November 29, 2005
Planning to Win
American, or even future Iraqi, military prowess won't be enough
to defeat Iraq's bloody insurgency. Victory in Iraq is going to
come as much — or more — from political/economic progress
in that battered nation as it will from military dominance.
that — rather than engaging in mostly useless, politically-motivated
caterwauling about a U.S. military "exit strategy" from
Iraq — Washington's political class should be concentrating
on developing a comprehensive political/economic/military strategy
to compel the insurgents to
As we all
know from our still-painful experience in Vietnam, battlefield
victories, while important, are often irrelevant in determining
war's outcome. Political and economic conditions "on the
ground" are also critical.
big political milestone in Iraq comes in just over two weeks —
the national elections on Dec. 15. These should establish Iraq's
first democratically-elected, four-year term government —
another key step in advancing a complete strategy for success
"permanent" government will have greater credibility
domestically and higher standing internationally, allowing it
to (potentially) make more progress on key political, economic
and security issues at home and abroad than any of its (post-Saddam)
daunting political challenge facing the new government will be
to find a way to strip the Sunnis out of the insurgency. Benching
the Baathists would reduce insurgency numbers by three-quarters
— and bring a significant increase in stability and security.
dealing with al Qaeda's Abu Musab al Zarqawi and his band of undeterable,
indiscriminate killers demands a law-enforce- ment/military solution.)
The new Iraqi
government may also be able to negotiate a modus vivendi
with its meddlesome Iranian and Syrian neighbors, quelling their
support for the insurgency. While the Americans will eventually
leave Iraq, the fact that Iraq borders both these countries isn't
going to change.
these three neighbors have been rivals, even enemies — so
both Iran and Syria hope to prevent Iraq from resuming a regional
power role. But in the long run, it's in Tehran's and Damascus'
interest to get along with Baghdad's new power brokers unless
they want to ensure Iraq is an enemy once more.
economics (i.e., reconstruction), either. The Iraqi jobless rate
may exceed 40 percent — a recipe for disaster: This morning's
frustrated, unemployed Iraqi could easily become tonight's
enthusiastic, fully-employed insurgent.
poverty and promote Iraqi prosperity, American and other international
reconstruction/development aid should go to employ Iraqis as much
as possible, instead of foreign contractors. We also need to pressure
"deadbeat" donors — who've delivered only $3 billion
of a promised $13 billion — to make good.
are struggling, too. Ongoing anecdotes of electricity and water
shortages and a floundering oil industry are far too common. Domestic
ministries need increased U.S. and international assistance to
reconstruct Iraq efficiently and effectively.
for clear-cut exit strategies on Capitol Hill didn't begin with
Iraq; recent U.S. military operations in Somalia, Haiti, and the
Balkans had their critics, too. Regrettably, while we're free
to choose our interventions, we're not free to dictate the time
and treasure triumph will require.
Iraqi strategy requires the development of a desired end-state
(e.g., a stable, democratic Iraqi government that can provide
for its own internal/external defense) and the appropriate application
of political, economic and military resources to achieve the desired
outcome. This means that we'll achieve total victory in Iraq if,
and only if, we're able to advance the situation in Iraq politically
and economically — not just militarily.
people's support and appreciation of the difficulties of winning
is also critical to the effort. Even if the White House/Pentagon
developed a broadly palatable exit strategy, like any other military
plan, it's unlikely to survive contact with the enemy. Warfare
is dangerous and highly unpredictable; victory in war is part
science, part art — and part blind luck.
What is certain
is that the stakes in Iraq are enormous. Failure could mean the
development of an al Qaeda safe haven; southern Iraq being absorbed
into an Iranian Shia "super state"; or an ethnic/religious-based
civil war that could spill over into Turkey, Iran and even Jordan.
naysayers, victory — and an honorable withdrawal of U.S.
forces — are still well within our reach in Iraq. Let's
not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Brookes is a Heritage
Foundation senior fellow. This article originally appeared
in The New York Post.
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