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ICG Risk Blog - [ Continuance of denial and hubris are not grounds for success ]

Continuance of denial and hubris are not grounds for success

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Ba'athist, jihadist, and national/personal militia terrorists have established new camps in central Iraq, often in areas thought safe, as US Central Command acknowledges that "more areas in Iraq are under rebel control today than there were last year." The Sunni triangle, including Fallujah and Ramadi, is seeing the formation of new camps and the fortification of earlier ones. Convoy attacks and kidnapping are rising along the Baghdad-Najaf highway. Arms and personnel smuggling is rising accordingly.

Ismail Zayer, editor-in-chief of the independent daily Sabah al-Jedid:

"There are terrorist camps. They have stored lots of arms and ammunition. They have equipment for forging documents and passports. They have positioned themselves to have contacts with people in places like Ramadi and Fallujah, as well as with people in the south."

To the south, Shi'ite militias flourish. It appears that the Shi'ite Hezbollah "has deeply infiltrated Basra and surrounding areas, so much so that it virtually runs the province, with the help of Shi'ite militias, and is committed to establishing vilayat-e-faqih (rule by the religious clergy according to the Shi'ite faith)." Iranian revolutionary guards "have already established pockets, especially in Ammarah and Basra." Iranian intelligence operates under the auspices of the Sayyed al-Shohada party which calls itself a branch of the al-Majlis al-Alla (Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq - SCIR). Iranian monies from religious "welfare funds" underpin it all.

The US-appointed interim Allawi government is being made to look hollow for its promises to uproot armed opposition, and I can only expect their situation to worsen as their security forces suffer increasing casualties yet have neither the resources, skill, support (from Iraqis either frightened or waiting to side with a more likely winner), and intelligence to accomplish the mission.

One should expect this impotence to continue until the US rehabilitates the Ba'ath Party and its banned Arab nationalists (a ban already partially relaxed), the armed forces, and tribal chiefs that operated under Saddam, i.e., in the absence of viable US power, restore those whom the US defeated but can run the shop. Even that may now be impossible as we have let Shi'ite militias fill the vacuum we ourselves created.

I follow Francis Fukuyama, who while describing himself as a neocon, proposed a very different version than that of Charles Krauthammer's "democratic globalism" which came to dominate neocon philosophical underpinnings, and think that he has much good to say (and now that he has broken openly with Krauthammer will no doubt have more to say.)

Fukuyama is one of the few to separate nation-building (creating or repairing the cultural, social, and historical ties of a people) and state-building (creating or strengthening governmental entities to include its armies, police, judiciary, tax and banking, health, education, et al). Nation-building commences with security stabilization, disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, infrastructure rebuilding, restarting economic activity. Fukuyama rightly observes that this capacity is within the ability of the US and the UN. The creation of "self-sustaining [Fukuyama emphasizes this level in order to produce stable institutions] political and economic institutions that will ultimately permit competent democratic governance and economic growth" can only follow once stability is underway. Expecting to decapitate Baathist leadership, turning over a working government to new leaders, the US completely failed to prepare contingency plans against the possibility of a general state collapse, while baring the UN from attempting to do so.

Larry Diamond, recently a Senior Adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority, had this to say about security:

In postconflict situations in which the state has collapsed, security trumps everything: it is the central pedestal that supports all else. Without some minimum level of security, people cannot engage in trade and commerce, organize to rebuild their communities, or participate meaningfully in politics. Without security, a country has nothing but disorder, distrust, and desperation-an utterly Hobbesian situation in which fear pervades and raw force dominates. This is why violence-ridden societies tend to turn to almost any political force that promises to provide order, even if it is oppressive.

Without security, political, economic, and social reconstruction " grinds to a halt." In an NPR interview, Diamond calls it the "seminal failure [in Iraq] from which other miseries flowed." Without the fruits of security, the nascent government -- it is not remotely a state -- is deprived of legitimacy in the eyes of its citizens, attackers, and other states, and so is open to predation.

Fukuyama cites the "most serious post-war planning mistakes" by the US as:

  • Afterthought establishment of a post-war reconstruction organization
  • Insufficient authority granted to it
  • Placing it under Pentagon control

Reconstruction in Afghanistan is no better, merely crowded out of the limelight. If we are going to rebuild anything, including our credibility, we must immediately adopt realistic, corrective actions not blinkered by Unipower ideology.

Rebels extend control in Iraq
By Peyman Pejman
Asia Times
Sep 11, 2004

After Muqtada, the militias ...
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
Asia Times
September 1, 2004

What Went Wrong in Iraq
By Larry Diamond
Foreign Affairs, September/October 2004

Nation-Building 101
by Francis Fukuyama
The Atlantic Monthly | January/February 2004

Gordon Housworth



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