Leadership: March 15, 2004

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Turning control of Iraq back to the Iraqis may just restart the cycle of tyranny and corruption that has plagued the region for thousands of years. The earliest written records found in the area indicate that the rulers five thousand years ago were "strong men" with lots of soldiers supporting them. With that in mind, the coalition has set up an officer training camp in Jordan, where classes of 750 Iraqis are put through a 90 day course. Most of the students are former officers in the Iraqi army. The first class graduates this month. The students were carefully screened from thousands of applicants. It was long known that the Republican Guard and secret police contained most of the Iraqis who were loyal to Saddam. The army was more loyal to Iraq, and Saddam always kept the regular army on a short leash. Many army officers found themselves in jail, or executed, because Saddams police suspected possible rebellion.

By Middle Eastern standards, the Iraqi army was well organized and disciplined. And when properly motivated by Iranian invasion in the 1980s, they fought well. But by world standards, the Iraqi army was corrupt and inefficient. Training was neglected and corruption was common. The troops put up with this because these bad habits were common throughout Iraqi society. The training of officers for the new, 40,000 man, Iraqi army is taking advantage of the shame Iraqis feel at how they were brushed aside in three weeks by three divisions of American troops. The training attempts to instill in the officers the techniques American officers use to train, lead and maintain their combat units at a high level of effectiveness. It's stressed that it's not the technology that matters the most, but the capabilities of the troops and their leaders. 

American trainers will probably only be able to run a few thousand Iraqi officers through the course before Iraq resumes control of officer training. The rest of Iraqi society will still be wallowing in the old ways, and leaning on the army to go along with the traditional methods that have cost Iraq so much in the last few decades. Once Iraq is running it's own affairs again, the army will probably be expanded. A country the size of Iraq will not feel comfortable without at least a few hundred thousand troops. While democracy may take root in Iraq (it came close to doing so in the 1940s and 50s), the nepotism and corruption that is so common can quickly reduce the average quality of army officers. But the officers trained by the coalition at least gives the Iraqis a chance at building, and maintaining, effective armed forces. Such revolutionary changes are rare, as a nations armed forces are almost always a reflection of the culture they are drawn from.

 


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