Recent report suggests the Iraqi Army may disintegrate if the US withdraws:
A growing number of U.S. military officers in Iraq and those who have returned from the region are voicing concern that the nascent Iraqi army will fall apart if American forces are drawn down in the foreseeable future, Inside the Pentagon has learned.
Newly trained forces generally exhibit Ã¢â¬Åa lack of willingness to fight for something,Ã¢â¬Â says retired Army Col. Gerry Schumacher, a former Green Beret who was recently in Iraq. More than two years of insurgent violence and a U.S.-led occupation have left Iraqi troops with Ã¢â¬Åa lack of a cause to believe in,Ã¢â¬Â says Schumacher, who anticipates a civil war may break out between tribal and ethnic groups when American forces leave.
Army Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said in July that he is laying the groundwork for a Ã¢â¬ÅsubstantialÃ¢â¬Â force withdrawal beginning as early as next spring. He cautioned at the time that any U.S. troop reduction would depend on continued progress in IraqÃ¢â¬â¢s political environment and in training its new security forces.
Why might this be? Two reasons, and they’re related.
First, policymakers at the highest levels do not understand their own country, why its soldiers fight, and how these two factors relate to one another. Our decisionmakers have said we’re a democracy, that this means elections decide things (within certain limits), and that this cosntant change in our political policy is the genius of our system. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that our life is much more than a mere democracy, and that our soldiers and countrymen conceive of the nation as a set of concrete traditions and experiences, including the individual experiences of living in America, making choices, and living within certain expectations. Of course, our government and society provides a variety of substantive benefits, including wealth and freedom from coercion, but that is because our democratic system functions to resolve a narrow range of disagreement and there is simultaneously broad consensus against a number of alternatives, and opposition to these alternatives–aristocracy, despotism, theocracy, political violence–is what it may be said our sociey is affirmatively for. This combined unity of life and purpose, while partly buttressed by our political system, is broader than it. In other words, America is not just a creed or idea, but a way of life, and that defending that way of life from opposition, ultimately defending their homes and families, is the chief motivation of most of our military men and women. They certainly are not fighting for the equal freedom of some totalitarian subcullture to have the right to oppress them and their neighbors tomorrow, so long as this coercion follows an election. But we’ve essentially foisted this model on the disjointed land of Iraq, and these same policymakers are surprised that minorities are not buying in, and, more importantly, do not understand such an open-ended system is not one for which Shia and Kurdish Iraqis will boldly fight. They won’t fight for such a “question mark” regime precisely because such a broad and ahistorical democratical model is not attached to any substantive goal.
Misunderstanding our own country, our leaders have pursued a naive “hearts and minds” strategy in Iraq. Instead of pursuing substantive political ends–like free markets and law and order–they instead tried to sell hollow procedures. So what does the new Iraq mean to Iraqis? No one knows. It could mean Kurdish and Shia hegemony. It definitely means the absence of Saddam and his crew of cronies, but what it affirmatively stands for as its goals and vision for the nation are totally missing. The Iraqi soldier does not know what he’s fighting for because his regime is not committed to any particular ends. It’s an empty vessel. And it’s an empty vessel because mistaken neoconservative policymakers wrongly assumed that the US was an empty vessel, the so-called creedal nation, when in fact U.S. society manifests a coherent way of life for individuals and society that they deem it worth fighting for. In other words, the US as a nation-state actually means something to its military.
Pseudosophisticates like to say soldiers don’t fight for ideals, but they fight for their buddies. That may be true in a firefight, but in a years-long slogging counterinsurgency, he who is fighting for something will win, because the moral level of war–both for the fighters and for the population in which the fight takes place–is most important. Soldiers not fighting for anything may soon deem it best to keep a low profile, as became evident in the latter years of US involvement in Vietnam. Confusion about the morale of their own society has led Bush into error in Iraq about means that may ultimately metastasize into a strategic failure. “Training up” Iraqis and making a democratic regime is not enough. Those Iraqis and that regime must conceive their country to mean something, before they can deem it worth fighting and dying for in opposition to terrorists that would do them harm. Surely most Shias and Kurds don’t want terrorism or Ba’athist rule. But not wanting that is not enough without a concrete alternative, with known (or conceivable) rythems, mores, and traditions.