Thursday, July 21, 2005

They want you, they want you, they want you as a new recruit...

James Joyner has a roundup of positive news regarding the recruitment of native Iraqi forces.

I agree that this seems positive and slow progress is still progress. That said, I'm not sure I quite echo all of Joyner's commentary. It's easy to sound churlish in questioning Iraqi motives for joining up and there is no doubt whatsoever that many do join out of a genuine enthusiasm for the fresh start the country has in its sights. That said, we shouldn't ignore the unfortunate fact that a lot of them are signing up quite simply because there are families to feed and the armed forces or security services a) pay over the odds and b) are sometimes the only available source of income. There's nothing dishonourable in it - indeed it is the hallmark of professional soldiery through much of history (let's not romanticise it). What it does do is draw into question whether we can draw wider positive lessons from the long queues outside recruiting offices.

One of the problems - and it's a problem that is widespread in trying to get some sort of clear picutre of what is going on - is that so very much of the evidence on offer is anecdotal and there's plenty of anecdotal evidence on both sides. What is undeniable is that units are emerging, however unskilled, which are prepared to stand their ground in the field. This is progress. I am of the view that the practice - long overdue - of "embedding" Coalition troops with Iraqi units may well pay dividends (and is overdue). Whether this is going to be enough to swing the Big Picture, I don't know and I think the picture is too mixed to come to a conclusion either way.

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