remain unsafe.

The United States ought to recruit and train a whole new police force. It ought to do the same for the creation of a new judiciary and new staff for prosecutors and public defenders. But that would require more effort. The US is willing to spend big money to fight a war but it is probably going to squander the opportunity that the war has opened up.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 April 26 09:55 PM  Reconstruction and Reformation


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