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Thursday, August 24, 2006
The Plan for Victory in Iraq

I wrote this originally as an email in respone to Sen. Joe Biden's plan for victory in Iraq. I have adopted it to reflect the style of the website, and, including additonal information that those who did not read the preceding would not have had. How has the Department of Defense managed without me for all these years?

A summary of Joe's plan:
First, the plan calls for maintaining a unified Iraq by decentralizing
it and giving Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis their own regions. The central government would be left in charge of common interests, such as border security and the distribution of oil revenue.

Second, it would bind the Sunnis to the deal by guaranteeing them a proportionate share of oil revenue. Each group would have an incentive to maximize oil production, making oil the glue that binds the country together.

Third, the plan would create a massive jobs program while increasing reconstruction aid -- especially from the oil-rich Gulf states -- but tying it to the protection of minority rights.

Fourth, it would convene an international conference that would produce a regional nonaggression pact and create a Contact Group to enforce regional commitments.

Fifth, it would begin the phased redeployment of U.S. forces this year and withdraw most of them by the end of 2007, while maintaining a small follow-on force to keep the neighbors honest and to strike any concentration of terrorists.

This plan is consistent with Iraq's constitution, which already provides for the country's 18 provinces to join together in regions, with their own security forces and control over most day-to-day issues. This plan is the only idea on the table for dealing with the militias, which are likely to retreat to their respective regions instead of engaging in acts of violence. This plan is consistent with a strong central government that has clearly defined responsibilities. Indeed, it provides an agenda for that government, whose mere existence will not end sectarian violence. This plan is not partition -- in fact, it may be the only way to prevent violent partition and preserve a unified Iraq.

To be sure, this plan presents real challenges, especially with regard to large cities with mixed populations. We would maintain Baghdad as a federal city, belonging to no one region. And we would requireinternational peacekeepers for other mixed cities to support local security forces and further protect minorities. The example of Bosnia is illustrative, if not totally analogous. Ten years ago, Bosnia was being torn apart by ethnic cleansing. The United States stepped in decisively with the Dayton Accords to keep the country whole by, paradoxically, dividing it into ethnic federations. We even allowed Muslims, Croats and Serbs to retain separate armies. With the help of U.S. troops and others, Bosnians have lived a decade in peace. Now they are strengthening their central government and disbanding their separate armies.

I was against the war before I was for it. A while back I wrote about why every responsible American should now support the war in Iraq: lower domestic political support means that the Bush Administration would need to draw down the military and rely more on the air campaign. Air bombing, while leading to fewer American casualties, would result in more Iraqi civilian casualties and increase Iraqi political factionalization. What I argued in another post is that it not only mattered that we didn't reduce the current amount of American troops in Iraq, it also mattered that we vastly increase the amount of our armed forces stationed and patrolling in Iraq.

I think I'm right because of this:
Encouraging news from Baghdad: The decision was made to redeploy thousands of US troops from Baghdad area from other areas of Iraq to secure the city and reduce a number of daily attacks. Well, the numbers are preliminary, but it seems to be working. After two weeks, Iraqi authorities say the number of violent attacks has gone down by 30%." Just more insane Bush propaganda, right? Um, no. It's Charlie Gibson on "World News Tonight" last night. That's from ABC, the network that just named Mario Cuomo's son Chris as one of its lead anchors. On the report, correspondent Terry McCarthy said, "By saturating some of the most dangerous neighborhoods, [Iraqi officials claim] they have reduced violence across Baghdad by almost a third. US figures, calculated differently, show a 22% drop. Either way, the Americans are fired up.

And, as you know, we are vastly increasing the number of troops in the country by involutarily activating some Marines.

On Biden's specific proposal. I think that most conflicts are started by two factors (1) disagreements about the division of resources, and, (2) populations who imagine and express themselves collectively, but lack the ability to make collective claims reliably against the political institutions of the countries in which they reside. (Quick case in point: Europe has not fought a major war since 1945. I believe that is because of (1) the predecessor to the EU like the coal and steel community, and, the Warsaw Pact were arrangements about the division of common economic-natural resources like coal, steel, and foreign direct investment; and (2) most states ethnically cleansed their populations of potential irredentists (like the Germans, Greeks, Armenians, etc) and the refugee populations, (like the Jews )had been largely finished off during the Holocaust.)

Federal, consocial, and power-sharing arrangements means that the political institutions of the country are not defined in such a way that only Kurdish, Shiia or Sunni can expect aid and succor from the government, or, that their grievances, wishes, and desires will not be honored by the central institutions.* While I am specifically against giving the Kurds too much autonomy until the PKK and Turkish refugees end their insurgency war in Turkey, the Iraqi government needs an inclusive, and, for now, decentralized, mode of governance to bring the peace. (As the government gets stronger it probably want to displace local and non-national elites, but that's a preference I have and not a requirement.)

Power-sharing would mean little in practice if one portion of the country was locked out of the oil resource market. Biden is on to something that access to the oil revenue is critical. I don't think it should necessarily be proportionate, but each group should have the ability to monitor what the other groups are doing with the resources, and, every group should have joint-coordinating agreements and institutions to direct the oil resources to projects that benefit a cosmopolitan coalition of actors rather than just a narrow group of co-ethnics.

The United States should not phase out its troops until every group is assured that the security situation within and outside the country will not shorten the promises of the post-Saddam era. Until common security institutions, watchdog agreements, and an integrated military force with no other/rival paramilitary groups is created and empowered, all the economic development in the world will not make Iraq a viable state. Having access to a job means little when your local leaders are attempting to appropriate your labor, resources, and capital for a war effort.

What Iraqi consocialism must do is provide a framework for and institutional basis of cooperation. What it must not do is ethnically segregate, partition, or divide the country. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Ambassador Khalilzad argues:
In July, a poll by the International Republican Institute, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to democracy promotion, found that 94% of Iraqis said they support a "unity" government representing all sects and ethnic communities, with only 2% opposed. Some 78% of Iraqis opposed Iraq being segregated by religion or ethnicity, with only 13% in favor. Even in Baghdad, where the worst of Iraq's sectarian violence has occurred, 76% of those surveyed opposed ethnic separation, with only 10% favoring it. The challenge of the Baghdad Security Plan and its accompanying effort at national reconciliation is to realize the overwhelming majority of Iraqis desire to live in peace with one another against the violent minority who seek to impose their vision of hatred and oppression.

Read the whole article, it's good.

While I don't know much about labor economics, unemployment and development within the country should not be perceived to occur in such a way that only a narrow group of people are benefiting while others are not. The central government must provide the necessary aid, infrastructure, and social security net so that all can participate in market relations with dignity and hope, and without bitterness.

*I lean away from consocialist structures toward intergrationist cosmopolitan ones. Consocialism makes identity groups the basis for representation in government. Cosmopolitanism treats the whole population equally. In order to ensure that minorities are not disadvantaged, however, measures may be necessary to allow them to compete with the rest of the community on equal terms. While my principle intuitions push me away from creating institutionalized (ethnic) identities, a too fervent cosmopolitan approach may destroy cultural institution and be disrespectful of traditions. The goal for the law of Iraq is ethnic neutrality, not ethnic indifference. (Holland has a consocialist system, and they turned out fine, but many others have not.)