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Iraqis will finish off the Baath Party

I read a lot of Iraqi blogs and journalism. The reason? I don’t believe anything Western journalists have to say any more. If the New York Times printed a headline saying “Sun Slated to Rise Tomorrow Morning”, I’d fact check them with one of my astronomer friends – just to be sure our planet hadn’t recently stopped rotating.

Many Iraqis have made it clear the US isn’t brutal enough in rooting out the old regime. I’m not sure it is always understood over there that we simply cannot act as violently as they would wish. Now that the enemy is dug in behind a screen of civilians we face fairly stiff limits of ‘acceptable behavior’. We are constantly under the scrutiny of the western allies of the deposed butcher. We face terrorist embedded Paris Match ‘reporters’ filming the firing of anti-aircraft missiles at civilian aircraft. We have Reuters reporters digging for any concievable anti-american angle they can find.

The Iraqis themselves have no such constraints. I agree with Alaa in principle. We have to push the control of security into Iraqi hands as fast as we possibly can… but we do have to balance this with progress in the creation of a civil society. That is the gift we wish to leave behind us. It will have far more lasting effects than the burial of Saddam’s spawn.

The day will come when Iraqi police and government take over everything… and very soon afterwards a large number of Baathists will turn up dead.

Problem finis.

20 comments to Iraqis will finish off the Baath Party

  • RAS

    INCENTIVES MATTER

    This line of reasoning is not only true, it is a mistake.

    It’s true because it’s an accurate extrapolation of what will happen, given the current course of events.

    It’s a mistake because the Baathists will have figured it out, too. They might reasonably infer that they have no choice but to fight.

    They will quite naturally expect their local enemies -I mean the Shiites and Kurds – to treat them as cruelly as they themselves were treated by the (mostly Sunni) Baathists in the first place. And I could easily see such a fear applying to the entire Sunni populace, not just the former Baathists.

    So this might be a good time to use Western “weakness” (i.e. compassion & restraint) to our advantage. If we got the cards, we oughtta play ‘em.

    Let’s offer the Sunnis a relatively safe “haven” – I use the term loosely, hear me out – with a very clear choice.

    Let the Sunnis police themselves in their predominant areas of the country. They maintain that right as long as they do a good job; they lose it if the area does not improve.

    Their alternative is that their former victims will do the job. Only if the Sunnis handle security properly themselves will they be safe.

    This solution is not perfect – there are Shiites living in Sunni areas and vice-versa. Same w/the Kurds etc. But at least the families of the (former?) Baathists would be safe so long as the area remains peaceful. And the population at large, as well as any remaining Baathists, would have some _incentive_ to end the conflict. What is their incentive today? Is it enough?

    Never back a rat into a corner.

  • netfan

    Your recommendations make sense to me. I will watch to see if our people pick up on this. You are absolutely right when you say our human rights standards are working against us, and right again in saying we’ve got to give the Baathists a reason to cooperate with us. Netfan

  • RAS – the rational calculation you describe is exactly the one that the Sunnis have had before them since at least this March. It also happens to be a version of the larger argument from self-interest that the US has been trying to impress upon the Palestinians and the entire Muslim world.

    Nothing’s certain, and some new catastrophe could always sweep the table clean for a while, but, because, over time, a zillion calculations of human self-interest will overwhelm any ideology or governmental structure standing against them, the odds in favor of the Bush doctrine’s success may be much better than most observers figure, and even if the Iraq operation somehow goes awry in the short-term. The dangers of terrorism and other forms of warfare from the camp of the undeterrables has forced the US to attempt to accelerate developments in a way that it couldn’t during the Cold War – but we do know how that one turned out, and, at least on a material level, this one has the potential to be much easier.

    As for backing rats into corners, the hardcore Baathists and allies are already there, and it’s hard to imagine how they can be extricated. You may be right that some significant number of them could and should be pried or bribed or amnestied away, but it’s a, to say the least, complicated project. Right now and for the foreseeable future, Coalition forces are still needed in large numbers to counteract the factors – money, arms, foreign influence against the relative weakness of anti-Baathist/collaborationist Iraqi forces – that keep the rats going.

    A different metaphor: Rats desert a sinking ship. The stupidest or most desperate rats – the ones who can’t swim – will be holding out to the bitter end, and trying to take as many of their opponents with them as they can. If the tipping point hasn’t in fact already been reached, when it has been we may be the last to know.

  • -Ed.

