Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Iraq Benchmarks

Here are the benchmarks proposed by John Warner. This amendment got shot down, but I'm posting these because there is far too little discussion of what the benchmarks actually ought to be. To put the question differently, what actions should we encourage (or coerce) the Iraq government into pursuing? My comments are in red.


(a) IN GENERAL.--(1) The United States strategy in Iraq, hereafter, shall be conditioned on the Iraqi government meeting benchmarks, as told to members of Congress by the President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and reflected in the Iraqi Government's commitments to the United States, and to the international community, including:

(A) Forming a Constitutional Review Committee and then completing the Constitutional review; [What, so we can have another national vote? Haven't we established that Iraqi elections contribute nothing to stability? More pictures of purple thumbs do not cut it.]

(B) Enacting and implementing legislation on de-Baathification; [This is meaningless. De-Baathification could mean anything from genocide to total amnesty. What does the U.S. want done with former Baathists? Answer that before you push this.]

(C) Enacting and implementing legislation to ensure the equitable distribution of hydrocarbon resources of the people of Iraq without regard to the sect or ethnicity of recipients, and enacting and implementing legislation to ensure that the energy resources of Iraq benefit Sunni Arabs, Shia Arabs, Kurds, and other Iraqi citizens in an equitable manner; [Because there isn't enough corruption in Iraq, and oil companies aren't making enough money.]

(D) Enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions; [What does this mean? How big are the regions? Is this just a sop to the Kurds? Besides the Kurds, are there any regional authorities capable of managing better then the feds?]

(E) Enacting and implementing legislation establishing an Independent High Electoral Commission; provincial elections law; provincial council authorities; and a date for provincial elections; [See comments on (A)]

(F) Enacting and implementing legislation addressing amnesty; [Amnesty can be a useful tool in counter-insurgency. Assuming it's done right, i.e. part of a program that provides jobs and income to former combatants, this could help.]

(G) Enacting and implementing legislation establishing a strong militia disarmament program to ensure that such security forces are accountable only to the central government and loyal to the Constitution of Iraq; [This is clearly NOT something that can be accomplished with legislation.]

(H) Establishing supporting political, media, economic, and services committees in support of the Baghdad Security Plan; [Huh? I'll give Warner a pass and assume Iraqis will know what he's talking about. I'll even further assume this will somehow encourage insurgents and militias to throw down their weapons and sing Kumbaya.]

(I) Providing three trained and ready Iraqi brigades to support Baghdad operations; [I think this was supposed to have happened three months ago, but better late then never.]

(J) Providing Iraqi commanders with all authorities to execute this plan and to make tactical and operational decisions, in consultation with U.S commanders, without political intervention, to include the authority to pursue all extremists, including Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias; [For the sake of argument, let's assume that currently Iraqi commanders do not have authority to make tactical and operational decisions without political intervention, and that if they had such authority they would use it to pursue all extremists including Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias. Given the overlap between militias and the government at all levels, wouldn't this of necessity require the Iraqi military to launch a coup? We can encourage a coup, it may not even be the worst strategy now, but why exactly would we encourage the Iraqi Government to encourage a coup against itself?]

(K) Ensuring that the Iraqi Security Forces are providing even handed enforcement of the law; [Let's see, a benchmark that cannot be reasonably measured and is no one's responsibility. Yeah, that will work. ]

(L) Ensuring that, according to President Bush, Prime Minister Maliki said ``the Baghdad security plan will not provide a safe haven for any outlaws, regardless of [their] sectarian or political affiliation''; [This makes no sense as written. Assuming it's supposed to mean no amnesty for militias and insurgents, doesn't it directly contradict item F above? ]

(M) Reducing the level of sectarian violence in Iraq and eliminating militia control of local security; [See comments on (K)]

(N) Establishing all of the planned joint security stations in neighborhoods across Baghdad; [Works for me.]

(O) Increasing the number of Iraqi security forces units capable of operating independently; [Works for me.]

(P) Ensuring that the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi legislature are protected; [This furthers our objectives by...?]

(Q) Allocating and spending $10 billion in Iraqi revenues for reconstruction projects, including delivery of essential services, on an equitable basis; and [This would work if it could be verified that the money wasn't going into someone's pocket. I don't see why we're benchmarking the funding level at all, shouldn't the focus be on ensuring the funds go to the specified purposes?]

(R) Ensuring that Iraq's political authorities are not undermining or making false accusations against members of the ISF. [Seriously? This is a problem so pressing it needs to be addressed in the benchmarks, our last best hope for securing a good outcome in Iraq? See comments on (J).]

Of the proposed benchmarks I saw 4 (F, I, N, O) that were useful, and three that could be useful(D, H, Q). So out of 18 proposed benchmarks 11 are useless or worse.

I think Congress ought to have a debate and resolution defining benchmarks for success before we try to implement them. I think everyone can agree that for benchmarks to work, they need to be

1) Clearly defined.

2) Advance our highest priority objectives in Iraq.

3) Be assigned to specific positions or groups, i.e. national congress, Prime Minister, Leader of ISF, etc.

4) Be measurable.

5) Be achievable by the assigned party.

Is this really such a foreign concept to the Senate?

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