Concerning flags

Apparently the US forces are taking down Iraq flags and hoisting the Stars & Stripes as they take territory. Tacitus and Kos disagree about the wisdom of this decision.

From one perspective, there’s nothing to decide: armies mark advances by flying national flags.

But if we’re there to liberate rather than to conquer, is the symbolism of casting down the Iraqi national flag and hoisting ours the right symbolism? Does it make it easier for the Iraqis who eventually have to set up the post-war government? This news story suggests that the flag-raising was a local initiative and that operational doctrine for this campaign is otherwise.

Perhaps Lt. Col. Collins’s order that no flag but the Iraqi flag should be flown could profitably be made a general order to the allied troops. I wish I had more confidence that this question had been thoroughly staffed out and made at the Presidential level, rather than leaving the choice to field commanders or having it run on the auto-pilot of Standard Operating Procedure.

Update Several readers report having seen accounts that “no US flags” is in fact the general policy. That leaves the origin of this incident a little bit murky.

Second update Yes, “No flags” is policy. Here’s the Newsweek story.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com