January 13, 2004

Expansion of the War on the Cheap

It is fair to say that the war on terror is going to be expensive and long-lasting. Especially given the strategy as laid out by Paul Bremer: this will take decades. It's also fair to say that the US Army is stretched a bit thin. We have additional missions to perform, but not the troops to perform them, nor the apparent belief by the administration that the number of troops needs to be increased, though this is changing.

With this as background, take a look at this interesting post on uBlog. Michael Ubaldi quotes Reuel Marc Gerecht:

The Bush administration's embrace of odd, counterproductive notions is nowhere more evident than in its energetic pursuit of foreign Muslim troops for Iraq. The reasoning for these deployments - which probably won't happen unless the United States gets the consent of the French, Germans, and Russians at the U.N. - apparently is that Iraqi Muslims would respect foreign Muslim troops more than they respect American soldiers. Leaving aside why in the world the Bush administration would want to deploy Muslim soldiers from nondemocratic countries to Iraq, the Muslim-likes-Muslim sentiment behind this argument is a myth. Middle Eastern history teaches the opposite.

Michael then goes on to analyze this:
Emphasis is mine for the question I've been asking since the apparent White House reversal hit the news and people started chattering about "Muslim faces on the ground." Irrespective of the gap in equipment and professionalism between top-notch Anglo-Americans and Near Easterners, every nation bordering Iraq is not only opposed to the country's present course towards self-government but eager to carve it up into blocks of arable land and oil fields, too. And with Iraqi civilians topping the casualty lists for recent bombing attacks, no one can claim that insurgents discriminate West from East in their killings.

It is likely that our reconstruction will succeed, as it is becoming clear that the Iraqis want the US to stay for the long term. The thing is, though, that US generals in the position to ask for more troops claim they don't need more US troops. So, why have troops from countries opposed to the US effort? I can think of one good reason.

If they are under US command, and integrated with American troops at the level of individual patrols, these troops do swell the number of infantry-trained forces available to enforce order. With the US troops along, the chances of sabotage to our mission are slight. The risk of deploying such forces is therefore low.

On the other hand, what will these Arab forces see in Iraq? Freedom of the press. Freedom of religion. Freedom of speech and of association. The rule of law. The building of functioning representative institutions, with real accountability to the people. The coming of prosperity.

And when these troops return home - to see once again the state-controlled press, the restrictions on speech, the restriction of religious observance, the fear to associate with others not totally trusted, the abandonment of law for the whim of the powerful, and the total lack of political or economic opportunity - perhaps those soldiers will be a little disgruntled. And perhaps as the experience gets absorbed into the culture - and particularly into the military culture - those soldiers and others will ask why they are denied these things. And perhaps this will facilitate the long-term effect of making those countries not just more receptive of representative, free-market governance, but absolutely insistent upon it.

This may or may not be what the administration intends. I certainly don't think that the President intended the "flypaper" strategy when he decided to occupy Iraq. But we don't have to intend the effect to take advantage of it.

Posted by Jeff at January 13, 2004 06:27 PM | Link Cosmos
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