View Full Version : Iraq Needs an Army Worthy of Freedom, A Nation Worthy of Its Army

12-02-05, 06:29 AM
Iraq Needs an Army Worthy of Freedom, A Nation Worthy of Its Army
Written by James Atticus Bowden
Friday, December 02, 2005

Recently an article by MG (RET) Robert Scales described the close personal bonding between Iraqi Army officers and their U.S. Army counterparts. His description of the relationships and shared dangers suggested something very significant. An Army is being built that will fight. From that Army can come a Nation. Or not, if one believes James Fallows’ piece (The Atlantic, Dec 05) on training the Iraqi Army. The Army is a necessary, but not sufficient, base for a Nation. The U.S. Army was absolutely necessary for our American Nation.

The Continental Line, which became the U.S. Army, was fighting in the field in June 1775. The Declaration of Independence for these “United States” was a full year away. Our first president, George Washington, wasn’t inaugurated until 1789 under the second, and current, Constitution. Conversely, the Iraqis are having elections upon elections early. That’s good, but not good enough.

The elections will be important if an Iraqi Army can hold the nation of Iraq together. Until the force of arms issues is settled, the nation is in doubt. The present elections, then, are symbolic. The fighting and killing, substantive.

The people of Iraq need security more than the vote right now. Without security, votes could be held every week and mean nothing if local militias, gangs, clans, or terrorists have the guns and the guts to impose their will on people. Security at the moment must be imposed with exercise of force, not ballots. To make the exercise of that force legitimate, enter the Iraqi Army.

When the Iraqi Army stands up more battalions capable of independent operations, the U.S. Forces will start to draw down. The Iraqi Army’s task will be to wipe out, suppress, or reach an acceptable accommodation from every armed opponent in every town and block. If any armed authority outside the elected govnerment is allowed autonomy, that authority can contest the security of the government created by elections. Elections are binding only when people are obedient to the Rule of Law. And while many in Iraq express the desire for such, they have only recently known the Rule of Law through the imposition of a dictatorship. It remains to be seen how they will respond to the Rule of Law that springs from the consent of the governed.

The best of outcome will be realized if an Iraqi Army creates the security environment of real safety for the Iraqi people. And maintains that security for decades in the future.

A worse case is that the Army fails and the country devolves into a Lebanese-like civil war. Or, possibly, the Army succeeds initially, but suffers from an internal coup by one person, faction, or seditious moles planted within the ranks.

Perhaps the worst case for spoiled expectations is the Iraqi Army that fails to keep order ten or twenty years from now. Americans will despair of any ''permanent'' solution in the Middle East, as if that actually could have been done in Iraq as it is in Turkey. The Turkish Army is the exception to maintain a more secular government in an Islamic society. The Iraqi Army must be extraordinary to reach the Turkish Army standard for internal stability.

The bonds between American and Iraqi brothers in arms are encouraging. Yet, great bonds were forged among American advisors and South Vietnamese soldiers and those were broken. It could happen again.

The Iraqi Army faces forces of unrestrained violence. Member’s families face death if the Army fails. But every fight has its narrative. The story of what the Iraqi Army is doing, or is willing to do, is more important than the body count, IED count, hours of electricity, or jobs. A successful narrative will be punctuated with expressions like ''no sanctuary for terrorists,'' ''the commander had his cousin’s house raided,'' ''they won’t take bribes,'' ''the local Mullah chose freedom for the people over control.'' Such sub-plots will ultimately win this war for the Iraqi people. Only then will the elections have meaning.

Even still, if the Iraqi Army wins, Iraq may or may not end up a ''democracy.'' There are too many cards to be placed just right for that house to be built in the sand of Islamic culture. The American Army can only train, test, and (finally) encourage the Iraqi Army. Our Army cannot build a Nation for another people. In our history, the U.S. Army could only help create the conditions for freedom and independence. The people had to choose their destiny.

The Iraqi Army can do no more. Which may be enough. Let’s hope and pray Iraqi soldiers do as well. Let us hope and pray the Iraqi people respond in kind.

About the Writer: James Atticus Bowden has specialized in inter-disciplinary long range "futures" studies for over a decade. Employed by a Defense Department contractor, he is a retired United States Army Infantry Officer, and a 1972 graduate of the United States Military Academy. He earned graduate degrees from Harvard University and Columbia University, and holds three elected Republican Party offices in Virginia. Contact at jatticus@aol.com.