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Thread: Amnesty

  1. #1
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    Default Amnesty

    Why is the idea of amnesty generally so unappealing to US leaders? Have any of this folks read Kitson or Thompson? If we are truly against the idea of amnesty, then we are truly not trying to "end" the insurgency, but rather we are seeking to "win" the counterinsurgency. Ask the Brits how this worked with the IRA.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strickland
    Why is the idea of amnesty generally so unappealing to US leaders? Have any of this folks read Kitson or Thompson? If we are truly against the idea of amnesty, then we are truly not trying to "end" the insurgency, but rather we are seeking to "win" the counterinsurgency. Ask the Brits how this worked with the IRA.
    I agree with you 100%. I am appalled by the public statements of certain US politicians who are coming out strongly against any meaningful amnesty program.

    Although it definitely needs to be structured to the local context, an amnesty program is a vital and necessary component of any COIN campaign.

    Here's a commentary published last year that looked at Vietnam's Chieu Hoi program and potential application of the concept in Iraq:

    In Iraq's Prisons, Try a Little Tenderness
    ...Captured enemy documents now in the archives of the Army Special Operations Command discuss the powerful effect of Chieu Hoi on the enemy. One Vietcong report from 1966 says: "The impact of enemy military operations and 'Chieu Hoi' programs has, on the whole, resulted in lowering of morale of some ideologically backward men, who often listen to enemy radio broadcasts, keep in their pockets enemy leaflets, and wait to be issued weapons. This attitude on their part has generated an atmosphere of doubt and mistrust among our military ranks." The Vietcong feared the program, and expended a great deal of effort in attempting to thwart it through assassinations, infiltration and counterpropaganda.

    So what does this have to do with Iraq? While Chieu Hoi was geared to counter a Communist threat, it was based on universal principles of counterinsurgency that could easily be applied to the current struggle. In fact, Chieu Hoi was something of an import in its own right: it was the brainchild of three men with long experience battling rebels. One was Sir Robert Thompson, who led the British Advisory Mission in Vietnam and was renowned for his work in Britain's quelling of the Communist insurgency in Malaya in the 1950's. The others were Rufus Phillips, a former C.I.A. official working for the United States Agency for International Development, and Charles Bohannan, a retired Army colonel; this pair had led the American effort in late 1940's to stop the Huk insurgency in the Philippines...
    ...and a presentation from Oct 05 on amnesty in COIN from MIT that looks at Malaya, Vietnam and Iraq:

    Selective Amnesty and Reward Programs in COIN

  3. #3
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    Default Amnesty

    It appears that the strongest voices against amnesty are the ones who want to abandon Iraq. This is illogical but not surprising as political posturing. It may be a mute point since many of the beneficiaries or amnesty are rejecting the plan. An interesting question to put to the proponents of amnesty in the Iraqi government is whether they would favor similar amnesties for US troops accused of crimes against the Iraqis. Consistancy would suggest that they would have to. Who knows how the posturing politicians would come down on that.

  4. #4
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    Your analogy of amnesty for accused US war criminals doesn't hold - even the strongest proponents of amnesty are excluding those who target innocent Iraqis (however defined). Those few American soldiers accused of misconduct are up for the murders of innocent Iraqis - conduct which would not be covered by anyone's amnesty plan.

    Amnesty is a sound attempt to bring more Sunnis into the fold - however I am concerned about its scope and timing. The new prime minister would be better off selecting a small area within which to experiment. Preferably after his forces have proven capable of physically (violently, most likely) controlling that area. Done that way, it would provide assurances to Shiites, Kurds and American constituents that amnesty is not "caving in" to the insurgent elements, it shows all parties that the government is capable of acting purposefully and sticking to its word, and it shows the Sunnis that it is safe to surrender (and possibly futile not to).

    Done on a large scale, I fear this will be a disaster - at the tactical level. Too few Sunnis will feel the need to accept this amnesty to reduce overall violence. The government's credibility may be hurt - and impatient calls from US, Shiite and Kurdish elements could make it doubly difficult to execute a good plan down the road. What is almost certain is that the current bloc of Sunni politicians who are in government will be roundly discredited as being unable to "control" (or even influence) the insurgents - and thus their democratic legitimacy will be called into question.

    It's an open question whether this maneuver can nevertheless bring serious political dividends to the current government. It might, for example, apply stronger pressure to Sunni politicians to stay in government (which is worth it all by itself) and it does much to paint the PM as a "reasonable" man rather than some demon or puppet of the US (also worthwhile goals, even if not one insurgent gives up the gun).

    Still - those are long term benefits offset by an immediate cost in political capital. A gradual strategy that starts small and without fanfare offers the benefit of maybe actually working without the big costs.

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