    If a new and legitimate Iraqi government were in place now, and if the victims of these terrorist attacks were not coalition forces, we would not be hearing about them. Nor should we. I mean,… how many murders were committed in France last month? Or in Russia? Or in any other country? I have no idea, and probably neither do you. Alaa is exactly right.

  • John

    RAS:

    You say “never back a rat into a corner” as though you believe Baathists are not already behaving so. Perhaps you think attacks on allied soldiers are a symptom of Baathist restraint. Give me a break. Baathists are behaving like the desperate killers they are. They are about as likely to practice “restraint” as Hamas.

    In any case, this is a war, and war is about backing rats into corners. When the rats surrender — or are killed — we call it victory. In Iraq we and the Iraqi people are faced with a ruthless and unrestrained enemy that refuses to surrender. Accordingly, we have no choice but to prosecute the war to its conclusion, which means vanquishing Baathism utterly. Easing up under a guise of “compassion” is the mistake here. It would allow Baathism to rise again one day and resume its reign of terror.

    But I think your sense of compassion is misdirected. To free Europe, Nazism had to be wiped out. Not appeased, not ignored, not treated with — but wiped out. It was the compassionate thing to do. Allowing Nazism to survive in any degree would have been an unforgivable crime. The situation with Baathism is no different.

  • Jacob

    Terrorism is a way of life and a fashion in the Arab ME. You need a strong, terrorist government to keep some lid on the violence, i.e. – terrorism and murder at a low, tolerable level.- see Algeria, Turkey, Egypt etc. It is a dirty business, which the US is ill suited to perform.
    Seems that what the US is trying to do is hand the mess back to the Iraqis to sort it out the best they can.

    How do you ascertain that terrorism isn’t exported to other countries under these circumstances ? This is the tough question.

    Don’t try to seek the rational, self interest (as understood in the West), logic solutions – they don’t work in the ME.

  • Joel Hammer

    One has to wonder what the Iraqi fighters hope to gain.

    They seem to be mainly Sunni’s and their supporters. If these people had a rational mindset, they would be working hard to curry favor with the USA. Instead, they are making themselves hated by the Americans.

    What is their future in Iraq? Who will come to their rescue?

    They do remind you of the Palestinians. Just keep killing, and things will turn out OK.

    Joel

  • RAS

    John,

    I respectfully differ. I would _love_ to see the Baathist bastards wiped out; lord knows they’ve earned it.

    But amongst the fans of Baathism there will be a continuum of enthusiasm. Some will indeed be (eponymous) die-hard supporters.

    Most will not. They will grumble, they will not necessarily consider events to their liking, but they will make rational calculations, in their own vested self-interest, that will help to end the guerilla war and stabilize Iraq, with all the downstream benefits that entails.

    Divide and conquer? Yeah, it’s kinda that, too. The softer supporters of Sunni Baathism – and in any political movement most support is at heart soft – will recognize their new reality.

    Even many of the bad guys may have recently been killers of the “others” in their world, but they will protect their own (yes, notwithstanding the occasional suicide bomber).

    Do the math. More will suffer and die if the guerilla war continues than if it ends. _Many_ more will suffer and die if the democratization/modernization of Iraq fails. This is the basic premise from which I work.

    The foreign terrorists from Syria, Nigeria or wherever simply cannot function within Iraq without support from the Baathist remnants, who are the key. They stand out almost as much as you or I would.

    And neither the Baathists nor their imported Islamist co-foghters can function if a significant percentage (doesn’t have to be that high, really) of the population around them wants them gone, and is willing to cooperate with the Coalition.

    And for that, those who would cooperate need a reason. The innocent, as well as the guilty, fear revenge. And they should. Let’s make that work for us, not against.

    The worst of the worst bastards hiding out will still fight, of course. But we’ll get a lot more clean shots at them if more of the locals cooperate.

  • bongoman

    I think the whole process needs to be driven by Bush’s re-election timetable. The handover needs to be directly corelated to the forthcoming elections and staged in such a manner to maximize Bush’s chances.

    This is an opportunity not to be missed by the forces who stand for freedom and democracy.

    And boy, let’s hope some WMD turn up soon!

    I would also love to see Bush introduce some Guantonomo-style reforms to the domestic criminal justice system as well. The rule of law is more of a hindrance than a help in this changed world of ours.

    We took Iraq without letting international law get in the way—let’s start doing the same at home.

    Let freedom reign!

