Thomas Friedman rips into the President’s Iraqi reconstruction plan – but unlike the Democrats he puts some real alternative policies unto the table. In general I don’t think the situation is quite as dire as Friedman describes it, but I still think his points are worthy of consideration.
He starts off by first stating that allowing Turkish troops into Iraq was a mistake. Indeed having the Turks and the Kurds in close quarters is a recipe for disaster – however Friedman presents that argument that the Turks aren’t like by the Sunnis and Shi’ites either.
Instead, Friedman argues that disbanding the Iraqi Army was a major mistake. By doing so the coalition essentially threw out the baby with the Ba’athists. The Army was never loyal to Saddam except at gunpoint, and there was no need to start from scratch. On this point, Friedman may well be right. Veterans of the Army should not be considered off-limits to rejoin – and going through all the trouble to create a new Army when the old would have still sufficed may have been a burden we could have avoided. A general call-up of the old Iraqi Army would reduce the burden on our troops and allow the Iraqis to be more effective in helping their own security situation. This may be a policy that the Bush Administration should seriously consider.
Friedman argues that de-Ba’athification has gone too far and left Iraqi without a Sunni voice and without many of the more educated center who had no choice but to join the Ba’ath Party but had little loyalty to Hussein. Certainly it is fair to remove those who actively collaborated with the regime, but Friedman may be right in pointing out that by removing so many well-educated civil servants from power the coalition has weakened Iraqi society.
Friedman finishes with this note:
Bottom line: We still haven’t established a moderate political center in Iraq ready to openly embrace the progressive U.S. agenda for Iraq and openly defend it. That center is potentially there, but because, so far, we have failed to provide a secure enough environment, or a framework for Iraqis to have the national dialogue they need to build a better Iraq, it has not emerged. We need to fix this situation fast. Instead of applauding without thinking, Republicans should be telling that to the president.
Indeed, Friedman isn’t being a fearmonger here. He’s not resorting to the subtle racism that the Iraqi people can never accept democracy or freedom, but he’s suggesting that more can and should be done to assist Iraq in the difficult transition to democracy. His suggestions are worth examining in detail.