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Occupation and Dependence
Posted by: Jon Henke on Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Carl Levin has a keen understanding of incentives in the conduct of US foreign policy...
"The administration's policy to date — that we'll be there for as long as Iraq needs us — will result in Iraq's depending upon us longer," said Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, who has been designated by the Democratic leadership to present the party's strategy on Iraq.
Would that Democrats were similarly wary of disincentives in the conduct of US domestic policy, i.e., the welfare state. Senator Levin seemed less concerned about dependence when, for example, he complained about ongoing unemployment problems, while advocating the extension of unemployment benefits. (Brandon Berg has similar thoughts at Catallarchy)

I think it's pretty indisputable — indeed, almost axiomatic — that a continued US presence will result in Iraqi dependence. Clearly, the US can "stay too long". Unfortunately, it's far from clear where the line between "long enough, but no longer" and "too long" really is.

Equally unfortunate is the fact that this uncertainty has led to a debate between either relatively quick withdrawal or indefinite occupation. Neither option is particularly appealing, but there is an excluded middle — a third option that could appeal to both camps: instead of an indefinite US occupation of Iraq that further inflames an anti-occupation insurgency or a complete withdrawal that leaves an as-yet unprepared Iraq wide open to nefarious influences, we ought to insist upon a gradual drawback to lesser occupied areas of Iraq; to serve as a cautionary backstop against foreign intervention, a training, logistics and supply utility for Iraqi security forces, and an emergency military resource for the central government of Iraq. As I wrote in 2005...

...there's a great deal of merit to the idea that the Iraqis aren't just going to be born great in the next year or so; the Iraqis also need to have greatness thrust upon them.
[...]
This strikes me as an imminently reasonable solution—indeed, even a Conservative one—to the dual problems of Iraq's need for security and Iraq's need to effectively assert sovereignty. As Kevin Drum writes, "artificial deadlines don't mean much, and Iraqis know this... Real deadlines, on the other hand, the kind that lead to real consequences, produce action.

So, sure. Give them a timetable to take responsibility, an incentive to get their house in order. So long as the timetable doesn't create a life or death/win or fail moment in time—so long as we draw back, not out—we can continue to advance, perhaps faster, down the path of Iraqi democratization.
With a gradual drawback, we satisfy both the ongoing need to support a developing Iraqi government and the very real need to let them accept responsibility for and pay the costs of their own internal problems.

Judging by Iraqi security minister Mowaffak al-Rubaie's column in today's Washington Post, the current strategy is not entirely dissimilar to this suggestion.
With the governors of each province meeting these strict objectives, Iraq's ambition is to have full control of the country by the end of 2008. In practice this will mean a significant foreign troop reduction. We envisage the U.S. troop presence by year's end to be under 100,000, with most of the remaining troops to return home by the end of 2007.

The eventual removal of coalition troops from Iraqi streets will help the Iraqis, who now see foreign troops as occupiers rather than the liberators they were meant to be. It will remove psychological barriers and the reason that many Iraqis joined the so-called resistance in the first place. The removal of troops will also allow the Iraqi government to engage with some of our neighbors that have to date been at the very least sympathetic to the resistance because of what they call the "coalition occupation." If the sectarian issue continues to cause conflict with Iraq's neighbors, this matter needs to be addressed urgently and openly — not in the guise of aversion to the presence of foreign troops.
...though the continued primary status of US troops is probably making the handover take a bit longer than might absolutely be necessary.

There continue to be some very difficult sectarian and political rifts — some quite violent — but I'm far from sure that they are intractable. It may be that the only resolution for some of these conflicts will be violence, but even that doesn't necessarily threaten the existence of the democratic Iraqi government. At this point, it appears that, even as they fight, the major power groups in Iraq have accepted the idea of democracy — now, they're just haggling over the price.

UPDATE: Inexplicably, Think Progress seems to think the al-Rubaie column advocated something closer to the Democrats position than the administration's position. Faiz Shakir calls it "the progressive approach -– the immediate start of a redeployment", then goes on to cite al-Rubaie contradicting that claim. In fact, Al-Rubaie wrote that "Iraq’s ambition is to have full control of the country by the end of 2008" which would mean "a significant foreign troop reduction." That's the benchmark-conditional approach to withdrawal, not the timeline approach.

Still, I'll be perfectly happy to see the Progressives glomming onto current policies and claiming them for their own. Success has a thousand fathers.

