Saturday, November 18, 2006

Going out of Iraq

Now that Americans seem to agree that the military intervention in Iraq was a bad idea (or that it was a good one but poorly implemented), they must still decide how to get out.

They could leave the country to the ruling Shia militia men, and look away while Sunni get slaughtered. After all, what can one do about such barbaric behaviour?

I'm being cynical here, there must be better solutions. I see only one viable option. How is the current situation? Kurdistan looks OK, if you don't see Kurdish militias chasing away Sunni settlers from Mosul as a problem. Close ties between Kurdish leaders and Americans mean it's possible to pressure Kurdish militias to behave. The Shia south suffers from Sunni terrorists, but Shia militias should be capable of keeping car bombings in (relative) control. They get unlimited supplies from Iran, so their survival as a people should not be endangered.

Remains Baghdad and Sunni areas. It is now clear that a united democratic Iraq is not going to happen. Americans should aim divide the country, and prevent ethnic cleansing. That can be achieved through massive increase in military presence on the ground. The idea is to extend the green zone to the entire city. Being no military expert, I have no idea if that's feasible. If not, another option is to divide Baghdad in respectively Sunni and Shia quarters and strongly advise inhabitants to move out to their assigned areas. I know that is basically what ethnic cleansing is all about, but if it cannot be avoided, one should aim to achieve the same results with as little life loss as possible.

Unrests in banlieues

The violent protests that took place in autumn 2005, with some resurgence in 2006 constitute a major problem. When the economy depends on young male for its future expansion, a country cannot afford letting its youth fall into crime and unemployment. The problem cannot be left ignored, as if its scope was limited to poor suburbs.

Although high-visibility violence, such as car burnings has decreased, many banlieues are places over which the police has little to no control. The priority must be to regain control.

Sarkozy (and Royal too, to some unclear extent) seem to favour the "zero-tolerance" option. That sounds like empty words to me. It's not as if the police was currently being lenient and forgiving. The problem resides in the fact that identifying the perpetrators of crime is currently impossible. The police force is not given the means to fight crime. Investigation is a tool seldom used by officers. It has been replaced by recurring identity controls. That way of working is akin to shooting in the dark. I don't see how it can significantly curb crime.

As a virtual candidate to the elections, I would suggest the following:
1) Increase funding of the local police. Funds would go into better education of new police officers, computer upgrades, improvement of existing databases registering criminals, new offices, more cars. Compare the level of equipment that American policemen looking over traffic have at their disposal with the lack of equipment of the french local police. A shame.
2) Focus the spending towards improving detecting, following and ending crime. Don't try to make policemen look "tougher". Competing with young males on who looks tougher is not a contest any intelligent person would consider.
3) Improvements in investigation is going to put more pressure on the judicial and punitive systems. Additional spending on courts and prisons seems necessary.

Where to get all the additional money that is needed? The solutions are not few:
1) Increase taxes
2) Take it away from lower priority tasks: subventions to the agriculture, health care and welfare to the middle class, military spending.

It is unfortunate that most of the options in 2) are a no-go if you are a honest politician who needs votes. Maybe honesty is overrated. Don't mention taking away subventions to peasants and the middle-class, their votes are needed.