Iraq and National Reconciliation
National Review Online invited me to participate in an online symposium about the Iraqi government's efforts to end the insurgency by offering a plan for national reconciliation. There has been much criticism of this plan as it is feared insurgents responsible for killing American soldiers will be given a pass for their crimes. But in a war, there is no option to allow for 100% punishment of enemy combatants; for example, hundreds of thousands of Nazis escaped judgment at the end of World War II Bringing warring parties to the table often calls for seemingly distasteful compromises, but the ultimate goal of the government in an insurgency is to affect a political settlement. al Qaeda and the Islmaist terrorists are not the target of reconciliation, the domestic, nationalist elements of the insurgency are. Excerpted for the National Review Symposium:
National reconciliation is a political settlement to end an insurgency, and has been successfully implemented to end insurgencies throughout the world. If implemented properly, this will produce a clear rift between domestic, nationalist elements of the insurgency and the of al Qaeda, Ansar al-Sunnah and the Islamist terrorists groups in the Mujahideen Shura Council. This will level a strategic defeat for al Qaeda. Their image as the one true voice of the Arab and Muslim world will be shattered, as their own fellow Sunni travelers will have rejected their ideology in favor of a political settlement with the democratically elected government of Iraq. Seven insurgent groups have already agreed to the terms, and twelve more are seriously considering the offer.
Two of the insurgent groups, the Iraqi National Resistance 1920 Revolution Brigades, and Jaysh Muhammad (or the Army of Muhammad), are considered two of the largest and most influential insurgent organizations. The Sunni Endowment, "one of Iraq's largest Sunni Arab groups" is also said to support the reconciliation plan. The potential participation of these groups in reconciliation cannot be undervalued.
The Iraqi government's offer of reconciliation should not be viewed in isolation, but in context with recent developments in Iraq. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is attempting to fulfill his pledge to restore order to the violence wracked nation. The Iraqi government has an opportunity to capitalize on the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The death of Zarqawi and follow on operations to dismantle al Qaeda in Iraq's network gives the domestic, nationalist insurgent groups cover for their past activities. As al Qaeda in Iraq remains in the spotlight, the lesser insurgent groups can claim al Qaeda is the real perpetrator of the most heinous crimes, while they merely fought the "occupation forces."
Combine the death of Zarqawi with the formation of the new government and the appointment politically acceptable ministers of interior and defense, as well as security operations to contain the insurgency in Baghdad (Operation Together Forward), Mosul, Basra and the flash point city of Ramadi, and the new Iraqi government is making a serious effort to quell the insurgency.
A positive outcome of recent security operations and the reconciliation proposal is by no means assured. al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorist groups have stepped up the bombing and mass killing campaigns in an effort to disrupt any political settlement and further the sectarian strife. The recalcitrant insurgent groups and terrorists will draw the long knives in an attempt to intimidate those who wish to lay down their arms, as they are traitors to the cause. The violence is very likely to increase over the next few months if insurgent groups do indeed accept the government's offer. Reconciliation is not a magic bullet to end the insurgency, but merely a step in the process.