This is part 2 of a three-part series.

I’m one of those people that distrusts the reports until I’ve read them myself or had them summarized by a trusted intermediary–not going by newspapers alone–and I hope 1. you can find me a trusted intermediary for your own use, or 2. better yet, be inspired by this to study further, comment, or correct what’s here. 

Going through these benchmarks is an initial step for understanding what’s happening through the rest of the year in Iraq (and in D.C. about Iraq).  Once we’ve gone through these benchmarks (post 3 of 3), then I hope to be able to more properly understand and report upon the July benchmark report–something beyond “8 out of 18 benchmarks met”; “complete failure”; and “give us more time, things are looking up”.  Therefore: second of three.  What are the benchmarks? what are they supposed to do? and how do they relate to Iraq’s domestic government, the Iraq Study Group report, and each other?

Almost all of these six benchmarks (nos. 7 through 12) address the security problems on the roads, streets, and other terrain of Iraq, and the organizational talents that must be brought to bear to develop a secure, civilized, life–i.e., “civil society”.  These benchmarks require the cooperation of all branches of government, but specifically the leadership capabilities of political leaders who are willing to make a stand; the institutions of government that in many cases have yet to be properly developed or overseen; and the courageous, almost-no-reward heroism of Iraqi citizens interested in implementing security as security forces, etc.  In short, these are crucial benchmarks, and also dangerous ones for all concerned.

Benchmark No. 7: Militia disarmament
Enacting and implementing legislation establishing a strong militia disarmament program to ensure that such security forces are accountable only to the central government and loyal to the constitution of Iraq.
♦ Sphere: Legislature, security, police and other security elements.
♦ Relationship to Iraq Study Group Report: 38, 39

♦ Why is this a benchmark important?  Pretty much the benchmark explains itself: as long as groups more organized and better armed than municipal police are out on the street, the police and the government don’t have a chance at imposing order.  It also leads to sectarian violence, which occasionally is about ethical differences but usually about forcible property transfer from one sect to elements or beneficiaries of the bandit/militia sect.  In any state, citizens are supposed to be able to delegate law and order to the state.  As long as this goal is not met, then Iraq’s government is not exercising its primary function.
♦ Supporting documents: 
Theory: Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan was perhaps the first theoretical work on this subject; more recently Frances Fukuyama’s book State-building references the notion in the first chapters.  But you know it already.

Benchmark No. 8: Non-military support of security goals
Establishing supporting political, media, economic, and services committees in support of the Baghdad Security Plan.
♦ Sphere: All elements of state-building; state institutions; the media
♦ Relationship to Iraq Study Group Report: no direct correlation; some interface in 41, 45

♦ Why is this a benchmark?  Life has been really tough on those who have been trying to impose security in Baghdad and outward (now there’s an understatement).  Most of the aspects to this benchmark help legitimize U.S. presence in Iraq and, more, aid in legitimizing Iraq’s government to its own citizens.
◊ Politics: In the past, the government of Iraq has been institutionally unwilling to permit security operations, which a. led to less security operations, b. led to less plan security on these operations, and c. did not give the Iraq seal of legitimacy to security operations. 
◊ Media: As far as “hearts and minds” go, the U.S. has not always been able to make its operations and position sympathetic to Iraq’s beleagured populace.  While many are glad to see U.S. military working in concert with Iraqi forces, because it minimizes sectarian behavior, the differences in culture, language make it difficult for the U.S. to promote its constructive activities properly.  Also, in order to expect Iraq’s citizens to look to their government, these citizens must have some idea what that government is doing on their behalf.  Third, media helps promote accountability of government and economic institutions; it also informs the public.
◊ Economic:  This has two parts: one about social goods, and one about state expenditures.  Aspirational: After security, economic health is second in the duties of a state.  For Iraq’s citizens to live in a stable environment, market functions must continue to grow and improve.  You have to be able to get groceries from the local market; the local market also has to be able to find these goods to sell; the producers of local goods have to be able to produce.  Expenditures: Iraq’s security services are hampered by a lack of equipment, which they have the means to purchase, but have not purchased.
♦ Supporting documents:
Political machinations that destroy effectiveness:
April 30, 2007: Maliki’s office seen behind purge in forces
U.S. Cultural handicap:
Training U.S. soldiers on Iraqi culture at Civil Military Relations; also,
Few want to be the Iraqi” Christian Science Monitor on this training (h/t Civil Military Relations also).
Military equipment:
July 14, 2005: Iraq wasting USD 300 million on substandard military equipment

Benchmark No. 9: Developing national military
Providing three trained and ready Iraqi brigades to support Baghdad operations.
♦ Sphere: Security: Ministry of Defense, military leadership
♦ Relationship to Iraq Study Group Report: 20, 21, 25, are cited, but also 42; and 43 (for U.S.).

♦ Why is this a benchmark?  A. Because Multinational Forces (MNF) cannot depart until security is restored in the name of Iraq’s government without plunging the entire region into despair.  This is hardly the complete complement of security forces required, however.  It is an interim step to Iraq’s ability to provide its own security.
♦ Supporting documents: none at present.

Benchmark No. 10: Enabling Iraqi military
Providing Iraqi commanders with all authorities to execute this plan and to make tactical and operational decisions in consultation with U.S. Commanders without political intervention, to include the authority to pursue all extremists including Sunni insurgents and Sh’iite militias.
♦ Sphere: Security: Executive, legislature, Ministry of Defense.
♦ Relationship to Iraq Study Group Report: 25 is cited; some interface with 41; 44.

♦ Why is this a benchmark? See Politics, Benchmark No. 8; and Benchmark No.9.
♦ Supporting documents: none at present

Benchmark No. 11: Rule of law
Ensuring that the Iraqi Security Forces are providing even-handed enforcement of the law.
♦ Sphere: Security; Ministry of Defense; Judicial or executive or legislative oversight.
♦ Relationship to Iraq Study Group Report: no one-on-one correlation.

♦ Why is this a benchmark? First, because it is not happening.  Second, as long as the police are considered part of the sectarian problem, there will be little likelihood of disarmament of militias (Benchmark No. 7).  These two work in tandem.
♦ Supporting documents:
Iraq Slogger documents Az-Zaman newspaper on Ba’athist hit list by Iraqi militias, July 23; July 12, 2006: Christian Science Monitor, Revenge cycle fragments Baghdad

Benchmark No. 12: Arresting security failure/ save havens/terrorism
♦ Sphere: Security; Judicial and law enforcement branches.
♦ Relationship to Iraq Study Group Report: 25 is cited, with indirect results for this benchmark; also, somewhat, 79. (?)

♦ Why is this a benchmark?  Because reducing the threat of terrorism is ultimately the most important factor to the states of the MNF and their citizens.  A failed state is more likely to have facilities for expanded terrorist training (or so we theorize), and is certainly, if nothing else, a large nexus and opportunity for many types of organized crime, region-wide destabilization, and human misery.  Since this is the Middle East, the region is one of particular strategic importance because of political and economic resources.
♦ Supporting documents:
December, 2005: Council on Foreign Relations FAQs on Iraq Terrorist Havens
September, 2006: Wall Street Journal (preview) on Terrorist havens in failed states