War correspondent Michael Yon says he thinks getting rid of the Iraqi Army was a mistake at the time but the new Iraqi Army, built from scratch, is largely free of the old organization's terrible anti-Shia taint. Yon said in a pajamasmedia.com "Deep Background" audiocast that the new Iraqi army is more reliable, and its performance during the summer of 2008 bears out that assessment. Yon said Iraqi officers told him they sometimes contact their former American compatriots and training advisers by phone -- long distance to the United States -- to discuss tactics and exchange ideas.
StrategyPage.com editor James F. Dunnigan insists that the old Iraqi Army had to go. "The Saddam-era security forces were recruited mainly for loyalty to Saddam and the Sunni Arab minority. Unless you wanted an Iraqi security force led by Sunni Arabs, many of dubious loyalty to a democratic Iraq, you had to disband the security forces."
All true statements -- but like Garner, I say don't put unemployed young males with military experience on the streets. The United States should have fired the officers above the rank of captain and paid the enlisted soldiers -- and then used these "service corps" units as building blocks for a new force.
In the "Iraq" chapter of the new edition of "A Quick and Dirty Guide to War," Dunnigan and I had to negotiate this compromise: "Unemployed young men who know how to use weapons are a huge problem. Likewise, retaining 100,000 young Iraqis would have been a route for pumping money into the economy. The problem of determining who would command the "reconstruction corps," however, still remained. ... The CPA concluded that the army and police force had to be rebuilt, and that became a fact on the ground."
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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