Views on Iraqi Question

Here are some articles of interest on the Iraqi question:

Related post: Defining the Iraqi Question

How to Exit Iraq

At First, Iraqi Soldiers Should Augment U.S. Forces, Not Replace Them

By Henry A. Kissinger

Washington Post
Sunday, December 18, 2005; Page B07

The administration and its critics seem to agree that the beginning of an American withdrawal from Iraq will mark a turning point. What divides them is the speed and extent of the drawdown and whether it should be driven by a timetable or by a strategy that seeks to shape events.

Though often put into technical terms, the issue is not the mechanics of withdrawal. Rather, the debate should be over consequences: whether, in the end, withdrawal will be perceived as a forced retreat or as an aspect of a prudent and carefully planned strategy designed to enhance international security. Whatever one's view of the decision to undertake the Iraq war, the method by which it was entered, or the strategy by which it was conducted -- and I supported the original decision -- one must be clear about the consequences of failure. If, when we go, we leave nothing behind but a failed state and chaos, the consequences will be disastrous for the region and for America's position in the world.

For the phenomenon of radical Islam is more than the sum of individual terrorist acts extending from Bali through Jakarta to New Delhi, Tunisia, Riyadh, Istanbul, Casablanca, Madrid and London. It is an ideological outpouring by which Islam's radical wing seeks to sweep away secularism, pluralistic values and Western institutions wherever Muslims live. Its dynamism is fueled by the conviction that the designated victims are on the decline and lack the will to resist.

Any event that seems to confirm these convictions compounds the revolutionary dynamism. If a fundamentalist regime is installed in Baghdad or in any of the other major cities, such as Mosul or Basra, if terrorists secure substantial territory for training and sanctuaries, or if chaos and civil war mark the end of the American intervention, Islamic militants will gain momentum wherever there are significant Islamic populations or nonfundamentalist Islamic governments. No country within reach of jihad would be spared the consequences of the resulting upheavals sparked by the many individual centers of fanaticism that make up the jihad.

Defeat would shrivel U.S. credibility around the world. Our leadership and the respect accorded to our views on other regional issues from Palestine to Iran would be weakened; the confidence of other major countries -- China, Russia, Europe, Japan -- in America's potential contribution would be diminished. The respite from military efforts would be brief before even greater crises descended on us.

A disastrous outcome is defined by the global consequences, not domestic rhetoric. President Bush has put forward a plausible strategy. It acknowledges that policy has been leavened by experience. But the crescendo of demands for a timetable suppresses the quality of patience that history teaches is the prerequisite for overcoming guerrilla warfare. Even an appropriate strategy can be vitiated if it is executed in too precipitate a manner.

The views of critics and administration spokesmen converge on the proposition that as Iraqi units are trained, they should replace U.S. forces -- hence the controversy over which Iraqi units are in what state of readiness. But strategy based on substituting Iraqi for U.S. troops may result in perpetuating an unsatisfactory stalemate. Even assuming that the training proceeds as scheduled and produces units the equivalent of the U.S. forces being replaced -- a highly dubious proposition -- I would question the premise that American reductions should be in a linear relationship to Iraqi training. A design for simply maintaining the present security situation runs the risk of confirming the adage that guerrillas win if they do not lose.

The better view is that the first fully trained Iraqi units should be seen as increments to coalition forces and not replacements, making possible the deployment of forces toward the frontiers to curtail infiltration, as well as accelerated offensive operations aimed at the guerrilla infrastructure. Such a strategy would help remedy the shortage of ground forces, which has slowed anti-guerrilla operations throughout the occupation. While seemingly more time-consuming, it would present better opportunities for stabilizing the country and would thus provide a more reliable exit route.

The combat performance of new units cannot be measured by training criteria alone. The ultimate metrics -- to use Pentagon terminology -- are to what extent they are motivated toward agreed political goals. What they fight for will determine how well they fight.

A responsible exit strategy must emerge from the systematic integration of political and security elements -- above all, the consolidation of the national government. Real progress will have been made when the Iraqi armed forces view themselves -- and are seen by the population -- as defenders of the nation's interest, not sectarian or regional interests. They will have become a national force when they are able to carry the fight into Sunni areas and grow willing to disarm militias in the Shiite regions from which the majority of them are recruited.

To delegate to military commanders the judgments as to the timing of withdrawals therefore places too great a burden on them. Their views regarding security need to be blended with judgments regarding the political and collateral consequences that a major initiative inevitably produces. Such a balance presupposes that all sides in our domestic debate adopt a restraint imposed on us by awareness of the grave consequences of failure.

