Iraq: After Saddam

Well, this ought to get interesting.

As I sat in the early morning line up at our favorite surf spots in the months and weeks preceeding the US invasion of Iraq, my good friend Jamie and I discussed the coming war often, some times heatedly. In those discussions I said that two things seemed significant to me, three actually.

  1. No Weapons of Mass Destruction will be found.
  2. The US politic may not have the will to finish the unpleasant business they are about to start.
  3. Defeating the Iraqi military and in turn Saddam will be the easy part but the US has no plan for rebuilding Iraq

No Weapons of Mass Destruction
Saddam Hussein had some ten to twelve years to come up with effective methods of hiding whatever weapons he managed to procure. As the US began ramping up for the military action it was plainly clear to Saddam Hussein what was coming. In the final nine months to a year before hostilities began Hussein had a final opportunity to hide or get rid of whatever WMD might have remained. It wouldn’t surprise me if, in the end, we discover that Hussein did have some amount of WMD (probably chemical weapons) available to him. I am quite certain those weapons will be very difficult to find, if we find them at all.

Lack of Political Will
If we look at the reconstruction of Japan and Germany after World War II we can see that the work we have before us in Iraq will take years. I would even suggest that Iraq will take longer than either Japan or Germany since the populace of both of those countries was warweary and relatively willing participants in the reconstruction. The Iraqi population may not prove so cooperative.

Current US estimates have us in Iraq until at least 2007. That may prove optimistic. The rebuilding of Iraq is going to require huge effort and resources. Already the American public or at least the American press is asking when will our troops be coming home. Already there is some outcry in response to the $87 billion requested to continue the rebuilding of Iraq. How much louder will that anger be in two or three years?

The situation is further exaserbated by the fact that the US government failed to build a major coalition. Thus to the American voices of dissent is added the criticism from the International community. Had the US government been willing to go more slowly and more diplomatically in seeking International approval of the course of action it was proposing it would quite likely be easier now to muster the support the US government needs.

The Easy Part is Over
We are only now discovering that what we have completed — the toppling of the Iraqi military and Saddam Hussein — is the easy part. What remains now, the building of a nation, will be the difficult bit. We must build a nation of, or maybe for, people whose culture, religion and society we do not understand. We can talk about democracy but we have to wonder whether we — the Americans and the Iraqis — have a common definition for the word.

We are discovering now that there is probably a resistence movement in Iraq. The US government would like to say that the attacks on Iraqi police stations and International aid agencies are the work of Al Qaeda or foreign nationals or possibly Hussein sympathizers. We must, however, consider the possibility that these attacks are being perpetrated by an Iraqi resistence organisation. Whatever the source of these attacks I think it is fairly certain that they will, in one form or another, continue. The targets may change but that will not significant reduce the risk incurred by simply being in Iraq.

More significant than all of this is that the US government and the International community do not seem to have any sort of plan for building a nation in Iraq. Many seem to be looking to the military to carry out this function but it is not something the military is trained or equipped for. The military is not even really very well prepared to facilitate security in the area. A military, any military, trains to fight and defend national interests. A military prepares for large scale combat. Most military personnel are ill suited to the task of community police work. It is not something they know anything about.

Conclusion
And in the end, I fear that the requisite focus may be lost entirely. If this action is to be successful, the focus must be the Iraqi people. If we fail to provide them with a nation and a government which provides for their security but allows them the freedom to pursue their lives as they choose — and this must include the tricky business of religious freedom in a culture where religion permeates the whole of their lives — then I believe that all we have spent and will spend on the effort will be for naught. Because in the end only the Iraqi people themselves can ensure that there will not be another Saddam Hussein.

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