The establishment of... loyalist paramilitaries in Iraq would quickly put the insurgency on the defensive. Over the next year, their activities will 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.This is exactly what happened. However, I ended the brief with this caveat on the consequences of this choice:
- 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.
The Window Slams Shut
Unfortunately, the US didn't take advantage of the opportunity to withdraw during 2005. Decision makers mistook the controlled chaos enabled by the use of militias for progress towards their maximal goals in the country. That illusion officially ended with the attack on the Samara shrine (a form of social system disruption, likely a coup de grace by Zarqawi). After that event, the fragile structure of the system flew out of control as Shiite militias began to ethnically cleanse Sunnis.
The US is now caught between the militias and the guerrillas and the situation will deteriorate quickly.
Here's a likely scenario for how this will play out: deeper entrenchment within US bases (to limit casualties) and pledges of neutrality (Rumsfeld) will prove hollow. Ongoing ethnic slaughter will force US intervention to curtail the militias. Inevitably, this will increase tensions with the militias and quickly spin out of control. Military and police units sent to confront the militias will melt down (again), due to conflicting loyalties. Several large battles with militias will drive up US casualties sharply. Supply lines to US bases from Kuwait will be cut. Protesters will march on US bases to demand a withdrawal. Oil production via the south will be cut (again), bringing Iraqi oil exports to a halt. Meanwhile, the government will continue its ineffectual debate within the green zone, as irrelevant to the reality on the ground in the country as ever. Unable to function in the mounting chaos and facing a collapse in public support for the war, the US military will be forced to withdraw in haste. It will be ugly.UPDATE: After I wrote this, there was news that the US intervened by attacking a gathering point for Shiite militias in Baghdad. An Imam was killed along with 16 others. There was also a raid on an Interior Ministry prison (Badr). The scenario begins...