Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 4, 2004
WAR: Amnesty, National
Iraq's new provisional government ponders amnesty for Iraqi insurgents, which strikes me as a good thing, in theory; it's all well and good to take a hard line, but offers of amnesty are often good ways to try to draw down a guerilla war in face-saving fashion.
In practice, there are twin problems: first, the somewhat invisible nature of the enemy may make them uninterested in the benefits of amnesty. Then again, these guys may be less invisible to Iraqis than to us, and nobody wants to live in the wilderness forever. If the long-term strategy is to peel off all but the hardest-core jihadists, this may be a worthwhile strategy. Second, of course, you need some way to verify that people have actually laid down their arms.
It should go without saying, of course, that no amnesty should be shown to non-Iraqis who have entered the country to fight. The only solution to those guys is to kill them.
In a perhaps not-unrelated development, Muqtada al-Sadr is again blasting the Iraqi government:
"We announce that the current government is illegitimate and illegal," al-Sadr said. "It's generally following the occupation. We demand complete sovereignty and independence by holding honest elections."
The call for elections is an interesting touch, and suggests that he may still be giving himself a fallback position to get involved in the new government while stoking anti-American resentments. In the case of al-Sadr, as with the amnesty decision, it really has to be up to the Iraqis (who understand the byzantine power dynamics of the place better than we could hope to) to deal with him. That's the risk we have to take if we're going to bank on self-governance.