Hiding Out in a Mosque

StrategyPage has an interesting assessment of recent events in Iraq. After a several paragraph synopsis,

Both the Sunni Arab and Sadr thugs have terrorized the police and government officials in areas they operate in. This is an ancient Iraqi tradition, and Iraqis have known little else for as long as anyone can remember. Add in a few anti-American slogans, and you have yourself a patriotic movement. But these armed gangs are out to dominate and exploit other Iraqis, and Iraqis have not yet accepted the fact that they can unite and protect all Iraqis. It’s called democratic government and the United States is being criticized the world over for imposing such an alien notion on the oppressed Iraqi people.

Leaving so many Iraqis armed, after Saddam’s government was destroyed, is a calculated risk. To disarm a population, that has long been accustomed to using weapons against hostile neighbors, was seen as too expensive in terms of coalition and Iraqi lives. Better to let a democratically elected Iraqi government do it.

Strangely, it ends there. (There’s a link to “more” but it just takes us to yesterday’s article.)

I’ve long thought the failure to convert the Iraqi army to security forces was a mistake, although I recently heard a compelling argument on NPR from a respected moderate (Anthony Cordesman? Larry Korb?) that it wasn’t possible because they essentially disbanded themselves. Clearly, having so much firepower in the population is a problem, although it’s not clear to me what we would have done about it.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Policing, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Eddie Thomas says:

    A recent letter to the editor in the Atlantic Monthly also asserts that the rank and file of the Iraqi army had already disbanded, largely because their participation in the army had been forced in the first place. The army that could be rounded up would only have been the officers, who were many, relatively well rewarded, and perhaps not too helpful in actual military matters.

  2. Jim Henley says:

    What’s most striking about the quoted passage is the self-pity. There was quite a bit of that in the recent, much-quoted Fred Barnes article too.

  3. Mithras says:

    I’m curious about this idea that the Iraqi army “disbanded themselves.” That’s an ass-covering claim I had not seen before. Since they had no jobs to go home to, I wonder if maybe they could have been enticed back once “major combat operations” ended?

    I’m only partly serious, of course. Putting more guns into the hands of Iraqis would be like us putting more guns in the hands of the South Vietnamese Army. They’d most likely sell them or give them to the other side. Witness the reports of Iraqi police committing terrorism and Iraqi defense forces turning on American units in firefights. Maybe it would have been better to disarm them but keep paying them to stay in the army. They could have been put to work digging ditches or whatever. It would have been the least bad option.