Saturday, August 22, 2009

Assurance vs. Deterrence in Iraq

Recent events in Iraq have illustrated the key point of my edited volume with Marie-Joelle Zahar--that the key question in any civil conflict is what is the role of the state and its actors? Are they deterring the bad guys? Or are they the bad guys? It may be the case that members of the Iraqi security forces were complicit with the recent spate of bombings.

With American forces pulled back from the cities as part of the Status of Forces Agreement signed by President Bush, two dynamics are now back in play: uncertainty and fear on the part of minority; and possible predation by elements of the government. I don't want to say that all of the Sunnis are good guys or that all of the Shia dominated government are bad guys, but with greater power comes greater responsiblity.

The question of life after the Surge in Iraq largely depends not on the Sunnis, but on the government of Iraq--does it try to govern on behalf of all Iraqis or just for the Shia and against the Sunnis? This is a bit different than the question that seems to be in play in Afghanistan, where the key question is about the state being operated against the people for the private benefits of the political class.

Hard to be optimistic about either place, but especially .... Iraq. Afghanistan may have the more hopeless economy and weak administrative structures, but, thus far, the government is not a threat to the people in the same way that the Iraqi one can be and apparently is.

No comments: