Step 6: Marshall Law in Iraq

And here’s where it gets controversial…

We’re in a long-running discussion about how to win the war on terror.   Having talked about some of the easier steps we need to pursue (some of which the US is in fact pursuing), we turn our attention to a very challenging, but I feel necessary, idea.  I would advise Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to declare Marshall Law in Iraq.

What would that mean?

The first thing would be shoot-on-site curfews.  From 7PM to 7AM, if you’re caught outside your house, you’re dead.  I know that’s extremely harsh, but saying that the person would be detained or put in prison or scolded harshly would simply render the approach totally ineffective.  If it’s not harshly enforced, then might as well not do it.  This is an extreme measure that an overwhelmed, threatened Iraqi government needs to implement (temporarily and only in key areas) to gain control of the situation. 

So, you can’t come out of your house at night — period.  Now, nobody can plant IED’s unless it’s in broad daylight.  Nobody can move weapons around.  The rats are either pushed into the sunlight (and rounded up) or locked up while it’s dark (and rounded up).

While the enemy is imobilized, the Iraqi army (backed up / supported by coalition troops) form a circle around the trouble spots (such as Baghdad) and work their way in.  Every house is searched.  Every weapon is confiscated.  If you’ve caught sitting on top of a bunch of explosives or a cache of AK-47’s, you go to jail and are questioned.  If a bunch of terrorists haul up in a masque and start shooting, we level the building from the air.

We simply can’t continue on the way we have.  We have to take the gloves off.  All this worrying about people getting hurt is hard to work with, because this is after all a war.  The (horribly unfortunate) fact is that people die in war.  If we do not fight this war to win it, then many more will die.  And there’s no way to end this insurgency playing nice.

Meanwhile, while the military is performing sweeps of critical areas and rounding up the bad guys, the Iraqi police can then be trained without getting blown up (or otherwise attacked) every couple of days.  The police force has to be effective, or it will be hard to come to a long term solution that involves peace and the rule of law.  The state couldn’t remain militarized forever (absolutely wouldn’t want that), so it would be the stop-gap measure to create a stable enough environment in which to actually get the police force up to snuff.

The other aspect of marshall law would be to start locking down the borders.  Particularly the border with Iran should be well-defended by the military (a great role for our military, btw — instead of being the ones on the streets of Baghdad, which we are less and less, but still).  Start building a wall in a couple key places.  But do what it takes to stop the flood of weapons and homicidal maniacs from Iran that are fueling the trouble spots.  And don’t forget the intensive searches that go on at road check points and airports.  Gotta stop the flow of weapons and combatants into the country.

Once Baghdad and other hot spots are pacified, marshall law can be lifted.  But until then, either we’re going to fight this war to win it and take out the terrorists, or we’re already screwed and should just leave.  Yes, some innocent poeple will be killed along the way.  That’s regrettable.  But it can’t be helped.  This idea that war has no unfortunate casualties or unintended consequences is just crazy.  It’s always been that way, and it always will. 

If we’re at war, we’re going to have to fight to win.  Otherwise, we’ve already lost.

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About Jeff Block

Lover and follower of Christ. Husband and father. Writer and seminary student. On a long journey, learning to swim with the current of God's love and walk with Him in the garden in the cool of the day.
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6 Responses to Step 6: Marshall Law in Iraq

  1. Brad Bull says:

    A few concerns with this step.

    Iraq has had many curfews that tend to come and go. It is well believed (and some would say known) that the largest perpetrator of insurrection in Iraq are members of the Ministry of the Interior (mostly Sunni). Iraqies are just as scared of government “officials” as they are of thugs and religious fanatics. Many have formed neighborhood watches (think guns and bats) and some will try to seek out U.S. soldiers because they don’t trust other Iraqies. If you want a pretty good insider perspective I would recommend http://www.riverbendblog.blogspot.com/ a fairly modern, young muslim woman who lives in Baghdad. They also have the Medhi Army and Badr Brigades roaming unchecked as well.
    The problem with curfews is the one’s out on the street enforcing them. I fully believe they would drag people out of their homes and shoot them, then be justified with the shoot-on-sight command.

    Another concern is with the time frame. Martial Law can be very effective over short periods of time, but we have been there for 5 years, with the situation getting worse. I don’t know that the citizens would tolerate that for as long as would be needed.

    The final concern comes with giving a fledgling government that much power. That was how Saddam got where he was. Many leaders have a problem with voluntarily giving up power once they have it.

    The government needs to keep pursuing the insurrectionists, battling corruption (big), secure the borders, build the infrastructure and get the common person feeling safe enough that they can rat out insurrectionists (without fearing they will be tortured and their families killed). I think there is a critical point they can reach (a tipping point) where the people of Iraq can get things under control.

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  2. Jeff Block says:

    Re: I don’t know that the citizens would tolerate that for as long as would be needed.

    This is an excellent point, but I don’t see how we do otherwise. We certainly can’t keep on *almost* fighting the war. It’s essentially a stale mate at the moment, and the American people won’t tolerate that for long. Pulling out prematurely means real trouble. So, I don’t see an option but to get the job done — which means fighting to win.

    Re: The government needs to keep pursuing the insurrectionists, battling corruption (big), secure the borders, build the infrastructure and get the common person feeling safe enough that they can rat out insurrectionists (without fearing they will be tortured and their families killed). I think there is a critical point they can reach (a tipping point) where the people of Iraq can get things under control.

    I love it. Now *HOW* do they do that? Isn’t that what they’re trying to do now unsuccessfully? And that’s with the most powerful military in the world backing them up. How will that get easier if the US pulls out?

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  3. Brad Bull says:

    I am not advocating pulling out. I would like to see a WPA type program in Iraq, where we employ every Iraqi we can to work on infrastructure and security. Instead of worrying about American contractors being kidnapped by a radical, give that person the job before he becomes a radical.

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  4. Jeff Block says:

    That’s a great idea. So, how does it work? Who oversees / leads? Wouldn’t that still be the American contractors? Army corps of engineers?

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  5. Brad Bull says:

    I’d say iraqi managers where we can. Then we could have an American audit team that travels around and ensures the money is spent properly. Get these managers fat, comfortable and middle class.

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  6. Cliff Portner says:

    You are right on, except way too late. I asked my wife way back when American Forces first arrived in Baghdad at the beginning of this war, “so now that our troops are in Baghdad, why hasn’t our military enforced martial law and dusk to dawn curfews and statred going house to house to confiscate all weapons?” Who knows if our military even proposed this plan of attack once they arrived in Baghdad? They needed a plan to determine who in Iraq was for us and who was against what we had just done to their country and start from there. As a previous writer stated, we missed our window of opportunity when we first took invaded Iraq.

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