Which Way To the Front?


New at Reason: Jeff Taylor searches for the lost battalions of the new Iraqi army.

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  1. From a linked article:

    “Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday that Iraqi forces will be under U.S. command even after the June 30 transfer of sovereignty”

    Sound like Iraq will be one of those semi-autonomous zones for some time….

  2. Will someone here comment on how imprudent it was to set a date (June 30) in the first place?
    Imprudent, hell: scandalous.

  3. Ruthless,

    In retrospect it sure looks stupid. At the time, I think it seemed necessary to assure the Iraqis (and assorted other countries) that we really did plan to leave. Now a lot Iraqis don’t seem to believe we’re ever gonna leave anyway. Guess that’s what happens when you promise what you can’t deliver.

  4. JAT:

    No question this event was dismaying. But I think it also underlines the sound reasoning of those who decided to disband the Ba’athist army and start over rather than keeping it in place to ?stabilize? the situation. No way would that army have been able or willing to intervene in a situation like Fallujah with higher rates of insubordination, desertion, or switch-hitting.

    If the intervention was ever worth doing, it was worth doing effectively ? which always meant an unfortunate but unavoidable stay in the country for many years by the U.S. and coalition forces.

    Nice catch about the Interior Minister. Most news reports seemed to underplay the security-force angle.

  5. John, isn’t it pretty likely that at least some of the fighters in Falluja WERE members of the “Baathist Army?”

    Too bad they’re not in the barracks, collecting tiny paychecks and testifying agaist their officers.

  6. John:

    We just need to see some buy-in on the part of Iraqis to the whole notion of peaceful civil society, not to mention the notion that the armed forces exist to protect that society — a social contract — and not act as spoils-reapers. Such protectors are occasionally asked to do hard, dangerous things.

    But if the dopes keep kidnapping Chinese, Coalition manpower needs will not be much of an issue.

  7. Joe:

    Yes, that is likely. Still, preserving their previous command structure would have been even worse.


    Buy-in would be nice. All I’m saying is that this may take a while. On the bright side, wouldn?t I be correct in saying that a lower percentage of the current security forces have deserted or failed to show than was true in Hussein?s army during the late unpleasantness?

  8. John:

    I don’t know how to factor the Feyadeen into the mix of Saddam fighters who fought and we don’t exactly know what happened to Republican Guard units — did they all die? — still that performance was admittedly very poor.

    Even so predictions of defections to the US side did not occur, despite considerable effort directed toward that. Yet we have SOME defectors now. And we must remember that some Iraqi units fought well against the Iranians. So they will fight.

    I just don’t think it is stretch to think a nation of millions can field a fighting force of 600. As near as I can tell, 20 to perhaps 80 Iraqis supported US efforts in Fallujah.

    That is pathetic.

  9. JAT and Hood – If the Iraqi self-defense effort remains weak (even if not as pathetic as the recent Fallujah effort) over the months and years… how do you see Bush or Kerry continuing to justify a US presence? What will they say if this type of thing happens again in 18 months? In my opinion this is one of the huge problems in trying to create a Swiss style democracy in the middle of an area that has always been ruled by tyrants. US troops sworn to protect Americans are now protecting foreigners who don’t want the job themselves.

  10. Ruthless, even if there is no way in hell of transferring sovereignty on June 30 (though there will probably be at least some kind of symbolic transer), keeping that date there is a useful fiction, because it sets a deadline which Iraqis and Americans have to work against to get things done and compromises made. In much the same way, a company might set a hard deadline to get a product out the door that it knows probably won’t be met, because it’s more productive than just saying “eh, we’ll get it done eventually.”

  11. *Something* will happen on 30 June.

    The question is:

    Will it be enough to convince the people of Iraq that this is now THEIR fight more than it is OUR fight?

  12. JAT:

    Yes, some of the Iraqi units fought very well against the Iranians. No denying the applicability of “pathetic” to the current situation, either.


    I’m ready to be pessimistic about all of this — but not for a long while. If America is not prepared for the possibility of adversity, of casualties, of taking half a loaf, and of having to keep troops in the theater for years, then perhaps it should withdraw from the world, erect the necessary walls, and become Fortress America. I don’t see this happening, even if it is a good idea, so the alternative is to act like grown-ups when a few fascist thugs act like fascist thugs.

  13. Josh,
    You describe what they were probably so-called thinking, but June 30 turns out to be one more example of the four “P’s”: piss poor prior planning.
    It’s a date that terrorists are using to build a crescendo to a climax of violence.
    If they had asked me before setting it, I woulda told ’em.
    Then, beyond that date, when it becomes more obvious that it was a sham for the US getting the hell out, look for Kerry to build a crescendo of ridicule reaching a climax in November.

  14. Josh,

    That’s a two-edged sword.

  15. John, the problem was not “the command structure,” it was who was wearing the stars. Problem officers could have been moved out and replaced.

  16. an interesting piece for anyone still following this thread.

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