Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Iraqi Hearts and Minds

I just heard General Wesley Clark, in the midst of decrying Bush policy in Iraq, he termed the recent Blackwater shootout “an unfortunate incident.” I won’t rush to judgment as to what happened, but it seems clear that unarmed nonbelligerent Iraqi civilians were shot by American civilians working for a private company. What happened? It’s the sort thing a thorough criminal investigation will sort out; and should the shooting prove to be unwarranted, presumably there will be criminal trials and punishments for those involved. Perhaps there were extenuating circumstances, and this was an unfortunate, accidental byproduct of legitimate self defense. Justice will be done, regardless.

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.

so much for the advocates of the topic: privatization of armed forces...This is a tragedy. If there is one thing that CANNOT and SHOULD not be privatized, it is armed forces NV
Thanks for the comment, Nathalie.

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.
The point is this, Charles: the very fact of the employment of non regular armed forces is an open invitation for uncontrolled behavior. You think they should be "constrained". I think they should be sent home.These people hae nothing to do in Iraq. This is pure non-sense. NV
I also am opposed to this use of mercenaries, and agree that in this case the proper constraint is that they should be sent either home or, when appropriate, to prison.

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.
The latest rumor on Blackwater is that they are looking for security contracts in the U.S.

Yikes! Just what we need here, lawless trigger happy mercenaries. Let's not send them home... how about Gitmo? N. Korea? The moon?
The moon, with NO return ticket, yes. NV
OK, NOT the moon. Putin has just proposed a missile defense system for there, and I don't think we'd want it falling into Blackwater's hands.

The sun, maybe?
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