March 28, 2005

Watch the Ministries!

Although, having second thoughts about the post below… I'm also a bit wary of Allawi running Interior, by way of making a more important point about Iraq.

Basically, there's an aspect of this great nation-building scheme in Iraq that no one pays attention to. At the moment, Iraq's Ministries of Defense and Interior are supposed to be neutral technocratic organizations. The reasons for this are pretty clear-cut: back in the old days, the ministries were all run by Baathist military officers handpicked by Saddam and friends, which created the nerve center for Iraq's old military state.

The alternative, today, is to fill the ministries with career civil service officers who are independent, professional civilians. Unfortunately, right now, the Ministry of Interior is a pretty corrupt place—Falah al-Naqib (right), an Allawi ally and ex-Baathist, has installed his cousins and brothers and former associates in high positions. From what I've heard, it's not a transparent, well-functioning place at all. No wonder the UIA Shiites are pissed and want to clear it out once they come to power. Of course, the Shiites might just make things worse; it's hard to say.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense is doing better (the Defense Minister isn't allowed to give his cronies plum positions)—though international expertise is still very much needed in training and structuring the ministry's civil service ranks. Again, you want the place run by civilians, with a clear chain of command from military leaders up to the civilian Defense Minister to the security cabinet. You want the security forces divided equally among different security ministers, so that there's no one all-powerful minister. You want to establish quite clearly the limits and checks on executive war power. I'm not sure all of this has been done; there's been scandalously little reporting on the matter. But it's probably even more important, as far as the future of Iraq is concerned, than getting those security forces trained.
-- Brad Plumer 3:24 AM || ||