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[casi] How do we get out of Iraq? Kennedy, Owen, Alrawi, Rubin

29.11.2003 [13:43]

Winning the war was the easy bit. But since the fall of Baghdad the
news from Iraq has gone from bad to worse: daily attacks on US
troops, mounting public hostility to the occupation, no credible
government in sight. So how can Britain and America escape the
quagmire? And how can we prevent Iraq descending into violent chaos
as soon as the troops pull out? We asked eight experts with very
different viewpoints for an 'exit strategy'

The historian - Paul Kennedy

It is difficult for conservatives here in the US not to concede that
things have failed to go according to plan in Iraq, but only a few
admit that things are a mess. Meanwhile, among the critics of the
Bush administration's "forward school" - ranging from retired army
generals through Middle East experts to anti-war radicals - there
seems little satisfaction at having been proved correct in their
forecasts that it would be harder to get out of Iraq than to kick
one's way in. The situation in Iraq and, perhaps increasingly in
Afghanistan, is too serious for schadenfreude. So, as George Bush and
Tony Blair conferred last week, it was hardly surprising that the
planned ceremonies were overshadowed not just by the mobs of
protesters but also by the urgency of the private discussions about
what to do next. The Bush-Blair confab about strategy brought to mind
that old tale about the two English gentlemen who had set forth
vigorously one morning across the Irish countryside. By mid-afternoon
they realised that their maps were faulty and they were well and
truly lost. Spotting a peasant at work in his field, they called out:
"I say, old chap, how do we get back to Dublin?" The peasant
scratched his head thoughtfully and then replied, "Well, if I were
you, sirs, I wouldn't start from here." No doubt the man had good
grounds for offering that opinion, but the problem for the two
walkers was precisely that they had to start from where they were at
the time. And so do the Bush and Blair governments with regard to

As they consider the various options of getting from here to there,
they are naturally bombarded with all sorts of ideas from the
pundits, with calls from congressmen and MPs for solutions, with
urgings from allies, and, above all, with reports from the field,
usually conflicting in nature. Amid all the slogans and vogue-words
tossed around in this cacophony, one is beginning to drown out the
rest: the term is "exit strategy" (as in, how to find one).

The sudden return of Paul Bremer, the US-led coalition's chief
administrator of Iraq, to Washington, and the announcement of some
form of handover to some form of Iraqi authority by June, has
intensified the impression that the Bush team, especially, are
looking for a way out. It's going to be difficult, politically, to
get through the Christmas season (yellow ribbons on trees, families
encountering their first Christmas without their father or son,
images of soldiers still on patrol in Baghdad on Christmas night);
but it may be even more difficult if the US electoral campaign
unfolds with the two governments still, metaphorically, a long way
from Dublin.

One wishes that the term "exit strategy" was not bandied about at
all. Although the conservatives deny the comparison, it has deep
echoes of Vietnam. Exit strategies from a conflict, such as
Napoleon's retreat from Moscow or the British army heading towards
Dunkirk, are often desperate, hand-to-mouth affairs, and full of
Clausewitzian frictions. They smell of defeat, and defeatism. Most
importantly, the open discussion by one side of various ways of
making an exit gives a tremendous morale and propaganda boost to the
opposition - all they have to do now is to hang on until the terminus
date itself, and sharpen their knives. This is particularly true in
the present situation, because there is an image abroad, fuelled by
memories of Vietnam, Mogadishu and the first Iraq war, that Americans
can't stand long and costly wars overseas.

Still, some policies are needed to get us out of the Baghdad
quagmire. Perhaps the most important notion, of the dozens floating
around, is that the steps to recovery cannot follow a rigid Step I,
Step II, Step III "road map". Actions have to be taken at various
levels simultaneously, in a mutually reinforcing manner, while being
realistic enough to understand that progress could be harder at one
level and move surprisingly swiftly at another. Several components
suggest themselves.

