Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Iraqi Hearts and Minds
Ha ha ha ha ha! Very funny. It looks like band of American mercenaries went crazy and gunned down unarmed Iraqis. Whether that’s what happened or not, Blackwater will be untouchable, there’ll be no serious investigation, no possibility of criminal trials, and all Iraqis know this. No wonder the American hearts and minds program is so successful.
OK, it's not funny. It's tragic, and shows -- deep down -- why the U.S. failed in Iraq. The U.S. policy really never has stood for individual rights, something Iraqis might have rallied around. It has always been first of all been about the U.S. being a "strongman," albeit an incompetent and weak one.
But it isn't clear to me that your conclusion follows from this episode, though. Why are contractors apparently exempt from all laws? It doesn't follow from this that private bodyguards (Blackwater's actual role) should be abolished, but rather that they should be properly constrained.
It's hard difficult to "properly constrain." It's clear that USCMJ (the law that applies to the U.S. military, but not Blackwater) is insufficiently effective in preventing such incidents. It requires a committment to proper behavior, and a willingness to impose this on oneself & others. I think gov't doesn't have a monopoly on that, and probably not a comparative advantage.
I'm reminded of Patton's reason for imposing strict disciplne: he said that the nature of war means an army is always on the verge of truning into a savage, lawless mob, and that strict discipline, including spit & polish, is crucial for averting this. At some level, character & committment are crucial even w. the best institutions.
That said, in Iraq there are few institutional constraints on the U.S. military, and even fewer on contractors. You'd suppose everyone would agree this is wrong regardless of whether they agree on the occuptaion. But apparently not.
But my points are 1) the misuse of mercenaries in Iraq can't be taken as evidence of a general point, i.e. that military defense services should only be provided by governments, and 2) that government provision necessarily is superior to private provision in terms of constraining behavior to proper limits.
Yikes! Just what we need here, lawless trigger happy mercenaries. Let's not send them home... how about Gitmo? N. Korea? The moon?
The sun, maybe?