June 16, 2005

Measuring Militias

Thomas Friedman wants to talk about Iraq but it's pretty much a content free column. The one real issue he raises seems to be whether the factions are going to start investing in their own militias so much that national institutions are going to start to whither.

Well, we need to talk about Iraq. This is no time to give up - this is still winnable - but it is time to ask: What is our strategy? This question is urgent because Iraq is inching toward a dangerous tipping point - the point where the key communities begin to invest more energy in preparing their own militias for a scramble for power - when everything falls apart, rather than investing their energies in making the hard compromises within and between their communities to build a unified, democratizing Iraq.

There's no there there, though as there's no data demonstrating that Iraqi militia not under government control are on an upswing. It's just a bald assertion without any evidence backing it up. A more measured and data filled piece was recently put out by CFR and lays out the challenges and the use of the militias. The militias are not exclusively made of loose cannons as Thomas Friedman seems to think but are a complex web of loose cannons, privateers who do the government's bidding, and anti-government operators. It's quite likely that a good number of the militia that Friedman worries about are already under government control but are doing the hard, dirty jobs that the formal army either isn't trained to do yet or that the government doesn't want its fingerprints on. In either case, the world of Iraqi militias is not as clear cut as Thomas Friedman makes out.

What would be needed would be a list of active militias, their activate strength and an estimate of their loyalties. No doubt such a loyalty chart exists but it's no doubt highly classified. We just have to trust that US troops are not sleeping on the job in keeping an eye on these groups.

Posted by TMLutas at June 16, 2005 02:45 PM