David Ignatius offers some advice to Don Rumsfeld in today’s WaPo:
To prevent more foreign fighters from entering Iraq, the coalition needs better control of the country’s borders — especially with Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. To dry up the insurgents’ flow of weapons, the coalition needs to find and destroy more of the estimated 800,000 tons of ammunition littered throughout the country. To draw support from as many Iraqis as possible, the United States needs to ease its de-Baathification policy so that it bans only those with blood on their hands. (U.S. officials claim they have already loosened the rules, but that message hasn’t gotten through to most Iraqis.) To build stronger Iraqi security forces, the United States needs to call back officers and soldiers of the old Iraqi army. (Again, U.S. officials say they realize they must use the army they disbanded last May.) To gain better intelligence from senior Iraqis, the coalition needs to make clear that most of them won’t face war crimes prosecution for actions they describe during interrogation. That fear has limited the intelligence harvest so far, the officials said.
The last three of these are really one thing, and arguably the biggest mistake we’ve made in the reconstruction. While it’s great in theory to refuse to deal with Baathists and others tied to Saddam’s regime, it’s impractical. In a totalitarian state, profession of loyalty to the leader is simply required to hold any position of responsibility; sometimes, just to survive. We instituted the same policy after WWII in both Germany and Japan. Rather quickly, we reversed ourselves.