Iraqi uniformed forces are being rapidly trained to fight the growing insurgency in the country. This effort is showing signs of failure. These include:
- A lack of government legitimacy. The Iraqi government appears to be a puppet of the US (for lack of a better term). It has also been unable to deliver basic services (for example: electricity and street level security) to the Iraqi people that are at the core of claims to legitmacy. Soldiers won't fight for an illegitimate government regardless of how well trained they are.
- A successful campaign of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) by the guerrillas. Constant attacks against Iraqi forces (over 700 deaths this year) has driven up turnover (as high as 40% in some areas), adversely impacted recruiting, and forced Iraqi forces into a protective posture.
- Infiltration. Evidence is mounting that the low level of due diligence in the recruitment of Iraqi forces has resulted in force riven with insurgent sympathisers.
The Latin American Solution
The secret sauce of US counter-insurgency efforts in the post-Vietnam era are loosely controlled loyalist paramilitaries. This policy option is now very likely under consideration given the recent appointment of John Dimitri Negroponte as the Ambassador to Iraq. Negroponte was the Ambassador of Honduras during the establishment of the Contras and other Central American paramilitaries. These units enjoy multiple advantages over uniformed forces including:
- Legitimacy and loyalty. Unlike the uniformed Iraqi forces, militias draw on tribal, ethnic, and religious loyalties. Close knit units can be formed on the basis on long-standing relationships. This increases their ability to fight.
- Rapid ramp-up. These militias require little formal training. They can quickly leverage existing relationships and lines of loyalty to build units.
- Effectiveness. Decentralized militias have a record of effectiveness. They innovate rapidly and can draw on the same sources of strength available to global guerrillas.
Unleashing the Genie
The establishment of a counter-bazaar of loyalist paramilitaries in Iraq would quickly put the insurgency on the defensive. Over the next year, their establishment would likely result in a level of "controlled chaos" sufficient to allow the US to withdraw its forces. Additionally, these militias could operate while the government maintains a fig leaf of democracy. However, there are some negative consequences we can expect if this option is selected. These include:
- Institutionalized corruption. These militias would likely involve themselves in illegal activities. A government abetted franchise for their counter-insurgency activities would require inaction in regards to their criminal actions.
- Human rights abuses. These militias will operate within the same rule set used by the guerrillas they are fighting. This means assassinations, hostage taking, etc.
- Long term instability. While the militias will be able to put a lid on the growth of the insurgency, they will likely be unable to eradicate it. This means that Iraq will be stable enough for the US to leave but will suffer long-term instability.
NOTE: This is not an endorsement of this option, it is merely a exploration of what is possible.