When asked for their solution to the mess in Iraq,
both of America's presidential candidates – Tweedledumb and Tweedlephony – advance
the same line: "train more Iraqi security forces." Once enough Iraqis
have been trained, they suggest, American troops can be withdrawn and our puppet
Iraqi government can stand on its own six legs.
Unfortunately, the problem is not training, but loyalty. All the training in
the world is worthless if the people being trained have no reason to fight for
those who are training them. And a paycheck isn't much of a reason, especially
when the fellow Iraqis they are to battle are fighting for God.
As is so often the case in Fourth
Generation war, the most useful way to look at the situation is through
the prism of John Boyd's three levels of war: the physical, the mental and the
moral. On the physical level, American-trained Iraqi security forces may have
advantages over their Fourth Generation opponents. American training in techniques
is often very good. While we are not giving the Iraqis equipment as good as
our own (a big mistake on the moral level), it may be better than that of their
enemies. With salaries of about $200 per month, our mercenaries are among the
best paid men in Iraq.
Unfortunately for us, as soon as we consider the mental and moral levels, which
Boyd argued are more powerful than the physical level, the advantage shifts.
At the mental level, the Fourth Generation elements have already gotten inside
the heads of Iraqi police and National Guardsmen. How? By killing them in large
numbers. More than 700 have died in the past year, with many more wounded. A
story on four recruits for the Iraqi police in the Sept. 27 Washington
Post quotes one of them as saying, "We're walking dead men."
That fear opens the door to the sort of deal that typifies Arab countries:
the police and Guardsmen collect their paychecks, but look the other way when
the resistance is up to something. In some cases, the deal can go further and
create double agents, men inside the security forces who actually work for one
or more of the resistance organizations. The same day's Post announced
the arrest of a "senior commander of the Iraqi National Guard"
for, as the U.S. military put it, "having associations with known terrorists,
for alleged ties to insurgents." I suspect that if we arrested all the
Iraqi Guardsmen who fit that description, Abu Ghraib would again fill to overflowing.
At the moral level, the position of the Iraqi police and Guardsmen is almost
hopeless. They are being paid to fight their own countrymen and fellow Mohammedans
on behalf of an occupying foreign power that is also (nominally) Christian.
The fig leaf of Mr. Allawi's "government" deceives no one, especially
after last week's pictures of Allawi holding hands with George Bush, the Islamic
Is it any wonder that, all their training notwithstanding, when it comes to
fighting alongside American forces the Iraqis usually change sides or go home?
The American authorities in Iraq argue that thousands more Iraqis volunteer
to serve in the security forces than we can train or equip. That is true, but
the motive is not one that leads to much willingness to fight. As one of the
Iraqi police recruits interviewed by the Post said, "Everyone wants
jobs, and there really are no jobs but the police."
Throughout history, armies of hirelings have melted at a touch when faced with
people fighting for something they believe in. All the training in the world
will make no difference. The core problem is the deepest taproot of Fourth Generation
war: the "state" Iraqi security forces are being told to fight for
has no legitimacy. When Bush and Kerry argue that we can avoid defeat in Iraq
by training more Iraqis to do the fighting for us, they are indulging in a grand