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  • 3 viewpoints on Iraq from Wash. Post

    First Step? Admit There's a Problem

    By E. J. Dionne Jr.
    Friday, August 26, 2005; A21



    SYDNEY -- History repeats itself in strange ways. Consider two statements.

    "A slogan like 'stay the course' is unacceptable."

    And: "Stay the course is not a policy."

    The first quotation goes back to October 1982, when a Republican candidate for governor of New York named Lewis Lehrman complained about his party's national slogan during that year's midterm elections. Stay the course, insisted Lehrman, who eventually lost narrowly to Democrat Mario Cuomo, was a lousy theme in the face of a 10 percent national unemployment rate.

    The second quotation is of more recent, though still Republican, coinage. Last Sunday, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska laid into the Bush administration's policy in Iraq. Hagel insisted that remaining in Iraq over an extended period -- staying the course -- "would bog us down, it would further destabilize the Middle East, it would give Iran more influence."

    President Bush continues to insist, at least in public, on doing what he's doing. "We will stay, we will fight and we will win the war on terror," Bush said in Idaho on Wednesday. But staying and fighting in Iraq looks increasingly antithetical to winning the war on terrorism. What is a superpower whose power has been dissipated by a deeply flawed policy to do?

    There was an electrifying moment here last week when a longtime friend of the United States spoke up during a meeting of the Australian American Leadership Dialogue, a group I've been part of for several years. Kim Beazley, the leader of the Australian Labor Party and a former defense minister, proposed an alternative that would admit the errors of the past by way of salvaging America's influence for the

    future.

    Beazley, who elaborated on his off-the record address in an interview, argued that the war in Iraq, like the Vietnam War 35 years ago, was "sucking the oxygen out of American foreign policy." The United States, he said, needed to engage in "a phased extraction" from Iraq while bolstering the war on terrorism elsewhere. He used the unlikely role model of Richard Nixon, who gradually withdrew American forces from Vietnam while engaging China and forcing the Soviet Union into arms negotiations.

    Beazley's metaphor was an arresting way of showing how mistakes in Iraq need not permanently dent the United States' influence -- provided America recognizes its mistakes.

    Beazley proposed the redeployment of American forces to Iraq's borders with Syria and Iran on the road to departure. At the same time, Washington needs to "refocus attention on Afghanistan," particularly the border areas with Pakistan, where he sees the real war on terrorism being waged. And the United States must turn its attention to the Iraq war's perverse effect, which has been to "advance Iranian

    power."

    "It's repositioning," says Beazley. "It's keeping a sense of proportion in America's engagements. You're not going to let the United States get bogged down in a disproportionate engagement of its forces in Iraq. In both the context of the global war on terror, and its other global commitments, the U.S. has more fish to fry than Iraq. And no matter what it says, it can only have a limited effect on Iraqi political outcomes. Ultimately, Iraqis will have to do the deals."

    While I will admit to a personal bias in Beazley's favor -- he has been a friend for more than three decades -- the fact is that his comments seized the attention of all the Americans in the room. Here was someone willing to lay out an alternative strategy aimed at freeing the United States from an all-consuming mess in a way that could leave its influence intact. "You have to win, you know," said Beazley. "You cannot lose the war on terror."

    To pursue anything like the Beazley strategy, Bush would have to admit that his policy hasn't worked -- to himself, if not to the public. Could Bush's willingness to embrace the flawed Iraqi draft constitution be a signal that the president is radically scaling down his expectations (and ours) in preparation for the "repositioning" that Beazley describes?

    It's hard for any president, especially this one, to acknowledge mistakes. But recall that reference to those long-ago midterm elections. Republicans know in their guts what Hagel is willing to say publicly: Iraq is a mess, and staying the current course means a disaster abroad that could turn into political disaster at home. Don't be surprised if more Republicans start echoing a politician from Down Under.

    [email protected]com

    © 2005 The Washington Post Company

    Before It's Too Late in Iraq

    By Wesley K. Clark
    Friday, August 26, 2005; A21



    In the old, familiar fashion, mounting U.S. casualties in Iraq have mobilized increasing public doubts about the war. More than half the American people now believe that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. They're right. But it would also be a mistake to pull out now, or to start pulling out or to set a date certain for pulling out. Instead we need a strategy to create a stable, democratizing and peaceful state in Iraq -- a strategy the administration has failed to develop and

    articulate.

