Stephen Biddle of CFR has many words of praise about the improved situation in Iraq. Alas, there’s this one tiny little “issue”:
The Iraqi Security Forces are now so large that there’s some danger of Praetorianism—a coup d’état—growing in Iraq. Interestingly, when you look back to the pre-Petraeus era [before Gen. David Petraeus took command of coalition forces in Iraq in early 2007], one of the reasons that the ISF didn’t grow so fast was because there were fears that if they got too big, they would either pose a threat to Iraq’s neighbors or a threat to Iraq’s civilian government. There was a worry that there’d be a coup d’état if the Iraqi security forces got too big.
The interviewer: “You think this is a possibility?”
Well, I think it’s a growing possibility. I think one of the things our presence does is moderate and mitigate that dramatically. It’s much harder to imagine a Praetorian solution, a coup d’état, a military government as long as we are there. If we were to leave, you could easily imagine a situation in which the military as the most effective institution in society decides to take over. The parliament is the least respected institution in Iraqi society.
And the ministries in the executive branch are typically doing a very poor job of delivering essential services to the public. It’s not uncommon in the developing world to get situations in which, in the presence of a dysfunctional and unpopular civilian government, soldiers stand up and seize the reins.
I know those of you familiar with Thomas Carothers are probably nodding in agreement, but still — the irony is mindboggling. To have another military strongman run Iraq after five years of bloodshed is such a perfectly messed-up narrative it’s probably going to happen.