Wednesday, April 30, 2008
The Surge and Sovereignty
For the last several months, it appeared that the U.S. strategy was to prioritize stability and local control at the expense of the writ of the central government in Baghdad. This included reaching out to Sunni elements who were suspicious of the Iraqi central government but who might be prepared to work with the U.S.
Now, however, Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki wants to disarm Shia militias and Sunni fighters--by force if necessary--if they refuse to disarm. The Iraqi army will need help--and will turn to the U.S. for it.
So the stability that has been achieved could then be threatened as Maliki wants, in advance of local elections, to assert the supremacy of his government.
This is a problem that NATO is also confronting in Afghanistan and in Kosovo. There is a big difference between being engaged in “stability operations”—essentially keeping the peace—and dealing with the fact that the government in the capital city doesn’t control all the territory of the country. So in both places, you are going to have NATO allies who say the mission is to make sure fighting is over and just keep things quiet, versus those who identify the success of the mission in ensuring that orders from the capital are enforced in the outlying areas-which may force NATO troops into fighting with locals and make the mission more dangerous in terms of casualties—which then undermines public support back home.
We'll see how this plays out in Iraq.