  • Jabba the Nutt

    Already happening folks, here’s an excerpt and link from a Time magazine article:

    Saturday, Nov. 22, 2003

    Jasim is a killer. in the past six months he claims to have helped assassinate 10 former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime, most of them officials in the disbanded Mukhabarat, Iraq’s ruthless intelligence service. A construction worker who declines to give his full name for fear of retribution, Jasim, 31, has scores to settle. In 1999, after he participated in the murder of three Baathist officials, the mukhabarat threw him into prison, where he says he was whipped and beaten and tortured with electric shocks to his penis. Released in a general amnesty Saddam granted just before the war, Jasim believes that his uncle sold him out to the authorities and intends to kill him too. “If my finger were a Baathist,” he says, “I would cut it off.”

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101031201-548790,00.html

  • Cybrludite

    Dude, take your Bong & go, man. Your patcholli aftershave is smelling up the place.

  • Harry

    RAS is both wrong and right. It is much easier to kill a rat trapped in a corner than to kill one running around helter skelter, but only if you kill it with a shotgun and do not attempt to kill it with an icepick. There are some things we in the west never seem to learn or accept about a people whose culture has them mired the 10th century. In some ways we may be to civilized for our own good. And that may be the death of the us.

  • tallan

    Tom Freidman, in a recent interview with Tim Russert made a similar claim; it will take Iraqis who will not have to play by the rules we have to play by to root out the terrorist and kill them.

    It will not be pretty but it will be necessary.

  • HTY

    I agree with most of what Dale wrote, except the bit about creating civil society. Perhaps we define it differently. I take civil society to mean respect for the conventions of democracy, rule of law, and the rights of one another. Civil society cannot be grown overnight, nor can it be imposed by the CPA. The Iraqis will have to develop it themselves.

    What the Coalition can do is to create the best conditions realistically possible for the development of civil society.

    On that score, I think the Coalition is doing very well. Head on over to the CPA’s web site ( http://www.cpa-iraq.org/ ) and check out 2 polls recently conducted at the left hand column. Iraqis overwhelmingly support rights of freedom of speech, religion, and assembly. Reading the poll results, I can see the future of radical Islam ending right in front of my eyes.

    As for tactics toward Iraqi terrorists, I’m with many of the others here in saying that only Iraqis can solve this problem.

  • Right, let Iraqis kill the Baathists. But first, collect more info — like who owns what houses, where. And who lives where.

    And maybe get more local homeowner associations, who can call local police OR provincial police OR American supported coalition forces for help?

    And the US should be turning a “blind eye” to that sort of thing, already. Perhaps with the death of Baathist murderers enough punishment, but perhaps their houses, cars, gold, other assets should also be forfeited.

    Still, pro-dem Iraqis have to feel safe from anti-dem terrorists in order to get rid of more anti-dem folk; this doesn’t seem to be the case among the Sunnis, yet.

  • Jacob

    “…it will take Iraqis who will not have to play by the rules we have to play by to root out the terrorist and kill them.”

    And those “not playing by the rules” Iraqis will then install a new regime, not that much different from Saddam’s. This might be ok if they didn’t support international terrorism, but don’t bet on it.

  • HTY: Civil society has nothing to do with democracy because democracy is entirely about politics and politics is about controlling the collective means of coercion.

    Society is about interactions not based on force, such as trade, expression and free association(though force may back up such things, unlike political interaction, social interaction is not about coercion).

  • R. C. Dean

    Jasim may be a killer, but in my eyes he is a true Iraqi hero. He fought the Baathists before the invasion, and he fights them now. Not only that, but apparently he gets the kinds of results that will make a difference – dead Baathists. In the near term, that is what we need more of. A lot more of. The cycle of creative destruction in Iraq has not yet bottomed out, and the country still needs a thorough purging. Sic semper tyrannis, the tree of liberty, and all that.

    One hopes that, when the Baathists are done, Jasim can find his way back to a normal life.

    I find the celebrated Salam Pax stacks up rather poorly compared to Jasim the Baath-killer. There is no question in my mind which is making a positive contribution to Iraq’s future.

  • buzz shattan

    your comments regarding the NY Times are sad but true– read Bob Kohn’s new book “Journalistic Fraud” about the endless distortions of the truth at this once credible, now unbelievable, institution; your work is excellent, glad to be visiting

  • HTY

    Perry,

    Show me a society that has no politics.

    The kind of perfect anarchic society that too many people fantasize about has one big problem: It never existed and is not likely to come online any time soon.

    More than one classical philosopher had conceded that men are inherently political animals.

    Ever heard of the phrase “office politics?” What about politics in academia? Admittedly, tanks are not used in those circumstances. But anyone who thinks that coercion does not enter into those equations is naive. The coercion may not be manifested in a barrel of a gun, but it does exist in more subtle forms.