THE FOREIGN SERVICE VIEW OF IRAQ
has been turning his blog over to authors with different viewpoints, the latest being William R. Polk, formerly of the State Department Policy Planning Council. Polk's American Options in Iraq gives us three scenarios
- Stay the Course by Muddling Through, Vietnamization and what I would call Strategic Withdrawal and Internationalization.
While I disagree with Dr. Polk's premise of the Iraq War being unjustified ( I'd say unsuccessful) and some of his analogies ( the U.S. is not Imperial Russia, Iraqis are not Chechens - or Irish Catholics) I agree with him that the first two options are not working. The first is failing for lack of a strategy to win within Iraq and troops to carry it out. The second will fail if we continue to build around a leader who has neither a substantial and loyal military force or democratic legitimacy. Allawi seems competent and ruthless but he can't win as a puppet who relies on American guns - he needs his own loyalists and popular support.
Therefore I thought I might address Option Three as outlined by Dr. Polk:
"The third option is to choose to get out rather than being forced. Time is a wasting asset; the longer the choice is put off, the harder it will be to make. The steps required to implement this policy need not be dramatic, but the process needs to be affirmed and made unambiguous. The initial steps could be merely verbal. America would have first to declare unequivocally that it will give up its lock on the Iraqi economy, will cease to spend Iraqi revenues as it chooses and will allow Iraqi oil production to be governed by market forces rather than by an American monopoly. If President Bush could be as courageous as General Charles de Gaulle was in Algeria when he admitted that the Algerian insurgency had “won” and called for a “peace of the braves,” fighting would quickly die down in Iraq as it did in Algeria and in all other guerrilla wars. Then, and only then, could elections be meaningful. In this period, Iraq would need a police force but not an army. A UN multinational peacekeeping force would be easier, cheaper and safer than creating an Iraqi army which in the past destroyed moves toward civil society and probably would do so again, probably indeed paving the way for the “ghost” of Saddam Husain. A variety of "service" functions would then have to be organized. Given a chance, Iraq could do them mostly by itself. It would soon again become a rich country and has a talented, well-educated population. Step by step, health care, clean water, sewage, roads, bridges, pipelines, electric grids, housing, etc. could be mainly provided by the Iraqis themselves, as they were in the past. When I visited Baghdad in February 2003 on the eve of the invasion, the Iraqis with whom I talked were proud that they had rebuilt the Tigris bridge that had been destroyed in the 1991 war. They can surely do so again.
In its own best interest, the Iraq government would empower the Iraq National Iraq Oil Company (NIOC) to award concessions by bid to a variety of international companies, each of which and NIOC would sell oil on the world market. Contracts for reconstruction paid for by Iraqi money would be awarded under bidding, as they traditionally were, but to prevent excessive corruption perhaps initially supervised by the World Bank. Where other countries supplied aid, they could be given preferential treatment in the award of contracts as is common practice elsewhere. The World Bank would follow its regular procedures on its loans. Abrogating current American policies that work against the recovery of Iraqi industry and commerce would spur development since any reasonably intelligent and self-interested government would emphasize getting Iraqi enterprises back into operation and employing Iraqi workers. That process could be speeded up through international loans, commercial agreements and protective measures so that unemployment, now at socially catastrophic levels, would be diminished. Neighborhood participation in running social affairs and providing security are old traditions in Iraqi society and allowing or favoring their reinvigoration would promote the excellent side effect of grass roots political representation. As fighting dies down, reasonable security is achieved and popular institutions revive, the one million Iraqis now living abroad will be encouraged to return home. In the aggregate they are intelligent, highly trained, and well motivated and can make major contributions in all phases of Iraqi life.
In such a program, inevitably, there will be set-backs and shortfalls, but they can be partly filled by international organizations. The steps will not be easy; Iraqis will disagree over timing, personnel and rewards while giving the process a chance will require American political courage. But, and this is the crucial matter, any other course of action would be far worse for both America and Iraq. The safety and health of American society as well as Iraqi society requires that this policy be implemented intelligently, determinedly and soon."
Dr. Polk has posted some good, hardheaded observations, some unproven assumptions and a dose of breezy confidence in international organizations that flies in the face of known facts.
His observations about the Iraqis are accurate. The qualities that make them good candidates for Option III also made them good candidates for democratization and liberalization under the Neocon scenario of liberation. The latter worked out poorly so far due to a politically inept CPA that stalled democratization and generally incompetent planning, security, organizational lines of authority and expenditure of resources. Option III requires competence and efficiency in all these same areas but it is " doable " if we start anew.
The assumptions about international organizations and the fighting dying down are at best unproven. The UN which took bribes from Saddam, enacted sanctions and had their Baghdad HQ blown up would seem unlikely to have much legitimacy in the eyes of the average Iraqi, much less in the eyes of the insurgents. The problem lies with the heterogeneous nature of the insurgency.
Iraq is not Vietnam - we are not fighting the NLF but a decentralized enemy. The non-Baathist Sunni nationalist and Sadrist Islamist fighters may
down their arms quietly in the advent of International control or they might not. Being innately corrupt, the Baathists will probably go whichever way holds out promise for personal security, status and enrichment - if they believe they will lose their priviliged status they will keep fighting. The radical Sunni Islamist hard-core are not going to stop at all, period. Rearranging the faces and chairs by undemocratic fiat will not matter. Americans and the UN are crusader infidels, most Sunni Arabs are apostates and the Shiites are the enemy from their perspective.
For Option III to work, Iraqi political, ethnic and religious groups need to move from not just a position of active opposition but to active support against the remaining hardcore resistance. That means a prearranged power-sharing consensus that is then legitimized by a democratic mandate that will sustain the brutal counterinsurgency tactics required to stamp out lunatic bitter-enders. This is an unpleasant task that cannot be ignored or wished away. If this is not done then characters like Zaqawri will inherit the mantle of " authentic " Iraqi resistance to a puppet government and soak up grass-roots support from the groups that have exited the field. Neutrality from these groups is not enough and neither the World Bank nor lightly armed UN Blue helmets formed into police battalions can do the job.
The question is primarily a political one of lining up support within Iraq, something the Bush administration has failed to do thus far. Internationalization simply delays that task further and while NGO's and International organizations can help, they should be viewed as a support or supplement to forging an intra-Iraqi governing coalition that can handle an insurgency reduced in size and ferocity.