When I read about the Ohio police dog who helps socialize inmates (among other things she does), I started to think about other individuals who might benefit from the loving contact of a pet. Top of the list: the warring factions in Iraq, a place which is on course soon to be known as the former Iraq.
One hitch in the plan: many Muslims consider dogs to be unclean. And cats don't have the same kind of social nature, not being pack animals. So, instead, why not go all out and use horses (or, rather, ponies) in their place? Nearly everybody knows about the noble Arabian horse, so what warlord or insurgent leader would turn down a chance to accept a gift equestrian
Let's run the numbers. The increase in war spending is estimated at $80 billion, and let's assume that 10% of that can go to this project. A pony might go for something like $25k, and with the overhead of getting the animals over there, supplies, veterinarians, wranglers, and whatnot, we might imagine a total upfront cost of $250k per animal. That translates to 32000 pretty ponies we could send over there (assuming there are that many to be had). Some estimates of the number of insurgents range up to 17000, that would be enough for nearly every insurgent to be given a pair of ponies of their very own.
Now taking care of a pony is a lot of work, which would take time away from such things as constructing and planting IEDs, firing RPGs, and blowing up oil pipelines. Also, you can ride a pony, which would help relieve the gasoline shortage that many Iraqis have to face, even among those who wouldn't personally be receiving the actual pony. Finally, the nonviolent and pastoral image of ponies trotting in public in places like Baghdad and Basra would radically change the image of Iraq, particularly if rebel cells could be induced to spend at least part of their time giving pony rides to children.
Once the animals are old enough to breed, Iraq could develop a thriving commerce that would help bind the different regions together. So it would be important to make sure that healthy animals go to the Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish areas fairly.
Of course, we would still need to have US forces there to help out, not least of their new responsibilities involving helping with the shoveling. But perhaps we could persuade outside contractors to take on some of this load until the revitalized Iraqi nation can take care of its own needs in this regard.
You may think of it as a crazy plan, but I feel that if it is presented in the right way to the American people, they would see the underlying old-fashioned common sense behind it and support it. If you agree, I urge you to write your Senator and Representative in Congress so we can get started on this new direction.