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.