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http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110004302 The Iraqi Imperative The Chalabi-Rumsfeld approach finally prevails. Friday, November 14, 2003 12:01 a.m. EST Amid insurgent bombs in Iraq, and campaign rhetoric at home, it's easy to get confused about the U.S. war effort. Opponents are insisting that it's all a failure, and even some fair-weather interventionists are moving themselves to a safe political distance. So it's time to repeat that the only way to win in Iraq is if Iraqis begin to take charge of their own self-government and security. No one outside the Council on Foreign Relations ever imagined the plan was for even a semi-permanent U.S. occupation. The idea was to liberate the country from Saddam, then establish a political process in which Iraqis could compete and govern themselves. If the Bush Administration has made a mistake in Iraq, it was in not beginning that process well before the war, with a government-in-exile and a large Iraqi security force. President Bush came down on the side of the State Department and CIA officials who opposed such an effort. Six months after the fall of Baghdad, we are still paying for that mistake. The U.S. military is now rapidly training border police and a new Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, and even recruiting former members of Saddam's army who aren't implicated in his criminal behavior. Meanwhile, U.S. regent L. Paul Bremer was called to Washington this week and ordered to speed up the transition to Iraqi self-rule. What we are finally moving toward, in short, is precisely what Ahmed Chalabi and his Pentagon allies urged all along: A provisional government defended by a large Iraqi security force in addition to U.S. troops. The State Department attempt to re-create the Philadelphia of 1787 in Baghdad, and to provide a perfectly level playing field between exiles and indigenous Iraqis, has proven to be a costly failure. It has given the Baathists time to regroup, and one result is that the Sunni parts of the country will now be even harder to reconcile to a new Iraq. As for a provisional government, we'd be happy if the U.S. simply selected somebody and got behind him--at this stage almost any plausible democrat, a la Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. An alternative would be to let the Governing Council elect one of its own. The important point is that Iraqis begin to exercise authority, take responsibility for doing so, and be recognized for it by the Iraqi people. The alternative offered by the American left of turning things over to the U.N. is simply a global version of the State Department's 1787 illusion. The Baathist remnants aren't killing GIs because they prefer a "multilateral" transition to democracy. They want to return to power to tyrannize other Iraqis. They are hardly making distinctions now between Americans or Italians, or for that matter Iraqis who are helping us. The silver bullet offered by some on the right, meanwhile, is more U.S. troops. Senator John McCain is the leader of this camp, and unlike the left he is rooting for American victory. But if more troops were the answer, we assume that the officers responsible for winning this war would ask for them. The line that they are too "cowed" by Donald Rumsfeld is an insult to Generals Richard Myers, Peter Pace, John Abizaid and Ricardo Sanchez, who are well aware of the military criticism of Vietnam-era generals who didn't speak their mind. More resources might help in some places, but more important is the kind of resources and how they are used. Throwing a field artillery unit into a counter-insurgency operation would merely create more targets. The current U.S. military is constrained in the number of light infantry and military police it can deploy at a given moment. Tours of duty have already been extended, and reserve and National Guard units called up. In short, there's a limit to what can be accomplished without harming morale and thereby future recruitment and retention. The military brass also recognize that even 100,000 more troops won't make a difference without better intelligence, especially to conduct counter-insurgency in the Sunni Triangle. General Abizaid is also understandably worried that more U.S. troops might signal to many Iraqis that the Americans never intend to leave. The McCain faction may have a point that you can't emphasize the "transforming" effects of precision weaponry at the expense of an adequate number of light infantry, or boots on the ground. But that problem won't be solved by blaming Mr. Rumsfeld. The Defense Secretary's critics would do better to support reforms like his proposed changes to Pentagon civil service rules, which could enable better allocation of scarce resources in the future. The immediate challenge in Iraq is to deploy forces with the language skills and local knowledge to root out the Baathists and foreign jihadis. Far from signaling a lack of American resolve, "Iraqification" is the key. This is also a lesson of Vietnam, where anti-insurgency efforts improved sharply once General Creighton Abrams dropped the mantra of "more troops" and adopted a strategy of Vietnamization. One underreported story in Iraq today is that while attacks on coalition troops and soft targets are increasing, general law enforcement and infrastructure protection have been greatly improved by the increasing number of Iraqi police and security forces. Involving them more heavily in counter-insurgency is the next logical step. Putting some Iraqi forces under the command of a provisional government is also well worth considering. The Kurds and the Iraqi National Congress have excellent intelligence operations that we should allow them to exploit. Notwithstanding the panic and criticism in some quarters, the U.S. can defeat the Iraq insurgency. But that will only happen if enough Iraqis begin to see that they have a stake in their own security and self-government. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk