Taking a Ba'ath
Stratfor has recently characterized the Surge as reflecting in part the "De-Baathization" of Iraq. It makes special reference to the recently passed "Justice and Accountability Law will allow thousands of mid-ranking Baath party members to apply for reinstatement to their jobs in the civil service and military, provided they were not convicted of crimes." It adds that this only reflects the battlefield shift in which "in an effort to weaken al Qaeda and its jihadist allies, Washington has been working with Sunni tribal and insurgent elements to create an 80,000-strong Sunni militia that is on the Pentagon’s payroll."
Stratfor characterizes this as a "slow but dramatic shift in U.S. policy that Stratfor has catalogued extensively in the past three years: Washington moved from working with the Iraqi Shia and their Iranian patrons against the Sunni (Baathist-dominated) insurgency, to cooperating with the Sunnis (particularly former Baathists) to counter the rise of Iran and its Shiite proxies". But I think it would be a mistake to regard recent developments as simply a reversal of Paul Bremer's "de-Baathification" policy. The Council of Foreign Relations preserves a page which allows us to look back at Bremer's original orders. From the start, Bremer's orders excluded only the senior Baath Party members.
L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator of Iraq, issued two sweeping orders in May 2003: one outlawed the Baath Party and dismissed all senior members from their government posts; the other dissolved Iraq's 500,000-member military and intelligence services. In November 2003, Bremer established a Supreme National Debaathification Commission to root out senior Baathists from Iraqi ministries and hear appeals from Baathists who were in the lowest ranks of the party's senior leadership. The party's foremost leaders--some 5,000 to 10,000 individuals--were not permitted to appeal their dismissals. ...
Bremer's first order led to the firing of about 30,000 ex-Baathists from various ministries. Some 15,000 were eventually permitted to return to work after they won their appeals, says Nibras Kazimi, a former adviser to the debaathification commission and currently a visiting Iraq scholar at the Hudson Institute. All military officers above the rank of colonel were barred from returning to work, as were all 100,000 members of Iraq's various intelligence services.
Two things prevent the Surge from being simply regarded as a "corrected mistake". The first is that, despite the reconciliation process with the Sunnis, Iraq has moved from being a Ba'ath dominated dictatorship to an elected, federal state in which the numerical majority, the Shi'ites are in parliamentary control. Thus it is not a case of setting up the old Saddamite regime under a new label.
The insurgency, up to this point, has not been an extended protest against de-Baathification but it was more broadly an attempt to preserve the structure of the old regime. To retain control of the Iraqi oil resources in the hands of one ethnic group; to resubjugate the Shi'ites, Kurds and even the Sunni 'masses'. There is no sense in which the now dying insurgency can be described as having fought for the state which has now emerged. The insurgency was an anti-democratic, ethnically dominated force. The Justice and Accountability Law is not a secret way to reinstate Saddam's regime. Rather it is an avenue under which former members of the old regime can find a life in the new Iraq.
Second, the incorporation of the former enemy into government forces is practically a standard feature of every victorious counterinsurgency. An article by Robert Cassidy in Parameters describes the history of creating "auxiliaries" to supplement the regular armies beginning with the Indian Wars.
The US Army conducted its counterinsurgency in the Philippines using some techniques that were similar to techniques it had employed successfully in the American West against its irregular opponents during the Indian Wars. Indeed, 26 of the 30 US generals who served in the Philippines during the insurgency between 1898 and 1902 had also served in the Indian Wars. The need for mobility and knowledge about the terrain and enemy led the Army to establish special detachments of mounted scouts and infantry. These detachments were handpicked elite units that performed the preponderance of reconnaissance and strike operations in the counterguerrilla war. Veterans of the Indian Wars appreciated the value of indigenous soldiers, who possessed a threefold advantage in their knowledge of the people, the terrain, and the language. They comprehended, as Crook and others had in the Indian Wars before them, that the employment of indigenous forces as auxiliaries or scouts would also contribute to a “divide-and-subjugate” operational campaign. Filipino insurgents also suffered from the devastating psychological blow of learning that their own people were helping to hunt them down. Recruiting Macabebes and similarly distinct indigenous groups accrued the additional advantage of undermining the unity of the population by exploiting the extant seams in Filipino society. The more knowledgeable officers also realized early on that it would be imperative to eliminate the guerrillas’ infrastructure, and toward the end of the war the Army increasingly employed Philippine Scouts, spies, and informants to gather intelligence on and to attack the insurgent infrastructure.
At the end of the war, the United States commanded over 15,000 indigenous auxiliary forces, organized into the Philippine Scouts, the Philippine Constabulary, and local police forces. By most accounts, the American Army was successful in the Philippines because it recognized the imperatives to protect the population and to conduct an aggressive counterguerrilla campaign by leveraging indigenous forces for reconnaissance and intelligence operations.
It would be a mistake to think for example, that the recruitment of the Philippine Scouts represented a surrender to Emilio Aguinaldo. It did not because Aguinaldo and Aguinaldo's men were forced to integrate themselves into the successor regime, and that makes all the difference.
That being said, Stratfor is correct in asserting that the Surge provided an opportunity to balance Iranian-influenced Shi'ite interests with the Sunni. The Sunni have re-capitalized their position at the political table. The new set of chips has been bought by the Surge. By and large this is a healthy development because in the federal state that Iraq has now become one ethnic group cannot be allowed to totally dominate the others. Even majority rule must leave some rule for the rights of the minorities.