First, the recovery of legitimacy, especially through some form of
constitutional recognition by the UN security council of what is to
happen. I stress "some form" because the world body can be amazingly
flexible when it wants. The Iraq Recovery Programme could be under a
temporary UN mandate, but the security system itself need not be a
formal UN peacekeeping operation run from New York; it might instead
be in the hands of a broad US and British-led coalition of member
states plus, of course, Iraq's own security forces. Despite sniffs
from American neo-conservatives, the placing of the UN's mantle over
Iraq has advantages that the State Department and Foreign Office must
long for. Internationally, it makes it so much easier for countries
such as India, Turkey, Japan, Korea - even Pakistan and Russia - to
offer police forces and possibly troops; it takes a lot of pressure
off pro-western regimes in the Arab world; and it gives assurances to
bodies such as the World Bank and the Red Cross, who have not only
worried about the security of their own personnel but also about the
propriety of their being in an American-led game at all.
Domestically, the UN's imprimatur will boost those Iraqis striving to
create a normal society. No doubt, though, in the short term it will
increase the attempts of Saddam's gangsters to hurt international
forces and their collaborators.

This brings us to the second parallel strand: the improvement of
personal security, not just for the allied forces but also, and
especially, for the Iraqi people.

It is difficult to think how this can be done, at least in the short
term, without increasing, rather than decreasing, the number of
troops on the ground. Forget, for the moment, the exit strategy.
Forget the helicopters. Concentrate on house-to-house and street-to-
street visitations, as the British army seems to be doing in Basra.
Individual units will be attacked, certainly; but a sense of security
has never come though airborne raids alone. Over time, the military
patrols may become police patrols; over time, they should be carried
out increasingly by the Iraqi forces themselves, though with far
better training than the one-week wonders that are being recruited
right now.

The third strand is rebuilding the infrastructure. This is not going
to happen because of Congress's recent allocation of $87bn (51bn),
since most of that money goes to pay for American military efforts.
It will happen, however, if the international community sees that the
Iraqi people have been brought under the aegis of the UN, and that
the personnel of the various agencies, NGOs and Iraqi authorities
themselves are protected. Around Iraq, in Kuwait, Jordan and
elsewhere, these bodies are waiting to go to work. This is why the
two requirements listed above need to be in place, because if
legitimacy and security are provided without economic, social,
educational and infrastructural improvements, they will lose their
impact in a short time. Man cannot live on constitutions alone.

And this, the fourth component, is the one the Bush administration
has touted above all - that is, a constitution for Iraq - but it
cannot survive without the other elements. The idea is fine in
principle, although there are many scholars more expert than I in
this field who feel that Washington's "top-down" approach has much
less chance of success than a "bottom-up" strategy. Might it not be
better to encourage Iraqi self-government at the local and regional
level (with Kurdish, Sunni and Shia districts) before writing a
national constitution? As it is now, the present set of council
members smells too much, rightly or wrongly, of an American puppet
show and a rehash of the Founding Fathers' deliberations

There are, I believe, ways to get from here to there. But, above
everything else, they involve the end of the hubris and machismo that
have prevailed in Washington over the past two years, and the
recognition that the road to Dublin goes via the UN and the
international community. Above all, it requires less Rumsfeldian
"shock and awe" tactics, and much more working with the Iraqi people
themselves. Is that totally impossible?  2003, Tribune Media
Services International

 Paul Kennedy is Dilworth Professor of History at Yale University.

The negotiator - David Owen

All this talk in the press of an "exit strategy" over Iraq is
misjudged. What is needed is a "staying strategy" to help the vast
majority of Iraqis rebuild their country. We are told by the Bush
administration that the US military is not planning to cut and run
and is confident the new self-governing Iraqi administration will
condone a continued though reduced US military presence. Indeed, it
is hard to see how that government could survive the Ba'athist
insurgency without US and UK military support.

George Bush looks a more resolute Republican president than his
father after freeing Kuwait, or Ronald Reagan removing US marines
from Lebanon, and I hope he will not weaken just because of next
November's presidential election. For me, the words "exit strategy"
bring back sad memories of when the Clinton administration used the
term in exiting from Somalia, not going into Rwanda and for delaying
putting troops on the ground in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

After the Dayton Accords, President Clinton, to his credit, put US
troops into Bosnia, and then fortunately reversed his policy of
planning for an early exit and became a strong advocate of Nato
staying. US Democrats argued for the Bush Republicans to abandon
their electoral rhetoric against nation building and US troops are
still in Bosnia today, seven years later. Richard Holbrooke, the
architect of the successful Dayton Accords, with Bernard Kouchner,
the first UN administrator of Kosovo, are wisely against the EU
replacing the UN and Nato as a peacekeeping presence on the ground in
Bosnia, believing that the US must stay involved. They are also
advocating an early political settlement involving independence for
Kosovo. It is not an incompatible strategy to argue for continued
military support while speeding up self-government and independence.
Administration by occupying powers is not sustainable for long.

