Over at Lean Left is a post about staying on in Iraq. Unsurprisingly, Lean Left comes out against it. The author’s main complaint is about two assumptions made in support of continuing in Iraq
First, he assumes that the police and the Army need training only, that they are primarily loyal to the central government. There is precious little evidence for that, and quite a bit against it. It is a widely understood fact that a large portion of the Iraqi Army comes form militias, and that those militia members are primarily loyal to their particular militia group or sect. I have a hard time seeing the Kurdish units that were folded into the central army marching north alongside their Shia counterparts to enforce the will of the central government on the Kurdish people.
It is always astonishing to me how little history those in the MAL seem to know. This is not a problem first faced by the government of Iraq, but a problem that has plagued empires since the dawn of recorded history. It’s a bit more difficult to take the direct measures in a liberal democracy that suffice in a monarchy, but the idea that it’s a problem with no viable solutions is a-historical. If nothing else, proper unit assignment can do a lot (so, for instance, you don’t send former Peshmurga to put down a revolt in Kurdistan). You can also mix up the units at a platoon or company level, making defection more difficult and risky. Liberal democracies can also draw on a level of participation from its constituent minorities that is frequently not available to an empire.
I will not claim that it’s a slam dunk, but it seems very workable to me and hardly an assumption that terminal undermines the argument for the long term success of the Iraqi government.
Second, it assumes that the US can reach the required goals in a time frame that is workable. The US presence has two detrimental effects on the situation: it kills civilians, which progressively radicalizes the population, and the longer it stays the permanent it looks, which lends credence to the terrorist propaganda about conquest and crusades.
This is a common argument that, in my view, suffers from the lack of agency problem in which only the actions of Americans matter. Do not the recurring massacres by the Caliphascists ever radicalize the population to oppose the Caliphascists? Or do they get to kill civilians without consequence because they’re not Americans?
This also seems a bizarre point of view to adopt for a website that frequently worries about incipient fascism in the USA. Isn’t it the standard view that terrorizing civilians and presenting a menace are an effective way a fascist government solidifies power? So why doesn’t that work for the Coalition and the Iraqi government? Somehow, in that case, it’s a negative for the central government. And heck, isn’t that exactly how Syria took over Lebanon? But it’s just different when it’s America.
P.S. There are some excellent counter-comments at the original post.