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The Collective
Friday, August 31, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the NYT: Panel Will Urge Broad Overhaul of Iraqi Police

An independent commission established by Congress to assess Iraq’s security forces will recommend remaking the 26,000-member national police force to purge it of corrupt officers and Shiite militants suspected of complicity in sectarian killings, administration and military officials said Thursday.

The commission, headed by Gen. James L. Jones, the former top United States commander in Europe, concludes that the rampant sectarianism that has existed since the formation of the police force requires that its current units “be scrapped” and reshaped into a smaller, more elite organization, according to one senior official familiar with the findings. The recommendation is that “we should start over,” the official said.

I have tried to start a sentence on this topic about three times and my brain keeps wanting to go in multiple directions. Fundamentally it is striking what a fundamental failure of policy is being indicated here by such a recommendation. Basically over four years into this enterprise a key component of the Iraqi state is so dysfunctional that it is being suggested by a panel of experts sent over to assess the situation that we “start over.”

The problem, of course, is that there is no “reset” button to push. Moreover, the problems that are identified here are endemic to the entire situation, not just to the police. But don’t worry, The Surge has produced some positive results, so pay no attention to the debacle behind the curtain! That seems to be the White House’s official line, anyway:

Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, defended the White House approach, saying: “The real question that people have is, What’s going on in Iraq? Are we making progress? Militarily, is the surge having an impact? The answer’s yes.”

Sadly, Kevin Drum’s assessment is more accurate:

In other words, except for the fact that Iraq has a disfunctional government, a disfunctional police force, and a barely functional army, things are going great.

A major problem with the way the administration is talking about the surge is that they have rhetorically redefined the objective of the surge to be one of military gains instead of being a means to an end, i.e., more stability to help the political situation. The goal was never simply to increase security, it was to increase security so that other goals could be pursued. The constant harping on how there have been (debatable, btw) security advances while ignoring the fact that the political situation is in shambles is delusional. How can proper policy decisions be made if the policymakers refuse to make a realistic assessment of the problem? The answer is: it isn’t possible. Indeed, it was that kind of thinking (defining the problem and the solution the way the administration wanted them to be rather than how they really were) that got us to this point in the first place.

BTW, as a side note, didn’t Giuliani’s consulting firm help in the initial training of the Iraqi police?

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Filed under: Iraq, US Politics | |

4 Comments

  1. On to Iran. Once that starts up, it’ll be “Iraq, who?”

    Comment by Hal — Friday, August 31, 2007 @ 11:37 am

  2. Kevin Drum; Not Getting It On Iraq

    You know, I used to respect Kevin Drum a lot. His blog, Political Animal, was the first political blog I had ever come across and to be honest, was probably a big reason why I started blogging myself. I don’t read him quite as much as I used to…

    Trackback by Comments From Left Field — Friday, August 31, 2007 @ 12:05 pm

  3. […] Serious problems with the police force. […]

    Pingback by PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » On Assessing Iraq (and an Open — Tuesday, September 4, 2007 @ 10:12 am

  4. […] Last week, I noted the rather problematic news that a report was coming that the Iraqi police force was such a mess, that the only option was to start over. Yesterday, the report in question was published, and the situation is, indeed, quite dire. WaPo’s write-up on the report starts as follows: […]

    Pingback by PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » The Lack of an Operational Security Apparatus in Iraq and the Implications Thereof — Thursday, September 6, 2007 @ 9:13 am

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