Peace in Iraq: A Question of Security

by Marco Bardazzi

Soon after the end of the war, the White House decided to send the former New York Police Chief, Bernard Kerik, to Baghdad, to coordinate the reconstruction of the Iraqi capital’s security forces. The experiment went quite well, but one man alone cannot make a big difference. If he could, today, President George W. Bush would willingly transfer to Iraq the whole of the New York Police Department, with its thousands of agents accustomed to taking on the toughest areas of the city.
America desperately needs to bring back security to Baghdad, and not just to Baghdad. The dramatic attack on the base of the Italian carabinieri at Nassirya showed that the whole country is in danger, from the Kurdish north to the Shiite south, passing through the “Sunnite triangle” north of the capital.
The Pentagon is suffering from a kind of peacekeeping syndrome. For years now, at least since the end of the first Gulf War, American military doctrine has been reformulated to transform the United States Armed Forces, and in particular the US Army, into a lethal war machine, trained to crush the enemy with a firepower that has no equal. It is a philosophy of war taught in places like the United States Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and put into practice last spring by General Tommy Franks, the former Commander of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
However, this strategy is now revealing its limitations. The US Army is one of the strongest in history in time of war, but it is proving to be desperately unprepared to manage a long-term occupation like the present one. Guerrillas and terrorists have exposed the weak points of the American military machine, and have begun to launch country-wide attacks at the rhythm of thirty a day on the 130,000 American soldiers present in Iraq, on United Nations personnel, on diplomatic missions, and even on Italian forces.
In this scenario, peace is a real nightmare for Washington and it’s hard to find a way out. After a series of attacks on American helicopters in the first half of November and the attack on the Italian carabinieri, the White House speeded up the process for the creation of an autonomous Iraqi government. In the absence of security, everything will be more complex: restoring trust to the Iraqis, preparing a Constitution, organizing elections, offering real independence in government that other countries expect from the US as a condition for greater cooperation.
One of the first acts of the American administrator of Baghdad, Paul Bremer, at the time of his appointment, was to disband the Iraqi armed forces with immediate effect, leaving half a million men suddenly jobless and full of resentment. In the autumn, the US government recognized this as a very serious mistake and tried to find a remedy. Many of those thousands of men left without income went to swell the ranks of Saddam’s fedayin and of the followers of the Baath party, which, along with the international terrorists of Al Qaeda, is organizing the anti-American attacks.
The Bush Administration has ordered a speeding-up of the training of the new Iraqi civil security forces, many times the target of attacks because the guerrillas and the terrorists both know that a solid local police force faithful to the US is their worst enemy, even worse than the American soldiers patrolling the streets with their M16s.
Halfway through November, there were about 90,000 Iraqis working for the US occupation forces as bureaucrats, police officers, or border guards. Around five thousand have been trained to transform them into civil defense militia and another ten thousand were undergoing the same training during the month of November. The White House has provided for tens of thousands more to be trained quickly, even at the cost of not checking on the new recruits’ possible links with the previous regime. It’s unavoidable; without security there will be no independent government, and without an Iraqi government worthy of the name countries like Russia, France and India will be loath to support the US in bearing the burden of reconstruction.
Peace in Baghdad now depends more and more on the future local police and less and less on the Marines.