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Catfish and Cod
Friday, October 24, 2003
 
How do we improve Iraqi security?
(Link path: Healing Iraq)

Zayed talks some more about the new Iraqi Police. They seem to be the most popular thing the coalition has acheived so far -- the exact opposite of the Ba'athist thugs. More important than the physical reconstruction that everyone's been talking about lately is the reconstruction of institutions. Even if everything's rebuilt perfectly, with spit and polish and everything, it'll all fall apart again unless the Iraqi people have the institutions set up that they need to run their own affairs. After the terror and horror of the last few years, basic concepts like civil society, the rule of law, human rights, and so forth have to be reintroduced, and everyone -- government, society, individuals -- has to believe in them. The new Iraqi Police are a HUGE step in re-establishing not only the rule of law, but the confidence of the people in their government. If the Iraqi Police remain the professional organization they have become under Iraqi self-rule, then the country will be far more stable.

But why aren't we putting more boots on the ground, Zayed wonders? If the IP are doing such a good job, why not more? It's a good question. I'm no military expert, but I can think of a few reasons off the top of my head:

1) They need more backup. The effectiveness of the Iraqi Police is due in no small part to the coalition backup they receive. They themselves are lightly armed, but if things get ugly they can whistle and Americans or Poles or British will be there in five minutes with heavy firepower. There is probably a minimum ratio of policemen to soldiers that needs to be maintained for that edge to remain, and the coalition feels it needs more soldiers in order to hold their end up.

2) Those troops shouldn't be Turkish. In the face of unified Iraqi opposition, Turkey is rethinking its idea of sending troops to aid the coalition. They probably wouldn't be much help anyway. We wanted Turkish troops for the invasion originally; the Turkish vote was an echo of that, a belated reassurance to Washington that Turkey is still a U.S. ally. Diplomats also found the Turkish vote useful in order to put further pressure on the Syrian regime, which is now surrounded by U.S. allies (Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Israel -- Lebanon is a Syrian satellite).

Turkey, of course, ruled Iraq during the Ottoman Empire, and all Iraqis came to resent Turkish suzerainity during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Kurds, being on the Turkish border as they are, have much more recent memories of Turkish atrocities. And everyone hates the fact that the Turks built dams above the Iraqi border on the Tigris and Euphrates, becoming co-conspirators in Saddam's efforts to use the water supply as a political and genocidal weapon.

3) But then why not recall parts of the Iraqi Army, as some Governing Council members have suggested? Again, this is not as easy as it sounds. While efforts are being made, the new recruits must be background-checked to ensure that the security forces are not infiltrated by old Ba'athist elements or new al-Qaeda creeps. On top of this, most of the facilities were heavily damaged or destroyed in the looting in April. We desperately need to throw those facilities back together so that they can be effectively used. (This argument applies more to the army facilities than the police facilities -- we don't have to feed and clothe the police, just pay and train them and issue uniforms and equipment.) This is the same argument that Zayed applies to the jails.

Finally, Zayed wants the death penalty back. Not a bad idea, but can you imagine the PR disaster that would ensue if Americans started executing Iraqis? I agree that it would help the crime problem, but it must be IRAQIS that reinstitute the death penalty, not Americans. And the Iraqi Police will insist on the execution of hardened criminals, cop-killers especially, as soon as they are able to do so. The worst capital crime in the world is not rape, or murder, or even genocide -- it's cop-killing. Kill a cop and policemen everywhere will never stop until you are dead.