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[casi] Surprise, surprise: "Bush's Priority In Iraq Is Not Democracy"

Bush's Priority In Iraq Is Not Democracy

By Ivo H. Daalder, James M. Lindsay

Financial Times, November 11, 2003

While President George W. Bush insists that "America will never run", a
fierce debate is raging just below the surface of his administration over
when and how America should exit from Iraq. The debate pits those who favour
a massive effort to turn Iraq into a beacon of democracy for the Middle East
against those who want to concentrate the US mission on defeating insurgents
so American troops can return home.

Few within the Bush administration doubted the wisdom of a war against Iraq.
Yet this consensus obscured a deep division over the war's purpose. We could
characterise this as a split between "democratic imperialists" and
"assertive nationalists".

Led by Paul Wolfowitz, deputy defence secretary, and neo-conservatives
outside the administration, the democratic imperialists believe America can
be secure only if the rest of the world is remade in America's image.
Accordingly, they favour deploying ever more US troops and spending ever
more money to create a stable, democratic Iraq. Their model is postwar
Germany, where a long-term military occupation and the Marshall Plan created
the conditions for a free, democratic and prosperous Europe with Germany at
its core.

Assertive nationalists such as Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, and
Dick Cheney, the vice-president, do not share this ambitious and costly
vision. They believe America's security demands, foremost, the defeat of its
enemies and the elimination of the threats they pose.

After the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks, Saddam Hussein's ties to
terrorists and his appetite for weapons of mass destruction made him an
un-acceptable risk. He had to go.

For assertive nationalists, the purpose of US engagement in Iraq is not to
create a democratic Eden but to defeat insurgents and terrorists. Their
model is Afghanistan, where a sovereign local government, backed by
international peacekeeping troops, handles internal security and US troops
focus solely on counter-terrorist operations.

Where does Mr Bush come down in this debate? He has occasionally used the
rhetoric of democratic imperialists, notably in last week's stirring speech
before the National Endowment for Democracy. But his longstanding disdain
for nation building, lacklustre interest in the reconstruction of
Afghanistan and initial failure to push his subordinates to generate a plan
for rebuilding Iraq all mark him as an assertive nationalist. His recent bid
to speed the training of Iraq's police and security forces to reduce
America's military presence is further evidence of this.

A continued decline in public support for Mr Bush's Iraq policies will
reinforce his preference for the Afghan rather than the German model. He is
likely to move quickly to restore Iraq's full sovereignty and transfer
political power to the interim Iraqi government. A smaller US military
contingent would then focus on counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism.

Such a shift in strategy could reduce the domestic political costs of the
deteriorating situation in Iraq. The more focused American mission would
enable US troops to retreat into well guarded compounds outside the cities,
emerging only to conduct quick raids against insurgent forces. The smaller
military footprint should appreciably lower the number of US casualties.

But would it serve the interests of stability within Iraq, the Middle East
and the world? The example of Afghanistan is sobering. Two years after the
Taliban regime was ousted, senior Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders remain at
large and security is precarious everywhere but in Kabul. While a
constitutional process is moving forward, the country is hardly the vibrant
democracy some hoped it would become.

A more focused counter-insurgency effort in Iraq may prove more successful,
if only because the US commitment to success is likely to be greater. It may
thus be possible to establish some degree of stability over the next six to
12 months. But turning a society devastated by war, brutal repression,
economic mismanagement and corruption and deep ethnic, tribal and religious
differences into a beacon of democracy will require a far larger
international effort than Mr Bush appears to have in mind.


Ivo Daalder, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and James Lindsay,
vice-president of the Council on Foreign Relations, are co-authors of
America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy.

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