History's End

History will end only when Man does

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  • Friday, April 30, 2004

    Politics and the Fallujah Protection Army

    As no doubt many of you have heard, the Marines have started to lower the tempo in Fallujah and move their troops back, and let the Fallujah Protection Army take over. The US has tried to use Iraqis to help fight the insurgents in the past, but with mixed results. Many Iraqis don't want to fight other Iraqis (and foreign jihadis), for a variety of reasons, including simple fear of getting killed, to fear of angering the tribe to which the insurgent may belong (if a member of one tribe kills a member of another tribe, that tribe will kill someone belonging to the first tribe in revenge, in which case the Iraqi who started this in the first tribe will face severe punishment from his tribe), to religious reasons, or perhaps some sympathy with the insurgents, for whatever reason. The FPA might prove different, for several reasons. For one, it has a serious Sunni Arab leader who has some experience, General Jasim Mohamed Saleh, in the Iraqi Republican Guard. The RG was feared by Iraqis as Saddam's personal miliary force seperate from the regular army, and so he will have some fear attached to his name. The US has thus far avoided using former Bath'ists, and for good reason. The Shi'ites and the Kurds both fear and hate them, and would possibly revolt if they came into serious positions of power. However, the US has started to slowly integrate low level Bath'ists into the CPA and other Iraqi bodies, despite that fear. This is being done for several reasons. For one, former Bath'ists are quite common, and preventing them from ever re-integrating into the system will create a lot of hostility, and help fuel the insurgency. Secondly, many have skills that will be quite useful in the future Iraq, and keeping them out of the system creates a drain that is simply dangerous at this point. Iraq needs as many skilled professionals as it can get. Any high level officials will likely be out of a job for good, but the low level people need to be allowed to join the government and other Iraqi bodies in order for the Sunnis to participate in the New Iraq, and to make this whole thing work.

    This takes us to the FPA, and General Saleh. The US faces several problems in Fallujah. One of them is that a final push is politically dangerous, in that many civilians may be killed, and given the current problems emanating from the scandal over US Mistreatment of Iraqi Prisoners (I will blog on that tomorrow), the US needs to avoid bad press. Hence the US will keep the current strategy of "Constriction" of the insurgents in Fallujah. There is a problem with this, however. It takes a lot of time, and a fair amount of US Marines are involved in this. Marines who could do more important things elsewhere. Well, maybe not more important things, but things that are less noticeable. Something that is interesting, and rather sad when you think about it, is that Iraqis killed by their fellow Iraqis garner far less media attention than Iraqis killed by the US. Such is the state of Media in the ME and Europe. The Fact of the Matter is that insurgents killed by the FPA will garner far less media attention than those killed by the US military, and this extends to civilians accidently killed as well. After all, in the eyes of the European media, Arabs kill each other all the time, so it isn't big news. And the Arabic media won't focus on it because then it looks like there are people in Iraq who are on the US side. Therefore, by using the FPA to control Fallujah, the US can reduce the amount of bad press that might result.

    The FPA will not be as effective as would US Marines, that is a given. They don't have the training, equipment, discipline or spirit, and thus they will be less effective and likely have higher casualties. However, those things can be remedied over time. The US has been training Iraqi police in Jordan, along with other para-military units. Also, training has been going on in and around Fallujah as well. At first the FPA will probably only set up a cordon, and act defensively. Marines will be present for backup, and may do the occasional raid. However, once the FPA has fixed any cohesion problems, it will almost certainly begin limited offensive operations. Slowly but surely, the insurgents will be squeezed, and squeezed some more, until they are in a small pocket. In which case the FPA will likely have its true Baptism of Fire. General Saleh will have a number of motivations to make sure that his troops follow orders and get the job done, from simply monetary reasons to the fact that success will enable him to seek a high-up position in the new Iraqi military. It is not sure whether or not he will be able command his troops effectively and get the job done, but I don't doubt he will try his hardest in the process.

    Using para-military groups like the FPA poses a number of risks, of course. The first one, is the fact that it is a semi-military force headed by a former Republican Guards general. This likely has more than a few Kurds and Shi'ites on edge already. I suspect that the US will make sure and keep the FPA in the Fallujah region for the time being, and keep them far away from the Shia strongholds in the south or the Kurds in the north. The fact that there are Kurdish and Shi'ite troops in the FPA likely helps as well. Then there are the traditional problems with para-military groups. They in some ways resemble mercenaries, and they have proven dangerous and less than useful throughout history. To quote the political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli:

    I say, therefore, that the arms with which a prince defends his state are either his own, or they are mercenaries, auxiliaries, or mixed. Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.

    The FPA will need to be kept on a tight leash, or else it will either accomplish nothing or attempt to set itself up as the rulers of Fallujah. Perhaps the best solution in time would be to move large parts of the FPA into the regular Iraqi army, either as starting cadres, or perhaps bolstering less experienced troops. Then the FPA could be either disbanded, or perhaps morphed into a form of provincial militia, similar to the US National Guard.

    For another good take on the situation, Wretchard's Belmont Club is always a good place to check out.

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