Seven Questions

Tacitus has an interesting mental exercise about the seven key questions about the situtation in Iraq:

1. What is your primary value with regard to Iraq? Secondary?

The primary goal of Iraq was to weaken the terrorist infrastructure that exists in the Middle East. It is clear that the Iraqi regime was a major state sponsor of terror, and there was and is every reason to believe that the Iraqis would outfit groups like al-Qaeda with weapons of mass destruction. While there are arguments that Iraq is someone tangental to the overall war on terrorism, Iraq’s history of support of terror groups and their previous use of weapons of mass destruction made them a threat that could not be ignored. The choice was either attack now or attack after the Iraqis did. The latter choice is not an acceptable policy decision. If the threat had been allowed to become imminent it is not at all certain that a response would have prevented the death of thousands or hundreds of thousands of American lives.

The secondary goal was to create a democratic transformation in Iraq that would spread throughout the Middle East and put pressure on other governments to reform. The beginnings of this can already be seen, but this is a goal that will require decades to be fully borne out. Already the basic infrastructure and the beginnings of a civil society in Iraq have begun to appear, which is a hopeful sign for the future of that country despite the security situation.

2. What sort of state and society do you prefer in Iraq if you leave?

A democratic republic with division of power and a strong and independent judiciary.

3. What are you unwilling to do to achieve goals 1 and 2?

Nothing is off the table, although direct military action should only be taken as is absolutely needed.

4. What immediate action would you take upon assumption of command?

I would immediately expand our armored presence in the country and have all convoys escorted by at least one heavy armored vehicle or at least a Bradley fighting vehicle. It would be immediately known that any attempt at attacking a US convoy would result in immediate retaliation. Short-range radio-signal jammers would be used at the head of convoys to detonate roadside bombs. Random convoys would be more heavily armed including Apache and Black Hawk helicopters in supporting roles.

Trusted tribal officials would be paid for informing on attackers and trusted human intelligence sources should be cultivated immediately to determine who is attacking and when they plan on attacking. These individuals should be arrested and detained.

Saddam Hussein must be found and killed.

5. What long-term action would you take?

Iraqis would be encouraged to form responsible political parties, but anti-democratic groups such as the Sadr brigades would be forcibly disarmed and throughly delegitimized. Training of Iraqi Army and police would continue, and Iraqis would be given increasing responsibility for running their own affairs over time.

Elections should be closely monitored and only registered political parties who follow the rules should be allowed to field candidates. Again, democratic political activity should be allowed to flourish, while anti-democratic activity should not be tolerated. As the new government takes authority US forces should be able to ramp down their deployments, especially as the Iraqi Army takes over basic patrol duties. A US presence will remain in Iraq for several decades as a way of being able to project force elsewhere in the region and to act as peacekeepers as necessary.

The government would be very limited in scope and function, along the lines of the US Constitution, but perhaps even more restrictive. While it may chafe on liberal sentiments, limited government is the only way to lead a transition between an oppressed state and a free one. The diffusion of power should be the key principle in the new Iraqi government – and a strong system of check and balances must be established to prevent tyranny from returning to Iraq.

6. At what point would you declare your plan a failure?

Only if troops can no longer be maintained at sufficient force levels. The situation is simply too important to be allowed to fail. If the first round of elections fail to produce and acceptable democratic leadership, a new round with increased restrictions will be called. There will be a period of training-wheels democracy in which democratic activity is curtailed to a degree, but this period is necessary to develop civil society in the region. There will be multiple failures along the way, but the goal is not to allow those failures to impede the overall goal of democratization.

7. How much time are you willing to allot to your occupation?

I would not expect less than 25 years for Iraq to become a true democracy, and I would expect an ongoing US presence in Iraq to exist along the lines of our presence in Germany after World War II.

3 thoughts on “Seven Questions

  1. What’s really a shame is that this is the first plausible estimate for the length of the occupation that I’ve seen.

  2. My biggest fear is that the Bush administration doesn’t have the will to see this through, either…

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