    From the outset of the U.S. post-invasion efforts, we needed a three-pronged strategy: diplomatic, political and military. Iraq sits geographically on the fault line between Shiite and Sunni Islam; for the mission to succeed we will have to be the catalyst for regional cooperation, not regional conflict.

    Unfortunately, the administration didn't see the need for a diplomatic track, and its scattershot diplomacy in the region -- threats, grandiose pronouncements and truncated communications -- has been ill-advised and counterproductive. The U.S. diplomatic failure has magnified the difficulties facing the political and military elements of strategy by contributing to the increasing infiltration of jihadists and the surprising resiliency of the insurgency.

    On the political track, aiming for a legitimate, democratic Iraqi government was essential, but the United States was far too slow in mobilizing Iraqi political action. A wasted first year encouraged a rise in sectarian militias and the emergence of strong fractionating forces. Months went by without a U.S. ambassador in Iraq, and today political development among the Iraqis is hampered by the lack not only of security but also of a stable infrastructure program that can reliably deliver gas, electricity and jobs.

    Meanwhile, on the military track, security on the ground remains poor at best. U.S. armed forces still haven't received resources, restructuring and guidance adequate for the magnitude of the task. Only in June, over two years into the mission of training Iraqi forces, did the president announce such "new steps" as partnering with Iraqi units, establishing "transition teams" to work with Iraqi units and training Iraqi ministries to conduct antiterrorist operations. But there is nothing new about any of this; it is the same nation-building doctrine that we used in Vietnam. Where are the thousands of trained linguists? Where are the flexible, well-

    resourced, military-led infrastructure development programs to win "hearts and minds?" Where are the smart operations and adequate numbers of forces -- U.S., coalition or Iraqi -- to strengthen control over the borders?

    With each passing month the difficulties are compounded and the chances for a successful outcome are reduced. Urgent modification of the strategy is required before it is too late to do anything other than simply withdraw our forces.

    Adding a diplomatic track to the strategy is a must. The United States should form a standing conference of Iraq's neighbors, complete with committees dealing with all the regional economic and political issues, including trade, travel, cross-border infrastructure projects and, of course, cutting off the infiltration of jihadists. The United States should tone down its raw rhetoric and instead listen more carefully to the many voices within the region. In addition, a public U.S. declaration forswearing permanent bases in Iraq would be a helpful step in engaging both regional and Iraqi support as we implement our plans.

    On the political side, the timeline for the agreements on the Constitution is less important than the substance of the document. It is up to American leadership to help engineer, implement and sustain a compromise that will avoid the "red lines" of the respective factions and leave in place a state that both we and Iraq's neighbors can support. So no Kurdish vote on independence, a restricted role for Islam and limited autonomy in the south. And no private militias.

    In addition, the United States needs a legal mandate from the government to provide additional civil assistance and advice, along with additional U.S. civilian personnel, to help strengthen the institutions of government. Key ministries must be reinforced, provincial governments made functional, a system of justice established (and its personnel trained) and the rule of law promoted at the local level. There will be a continuing need for assistance in institutional development, leadership training and international monitoring for years to come, and all of this must be made palatable to Iraqis concerned with their nation's sovereignty. Monies promised for reconstruction simply must be committed and projects moved forward, especially in those areas along the border and where the insurgency has the greatest potential.

    On the military side, the vast effort underway to train an army must be matched by efforts to train police and local justices. Canada, France and Germany should be engaged to assist. Neighboring states should also provide observers and technical assistance. In military terms, striking at insurgents and terrorists is necessary but insufficient. Military and security operations must return primarily to the tried-and-true methods of counterinsurgency: winning the hearts and minds of the populace through civic action, small-scale economic development and positive daily interactions. Ten thousand Arab Americans with full language proficiency should be recruited to assist as interpreters. A better effort must be made to control jihadist infiltration into the country by a combination of outposts, patrols and reaction forces reinforced by high technology. Over time U.S. forces should be pulled back into reserve roles and phased out.

    The growing chorus of voices demanding a pullout should seriously alarm the Bush administration, because President Bush and his team are repeating the failure of Vietnam: failing to craft a realistic and effective policy and instead simply demanding that the American people show resolve. Resolve isn't enough to mend a flawed approach -- or to save the lives of our troops. If the administration won't adopt a winning strategy, then the American people will be justified in demanding that it bring our troops home.

    The writer, a retired Army general, was supreme allied commander in Europe during the war in Kosovo. He was a candidate for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, and will answer questions today at 2 p.m. onhttp://www.washingtonpost.com.