The psychological impact, most immediately on the Iraqi political structure, will be crucial. Will the initial reductions -- set to begin sometime after last week's elections -- be viewed as the first step of an inexorable process to rapid and complete withdrawal? Or will they be seen as a stage of an agreed process dependent on tangible and definable political and security progress? If the former, the political factions in Iraq will maneuver to protect their immediate assets in preparation for the expected test of strength between the various groups. The incentive to consider American preferences for a secular and inclusive government in a unified Iraq will shrink. It will be difficult to broaden the base of a government at the very moment it thinks it is losing its key military support. In these circumstances, even a limited withdrawal not formally geared to a fixed timetable and designed to placate American public opinion could acquire an irreversible character.

If the experience of Vietnam is any guide, the numbers of returning troops could, in such an atmosphere, turn into the principal domestic test of successful U.S. policy. Pressures to continue or accelerate the withdrawals could be magnified so that the relationship to the political criteria of progress would be lost. A process driven by technical or domestic criteria might evoke a competition between Iraqi factions to achieve nationalist credit for accelerating the U.S. withdrawal, perhaps by turning on us either politically or with some of their militia.

The United States intervened in Iraq to protect the region's security and its own. But it cannot conclude that process without anchoring it in some international consensus. Geopolitical realities will not disappear from a region that has lived with them and suffered from them for millennia and that has drawn U.S. military forces into their vortex in Lebanon in the 1950s and 1980s, in Afghanistan in 2001 and in the Persian Gulf in 1991 and 2003 -- and has caused two U.S. military alerts (over the Syrian invasion of Jordan in 1970 and the Arab-Israeli war in 1973). The passions, convictions and rivalries of the factions in Iraq will continue. A regional system will emerge in that country in one form or another through our interaction, either with these forces or through our default. In that sense, Americans must accept the reality that their country can never make a total political withdrawal, though the size and location of the military presence will vary. It will always have to meld political and security objectives if the predominance of radical states is to be avoided.

The countries that are relevant to Iraq's security and stability or that consider their security and stability affected by the emerging arrangements must be given a sense of participation in the next stage of Iraq policy. The developing political institutions in Iraq need to be built into an international and regional system -- not out of obeisance to a theoretical multilateralism but because otherwise America will have to function alone as the permanent policeman, a role that any projected Iraqi government is likely to reject in the long run and that the very debate discussed in this article inhibits.

The time has come not only to define the strategic future in Iraq but also to broaden the base of political consultation in the region at large. A political contact group including key European allies, India (because of its Muslim population), Pakistan, Turkey and some neighbors of Iraq should be convoked after the Iraqi election. Political discussions between the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad and Iranian authorities regarding Iraq have already been approved.

These cannot be the sole contacts with Baghdad's neighbors. The functions of the contact group would be to advise on the political evolution of Iraq, to broaden the basis of legitimacy of the government and to reflect a broad international interest in the stability and progress of the region. As time goes on, the group could become a forum to deal with other issues affecting Middle East stability, including some of the causes of Islamic radicalism. A political framework is not a substitute for a successful military outcome, but military success cannot be long sustained without it.

The writer, a former secretary of state, is chairman of Kissinger Associates.

Our Troops Must Stay

By Sen. Joseph Lieberman

The Wall Street Journal
November 29, 2005

I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood -- unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.

Progress is visible and practical. In the Kurdish North, there is continuing security and growing prosperity. The primarily Shiite South remains largely free of terrorism, receives much more electric power and other public services than it did under Saddam, and is experiencing greater economic activity. The Sunni triangle, geographically defined by Baghdad to the east, Tikrit to the north and Ramadi to the west, is where most of the terrorist enemy attacks occur. And yet here, too, there is progress.

There are many more cars on the streets, satellite television dishes on the roofs, and literally millions more cell phones in Iraqi hands than before. All of that says the Iraqi economy is growing. And Sunni candidates are actively campaigning for seats in the National Assembly. People are working their way toward a functioning society and economy in the midst of a very brutal, inhumane, sustained terrorist war against the civilian population and the Iraqi and American military there to protect it.

It is a war between 27 million and 10,000; 27 million Iraqis who want to live lives of freedom, opportunity and prosperity and roughly 10,000 terrorists who are either Saddam revanchists, Iraqi Islamic extremists or al Qaeda foreign fighters who know their wretched causes will be set back if Iraq becomes free and modern. The terrorists are intent on stopping this by instigating a civil war to produce the chaos that will allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as the base for their fanatical war-making. We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority.

