There is a danger of overreacting to last week's gruesome bombing of the United Nations' headquarters in Baghdad. The United States has been in Iraq for only four months and much of the country is stable. country, the decentralization of the country is working.
The northern lands, home to the Kurdish population, are settling into an almost normal existence. There have been no large-scale revolts nor the much-feared civil war between various sections of Iraqi society. Given Saddam Hussein's devastation of the country, 13 years of sanctions and then the second gulf war, reconstruction was bound to be slow. An Iraqi Army and a police force are being trained, the Governing Council is up and running, town councils are operating throughout the
All this may be true, but it is increasingly irrelevant. Security is the first task of government; everything else rests on it. And important parts of Iraq—including its central city, home to 20 percent of its people—are insecure. The U.N. bombing was not an isolated event but a culmination of weeks of sophisticated and deadly violence against Americans and their partners. Coalition forces now face an average of 15 to 20 attacks per day. Since the end of formal hostilities, 75 Coalition troops have been killed in combat, 77 have died through other causes and about 500 have been wounded. The attack on the United Nations was preceded by bombings of the Jordanian Embassy, Baghdad's main water pipeline and Iraq's main oil pipeline. Baghdad International Airport remains closed to commercial traffic for fear that incoming planes will be shot down. The road to the airport cannot be secured. It is, in fact, the single most ambushed road in Baghdad, its checkpoint under fire every evening. Crime remains sky high. Murders since the war could reach 5,000 this year. Basic services such as water and electricity have not been restored in significant regions of the country, in part because of constant sabotage. And while it is true that terrorism can take place anywhere, a country that is under American military occupation should not so easily turn into a sanctuary for militant Islamic terrorists.
Not Losing vs. Not Winning
The afterwar has been unusual because the United States never formally defeated the Iraqi Army: Saddam's forces simply melted away. Some American officials have privately pointed out that current casualty rates, while tragic, are low enough to be militarily insignificant. This is true but also irrelevant. The purpose of guerrilla operations is not to defeat the enemy militarily. It is to defeat him politically. (Hence Henry Kissinger's dictum: the guerrilla wins by not losing. The army loses by not winning.) The hope is that such attacks will force the occupation to become more militarized, then, in turn, America's heavy-handed retaliation will alienate the local population. If U.S. forces mingle less with the locals, tour in Humvees rather than on foot and make force protection their chief goal, they will not gain popular support. The fact that there have been so many attacks on U.S. forces and we have caught so few of—and know so little about—the attackers indicate that they have some support within the populace and that we still have very poor human intelligence in Iraq. In recent weeks a spate of small flare-ups between locals and troops, even in Shiite areas, suggests that beneath the calm there is restlessness.
It is time to recognize that the occupation of Iraq needs fixing. This has been a massive enterprise undertaken with little planning and extreme arrogance. During the war, Defense Department officials explained that the postwar situation was "unknowable," so no planning was really possible. (By this logic there would be no point in planning for anything.) Even the question of how long the United States would stay involved in Iraq produced a series of varying responses, from the vacuous "as long as it takes" to the absurd "three months" (from Jay Garner). That we had no plan for postwar government was quickly evident to the Iraqis. In 1920 a British official despaired of that country's occupation of Iraq in words that are prophetic: "How can the local population settle down when we won't tell it what we are going to do? We must either govern Mesopotamia or not govern it."
On one matter the administration seemed sure: the occupation would not require many troops. "It's hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would to conduct the war itself," Paul Wolfowitz declared in congressional testimony last February. Officials had privately estimated that by the end of the summer—now, that is—U.S. troop levels in Iraq would be down to 40,000.
Had the administration been more willing to learn from the past, it would have noted that the United States was involved in several postwar operations during the 1990s. Lesson No. 1 was: have sufficient forces. In Somalia and Haiti, the United States placed too few forces on the ground. The result: it failed. In Bosnia and Kosovo it deployed a large force, which was able to intimidate all potential opposition. As a result, in those two places Coalition forces have suffered zero combat casualties in many years of operation. The Powell Doctrine may not be necessary for war, but it seems to help in keeping the peace.
To match the number of soldiers per inhabitant as we have in Kosovo, we would need 526,000 in Iraq. To match Bosnia we would need 258,000. Right now there are about 150,000 troops in Iraq. The United States Army does not have extra troops to spare. In fact it is currently spread dangerously thin. Ninety percent of all U.S. military police, for example, are on active duty: 12,000 are in Iraq; most of the rest are in South Korea or Europe. There are no more MPs to call on.
The shortage is not simply of military personnel. Iraq's administrator Paul Bremer is an able man who has made several smart choices since he has taken charge. He is, however, understaffed and underfunded. The Coalition Provisional Authority has about 1,000 people working for it. Douglas MacArthur had five times the number when he was nation-building in Japan. Perhaps as urgently as it needs troops, Iraq needs diplomats, political advisers, engineers, agronomists, economists, educators and lawyers. Without deploying this other army the occupation cannot succeed.
