2014 November 23 Sunday
America's Hopelessly Corrupt Allies In Baghdad

Desperate times call for more corruption and incompetence. Iraq is a corrupt tribal society which US aid and US advisers can not fix.

BAGHDAD — One Iraqi general is known as “chicken guy” because of his reputation for selling his soldiers’ poultry provisions. Another is “arak guy,” for his habit of enjoying that anis-flavored liquor on the job. A third is named after Iraq’s 10,000-dinar bills, “General Deftar,” and is infamous for selling officer commissions.

New American military aid, like old American military aid, is getting stolen and ending up in the hands of Daesh/ISIS. Since US soldiers left in 2009 the amount of corruption has skyrocketed. There is no way the US is going to crush Daesh if it tries to use a corrupt Iraqi Army as its primary instrument.

Why not give weapons to the Kurds, Yezidis, and Christians? Why not give aid directly to Sunnis who are opposed to Daesh? I bet if we handed the weapons to people who fear for their lives the weapons would be much less likely to end up in the hands of Daesh jihadists. The Kobani Kurds will kill many times more Daesh fighters per dollar spent than Iraqi Army units will. Our aid ought to be distributed accordingly.

Update: Andrew Bacevich points out that Iraq no longer exists. It is true. What fighting force is going to put it back together again? No such fighting force exists. Bacevich lists 5 myths which DC policy makers assume about the Middle East. I would add another: modern nation-states can be built out of tribal societies.

Given that all the king's horses and all the king's men aren't going to put Humpty Dumpty back together again what should US policy be toward the territories which are still recognized as Iraq and Syria? Given that indifference is off the table I think we ought to fund factions that will be friendly toward us, relatively more capable in battle (setting the bar much lower than "great fighters"), and hostile toward factions that hate us.

Our biggest Middle East policy ought to be an immigration policy: keep them over there and let their conflicts play out over there, not here.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2014 November 23 08:12 PM 

Stephen said at November 25, 2014 2:06 PM:

I agree that indifference is the optimal plan, and that it's off the table.

As for your alternate proposal, I think that arming the tribes will just create a bloody stalemate. This is for the reason that tribal military effectiveness is inversely proportional (and sharply so# to the distance the tribe is operating from home. Additionally, to the extent a tribal military can successfully project force beyond its tribal boundaries, it is unwilling to hold that territory once the rape and pillaging is ended. These rules apply equally to this week's heroes, [rolls dice] the Kurds, who are really a loose grouping of tribes.

That said, I have trouble coming up with an alternate plan that doesn't involve the violation of another unexamined belief that is held sacred in Washington - that Iran is evil.

Jim said at November 26, 2014 6:51 AM:

We probably need to think carefully about our support of the Kurds. Turkey has a high potential for becoming destabilized. I don't think that Turkey becoming a failed state is something we would want to deal with. In the Middle East we are like a retarded kid playing with dynamite.

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