Cholera and security in Iraq

Mark Drapeau, who works down the hall from me, has a piece in the New York Times today on the cholera epidemic in Iraq - A Microscopic Insurgent. Abu Muqawama picked it up and agrees with most of it, but I was struck by one comment he made:
Abu Muqawama isn't sure disease-prevention should be elevated over providing local security in our list of priorities...
I feel this is a false dichotomy between disease-prevention and security. Disease prevention IS providing local security (a fellow commenter on Abu Muqawama agrees). I'd like to show how by relating it to my analysis of attacking the Iraqi national identity that I posted last week.

Going back to that post, we remember that "Groups providing security and social services will be able to charge prices at a level inverse to the degree of state failure." As the demand for security goes up, the prices non-state groups can charge go up as well, assuming the state is unable to provide.

The same holds true for social services such as health care. Assuming the Iraqi Ministry of Health is dysfunctional (which is is), anti-cholera campaigns will have to be done by either charities (which can't function in Iraq due to the security situation), the US military (which does not view this as a priority as far as I can see), or tribal and sectarian hybrid militia groups. As the cholera situation worsens, which it will due to the nonexistent sanitation services in much of Iraq (look at this picture of Basra), these non-state groups will pick up the slack from the government, and will correspondingly gain power and legitimacy.

Thus anti-cholera campaigns are every bit as integral to US goals in Iraq as training the Iraqi army. Both are capacity building, but it happens that our security organizations are much better suited to build up Iraqi military capacity than its public health capacity. In my view, that's the primary reason why training the Iraqi army is viewed as security and disease-prevention is viewed as hippy-dippy do-gooder work for the pinkos at OxFam to take care of (not that counterinsurgency-types like Abu Muqawama feel that way, but many 'hard security' types do). Disease-prevention would be yet another security task a SysAdmin force would be useful for in Iraq.

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