    © 2005 The Washington Post Company


    washingtonpost.com
    Playing The Shiite Card

    By David Ignatius
    Friday, August 26, 2005; A21



    America is finally having its great debate over the Iraq war. In that debate, it's worth listening to a young Iraqi Shiite cleric named Ammar Hakim. He speaks for the people who arguably have gained the most from America's troubled mission in Iraq and, to a surprising extent, still believe in it.

    Hakim, 34, is the oldest son of Abdul Aziz Hakim, the leader of the Iranian-backed Shiite party known as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is probably the most potent political force in the country today. He now lives in Najaf, the Shiite equivalent of the Vatican, where he helps direct the party's social and charitable network. But he and his family lived 23 years in exile in Iran. To put it bluntly, Hakim represents what might be called the "Shiite card" in the Iraqi poker game.

    I met Hakim a week ago during his first visit to the United States. He made quite a sight when he arrived for breakfast, dressed in his black turban and flowing clerical robes. Some of the other guests in the dining room of the Watergate Hotel seemed to back away a bit, as if they feared the visiting mullah might explode. I'm told he drew some stares when he toured the Pentagon dressed in the same garb.

    Hakim is a remarkably articulate man, with the spark of curiosity in his eyes and a presence that we in the United States would call "star quality." Whoever had the good sense to invite him here -- where he met with officials at the State Department, Pentagon and National Security Council -- should get a pay raise.

    Hakim had a clear message during his visit, and it's one worth mulling carefully as Americans ponder the new Iraqi constitution and the bitter Shiite-Sunni tensions that have surrounded its drafting. If I could sum up his theme in one sentence, it is that the United States should continue to bet on democracy in Iraq -- which of necessity means relying on Iraq's Shiite majority and the mullahs who speak for it. In essence, he was calling for a strategic alliance between Najaf and Washington.

    I told Hakim through an interpreter that many Americans were close to despair about Iraq. We see continuing violence and few signs that Iraq's security forces will be strong enough to maintain order once American troops leave. Here's how Hakim responded: "The truth is, this is a grand plan, and any time you are engaged in a grand plan, you will face difficulties. But we will overcome them. We are now in the final quarter of these difficulties." I'm not sure I agree with him that the troubles are nearly over, but I must say that I was moved by his answer.

    Hakim told me he had visited the Lincoln Memorial, and I asked what he had thought as he looked up at the face of the man who kept America together during its own brutally violent civil war. He said the American experience was a lesson for Iraqis "in pooling people of various ethnic backgrounds into one law and order." He added that he hoped future generations of Iraqis would look at their current leaders with the same gratitude that Americans feel when they regard Lincoln.

    The young cleric says all the things this administration could want to hear. "President Bush is playing a great role in giving Iraqis a chance to build a democratic process," he insists. The new constitution will create "a stable and balanced Iraq where all sects will be treated justly and equally." Iraqi federalism will allow regional self-government, as in the United States, but "the Shiites are a majority; they have no interest in disintegration."

    Well, of course a leading Shiite cleric would say those things, a skeptic might respond. The Shiites have an interest in keeping American troops around as long as possible to fight their battles against the Sunni insurgency. And the fact that the new Iraqi constitution suits the interests of the Shiite mullahs in Najaf doesn't necessarily mean it serves American interests -- or even those of ordinary Iraqis.

    But Americans should ponder the argument that Hakim made to U.S. officials. The way to contain Sunni terrorism and stabilize the Arab world is to develop a strategic relationship with Najaf. Powerful Shiite communities exist in all the region's hot spots: Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria and above all Iran. An American rapprochement with Iran is essential, he would argue, but the real fulcrum should be Najaf.

    Without a measure of Sunni support for this strategy, it's a recipe for permanent religious warfare in the Middle East. But I suspect that even Sunni stalwarts in Saudi Arabia and Jordan might find Hakim's argument for a Shiite-led restabilization intriguing. In a world of bad choices, this one may be the least bad.

    [email protected]

    © 2005 The Washington Post Company
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  • #2
    Thanks for posting.

    Some interesting stuff.
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    • #3
      One of the reasons that I (and I'm not speaking for a lot of folks who used to respond to the political threads on here and the previous emanation of this forum…only myself) don't respond to these sorts of posts specifically and passionately like we used to with our own opinions on the subject is that they're invariably raised, fairly recently, under the guise of a politically biased premise.

