Wednesday, October 11, 2006

So, what would you do?

Okay, so suppose you lived on a block full of mobile homes, except for that one really big mansion in the middle of the street. Now suppose that guy who lives in that mansion announces that he hates three people on the block, and lists them. Suppose your name was on that list. Suppose you don't have any means to move away from this guy. Suppose he then goes and attacks the third guy on the list and burns down his trailer. Suppose he then swears that he has no intention of attacking the other people on his list, but oh-by-the-way he still hates them.

Might you go out an buy yourself a gun? Maybe you set up a range in your front yard and make sure your neighbor sees you taking target practice?

In truth, these are not things I would do. I hate guns; I refuse to own one; I refuse to fire one. Personally, I'd rather be killed by the rich mansion dweller than take the risk of harming anyone myself with a gun. All that said, I sure do understand that some people might respond this way. I wouldn't call them crazy because of it. I might say their approach was ill-conceived, but not crazy or malicious.

I hope this puts some things in perspective.

Friday, October 06, 2006

How long has it been?

Almost a year since my last post! Maybe blogging is not my forte!

How long has it been since "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq? Too long, you must admit. The question is, what is our strategy for victory? "Stay the course" is a strategy to keep getting the same thing we've been getting: thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis dead, without anyone's life being any better for it. In fact, if the press has it right about the NIE, everyone is worse off for all this expenditure of money and lives.

To have a strategy, you have to have a goal. What is our goal? What would "victory" look like? I'd say victory would be an Iraq that is not subject to anarchy, and does not threaten its neighbors, and provides justice for all of its peoples.

One of the things often forgotten is what makes a government a government. Elections do not make a government. A key characteristic of a government is that it enjoy a monopoly on the legitimate use of force within its borders. Therefore, as long as U.S. troops are in Iraq and are not subject to the Iraqi government, the Iraqi "government" will not be a legitimate government. We must achieve a status-of-forces agreement with the Iraqi government that really permits this government to govern.

"Within its borders" is an additional caveat. Even if the Iraqi government could enjoy a monopoly on legitimate use of force in the perceptions of its people, it does not have the manpower or the technology to secure its borders, especially its borders with Iran and Turkey.

Here's a proposed strategy for victory:
1. Focus US troops on the borders. Shut down the flow of jihadis and arms. If this also hampers trade with Iran and Syria, so be it. (Turkey would probably welcome a reduction in cross-border traffic with Iraq, even if it comes at some economic cost.)
2. Outside of the border areas -- i.e. within the country -- U.S. troops only patrol with Iraqi army units, and only where those units wish to patrol. Yes, this will leave sections unpatrolled, but this is the incentive for both the Iraqi government, and those well-meaning Iraqis who value peace and stability over their own ethnic interests (however many of them there may be) to "stand up" to the task at hand.
3. Work to expand the green zone, until it encompasses most of Baghdad, including Sadr City. Don't allow any arms, not even small arms or single-shot rifles, inside of this zone. When expanding the zone, search house-to-house, apartment-to-apartment, to find all arms. Yes, this will irritate a lot of people, but they will all be happier when no one except the Iraqi army has guns in their neighborhood. This is, of course, an extremely difficult proposition, but it's one that at least has a path to success, while the current plan has no such path.

Now, I know nothing about being a soldier, or commanding armies. So, I'm sure that anyone who ever went to boot camp, much less anyone who has spent time in Iraq, can tell me what is wrong with this plan. I'm sure beyond a doubt there are some significant flaws in these ideas. I offer them up, however, in the hope that some piece of these ideas might help us find a route to meangingful victory.