May 16, 2005

Insurgency Wants and Needs

Juan Cole rounds up evidence that tries to solve the mystery of what the Iraqi insurgency "wants." The plausible answer seems to be: to undermine faith in the new government, to turn the public against the Americans, and eventually return to power. Obviously I don't know who's leading the insurgency, or how fractured it is, but Thanassis Cambanis rounds up evidence that ex-Baathists are in charge, forming sophisticated command structures, and are probably plotting a future coup of some sorts.

Speaking of which, I'm not sure this much-feared coup could ever possibly work. As Spencer Ackerman noted a while back, the original military coup, in 1968, worked because there was a vast security apparatus already in place and the Baathists manage to convince the Shia clergy that they had nothing to fear. This sort of thing isn't likely to succeed again—fool me once, etc. So the Baathists seem to be wrong about this strategy; at worst they'll spark a civil war that they'll likely lose. Though maybe they have something sneakier in mind.

Also, the point about that vast security apparatus is important for a different reason. Most of the attention and reporting on Iraq these days focuses on whether or not we're training enough Iraqi troops and police officers to hold down the fort when the U.S. starts to draw down. Perhaps even more important, though, is that we build the sort of institutions that preserve independent civilian control over, say, the Ministry of Defense, and spread out power among all the different security ministries. Otherwise, you get to the point where someone from within government can seize the reins of power and easily control the security services and military via his various political cronies.

Another troubling sign is that, as far as I can tell, the Iraqi Army is doing much of the internal security work right now, something you never want to see happen, especially in a country with a long, sordid history of military rule. Ideally, the country would have a strong Civil Intervention Force, under the control of the Interior Ministry, keeping the peace. Unfortunately the State Department's Iraq Weekly Status reports no longer tell us anything meaningful about who's being trained where or what's going on how, so for all we know, the United States is building the sort of state that can easily be converted into military rule. Splendid.
-- Brad Plumer 2:07 PM || ||