      So, to make it clear, this is not a response to the issue but a response to the bias of the provocateur who is not the author of the subject he/she copies and pastes without any authorship of the thoughts and opinions contained in it.

      This whole recent phenomenon on here of this type of ‘reporting’ weakens the old 'give and take' that we used to have when debating on here and the old one.

      It's especially lame when these types of plagiaristic quotes are simply pasted without any personal comments/opinions and therefore, lazily just 'lighting a fire' and leaving so to speak.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by DaLode@Aug 26 2005, 04:00 PM
        One of the reasons that I (and I'm not speaking for a lot of folks who used to respond to the political threads on here and the previous emanation of this forum…only myself) don't respond to these sorts of posts specifically and passionately like we used to with our own opinions on the subject is that they're invariably raised, fairly recently, under the guise of a politically biased premise.

        So, to make it clear, this is not a response to the issue but a response to the bias of the provocateur who is not the author of the subject he/she copies and pastes without any authorship of the thoughts and opinions contained in it.

        This whole recent phenomenon on here of this type of ‘reporting’ weakens the old 'give and take' that we used to have when debating on here and the old one.

        It's especially lame when these types of plagiaristic quotes are simply pasted without any personal comments/opinions and therefore, lazily just 'lighting a fire' and leaving so to speak.
        What on earth are you talking about?
        "At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed."
        – Frederick Douglass, doing an amazing job since 1852

        Comment


        • #5
          I told Hakim through an interpreter that many Americans were close to despair about Iraq. We see continuing violence and few signs that Iraq's security forces will be strong enough to maintain order once American troops leave. Here's how Hakim responded: "The truth is, this is a grand plan, and any time you are engaged in a grand plan, you will face difficulties. But we will overcome them. We are now in the final quarter of these difficulties." I'm not sure I agree with him that the troubles are nearly over, but I must say that I was moved by his answer.
          Bingo.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Reggie Cleveland@Aug 27 2005, 12:32 PM
            I told Hakim through an interpreter that many Americans were close to despair about Iraq. We see continuing violence and few signs that Iraq's security forces will be strong enough to maintain order once American troops leave. Here's how Hakim responded: "The truth is, this is a grand plan, and any time you are engaged in a grand plan, you will face difficulties. But we will overcome them. We are now in the final quarter of these difficulties." I'm not sure I agree with him that the troubles are nearly over, but I must say that I was moved by his answer.
            Bingo.

            [Ignatius]"Stay the course."[/Ignatius]


            [WaPo]"Boy, we sure did fuck up when we backed Dubya to the hilt on this war, didn't we?"[/WaPo]

            OK, I just imagined that last one, but it would be nice.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by Reggie Cleveland@Aug 27 2005, 01:32 PM
              I told Hakim through an interpreter that many Americans were close to despair about Iraq. We see continuing violence and few signs that Iraq's security forces will be strong enough to maintain order once American troops leave. Here's how Hakim responded: "The truth is, this is a grand plan, and any time you are engaged in a grand plan, you will face difficulties. But we will overcome them. We are now in the final quarter of these difficulties." I'm not sure I agree with him that the troubles are nearly over, but I must say that I was moved by his answer.
              Bingo.
              Yes, because calling it a 'grand plan' changes that fact that we were sold the invasion on lies and that we're now presiding over an Islamic civil war that is breeding a whole new crop of terrorists. Bingo, indeed.

              Beyond that, it's comforting to know that a previously disenfranchised religious leader approves of our foreign policy... maybe we can give him a job in the State Dept.
              "At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed."
              – Frederick Douglass, doing an amazing job since 1852

              Comment


              • #8
                Yes, because calling it a 'grand plan' changes that fact that we were sold the invasion on lies and that we're now presiding over an Islamic civil war that is breeding a whole new crop of terrorists. Bingo, indeed.
                Well, I guess that's one way of looking at it. Not that guy's way, though, which is fortunate.

                Beyond that, it's comforting to know that a previously disenfranchised religious leader approves of our foreign policy... maybe we can give him a job in the State Dept.
                The point wasn't that he approves of our foreign policy -- it was that he gets what so many here don't: Our expectations of how things should go over there are usually ridiculous (and a lot of that is W's fault). Between Vietnam and the first Gulf War, Americans have come to believe that war should go as quickly and neatly as a PlayStation game, and if it doesn't, just hit reset. No muss, no fuss.

                At BEST this was going to be a big clusterfuck. There are few real surprises here. That guy gets it, and that's all I was saying.

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