It would help in Iraq if, as in Afghanistan, a UN special
representative could now play a key role in preparing for self-
government, in the same way that Lakhdar Brahimi did in Kabul. How
the Iraqi people miss the skills and sensitivity of the late UN
representative Sergio Vieira de Mello, tragically blown up by Saddam
Hussein's insurgents. The UN could be a real help to Paul Bremer, the
US administrator for Iraq, in forming the provisional government by
July 1 next year. Despite the withdrawal of UN personnel, I hope Kofi
Annan will consider the appointment of another representative soon. I
hope, too, that Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the British representative,
will be treated by Bremer as a key figure in establishing the
provisional government. This is the area on which Tony Blair should
insist with George Bush for co-ownership of the proposals for a
provisional government which must be more representative and include
tribal leaders.

It is not now possible to draft and ratify a permanent new Iraqi
constitution before we need to assemble the provisional government.
We should still aim, however, to establish by July a Heads of
Agreement on a Constitution, and this must include a commitment to a
highly decentralised form of government, almost certainly a federal
one. Unlike in the 1920s, the world cannot this time escape its
commitment to Kurdish people; realpolitik dictates at the very least
the amount of autonomy for the Kurds that they have experienced for
the past 10 years under the air-power protection of the no-fly zone
imposed by the US and the UK with, initially, the French.

What is happening in Iraq is not the same as in Vietnam in any
particular way, except perhaps for the anti-war protest movement in
the US, which may grow if there is a build-up of American casualties.
For this reason it is important that, well before July, the US
military policing activity on the streets is taken over by Iraqi
military and police forces. The US military is poor in this role -
with a few exceptions, such as the US 82nd Airborne Division on the
eastern border with Syria and Jordan.

Where the US and British military have a crucial continuing role is
to track down and defeat the insurgents who are clearly operat ing
under an Iraqi strategy planned before their defeat by some skilled
people wholly committed to continuing down the path of Saddam.
Failure to anticipate this represents one more Washington and London
intelligence and planning blunder for the aftermath of regime change.
There surely cannot be any question of removing our armed forces
while Saddam remains at large. Fortunately, in the US it is the
powerful neo-conservative lobby who have turned themselves into
nation builders and who want Nato involved militarily, and who are
not prepared to contemplate defeat or to abandon their commitment to
a democratic Iraq.

Sadly, the Democrats look as if they will campaign against the war in
Iraq but, one hopes, majority opinion will stay firm. They know Iraq
is already a far better place following the removal of Saddam.
Second, Bush is the first US president to recognise that we have all
been far too complacent about the Middle East's undemocratic Arab
governments. Third, Bush believes - and I think he is right - that we
will not obtain peace in the Middle East unless there is a democratic
Palestinian state to take its rightful place alongside Israel.
Success for the US and UK policies in Iraq will produce major reforms
in the Middle East and create the climate for an Israeli-Palestinian
settlement. If the US and UK fail in Iraq it will further destabilise
a Middle East where Saudi Arabia is looking very vulnerable and do
immense harm to the cause of peace in Palestine and in Israel.

 Lord Owen was Labour foreign secretary from 1977 to 1979 and was an
EU peace envoy during the 1992 Bosnia conflict.

The Iraqi - Mustafa Alrawi If the coalition really wants to make a
smooth exit from a democratic and free Iraq in the next two years, it
must first speed up the transfer of power to an elected government.
It can do this by drawing up a constitution immediately, based on
current Iraqi law. Second, it must commission one of the many
companies it has undertaking surveys in the country to carry out a
census. Finally, it should set a specific date in 2004 for elections,
to be monitored by an independent international committee.

