Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Petraeus on Iraq

The new ground commander in Iraq, Lieutenant-General David Petraeus, is reputed to be an expert on counterinsurgency. Reportedly, he wants to apply the lessons of Malaya and Northern Ireland to Iraq. Malaya is considered an outright success for the British counterinsurgents; Northern Ireland is a bit harder to call. The three situations have various similarities and differences among them, so it is difficult to say how this will work. Some of the lessons of Malaya and Northern Ireland are the importance of unity of command (both civilian and military efforts lead by one overall commander), restraint in the use of force, police taking the lead, population security, and patience and persistence. Malaya took a decade; Northern Ireland has been going on for over three. In his comments, Petraeus emphasizes population security but the Iraqi police are not reliable. He won’t have unity of command over US personnel, let alone both US and Iraqi personnel. He will be working with an experienced U.S. Ambassador, however, and that might help. One advantage the British had in Malaya and Northern Ireland was that they owned both places. They were the sovereign government. We are not the sovereign government in Iraq, as President Bush has noted repeatedly.

Discussions - 2 Comments

The Iraqi police are at least as big of a problem as the insurgency being funded by Iran. If you take a look at a lot of the IED attacks you will notice that they are located near IP checkpoints. Granted the IP checkpoints may be strategically placed (that is placed in places where it would otherwise be easiest to plant IED’s)...and it could be that the existance of the IP’s is still not enough to outweight the strategic cover that some spots on the MSR’s provide(especially when coupled with the bottlenecks that checkpoints inevitably create) at the beginning of our tour we readily gave water and Gatorade to the IP’s...given the number of HET’s we had burn up within 500 meters of the checkpoints...by the end of the tour we were rather jaded and suspicious. The IP’s are just rather underpaid, bored, and or disinterested in actually stopping attacks...they also are deeply sectarian when it comes to assigning blame.

Or this is another point of view on the problem of policing Iraq.


If we say we must not leave the Iraqi people in a mess when we leave, then we have to find some way to unwind from the place with minimal damage to the populace. As I read the article, Petraeus is using tactics based on lessons learned in those conflicts, i.e. what worked in the end. North Ireland certainly seems quieter these days, and it had seemed intractable, impossible, and its quarrels extending far beyond three decades. Wasn’t the British "ownership" of those places was part of the problem? We are not sovereign, but we are not a colonial government, either. If anything, our occupation is a reluctant one. Maybe that’s a problem, too?


I may be wrong, but I thought we began in Iraq with something like this, post-invasion, but pulled back into fortified bases for security reasons.

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