The Power Vacuum in Iraq Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Disarray in Iraq

The United States-led war in Iraq that started in 2003 has led to a rather huge outgrowth of results and effects in the twelve years since. Indeed, Saddam Hussein was toppled, tried, convicted and eventually executed. Further, there have since been democratic elections in Iraq. Once the oppressed minority, the Shia that were dominated and controlled by Saddam Hussein now have a much larger and proportional amount of control over the Iraqi government in comparison to the rival Sunnis (of which Saddam was one) who now have a much smaller share of power. The Kurds are also in the equation. However, there have been other effects and outcomes that have been extremely dire. Whether it be all of the civilian casualties that have occurred in the years since 2013, the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria (among other places) and the insurgency that rocked Iraq for much of the years immediately after major combat operations ended, there have been a lot of people hurt, killed, maimed, unemployed or otherwise affected by the aftermath of the Iraq War and this report shall explore those effects. While Having Saddam out of power is perhaps a good thing in retrospect, what has replaced his presence in the grand scheme of things is not all that attractive or hospitable to the people that live in Iraq in the present day.

Literature Review

One of the sources that has to be mentioned when it comes to the broader subject in play here would be The Peasant War in Germany by Frederick Engels. While the book did indeed pertain mostly to the German Revolution of 1525 and the similar conflagrations of 1848-1849, the point being made can absolutely be connected to the present day. Indeed, Engels' main point was that the two wars just mentioned were not just a function of religion but also involved socioeconomic factors. Much the same thing can be said of Iraq in its present form. While Saddam Hussein (and Hosni Mubarak, for that matter) were very much dictators, they did have a modicum of control over the people that they forcibly ruled. When those two men were forced out, all hell broke loose in both countries. In Egypt, Morsi was elected and then basically started to take things over for the Muslim Brotherhood and their political and religious interests. What makes Iraq a little different and much more comparable to Engels is that the social, economic and other unrest is largely coming from regular people and small groups rather than state forces. Indeed, groups such as ISIS and the insurgency troops that were around in the immediate aftermath of the Iraq war's major operations ending was very much due to the power vacuum that had been created. The Sunnis and Baathists were enraged because they had lost power and the Shia were looking for much more control and perhaps a bit of payback. However, all of that has since been upended by the actions of ISIS and other people. Even as the duly elected officials in Iraq try to lead, there is a massive amount of chaos that is largely uncontrolled and is running rampant. Irrespective of what party or group one is speaking of, there are both socioeconomic and religious interests running amok within what is currently going on in Iraq. ISIS controlling and benefiting from the oil fields would be but one example (Engels, 2000).

Unemployment is one of the major subjects that stands alone as a major issue when it comes to the aftermath of Iraq. Much the same thing can be said about what has been going on as of late in countries like Afghanistan and the Philippines. Indeed, one can ask the question as to whether working men rebel as compared to those that are stuck without employment and, by extension, a steady income. When a country like Iraq is thrown into upheaval due something like a war or a coup, unemployment tends to skyrocket and the impacts to the populace are very real. This in turn tends to lead to unrest and riots as people that are unable to support themselves and/or their families are much more likely to be violent or at least angry about their circumstances. This set of circumstances being caused by a foreign country invading and/or occupying the country gives them a scapegoat and source to blame. Indeed, many people have and still do blame the United States for their role in creating the modern day state of affairs in Iraq. With all of that in mind, it has been found that most aid spending by governments that are seeking to build or rebuild an area focus on social and political order. More specifically, they focus on an opportunity-cost theory of distracting people that could otherwise be recruited to join movements like the Iraqi insurgency, ISIS or other similar groups. The fairly straightforward logic behind this assertion is that young men are much less likely to engage in political and other violence if they are gainfully employed. Further, there has been the implication of a positive correlation between unemployment and violence in areas that have active insurgencies or militant groups. This theory was tested in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Philippines. There was the use of unemployment survey data from two newly available measures of the insurgency. One of those measures was attacks against the government and/or allied forces. The other was any sort of violence that ends up in the death of civilians. A study by Berman, Callen, Felter and Shapiro (2011) on this precise subject found that there was not "significant relationship" between unemployment and insurgent attacks that kill civilians. With that said, there are a ton of variables involved that are all moving and changing together at the same time and it is hard to say for sure whether those feed into whether there was a lack of such relationship or if there is indeed no connection between unemployment and violence. However, it does make complete sense for unrest and unemployment (or many other economic maladies for that matter) to coincide (Berman, Callen, Felter & Shaprio, 2011).

As far as the political institutions of Iraq, there has indeed been the assertion by many that those institutions now lay in ruins or at least are "crippled" in a post-occupation Iraq. Such is the opinion of Adeed Dawisha who is a professor of political science at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. In his appearance at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC, he had a few things to say on the subject. One thing he focused on was that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is starting to show "creeping authoritarian proclivities and attitudes." This, in and of itself, could present a major threat to the overall stability of Iraq's political institutions. Maliki is part of the now-dominant Shia leadership and the Shi'i State of Law Coalition. Dawisha offered the example of that latter group detaining members of the Sunni-backed al-Iraqiya political coalition. They were targeted under the stated auspices of being loyal to the Baathist party. That would be potentially problematic since the party was outlawed in the days immediately after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Many people on the Sunni side of the Iraq power struggle reacted to these actions and orders on the part of al-Maliki as the sign and actions of a dictator. Maliki was none too pleased about this but he reacted to it in a rather dictator-like way by sending tanks to surround the Saleh al-Multaq ... the person who made the "dictator" quip. Actions and outcomes like this and others have led Dawisha to point to the fact that the Iraqi cabinet is very "brittle" as a political institution. The Cabinet ends up having a very hard time making political decisions because its members are "torn by loyalty" to the people on their side of the political aisle and the groups that they tend to associate with. For example, a Sunni politician is going to be very slow or even loathe to cooperate with a Shia initiative or law due to the perceived sleight it could cause with the Sunni's brethren in the party. Further, there is a proverbial "tug-of-war" between the central government mentioned above and the provincial governments that scatter the country. It would be akin to states in the United States fighting for autonomy over the federal government in Washington. While national Constitutions do exist in both the United States and Iraq and while both of them give fairly straightforward rules about what is federally controlled and what is controlled by the states/provinces, the general attitude of the Iraqi provinces towards the Iraqi Constitution and its authority over them ranges from ambivalent to outright hostile (Sprusansky, 2012).

Some reports from the United States government and the media at large have painted a fairly rosy picture about the state of affairs in Iraq after the war. Indeed, there was precisely such a summary and review in…

Sources Used in Document:


Berman, E., Callen, M., Felter, J. H., & Shapiro, J. N. (2011). Do Working Men Rebel?

Insurgency and Unemployment in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Philippines. Journal Of Conflict Resolution, 55(4), 496-528. doi:10.1177/0022002710393920

Chehab, Z. (2007). Iraq: no end to the suffering. New Statesman, 136(4874), 34-36.

Engels, F. (2000). The peasant war in Germany. New York: International Publishers.

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