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2004 April 22 Thursday
Partial Baathist, Iraqi Army Restoration And Fallujah Big Battle Brewing

Some former Baathists and former Saddam-era Iraq Army officers are to be hired in an attempt to reduce Sunni support for insurgents.

The U.S. administrator of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, proposed the policy shifts to broaden the strategy to entice the powerful Sunni minority back into the political fold and weaken support for the insurgency in the volatile Sunni Triangle, two of the most persistent challenges for the U.S.-led occupation, the officials say. Both policies are at the heart of national reconciliation, increasingly important as the occupation nears an end.

This may in part be an attempt to split some of the more secular Sunnis from the old regime away from the more fundamentalist Sunnis who see the current battle more as a holy war. Another way to look at this US move is as an attempt to recruit Iraqis who know who the insurgents are and who are not hesitant to use force against their fellow Iraqis as these former Saddam men surely did for the old regime.

One reason that the ex-Baathists might still not be willing to sign up to serve US occupation forces is that they may reasonably expect that once the Shias dominate the new government these ex-Baathists will be sidelined (or worse) once again. On the other hand, getting back on the inside has got to beat being on the outside under a Shia-dominated regime. So some will no doubt elect to sign up - especially if the pay is high enough. But what is less clear is whether, once in positions of power, they will serve their American masters or surreptitiously work against US interests.

If the US would support a confederation rather than a federation for the new Iraqi government that would give the old Sunni Baathist elite a greater incentive to suppress their fellow Sunni insurgents. A confederation would provide the ex-Baathists with a clear zone where they could be the bosses and therefore have a stake in more peaceful conditions.

If the Bush Administration wanted to get really Machiavellian it would promise to create and enforce some sort of formula for what percentage of the oil revenue went into each of the Kurdish, Shia, and Sunni areas of the confederation. Keep in mind that the oil is all located in Kurdish and Shia areas. So If the Sunnis saw the continuation of the confederation as a way to guarantee them a slice of the oil money they'd have a vested interest in maintaining the stability of the confederation. Then one could even imagine Sunni soldiers who would get support from their tribes to, say, go take a piece out of the Mahdi Army in the Shia area.

It isn't clear whether the decision to restore more former Baathists to jobs involves any powerful positions. A lot of people were in the Baath Party simply to be teachers, engineers, or other occupations which required Baath Party membership. It may be that the change here is designed simply to speed up the return to work of people in fairly unpolitical jobs.

"We've heard complaints from Iraqis for instance that the appeals process is sometimes slower in implementation than was originally designed," Senor said. "It sometimes excludes innocent, capable people who were Baathists in name only."

The restoration of Iraq Army officers and perhaps intelligence agents is likely to have more potent effects on the conduct of the fight against the insurgency forces.

The bid for Sunni support comes at a time of losses of existing allies.

Monday, Spain began to withdraw its 1,400 troops, and the Dominican Republic announced it would quickly follow suit, bringing its 300 troops home within two weeks. Honduras also said it would pull its 370 troops. Poland, a resolute coalition member, said Thursday that it was considering withdrawing its 2,400 troops.

The previous article provides a pretty good description of events around Fallujah. It sounds like once the Marines are well-positioned and prepared there is going to be a final battle for Fallujah.

One reason the US needs to figure out a better way to govern Iraq is that, as Mark Steyn acknowledges, the American people are not temperamentally suited for colonialism.

America hasn't an imperialist bone in its body. For one thing, there's nobody to staff an imperial governing class. If you were the average 19th-century Englishman, life in the colonies had plenty of attractions: more land, better weather, the opportunity to escape the constraints of class. None of these factors applies to the average 21st-century American: if you're in Maine and you're sick of it, you can move to Hawaii rather than the Malay states.

Steyn points out that Niall Ferguson is engaged in an exercise in futility when Ferguson argues that the US should become a colonial power. Mark's conclusions on Ferguson and colonialism are very similar to my own.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 April 22 05:56 PM  Reconstruction and Reformation


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