Before going to Iraq last week, I visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Israel has been the only genuine democracy in the region, but it is now getting some welcome company from the Iraqis and Palestinians who are in the midst of robust national legislative election campaigns, the Lebanese who have risen up in proud self-determination after the Hariri assassination to eject their Syrian occupiers (the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah militias should be next), and the Kuwaitis, Egyptians and Saudis who have taken steps to open up their governments more broadly to their people. In my meeting with the thoughtful prime minister of Iraq, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, he declared with justifiable pride that his country now has the most open, democratic political system in the Arab world. He is right.

In the face of terrorist threats and escalating violence, eight million Iraqis voted for their interim national government in January, almost 10 million participated in the referendum on their new constitution in October, and even more than that are expected to vote in the elections for a full-term government on Dec. 15. Every time the 27 million Iraqis have been given the chance since Saddam was overthrown, they have voted for self-government and hope over the violence and hatred the 10,000 terrorists offer them. Most encouraging has been the behavior of the Sunni community, which, when disappointed by the proposed constitution, registered to vote and went to the polls instead of taking up arms and going to the streets. Last week, I was thrilled to see a vigorous political campaign, and a large number of independent television stations and newspapers covering it.

None of these remarkable changes would have happened without the coalition forces led by the U.S. And, I am convinced, almost all of the progress in Iraq and throughout the Middle East will be lost if those forces are withdrawn faster than the Iraqi military is capable of securing the country.

The leaders of Iraq's duly elected government understand this, and they asked me for reassurance about America's commitment. The question is whether the American people and enough of their representatives in Congress from both parties understand this. I am disappointed by Democrats who are more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq almost three years ago, and by Republicans who are more worried about whether the war will bring them down in next November's elections, than they are concerned about how we continue the progress in Iraq in the months and years ahead.

Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.

The leaders of America's military and diplomatic forces in Iraq, Gen. George Casey and Ambassador Zal Khalilzad, have a clear and compelling vision of our mission there. It is to create the environment in which Iraqi democracy, security and prosperity can take hold and the Iraqis themselves can defend their political progress against those 10,000 terrorists who would take it from them.

Does America have a good plan for doing this, a strategy for victory in Iraq? Yes we do. And it is important to make it clear to the American people that the plan has not remained stubbornly still but has changed over the years. Mistakes, some of them big, were made after Saddam was removed, and no one who supports the war should hesitate to admit that; but we have learned from those mistakes and, in characteristic American fashion, from what has worked and not worked on the ground. The administration's recent use of the banner "clear, hold and build" accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week.

We are now embedding a core of coalition forces in every Iraqi fighting unit, which makes each unit more effective and acts as a multiplier of our forces. Progress in "clearing" and "holding" is being made. The Sixth Infantry Division of the Iraqi Security Forces now controls and polices more than one-third of Baghdad on its own. Coalition and Iraqi forces have together cleared the previously terrorist-controlled cities of Fallujah, Mosul and Tal Afar, and most of the border with Syria. Those areas are now being "held" secure by the Iraqi military themselves. Iraqi and coalition forces are jointly carrying out a mission to clear Ramadi, now the most dangerous city in Al-Anbar province at the west end of the Sunni Triangle.

Nationwide, American military leaders estimate that about one-third of the approximately 100,000 members of the Iraqi military are able to "lead the fight" themselves with logistical support from the U.S., and that that number should double by next year. If that happens, American military forces could begin a drawdown in numbers proportional to the increasing self-sufficiency of the Iraqi forces in 2006. If all goes well, I believe we can have a much smaller American military presence there by the end of 2006 or in 2007, but it is also likely that our presence will need to be significant in Iraq or nearby for years to come.

The economic reconstruction of Iraq has gone slower than it should have, and too much money has been wasted or stolen. Ambassador Khalilzad is now implementing reform that has worked in Afghanistan -- Provincial Reconstruction Teams, composed of American economic and political experts, working in partnership in each of Iraq's 18 provinces with its elected leadership, civil service and the private sector. That is the "build" part of the "clear, hold and build" strategy, and so is the work American and international teams are doing to professionalize national and provincial governmental agencies in Iraq.

These are new ideas that are working and changing the reality on the ground, which is undoubtedly why the Iraqi people are optimistic about their future -- and why the American people should be, too.

I cannot say enough about the U.S. Army and Marines who are carrying most of the fight for us in Iraq. They are courageous, smart, effective, innovative, very honorable and very proud. After a Thanksgiving meal with a great group of Marines at Camp Fallujah in western Iraq, I asked their commander whether the morale of his troops had been hurt by the growing public dissent in America over the war in Iraq. His answer was insightful, instructive and inspirational: "I would guess that if the opposition and division at home go on a lot longer and get a lot deeper it might have some effect, but, Senator, my Marines are motivated by their devotion to each other and the cause, not by political debates."