But the coalition has been hampered by its own mistakes. First, the
disbandment of the army; second, the policy of de-Ba'athification;
and third, above all, the creation of the governing council (GC).
This unrepresentative, power-hungry and reactionary body has done a
great deal to hold back political progress in Iraq.

Despite plans of a handover and subsequent elections, the GC is not
ready to give up its claims on the reins of. If there were elections
tomorrow, at best no more than half the GC would be in any
representative government. But if the coalition is going to make a
success of its venture in Iraq, it has to bite the bullet and let the
chips fall where they may. The coalition's fear of appearing to be an
occupying and colonialist force has allowed that fear to manifest
itself: in Baghdad, no one speaks of liberation - it is an
occupation, if not still a war, in the minds of most Iraqis.

The GC was supposed to be a symbol of the liberation from Saddam and
a temporary remedy for the absence of an Iraqi government. But the GC
has no mandate. Its ministers are unaccountable to the GC and the
people alike. The GC reveals its undemocratic credentials by banning
TV networks from Iraq. The people can see this and realise that the
GC represents the old regime more than it does the future of Iraq.

If the coalition were to disband the GC tomorrow and scrap plans for
another interim body - which is likely to become no more than a "GC
redux" - and instead implement elections, real progress could be

The current, fast-deteriorating situation demands a bold move, akin
to the confident plan to invade Iraq. Even though the creation of a
democratic government will not guarantee an end to the attacks on
coalition forces, the lack of representation at the highest level -
particularly in urban areas, where the tribal structure is not
prevalent - means that if an Iraqi has a grievance he has nowhere to

Neither a constitution nor elections are likely to be perfect, but
they would at least be legitimate. Fears over security are unfounded.
The coalition proved with its successful money changeover that it is
able to plan and execute a nationwide security operation to protect
sites and locations during a limited period.

Iraqis are thirsting for a chance to participate, and the creation of
the GC prevented this. In Baghdad, there are peaceful daily
demonstrations outside coalition locations, proving that the
population is ready. Such protests are never outside Iraqi
institutions because the protesters know who is really running Iraq -
and it is not the GC. It is time for the coalition to prove it will
hand over power.

Only actions can rescue this depressing spiral towards the breakdown
of order. Baghdad has become a city besieged by fear. Coalition
locations such as the "green zone" - Iraq's governmental institutions
and the capital's hotels - have been reduced to sandbagged fortresses
behind miles of concrete blocks. The traffic is unbearable, probably
losing the faltering economy millions of dinars a day. And the stream
of bombings, by insurgents and coalition forces alike, has picked up

If an elected government were in place, it would probably ask the
coalition to stay to help anyway. No fledgling Iraqi government could
run the country in its first few years without the presence of the
coalition. But the onus of responsibility for the country's security
and progress would be in the hands of Iraqis.

However, in this scenario the coalition would be able to reduce the
number of troops on the ground, thereby fulfilling its promises to
the Iraqi people while also beginning the changeover to a
functioning, democratic Iraq.

The creation of a middleman, in the shape of the GC, prevents
democracy taking shape. It implies that a foreign occupier can choose
the best leaders for the local population and that Iraqis are not
ready to make democracy work.

It is true that Iraqis wanted Saddam removed; but they did not want
his regime replaced by a mix of the coalition and the GC. The
perpetrators of the attacks in Iraq have the luxury of battling a
foreign power and a group of unrepresentative people. The nature of
the conflict in Iraq would be significantly changed by the existence
of an elected government, with a mandate, serving the people. It
would be harder for the attackers to justify their cause in such
environment. The people would have ownership of the political process
and so would resent anyone who wished to upset it.

 Mustafa Alrawi is managing editor of Iraq Today.

The Washington insider - James Rubin

Regardless of one's view about the wisdom of invading Iraq in the
first place, it is crucial that the United States and Britain finish
what they started. A premature withdrawal from Iraq would not only
harm America's credibility, but would send absolutely the wrong
message to the Iraqi people and the world. It would embolden the
foreign terrorists who have come into Iraq in some misguided "jihad"
against American forces. It would also mean abandonment of the Iraqi
people who have known only either decades of Saddam Hussein's tyranny
or too many months of chaos and instability since the American
military intervention.

