The Operational Impact of the Iraq SOFA

Nathan Hodge, on assignment in Iraq and writing over at Danger Room, discusses the operational adjustments required by the soon-to-take-effect SOFA:

The new catchphrase here is “warrant-based targeting”: U.S. forces willneed to secure warrants from Iraqi judges in order to conduct missionsto detain suspects. How this will work in practice, however, is stillsomething of an open question.

This had struck me upon reading the document last month, but it’s worth pointing out that despite the emphasis placed on a light fingerprint in the COIN tactics that guided the Surge, “light” is used in comparison to war zone environments. What we call the “security gains” in Iraq come as a result of operational measures that remain way off the scale of anything we’d consider viable in a stable civil society and that closely resemble the methods of regimes that we often blame for the emergence of radicalism in the region.

That’s obviously the difference between “nation building” and “nation, built.” But this transition from martial law to martial/civil law (and ultimately to civil law) is where the rubber hits the road on much of the speculation about the Iraq endgame.