Poles in Iraq V: The Poles Get a Break

I’ve always envied Miami Herald humor columnist Dave Barry‘s seemingly endless supply of “alert readers,” ready to send word to him whenever they catch sight of any phenomenon out there having to do with the subject at hand – in Dave Barry’s case, namely the bizarre. But now even I am starting to attract “alert readers,” one of whom pointed my attention to a recent article in the British newspaper The Independent about how the Americans are not ready yet to give up to Polish-controlled forces quite all of the vital sector that is supposed to be entrusted to them as of 1 September, not in light of recent troubles within that sector.

Of course, the “€S way” is to take any such English-language reporting as merely an initial guide, and then to go seek confirmation and possible amplification in the relevant foreign press. Sure enough, Gazeta Wyborcza also recently had an article telling about, and analyzing, this new development.

OK, the Americans plan to keep control, for the time being, of the northern half of Babil province. But what does Gazeta Wyborcza have to add? From “well-informed Washington sources”: in that part of Babil province it’s simply the case that “armed operations” are still going on, which are beyond the capabilities of “stabilization forces” such as the Poles. As an anonymous Polish officer told the newspaper, “Waging war with resistance fighters is no part of any assigned Polish mission.” The interesting (amusing?) thing is that, according to Gazeta, Polish authorities themselves chose that occupation zone back in the spring. It was thought to be “rather stable and safe” – although, admittedly, even back then there were doubts about this particular northern slice of it that the Americans have taken back, that properly is part of the “Sunni triangle” which has been the focus of most resistance efforts against occupation forces.

So the Poles were supposed to be responsible for X amount of territory, and now they will suddenly be responsible for a bit less. Can the Poles handle the job, or can they not? Should they have been invited to participate in occupation duties, or should they not have been? (Or perhaps, more specifically, should the Hungarians not have been invited, in light of their apparent readiness to unilaterally withdraw their troops from Iraq at the first encounter with difficulties – discussed in EuroSavant here.) This all recalls to mind recent comments by – who else? – Thomas Friedman in the NYT (specifically, his recent column, Starting from Scratch), in which he pointed out that it’s not the sheer numbers of troops deployed to Iraq that is so important, but rather their skill-sets. He writes that what is really needed is “military police, experts in civilian affairs and officers who know how to innovate,” then says “If Bulgarian or Polish troops can help . . . bring ’em on.” Who out there among you is willing to bet that, when first approaching Poland to propose its follow-on occupation role in Iraq, Coalition authorities were thinking that much ahead and were that specific about the required skill-sets?

By the way, as is usual with most on-line Gazeta articles, there’s the additional Wasze opinie (“Your opinion,” natch!) section at the bottom giving readers a chance to respond. An unscientific survey of the 118 comments this article has attracted so far would lead one to believe that the Polish participation in Iraq is not particularly popular in Poland.

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