We cannot allow parts of the police apparatus to become instruments of Moqtada al-Sadr or other private interests. And not just because they act viciously and vindictively, but also because their insubordination and independence are a threat to the very stability of the new Iraqi state.
But let's put this in perspective. First, this kind of private revenge attack has been going on at a low level since the beginning of the insurgency. Second, it does have the effect of concentrating Sunni minds on the price of their continuing support for the random, large-scale and heretofore unanswered slaughter of Shiites that they either actively or passively support.
And third, if the private militias are the problem, it is a focused and relatively narrow problem. Creating discipline and central control over the security services is a more manageable issue than all-out Hobbesian conflict.
The principal issue, and measure of our success, is the shaping of disciplined and effective security forces. And that is why the political negotiations that have been dragging on are so critical. It is the political track that must secure leadership for both the defense and interior ministries that are nonsectarian and committed to a unitary force whose members do not answer to private warlords.
Civil wars are not eternal. This war will end not with an Appomattox instrument of surrender. It will end when a critical mass of Sunnis stops supporting the insurgency and throws in its lot with the new Iraq.
How does this happen? The stick is military -- the increased cost in the Sunni blood of continuing the fight. But the carrot is political -- a place at the table for those Sunnis, some of whom are represented in parliament, who are prepared to abandon the insurgency for a share of power, a share of oil income and a sense of security and dignity in the new Iraq.
This is doable. That is not to say it will be done. It is to say that those who have decided that because of ``civil war'' it cannot be done have been unreasonably panicked by something that has been with us all along.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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