Clearly, the Bush administration failed in its responsibility to plan
for success. Everyone knew that the American military would defeat
the Iraqi army. The hard question was: What happens next? Too many in
the Bush administration developed a bad case of wishful thinking.
They believed that the Iraqi exiles would waltz back into Iraq and be
regarded as legitimate leaders. They believed that the Iraqi regular
army and police forces would quickly provide stability and security
to the country. They believed that Iraqi oil would make the task of
reconstruction self-financing. And they imagined that American forces
would be regarded as an army of "liberation" as were the soldiers who
triumphantly entered France in 1944.

It is the British and American forces on the ground who are suffering
from these naive miscalculations. There were adequate warnings that
after Saddam fell chaos would ensue. The American state department
provided an extensive report to the department of defence detailing
precisely the kind of chaos, looting and societal breakdown that has

With conditions in Iraq deteriorating, there are three fundamental
decisions that need to be made. First, what kind of role should the
international community play? Second, what is the right force mix
needed to defeat the growing insurgency? And third, how quickly
should sovereignty return to a provisional Iraqi government?

Providing the right answers to these questions would allow, over
time, for a steady reduction in the size of outside forces deployed
in Iraq. The end-state we are seeking is that a new Iraqi government
is strong enough to provide stability in the country without relying
heavily on outside forces and without threatening its neighbours,
that some form of representative government has taken root, and that
the country will not become a breeding ground for al-Qaida.

The first step is to end the American monopoly over reconstruction
and security. We should look to the Bosnia experience as a model.
That means a new international authority for Iraq with real decision-
making for our European allies and Arab countries prepared to play a
role in building a new Iraq. Then, a European - somebody like Bernard
Kouchner [former head of the United Nations mission in Kosovo] or
Paddy Ashdown - should be given administrative power. Under those
conditions, it is reasonable to expect a new attitude from our allies
in terms of troop contributions and reconstruction assistance.
America has shown its generosity in the form of approving $18bn for
reconstructing Iraq. By sharing decision-making powers other
countries should be prepared to do far more than they have pledged so
far in terms of assistance and should be prepared to consider a major
role for Nato in providing security.

Next, sovereignty should be transferred to a provisional Iraqi
government in a matter of weeks. There are dozens of elected regional
councils now, who should help select a provisional government,
including members of the current Iraqi governing council. Such a step
would give Iraqis a greater stake in success. The international
administrator would work with the provisional government and have
veto power similar to that which Ashdown now exercises in Bosnia. The
Bush administration has moved in this direction in recent weeks, but
their proposal of waiting until next June is still too long. The
window for defeating the insurgency before it begins to develop more
and more support among the Iraqi people is closing.

Finally, we need to change the mix of America's forces. Right now,
more than 1,000 of the best US intelligence specialists and linguists
are focused exclusively on the seemingly fruitless task of uncovering
Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The UN inspectors who have not
been asked to return are far more experienced at this task and could
be quickly assembled and deployed. That would free American
intelligence assets to find the sources of the counter-insurgency
that has been killing US soldiers, Iraqis, aid workers, UN workers,
and allied personnel in brutal terrorist attacks. The current
American force should be transformed from heavy units with long and
vulnerable logistical supply lines to lighter units, including more
special forces and more units that can operate in the way that the
British forces are operating in Southern Iraq.

If we choose this path, it should be possible to stabilise Iraq and
more quickly isolate those Saddam loyalists and outside foreign
forces who are destroying the Iraqi people's first real chance to
establish a representative government. If we achieve this objective
in the next several months, then after a new constitution is made,
the first freely elected government is chosen (probably in 2005) and
a substantial Iraqi military and police force is restored (also in
2005), it may be possible to reduce the outside forces from America
and other Nato countries to a minimum presence. But even in this
optimistic scenario, some international security presence, including
American forces, may well be necessary in Iraq for many years to

On the other hand, if the Bush administration continues to "stay the
course", as the president insists, the situation in Iraq may continue
to deteriorate and some far more painful paths - an early exit with a
premature handover to Iraqi forces or a substantial escalation -
could be chosen.

 James Rubin was the state department spokesman under President
Clinton and senior adviser to secretary of state Madeleine Albright
between 1993-2000.

  ????????: Guardian, UK

Mark Parkinson

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