Sunday, July 03, 2005

Five Ways to Win Back Iraq from the New York Times?!?

Since when is the NYT interested in winning in Iraq? Since Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institute published this column there. Get the story here. Hat tip to Along the Tracks.

It's a surprisingly sober and positive assessment on what can be done to improve the situation on the ground. Among his observations:

We also tolerated a series of corrupt, unstable South Vietnamese leaders who made little effort to connect with the people and spent their time squabbling over power and graft.

Iraq, however, may not be doomed to the same fate. For one thing, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and his government are far more popular and better-intentioned than President Ngo Dinh Diem of Vietnam and his kleptocratic colleagues ever were. And, because the Iraqi insurgents are as happy to blow up Iraqi civilians as American convoys, they do not enjoy the broad appeal of the Vietcong (let alone the firepower of the North Vietnamese Army).

Mr. Pollock provides a five-step plan that would turn things around. Among them:

Think safety first A main point of counterinsurgency operations is that ensuring the safety of the people and giving them an economic and political incentive to oppose the insurgency is more important than fighting the insurgents themselves. Insurgencies wither on the vine without popular support. Thus the first big change would be to de-emphasize chasing insurgents around the Sunni Triangle, and to instead put a higher priority on protecting Iraqis as they go about their daily lives.

Many Iraqis will tell you that they are less concerned about terrorist attacks than about street crime and the burgeoning organized crime syndicates, which scare them into staying home and hinder the distribution of goods, paralyzing Iraq's economic and social life.

He stumbles through some parts. One of his strategies is for Iraqi and American troops to work together in mixed units. President Bush told the nation that this already goes on. Why does Mr. Pollock imply that it's not? He doesn't clarify this at all. Also, how secure can the people be when Alq'aida types blow themselves up in population centers? Offense appears to be the only tactic that keeps them too busy to consistently threaten civilians. Why would giving that up in favor of defense work more effectively?

Overall, however, he makes some good points. Given the difficulty in locating accurate and reliable information on exactly what's happening over there, Mr. Pollock's analysis appears credible. Perhaps the situation would improve if some of his suggestions are put into practice. Stay tuned.