Friday, May 16, 2008

Peace through Prosperity - Plan for Iraq?

People are too caught up with words like "democracy" and "ally" in trying to solve Iraq. What is needed is a government that supports some form of the right to speak freely, so that you do not have to live in fear of your neighbors and those with guns for questioning tyranny by small neighborhood warlords or religious zealots. And people need to accept that just because someone has a different religion, it does not mean they lose their right to property, to be safe in their home, to not be held up by thugs while the police turn away because you are not one of "them."
Because frankly, if you have these things, or at least a genuine effort to turn towards these things, you will have peace. And people can flourish. And a state with good natural resources can let business grow with very little taxation. But that resource will always be a problem. Control of the oil means money and guns. It could be used for other political patronage like construction (helping a broken nation form local construction firms that work of government patronages usually work well for a country, like Japan and Korea). A Marshall plan mostly funded by oil. Is this ideal transparency and perfect government?
No. But just try to get to "peaceful." No bombs going off daily, no massacres, no death squads in the night. Corruption is a luxury concern of developed and peaceful nations. Let us hope they can get there in a generation. But you can get peace now with some tolerance of financial corruption and tolerated with a nod and a wink.
But that also forgets the past 5 years of bloodshed. 5 years of death. In a culture very focused on "honor" and the need to make tribes or families look strong. But in that system was an old policy of reconciliation, repayment for wrongs, and the making of peace. And Islam is instrumental in that rekindling of faith between the warring groups quite often. So given sufficient money coming in from the government to help lubricate the area and quench some of the unemployment (which leads people to be susceptible to plating bombs against an occupying force for a few hundred dollars so they can eat for some time).
People could buy into this if the US strongly announces it as an agenda and also begins a drawdown (interestingly, many of the opposition groups like the Jihadi Milita and Sadr, and some of the Sunni guerilla groups have only asked for a timetable to leave in a year. And when they control their troops, they do keep attacks down. Like the ones we're bribing at the moment in Anbar. If we can get a drawdown rolling, a good and reasonable schedule, and get the central gov. to start kicking money to the local power groups so they can fund reconstruction and job programs (aka patronage = power in democracy), then things might be able to settle down.
But the US needs to always be the public advocate for a position of peace, prosperity, and respect for basic rights (but tolerant of economic corruption as long as all the groups are getting a piece of the pie...). Not of torture, of checkpoint killings, and home raids.
After all, Al queda is not loved by the population. It has strong points in Mosul. But if the rest of the country agrees to focus on peace more (which means Maliki can't move on Sadr before the elections, and the fed's start sharing more with Sunni Anbar), then the US can put more resources into Mosul and also gain allies among the populace if they see that the rest of Iraq can relax a bit too.
Perhaps the October elections will change the situation. If people with actual political legitimacy take power and agree to get fat together off of the patronage system that the country is capable of (see the U.A.E. for that), then we can declare peace, get out, and the local Iraqis can mop up any Al Queda remainder (which shouldn't be hard because they are there because we are there, and the Iraqis have come to loath their brutishness).
So if we get Obama in and focus on something realistic and mutually beneficial for all the parties in Iraq, maybe we met get it.
And if there are very few American soldiers in Iraq by 2010, then there's hardly any saber rattling over "American soliders being killed by Iraqi insurgents trained by Iranians."
We're an occupier. There are a sizable portion of people that think it is a religious duty to attack occupiers. So that means you will always take some small level of casualties in running an occupation. Then you can talk to Iran without all the current heat and noise that our bungled occupation seems to generate. They reached out to the US after 911 and Afghanistan. But President Bush and his circle smacked the hand away.
If the Iraqi government is fully on your side and knows you are on the way out the door, it can be a much better partner in protecting you as well. Because you will still be giving money. You still have arms and can be used to quell disturbances.
The ripple effects of achieving stability in Iraq would benefit the whole region (especially, I think, Lebanon and our Iranian relations). But that is a topic for another time.

Criticisms or suggestions about the plan are welcome. Please feel free to copy the text and remix it to your own agenda (but I would appreciate a hat tip). Give peace (and money... democracy, whiskey, sexy?) a chance.