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The Iraqi Quota System Should Be Terminated

Al-Mada, Iraq, December 20

One question that repeatedly occupies the thought of historians is how the Roman Empire succeeded in conquering most of Europe, North Africa, and large parts of Asia – including the Levant. The simple answer is hierarchy. The Romans established a large and disciplined army with a clear, rigid, and hierarchical command structure. This enabled soldiers to receive clear orders and execute them right away. It also created a centralized culture that could be shared throughout the entire empire. In a multi-ethnic, sectarian and religious country such as Iraq, with no cultural or social connection between most of its cities and regions, such a model of a Roman-style army became a necessity. The absence of paved roads, bridges, and trains prevented the intermingling of Iraqi tribes present in the country. Even interactions between the residents of the three largest cities – Baghdad, Mosul, and Basrah – was historically limited. Thus, the establishment of the Iraqi army, which brought together people from across the nation, was an essential step towards the formation of modern Iraq. Thanks to Iraq compulsory service, tribal boundaries had been broken down between social and religious groups that would have otherwise never come into contact. More importantly, the military service fostered a cohesive Iraqi culture. Soldiers and officers who had not been previously educated were able to gain a profession in, for example, construction, plumbing, electrical work, driving, mechanics and many other fields. Indeed, the army continued injecting skilled workers into the workforce for many generations. Above all, it established a clear rule for everyone: a common law that discouraged disobedience and disorder. Unfortunately, following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Americans decided to dissolve the Iraqi army. Over half a million people who had been employed by the armed forces were dismissed. Salaries were unpaid. The result was the migration of leading army commanders from the military to irregular militias associated with different Iraqi tribes. Former comrades began fighting each other. Indeed, a recent report in the Time Magazine revealed that much of the sectarian strife unfolding in Iraq between 2006 and 2007 could have been avoided had U.S. forces empowered the Iraqi army instead of dissolving it. More alarmingly, the Americans established new institutions based on sectarian quotas, with the aim of representing people from all parts of society. Unfortunately, this created a culture of patronage in which law and order are enforced on the basis of one’s social or religious affiliation. What Iraq desperately needs is national cohesion. The Iraqi army was one of the key institutions that generated a sense of belonging among all parts of Iraqi society to one nation. Therefore, it is time to terminate the quota system in Iraq. –Louay Abdallah