As American and British forces consolidate control over most of Iraq and find civilians to help them rule, they face the challenge of preventing or halting revenge killings, looting, and other criminal acts. They need to move quickly to switch from fighting to policing streets and setting up a temporary system of justice.
Criminal behavior is already spreading in several locations where Saddam Hussein's forces have been defeated. The situation in Baghdad is deteriorating as the regime collapses.
Although they are loath to do so, coalition forces must establish martial law in the short term if they are to stabilize the situation. Some night patrols have already begun; much more than that will be needed to end the chaos.
Without law and order, aid organizations cannot deliver relief supplies to hungry and sick people. People cannot lead normal lives. Democracy cannot take root. The continuing violence in Afghanistan, where the US has unwisely resisted steps to provide international peacekeeping forces outside Kabul, provides a cautionary lesson.
In Iraq, the brutality and politicization of the police force and judges under Hussein complicate the picture. None of these people, many of whom are guilty of torture and other crimes against humanity, should be a part of a new criminal-justice system.
An international civilian police force may be needed to help keep order until the creation of a functioning Iraqi force that its citizenry can trust. …