Monday, March 23, 2009

Cost-effective counterinsurgency

An article in today's New York Times notes that many of the former Sunni insurgents the U.S. and Iraqi governments were paying not to fight still do not have real jobs.
After months of promises, only 5,000 Awakening members — just over 5 percent — have been given permanent jobs in the Iraqi security forces. Those promises were made last year when Iraq was flush with oil money.
Many fighters join insurgencies because they are unemployed and are paid to fight. In those circumstances it makes sense to offer alternative jobs--especially if the jobs are doing something that contributes to everyday life, such as building roads or other infrastructure. It can be much cheaper to pay someone not to fight than to have to defeat them. But we need to follow through on those commitments. People won't wield shovels forever, and certainly not with no pay.

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