Military organizations are often thought to be most effective when they are cohesive, and homogeneity of troops is one way to achieve this. Realistically, however, few of the societies they serve are inherently homogeneous, so building a unified force needs to depend on a shared sense of unity on national purpose. In Iraq, where sectarian tensions have been inflamed and where the country boasts of being home to multiple languages and ethnicities, and some of the world’s smallest religions, the Iraqi military is far from reflecting its society and a long way off in being diverse.
Leading up to the rise of the Islamic State, Iraqi minorities had plenty of grievances with the pervasive discriminatory practices and policies of the Maliki government in Baghdad, leading in part to the initial welcoming of the Islamic State in place of central federal authority. But most Iraqis soon discovered the tyranny of the group and it was the determination of the Iraqi military under the Abadi government that liberated minorities. To see disgruntled Arab Sunni communities celebrate the reassertion of Iraq’s military control over liberated territories this past year was a great moment of state pride, but this goodwill will slip away soon if the Iraqi military does not embrace diversity and inclusion.