The Corner

Martial Law in Iraq?

A Wall Street Journal report today says Iraq’s Interior Minister has raised the prospect of martial law in Iraq if the bombing attacks continue. This is not surprising, since no society can tolerate over the long run the kind of violence Iraq has suffered in recent months. I have long thought that once the Iraqis have the chance, they’ll be much tougher in cracking down on the insurgency than we have been. Here, for example, is what former Iraqi Governing Council member Younadem Kana, an Assyrian Christian, told NRO’s Meghan Clyne a few weeks ago: “If Iraqis are upset with the American troops, it’s mostly because they are very nice — too nice — with these criminals, dealing with them as prisoners of war. But they are not prisoners of war, they are criminals; they are killers. But Geneva Convention rules put pressure on the Americans to be nice, and to take good care of them.” In the Journal report today, a U.S. official is quoted referring obliquely to the fact that Iraqis will be much less “nice” than Americans have been: “There are going to be Iraqi solutions to a lot of these problems and they will not necessarily be the solutions that we would have tried to use, but that is what sovereignty is about.” Martial law or similar measures will create embarrassment among some Wilsonian supporters of the war and prompt howls from the war’s critics, but security is the predicate for all other progress in Iraq. So long as a crackdown can be implemented without destroying the country’s democratic evolution, it will be a welcome development—certainly to Iraqis, if not to second-guessers here at home.

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