Spencer Ackerman reports himself very impressed after a blogger conference call with Col. Jon Lehr of the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division, stationed in Baghdad and Diyala for the last 14 months. Col. Lehr runs down a long list of the nightmarishly complex interacting militias in his zone that makes the Vietnam War look like checkers to Iraq’s chess. I have no doubt that Col. Lehr is indeed an impressive individual, but this was the part that struck me:
Not all Sons of Iraq are created equal. There are two distinct groups: one, mainly associated with the rural areas, are more tribal [inaudible]. In my opinion, they’re easier to work with, and not tied to any political parties. The ones in the urban areas [like Baquba]… are more politically aligned. There are four major political groups in Baquba with [Sons of Iraq militias]: Saladin, the 1920s Revolution, the Mujahideen and Hamas of Iraq. They’ve confederated into, as I say, a confederate organization referred to as the People’s Committee.
To get to the heart of your question, our approach remains targeting bad individuals [with] sources, other technical means, [to determine] who the bad people are — the bad CLCs, the bad Sons of Iraq, [those] supporting crime or sectarian violence.
I would have liked for Spencer to have asked Col. Lehr to explain more clearly what he means by “bad”. The preference in the first paragraph for groups that are not “political” is troubling. If the US’s strategy is based on supporting lackadaisical traditional tribal groups against ambitious politically engaged groups that have the will and determination to build new governing structures, that seems like the classic old colonialist strategy of backing the montagnard chieftains against the revolutionary nationalists. Setting yourself in opposition to the groups that are “more political” doesn’t seem like a good long-term bet.
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