Austin Bay adds a valuable corrective to the Think Progress notion...
al-Rubaie’s “new” plan is remarkably similar to the Multi-National Force’s August 2004 objectives for Iraq. Rubaie mentions security metrics for provinces and towns (in August 2004 MNF and Multi-National Corps-Iraq hammered out local security metrics, including a description of communications requirements– which Rubaie’s remark about a functional command and control center echoes). Here’s what’s new– an Iraqi is saying it, an Iraqi backed by a democratically-elected Iraqi government.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
At this point, it appears that, even as they fight, the major power groups in Iraq have accepted the idea of democracy — now, they’re just haggling over the price.
Perhaps. But — and I do not mean this critically or rhetorically, as I really do not know the answer — do a majority accept a rule of law that includes and vouchsafes the fundamental rights of the individual? Democracy by itself is an empty vessel that can contain very illiberal practices. Tyranny of the majority, and all that.
 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
do a majority accept a rule of law that includes and vouchsafes the fundamental rights of the individual?
On my more dour days, I suspect that majority doesn’t even exist in the United States.

I don’t know. It’s a spectrum. I seriously doubt we’ll see institutional respect for individual rights like we do in the US. I also doubt we’ll see institutional disrespect to the extent we see it in some other Islamic countries. I’m sure it will be ugly, but it seems to me that an ugly, volatile democracy is better than a totalitarian equilibrium.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.qando.net/
do a majority accept a rule of law that includes and vouchsafes the fundamental rights of the individual?
Did our country at its founding??

I think the temptation is to compare them to ourselves today.

Jon - you’ve also hit upon one of the primary debates that has been on since before the war. To many troops and you create a dependency for security, ie Kosovo, or you are seen by the majority as oppressors. To few, and you aren’t effective in your mission, ie Somalia. There’s a balance between short-range objectives and long-range objectives that has to take place.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
Additionally, Austin Bay had this to say about it...

http://austinbay.net/blog/?p=1205
al-Rubaie’s “new” plan is remarkably similar to the Multi-National Force’s August 2004 objectives for Iraq. Rubaie mentions security metrics for provinces and towns (in August 2004 MNF and Multi-National Corps-Iraq hammered out local security metrics, including a description of communications requirements– which Rubaie’s remark about a functional command and control center echoes). Here’s what’s new– an Iraqi is saying it, an Iraqi backed by a democratically-elected Iraqi government
.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
’haggling over the price’

Hmm, what kind of ’independent nation’ can a ’subsidized democracy’ create?
 
Written By: torpor
URL: http://
Keith in Indy writes:
Did our country at its founding??

I think the temptation is to compare them to ourselves today.
Basically, yes. Our Founders accepted and adopted the full deposit of British common law, and the emerging Enlightenment values of individual liberty. However imperfectly rights were totally protected in the beginning — and the war on people who use drugs shows we still have a long way to go — the People and the Founders understood and were acclimated to the rule of law, and the rights of the individual were overwhelmingly the talk of the times among the intellectual class.

I see little evidence that the Shia and many Sunnis and other factions in Iraq have any interest in, or even familiarity with, such things as the peaceful resolution of disputes in court per common law doctrines, or anything analogous. Nor do I see a great deal of evidence that support for the values embodied in our Bill of Rights is sufficiently predominant. There is a good deal of evidence to the contrary, i.e., that tribal allegiances are infesting all of Iraq, that these tribes are enforcing various religious codes, and preventing a govt from securing a monopoly on force.

I have gone from optimistic to pessimistic about the ability of Iraqis as a whole to operate under a rule of law, per what any civilized Western nation would understand that to be. But I remain open to any evidence as to why I should drop my pessimism.
 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
You need to look up how many judges, and court cases they are resolving, are in Iraq.

Tribal allegiance was the status-quo of Iraq.

And there you go again, judging them by our yardstick.

An Iraqi democracy isn’t going to look like a Western democracy. It may in a couple of decades, but not at the moment.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
It’s not going to happen overnight mona, nor even in the span of 3 years. Look how much fighting there was in europe for centuries before they decided to stop fighting and cooperate as the European Community.
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
> do a majority accept a rule of law that includes and vouchsafes the fundamental rights of the individual?

From what I have seen even most mature "democracies" today do not. In most of Europe you can be prosecuted for "hate crimes" for expressing intolerant opinions. In Germany, Holocaust denial is illegal. Even using non-metric scales in commerce can subject you to fines.

The USA is truly unique in that the "rights of the individual" are truly rights and not some condescending, patronizing privilege afforded by a benevolent "people’s autocracy".
 
Written By: D
URL: http://
The USA is truly unique in that the "rights of the individual" are truly rights and not some condescending, patronizing privilege afforded by a benevolent "people’s autocracy".
Oh, would that it were so!
 
Written By: D.A. Ridgely
URL: http://
> Oh, would that it were so!
It is! But just remember that these rights that we take for granted (and pooh-pooh so glibly in some quarters) are the exception in the world, not the rule. That Iraqis should take this route is not a given nor to be necessarily expected. It will be welcome if they do, however.
 
Written By: D
URL: http://

 
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