April 17, 2008

Now They Have Turned to the Tribes

Sheikh Sattar Abu Risha, leader of the Iraq

Posted by Michael J. Totten at April 17, 2008 2:34 AM
Comments
MJT: How compatible is tribal law with a democratic system? Are they merging the two systems, or basically still using the old-world authoritarian model?
Captain Jones: The way to approach it is, there is still a need for the tribal way of life, but we're trying to make it more democratic at the same time. They're parallel. The true part is run by the democratic process. If you look at countries like Bahrain or Dubai
Posted by: Solomon2 at April 17, 2008 6:54 am
These tribal elements are fair weather friends. They fought against us before, they have the blood of Americans on their hands. They will fight against us again if we stop paying them and or they feel it is in the best interest of their own respective tribes.
Abu Risha was a well known black marketeer who sold anything and everything to those who had enough money, from gas to explosives and weapons. His involvement with the US, I think, was little more than a business move.
They might have realised that the AQ in Iraq types were not their friends, and that Americans pay better, but do not think for a minute it is anything other than expidiency driving this.
They are taking American money, arms and training knowing that this will all help them in the coming conflict with the Shi'a and Baghdad when the Americans pull out. This is EXACTLY why many Shi'a lawmakers have not been keen on the idea of supporting, arming and funding them.
Many of these tribes were actively involved with Saddam Hussein. Hussein himself came from a tribal background and used some of these same tribes to support his rule.
Once again we are doing things that are good in the short term but most certainly will come back to bit us again. I guess if nothing else we have given these people's a fighting chance to survive when our troops leave in the next couple of years.
Posted by: Marc at April 17, 2008 7:47 am
There is on question in my mind that the deep involvement of Americans with the Iraqi culture; at such a basic level, for this long, is going to be revolutionary.
Posted by: Hugh Beaumont at April 17, 2008 9:42 am
Marc "when our troops leave in a couple of years" -- you mean like we left Germany? Or Japan? or S. Korea?
I actually do think you're right: if we leave, the Iraqi people will suffer a horrible civil war. Not like Cambodia's Killing Fields or Rwanda's Tutsi massacre, but more Hamas vs Fatah on a massive Shia vs Sunni scale.
So we need to stay -- but unlikely to be longer than our staying in Germany.
They don't necessarily support this ideal or that ideal. They just want the unification of Iraq.
I wish Mike had asked about splitting the oil revenue. (Not setting up an Oil Trust, like Alaska, was a Bush-Bremer mistake in 2003.)
I also want to hear what Iraqis think about Iran's support for anti-Iraqi terrorism. My thesis, for which I'm looking for evidence pro & con, is that the unified Shia-Sunni Iraqi Army will become ...
the Liberation Army of Iran.
Bringing free speech democracy to Iran in an overthrow of the mullahs, to stop them getting nukes.
Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at April 17, 2008 10:06 am
The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 04/17/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.
Posted by: David M at April 17, 2008 10:18 am
They are taking American money, arms and training knowing that this will all help them in the coming conflict with the Shi'a and Baghdad when the Americans pull out. This is EXACTLY why many Shi'a lawmakers have not been keen on the idea of supporting, arming and funding them.
And for months the Shi'a "lawmakers" didn't support Iraq's Sunnis, leaving them open to attacks by Shi'a militias thus driving many Sunnis out of the country - proof that, without the U.S. initiatives that began in 2006, matters could not be resolved on the political level.
For now, things are O.K. I do not see why the U.S. needs to leave Iraq any time soon, no more than the U.S. needed to leave Europe after WWII.
Remember, Marc, you've been blinkered before. I think many Shi'a leaders are keen to use democracy to attain power, but wish to dump it or at least its values at the first opportunity. By empowering the Sunnis as well as the Shi'a, the U.S. emphasizes that every Iraqi is a citizen and must be addressed on equal terms, thus sowing the seeds for future political compromise and productive development.
