Thursday, July 22, 2004

Iraq governance 1 -- Benefits and costs of order

Political Animal passes along good news from Baghdad in a piece by Paul Wiseman of USA Today (via James Joyner). The locals are starting to obey the traffic cops.

Before, you found hardly anyone listening to you," the 27-year police force veteran says. Kadhum, 48, spent his days flailing around in 105-degree heat, sometimes waving his pistol in a futile attempt to make motorists follow his commands. "Now, by barely moving my hand, I get respect."
There are several possible explanations, none mutually exclusive. The most hopeful interpretation is legitimacy -- that the formal handover of sovereignty really made a difference in the public's attitude toward authority, as reflected the broad support for the interim government shown by recent polls. Another explanation that relies on the "absence of the US" rather than its presence is improved efficiency from doing things the Iraqi way rather than the US way or, probably worse, a muddle of the two. Talking about the Iraqi police more generally, Wiseman notes:
[I]n many ways their jobs have been made easier. Now that U.S. forces have mostly retreated from the streets, Iraqi police have more authority to respond to threats in their own way. No longer do they have to coordinate with U.S. commanders. They can set up roadblocks or pursue criminals without waiting for U.S. approval. What's more, "the American presence had become a risk for us," says police Sgt. Mohammed Adnan Saleh, 30. Working with U.S. military forces made Iraqi police a target for anti-American insurgents.

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