Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Fixing Iraq: Amatzia Baram, writing in the NYT, has a suggestion for pacifying the Sunni Triangle. If I take him correctly, he advocates turning Iraq into . . . Chicago:
New efforts ought to be made to persuade the sheiks to assert their influence and help keep the peace. The easiest would simply be to hire the sheiks and their tribesmen — putting them on salaries and allowing them to spread the wealth among their people. In addition, sheiks in areas where coalition soldiers and oil pipelines are coming under frequent attacks should be told that the only way their tribes can receive luxuries — extra government services, construction aid, easy access to senior officials in Baghdad — is by making sure that there are no attacks against coalition soldiers in their domain.

If a sheik refused to cooperate, not only could his perks be withheld, they could be given to a neighboring sheik. This would eventually pit the uncooperative sheik against his own tribesmen, who would see that he was not serving their interests.

I'm not sure this is a great idea. Isn't the idea here to make Iraq a modern democracy? Introducing a system of dollar-bought patronage kicks responsibility down the road since, at some point, the payments will have to stop. It seems the better policy would be to draw a bright line now, ending patronage as a political incentive (and a favorite one of Saddam's to boot) in favor of representation, the foundation of democracy, as an incentive. Baram admits that part of the "Sunni problem" is that very loss of Saddam-backed patronage. Better, then, that we wean them from it now, with U.S. troops attending the event, than later under a new and untested Iraqi democracy.

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