Posted by: Solomon2 at April 17, 2008 10:48 am
Thankyou Michael for doing the job the MSM won't do. PLease tell the good Captain Jones that there are plenty of us civilians out here who make an effort to find out what our Armed Forces are accomplishing in Iraq. We then take it upon ourselves to spread the good word since most of the media is not interested. Do these Marines need anything? If they do, I would suggest you write a post about it, they would quickly find out how deeply we care about them and their mission. God Bless them all, and I would include those Iraqis who put their lives on the line when they work with our troops.
Posted by: dianainsa at April 17, 2008 11:35 am
I sometimes think we're developing a new generation of political leaders here... no, not Iraqi leaders, but *American* leaders!
Seriously, here you've got a junior Marine Corps officer who's become an expert in political science, and he's not alone.
If you can get things done in Karmah, or Ramadi, or Baghdad, would environments like the Muncie City Council, the Virginia House of Delegates, or U.S. House of Representatives look very daunting to you?
Posted by: David C at April 17, 2008 12:12 pm
Have you ever met anyone who you know has switched sides? I'm sure we have both met some of these people, but have you met anyone who has admitted it?
Captain Jones: Yep. There are some guys that were bad who we work with now.

So, Mike,
I recall several interviews where you were like "Were there any Baathists / non - AQI insurgents around here?" And the military folk in question were like, "No. It's all AQI. ( And/or "dissafected locals", who were presumably not acting in accord with other forms or groups ).
So, that raises the question then, assuming all of that, that means that the "bad guys" being worked with now are former AQI?
Never asked that explicitly, huh?
If they are, I have to wonder, if US soldiers are working with former AQI in Iraq, how does that contrast with our mental image of AQI as irredeemable, irreconcilable, must be killed to the last man?
Frankly, I don't really question that consensus much. I just find it interesting that soldiers are given free rein to work things out with the kinds of guys that have been repeatedly described here as the lowest form of human scum, while back in America, that suggestion remains instant political death.
Unless, of course, none of the people we're reconciling with are in fact ex-AQI.
But then, how could AQI have been the only major insurgent force in Sunni Iraq? Who are all these people that used to hate us and bomb us and now don't? Were they all AQI, or were they not?
Posted by: glasnost at April 17, 2008 12:16 pm
Glasnost,
At the beginning of the insurgency, AQI was only one faction. Later they were the only faction.
Some of these guys fought with AQI for the ideology, some for the money, and some for the action. Some wanted to liberate Iraq, some wanted to oppress Iraq. Some were naive about AQI, some were not. They aren't a monolith. Some small faction of any group in the world is always flippable.
Any of these guys who were known to have actually killed people aren't allowed to switch sides. They get put in a cage. There are no known car-bombers on the Iraqi Police force.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 17, 2008 12:35 pm
I still don't personally believe that the insurgency is entirely AQI even now, but I'd be willing to believe they're the dominant faction. Everything else there sounds fairly agreeable to me.
There probably are at least a couple of car bombers in there, though. Not an accusation, just realism. If our knowledge of the internal structures was perfect, there would be no insurgency.
I'm just doing this to highlight what is, at least on some level, an arguably positive example of pragmatism. I'm not sure that means it will end well or was a good idea, but in the context of occupying Anbar province indefinitely, this is obviously a better way to do it than before. I just wonder if the American public really understands exactly the kind of deliberate fudging and overlooking of bright moral lines that this sort of pragmatism involves.
Anti-war folk in favor of fudging bright moral lines in the name of (an imagined) peace: pro-war folk in favor of fudging bright moral lines in the name of aggressive kinetic operations (in the name of peace).
Posted by: glasnost at April 17, 2008 1:54 pm
Glasnost: I still don't personally believe that the insurgency is entirely AQI even now
What are the other factions then? I can't get anyone, American or Iraqi, to name any faction other than that one in that place. There were other factions before, some of them nameless at the beginning before it cohered. Elsewhere in Iraq there are other factions right now, but none that I know of in Anbar.
There probably are at least a couple of car bombers in there, though.
Yeah, probably.
I'm just doing this to highlight what is, at least on some level, an arguably positive example of pragmatism.