Thank you, General. That is a powerful, needed message for the rest of America and its political leadership at this critical moment in our nation's history. Semper Fi.

Mr. Lieberman is a Democratic senator from Connecticut.

The Pledge for Iraq

By Basma Fakri & Tamara Quinn

National Review Online
December 13, 2005

One of the most promising developments of Iraq’s election season — and proof that Iraqi democracy is rapidly developing — is a new campaign based not on electing any one party or establishing the political power of a tribe, region, or religious group, but instead focused on guaranteeing freedom and human rights for all Iraqis.

"The Pledge for Iraq" ( Ahad al-Iraq), as the campaign is called, is Iraq’s first nationwide issue-based campaign. It was organized by a group of Iraqi women activists seeking to ensure that human rights, rights for women, and political freedoms are protected when the next national assembly, which will be voted into office on December 15, 2005, convenes.

Although the campaign was organized by women, it is not focused only on women’s rights. Rather, these women, who are members of different political parties and are representative of Iraq’s diversity, want to guarantee rights that must be fundamental to all citizens if Iraq is to assume a lasting place among the world’s democracies.

In a democracy barely two years old, the Pledge for Iraq represents a remarkable example of grassroots political activism and initiative. Learning from other democracies in the world, the Pledge for Iraq is similar in concept to the Contract with America, the 1994 Republican campaign platform, but with a twist: It is nonpartisan and all political parties and candidates are invited to sign on. The key similarity, though, lies in asking party leaders and candidates running for the national assembly to sign their names to a pledge that commits them to working to pass specific laws in the next national assembly. These laws — five of them — were written to protect political freedoms, human rights, and equality under the law for all Iraqis.

Why focus on laws? The Iraqi constitution approved in the Oct. 15 national referendum is vague on several crucial issues related to freedom and human rights, requiring instead that the 275-member national assembly define these legislatively. While amending the constitution is possible, it is likely to be a long and complex process. The laws included in the Pledge for Iraq are both focused in scope to appeal to a large number of Iraqis and broad enough to fill the most gaping holes. They include:

A law to secure freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly.

A law to preserve the existence of civil courts for matters of personal status (such as marriage and divorce) as an alternative to religious courts.

A law to ensure the professionalism and integrity of Iraq’s Supreme Court by requiring that all judges have advanced degrees in law and experience as practicing judges.

A law to strengthen the High Commission for Human Rights by enabling it to refer cases to the Supreme Court for review.

A law to enable the High Commission for Human Rights to enforce the right of equal opportunity for all Iraqis.

The main concern of the organizers of the pledge was that waiting until the national assembly was elected could mean waiting too long. The Pledge for Iraq was launched on November 1, and in little more than a month, it has received tremendous popular support, as hundreds of NGOs, civil-society organizations, professional associations, university presidents, and individual Iraqis from across the country have showed up to events or gone on-line to endorse it. Together the campaign’s organizers and supporters have canvassed Iraq’s new politicians in search of signatures. They will be on the front lines of helping to elect parties and candidates who support the Pledge and then holding them accountable once in office.

Whatever the outcome of the elections, it appears likely that the Pledge’s platform will have significant backing in the national assembly. Already, more than 100 current members of the national assembly, candidates and political leaders have signed the Pledge, giving their commitment to work to pass these laws in the next national assembly.

The organizers of the Pledge have been out spreading the word and gathering signatures from Mosul to Basra. One question they often hear is: Why focus on human rights and freedom when Iraq has so many more pressing issues like security, jobs, and restoring basic services? The answer, one that has clearly resonated, is that yes, those issues are crucial and every party will have their own ideas on how to best address those issues; but freedom and human rights are the base upon which we will solve those problems. What the Pledge for Iraq implicitly recognizes, both in its action and its platform, is that democracy itself is the long-term cure for present and future challenges facing the new Iraq.

The Pledge for Iraq is far greater than the sum of its five laws. Its goal has universal implications: “By this Pledge, we — the sons and daughters of the first civilization — hope to prove to the world that we are worthy of the freedom inherent in human beings.” This pledge will provide a common platform for all parties involved to build a safe, democratic, just, and prosperous Iraq. Whatever the outcome of the elections, on this point they have already succeeded.

— Basma Fakri and Tamara Quinn are co-founders of the Women’s Alliance for a Democratic Iraq. Fakri currently serves as president.

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