John O'Sullivan thinks the US has been too restrained in its approach and that a Provisional Iraqi Government could do the job better.
He notes, astutely that :
"Our dilemma is made worse by the political truth, known since Machiavelli, that it is much harder to reestablish authority that has been lost than to establish it in the first place. Shooting a handful of criminal looters would have been enough to make us sensibly feared a year ago. Today that would hardly make the evening news."
(1) What if the so empowered Provisional Iraqi Govt. cannot or will not do this restraining? What resources has it currently got for this purpose? The re-constituted Iraqi Army recently refused to help the US Marines quell the riots in Fallujah. Would it go in by itself under the orders of the PIG? Are the newly trained Police to be trusted to obey orders?
(2) What role will the US forces play while the PIG is restoring order? Would it act against the interests of the PIG in any circumstances, e.g. by moving against A,B, or C, without the authority of the PIG? Are there any circumstances where they might feel they had to countermand edicts of IG? Would there be no circumstances, if US forces are continually attacked, where the US would not act independently of the PIG to defend US own interests?
It seem obvious the PIG would have to use the Occupying Power to do its work for it for at least another 18 months. But this will still create more hatred of the occupiers. What O'Sullivan wants - letting the Iraqis put their own house in order - will not be possible till they have their own reliable armed forces and security services. Supposing the occupying forces did stand back to see if the Iraqis could do it by themselves.
How long would they wait if the PIG could not do the job?
If I was the Prime Minister of Iraq on July 1 2004, my big worry would be having my authority completely undermined by (a) being unable to carry the job myself (b) then having the Occupying power coming in to try to clear up the mess. I would be totally discredited and have to resign.
There is an argument that this is a good strategy. Failure will show that the Iraqis need more time to organise themselves. Iraqi public opinion might come back behind the Occupying Power. But the diminished authority of both the PIG and the OP, created by failure to stabilise the country, will further play into the hands of the agitators, making them think it worth continuing to destabilise the country. And more to the point, there will be more unnecessary chaos and suffering.