Sure. We're talking about Marines here. They have no tolerance for ideology or bullshit. That kind of crap is a luxury for us Stateside, and dies a quick death when your life depends on getting things right.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 17, 2008 2:22 pm
Michael,
Have you read the essay titled, "The Price of the Surge" in the latest Foreign Affairs?
I have my opinions, but I'd be curious what yours are. It's Foreign Affairs, so the essay is worth considering regardless of its merits.
Posted by: Saint in Exile at April 17, 2008 8:51 pm
glasnost "fudging bright moral lines" is kind of a laugh.
War is hell.
Innocent, and especially not-proven guilty folk get killed. Where are the pro-war / pro-justice / anti-terror folk denying that not-good things need to be done in order to win?
The problem is that the anti-war folk claim false moral superiority against these and all bad things, without accepting the often worse realities of other actual policy.
Few are calling Barack a "Saddam Hussein supporter" in 2002, for his vote in opposition of giving Bush the power to enforce the regime change policy (enacted in 98 under Clinton). But to me he was a Saddam supporter.
Just like the anti-war folk in Vietnam were N. Viet commie & Killing Fields supporters.
But I've also never read any pro-victory supporters claiming we need to kill "to the last man" every AQ supporter -- just as many as we can find, whenever we find them, as long as they keep killing & bombing people. If AQ were to stop killing today, very soon there would be no big search for them.
Those AQ willing to stop killing have stopped being the kind of AQ we need to kill.
Justice might still require some punishment.
The cost of justice, in resistance and uncertainty, are unlikely to be worth the enforcement of such justice.
It's good that the Marines are pragmatic. Much more so than the author of "The Price of the Surge", whose final suggestions require a fantasy of historical improbabilities to be believable, despite raising interesting points.
Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at April 18, 2008 5:33 am
It is unbelievable the mind set that still exists. Comparing Iraq with Germany and Japan? Talk about holding onto old and outdated examples that don
Posted by: Marc at April 18, 2008 6:01 am
Tom: So we need to stay
Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 18, 2008 8:52 am
The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 04/18/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.
Posted by: David M at April 18, 2008 12:06 pm
If all we can use from history are examples that match our current situation exactly, then we have problems.
I don't think most people that compare Iraq to post-WW2 Germany/Japan deny that there are differences, particularly when comparing the amount of political complexity and factionalism in society. I think most use the comparison to show the level of commitment that was required from the US to turn those places around from the post-war destruction into at least working societies.
Granted the economic situations were quite different at the time, but reconstruction still required massive amounts of money, time, and most of all perseverance to accomplish. With the wishy-washy "We want to win the war, but not if it's hard" mentality a lot of Americans have, it can serve as a good reminder of the difficulty of what we are trying to do, and what the price may be.
Being blinded to the similarities is just as bad as being blinded to the differences, and will lead to just as many failures.
Posted by: SeiginoRaikou at April 18, 2008 1:47 pm
There is probably a modicum of similarity between Iraq and Korea (or Japan). Even under modernizing influence of the western "occupation", shedding their old world, backwards culture took some time.
Japan was hit harder by war than Iraq, but their people rebuilt it on economic ingenuity and resourcefulness. Reconstruction was a collective agenda prompted by nationalist sentiments to restore the nation to greatness again. It will take similar efforts by Iraqis to rebuild their nation. But when you look at their busted infrastructure / economy or how they still subscribe to certain dark age customs, it gives you pause.
I think the captain of this article has the right idea. Don't cram down "Democracy" down their throats by tearing down time honored traditions or strucuture. Ease them into it by creating some pseudo system that honors the old way and serve new ideas at the same time. Of course, eventually, the Iraqis have to reject antiquated customs incompatible with the modern world, and that's going to be PAINFUL. Random clerics shouldn't be allowed to form militias that kill 300 people on a whim, and tribal leaders should answer to elected central government.
Posted by: lee at April 19, 2008 12:09 am
Talk about holding onto old and outdated examples that don
Posted by: Solomon2 at April 29, 2008 2:18 pm
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