Picking Up the Tab
And Iraq needs money; lots of it. The fantasy that the country would quickly pay for its own reconstruction can now be put to rest. For the next year or two, while Iraq's oil facilities are brought online, it must live on foreign aid. Bremer has estimated that the cost of satisfying current demand for electricity in Iraq is $2 billion. Estimates of the cost of repairing and improving Iraqi oil facilities are between $5 billion and $10 billion. Estimates of the costs of upgrading Iraqi infrastructure are $16 billion to $30 billion. The amounts currently appropriated are a fraction of this. The United States is currently providing 95 percent of total aid to Iraq and 90 percent of the troops, and suffering 90 percent of the casualties.
We have jealously held onto Iraq as if the rebuilding of it were some great prize to be denied to everyone else. In fact it is better thought of as a monumental, historic challenge that can best be accomplished with as many partners and as much support as possible. The best and obvious solution from the start was to turn the rebuilding of Iraq into a great international project, in which all the major countries in the world were invested. To accomplish this, other nations would have to be given some control over the future of the country. Giving the United Nations more of a hand in Iraq's political affairs would actually help. The United Nations has developed skills and expertise in nation-building over the last decade that are worth having. Iraq needs more hardworking men like Sergio Vieira de Mello, not fewer. It is difficult to shift policy now and convince the world that we do so willingly. But it should be done. Specifically:
• The United Nations should be given formal authority over the reconstruction of Iraq. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez and Paul Bremer would be given U.N. appointments in addition to their U.S. appointments. NATO could take over the command structure of military forces. The administration's concerns about messing up the unity of command are mystifying since it gave NATO command of operations in Afghanistan and NATO runs the military in Kosovo.
In return, the United States should ensure that non-U.S. troop contributions total 100,000. India, Turkey, France and Germany could make up the bulk of the force (adding to the contributions of Britain and the other Coalition members). The United Nations must help recruit thousands of new nonmilitary personnel to assist in the reconstruction. Similarly, non-U.S. aid contributions should be 40 percent of the total, with the bulk coming from the European Union and Japan, and some contributions from oil-rich Arab countries. Without outside help, funding for Iraq will be too little too late. The commitment of troops will give the United States some help on the ground and other nations a stake in making post-Saddam Iraq work. It is true that other countries will want a share of Iraq's business but that would also help get those countries invested in Iraq's success. That is more important than husbanding a few contracts for American firms, many of which would win in an open bidding process anyway.
• The administration should present Congress with a multiyear budget that estimates the costs of the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq, with increases in all areas. The occupation of Iraq needs to look less like an improvised, fly-by-night operation and more like a thought-through, massive project. Truman did not keep everyone guessing about the Marshall Plan.
• President Bush should make a speech explaining to the American people why it is crucial that we succeed in Iraq, what the stakes are and why the costs are justified. He should make clear in no uncertain terms that the United States will stay committed to this course for as long as the Iraqi people wish its help and assistance. Candor about the costs of the occupation and our determination to stay will send a signal to the world and, most important, to the Iraqi people that they will have a predictable, stable future.
• The Coalition Provisional Authority must assert its authority and ensure rapid progress on governance and reforms—even when Iraqis are slow or unable to act. The Governing Council is an admirable body, but it is a committee of 25 people, many of whom dislike each other and who have never worked together. If things fall apart, Iraqis will not blame the Governing Council. They will blame America. After order, the first priority must be to create a system of justice: courts, police and a legal system.
The last point is important. The Coalition is increasingly staffing key ministries with Iraqis; an excellent move. The Governing Council is an important first step in constitutional government. Putting Iraqis in charge of their own country is an essential step forward. But none of this absolves the United States of its role and responsibility. Iraq will not become a democracy simply by removing Saddam Hussein and replacing him with other Iraqis. It will require a political and economic transformation, one that will take years and one that the United States has committed itself to. It took seven years in Japan. It has taken almost as long in Bosnia and Kosovo. If we leave hastily, it is certain that Iraq will turn into something quite different from a functioning democracy. There are voices beginning to sound a theme: in the words of one columnist, "at the end of the day, it's their country." Well, yes, but we did invade it. The line "Giving Iraq back to the Iraqis" sounds nice, but what it means, in fact, is giving up.
Failure in Iraq would be a monumental loss for America's role in the world. Washington will have created instability in the heart of the oil-producing world; weakened America's ability to push for change in other Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria, and given comfort to its foes. The old order will rejoice and the Middle East would return to its stagnant and self-destructive ways.
And things might even get worse. The fundamental purpose behind the invasion of Iraq—more important than the exaggerated claims about weapons of mass destruction—was to begin cleansing the Middle East of the forces that produce terror. Were America to quit, it would give those armies of hate new strength and resolve. A failed Iraq could prove a greater threat to American security than Saddam Hussein's regime ever was.www.msnbc.com/news/956615.asp?0cv=KA01&cp1=1E-mail this article