Policing Iraq

Picture of a book cover, featuring a close up of a police vehicle with policing students in the middleground sitting on the ground, with mountains faintly visible in the background

Policing Iraq (University of California Press, 2021) chronicles the efforts of the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq to rebuild their police force and criminal justice system in the wake of the US invasion. Jesse S. G. Wozniak conducted ethnographic research during multiple stays in Iraqi Kurdistan, observing such signpost moments as the Arab Spring, the official withdrawal of coalition forces, the rise of the Islamic State, and the return of US forces. By investigating the day-to-day reality of reconstructing a police force during active hostilities, Wozniak demonstrates how police are integral to the modern state’s ability to effectively rule and how the failure to recognize this directly contributed to the destabilization of Iraq and the rise of the Islamic State. The reconstruction process ignored established practices and scientific knowledge, instead opting to create a facade of legitimacy masking a police force characterized by low pay, poor recruits, and a training regimen wholly unsuited to a constitutional democracy. Ultimately, Wozniak argues, the United States never intended to build a democratic state but rather to develop a dependent client to serve its neoimperial interests.

Buy Policing Iraq from UC Press, Powell’s, Indie Bound, Book Shop, or your favorite local bookstore.

Praise for Policing Iraq:

“Jesse Wozniak’s Policing Iraq presents a sensible and effective central argument…Wozniak presents refreshing and personal writing…The data collection (2011–17) is robust, comprising ethnographic discourse analysis to capture the meanings for daily lives at the microlevel.” — Danny Singh, author of Investigating Corruption in the Afghan Police Force: Instability and Insecurity in Post-conflict Societies in the American Journal of Sociology 127(6): 1946-1948.

“Wozniak has produced a rare gem—a book rooted in grounded data and analysis from inside the US effort to secure its footing in Iraq. Its implications for the future of exporting US policing internationally are daunting.”—Peter Kraska, editor of Militarizing the American Criminal Justice System

“Essential reading for scholars interested in policing and other criminal justice issues in Iraq. Informed by extensive fieldwork, the research presented here is an excellent resource that should influence future scholarship on criminal justice systems in countries undergoing various forms of transition.”—Nathan Pino, coauthor of Globalization, Police Reform and Development

Listen to me discuss the book with the POMEPS Middle East Political Science Podcast, read an interview with Jadiliyya about the book, read a capsule review of the book at Foreign Affairs, and here find out whether you only need to read page 99 of the book to get the general point.

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