Amnesty and Reconciliation

Saturday, July 01, 2006
In his latest column Charles Krauthammer makes a case for amnesty for Sunni fighters in Iraq.

Perhaps the current Sunni insurgency could have been defeated by an overwhelming display of American force with a huge number of troops and a scorched-earth counterinsurgency. But that could well have resulted in a Pyrrhic and very temporary victory, increasing Sunni bitterness and resistance that would inevitably return as we drew down our forces. After all, we were never going to keep a huge land army in the desert forever.

For better or worse, we chose occupation lite. The insurgency continues, and it is not going to be defeated militarily. But that does not mean we lose. Insurgencies can be undone by co-optation. And that is precisely the strategy of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Given that his life is literally on the line in making such judgments, one should give his view some weight.

He intends to wean away elements of the insurgency by giving them a stake in the new Iraqi order. These Sunni elements -- unreconciled tribal leaders and guerrilla factions -- may well decide that with neither side having very good prospects of complete victory, accepting a place and some power in the new Iraq is a better alternative than perpetual war.

The Bush administration is firmly behind this policy. And who is sniping at it from the sidelines? Democratic senators, fresh from having voted for troop withdrawal rather than victory as our objective in Iraq, led the charge to denounce any sort of amnesty for insurgents who had killed Americans.

Apart from the hypocrisy, there is the bizarre logic: Is the best way to honor the sacrifice of those who have died in Iraq to decree an impotent, completely hypothetical policy of retribution? (Who, after all, is going to bell the cat?) Or is it to create conditions for precisely the kind of Iraq -- self-governing and internally reconciled -- that these courageous soldiers were fighting for?

Read it all as they say.