Monday, June 23, 2008

I Think This Counts as Good News

Fewer American troops are being killed by IEDs in Iraq:

Roadside bomb attacks and fatalities in Iraq are down by almost 90% over the last year, according to Pentagon records and interviews with military leaders.
In May, 11 U.S. troops were killed by blasts from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) compared with 92 in May 2007, records show. That's an 88% decrease.
That's good news, but there's a caveat: the reduction has come as a result of evolving tactics, better armor, and most of all, from Iraqis:
Ad hoc local security forces, known as the Sons of Iraq, have provided on-the-ground intelligence to U.S. forces looking for IEDs, said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, who commanded a division in Baghdad from February 2007 until May.

Each member of the security forces earns about $8 per day. Lynch has hired about 36,000 of them to man checkpoints and provide intelligence on the insurgency. He said about 60% had been insurgents.
This form of peace and stability -- paying violent thugs not to be violent thugs, or to direct their violence elsewhere -- goes by the label "protection racket" in the context of organized crime, and is rarely confused with either peace or stability.

It's also worth noting, I think, that operating a protection racket can be equally effective at any level of troop deployment -- with or without a "surge," with 150,000 or 500 American troops on the ground, the payouts will have the same effect on the insurgents.

If the US is willing to "succeed" in Iraq by paying people not to bomb things, why not just make that official policy and end the occupation? Without US troops milling about Iraq, the number of targets decreases, so presumably the payout rate can begin to slide downward.

(H/T John Cole)

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