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Analysis: U.S. Timetable In Iraq

US soldiers cut up an American flag cake to mark the US 4th of July Independence Day at Camp Victory in Baghdad, 04 July 2005. President George W. Bush has staged a major effort to persuade the American people that the US presence in Iraq is worthy the bloody sacrifice being made, but it has not eased the widespread questions about the administration's strategy. AFP PHOTO/-

Washington (UPI) Jul 05, 2005
How Long Should We Stay in Iraq? In his speech about the conflict in Iraq that he gave at Fort Bragg, N.C., on June 28, President Bush declared, "We will stay in the fight until the fight is won."

The question that has arisen, though, is: Can the fight be won if we stay in it indefinitely? For many Iraqis (Shiite as well as Sunni), the elected Iraqi government's dependence on U.S. support is what undermines its legitimacy.

Further, the longer the war drags on without resolution, the less the U.S. public is willing to support it. Last but not least, the longer the war lasts, the more countries with troops there are withdrawing them. Contrary to what the president said, the longer we stay in Iraq, the more difficult the fight there may become.

Bush strongly argued against setting a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces. He said this would send the wrong message to, among others, "the enemy, who would know that all they have to do is to wait us out."

A premature U.S. withdrawal could enable the Sunni minority to forcibly reassert their dominance over the Shiite majority as well as the Kurds and other minorities. Outlining a rough timetable indicating when the United States hopes to begin and complete the withdrawal of our forces, though, would have several benefits.

First and foremost, it would show the Iraqi people that we do not intend to occupy their country indefinitely, as so many believe. This would give the elected government a much needed opportunity to increase its legitimacy among Iraqis.

In addition, setting forth a withdrawal schedule for U.S. troops would force the elected Iraqi government to concentrate on preparing both itself and its armed forces for when they will have to take primary responsibility for security.

So long as better armed U.S. forces are always in charge in joint operations, Iraqi government forces are not going to develop the expertise they need to defeat the insurgents.

Finally, a withdrawal schedule would give the U.S. public as well as America's allies reassurance they are not locked into an indefinite conflict. Furthermore, the withdrawal of U.S. forces would not spell the end of U.S. involvement. The United States could still provide the Iraqi government with weapons, training, and advice to enable it to defend itself.

But what about "the enemy" in Iraq? Would a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal also be a timetable for it to seize power? Not necessarily. Indeed, if Iraqi government forces become strong enough, the Sunni insurgents may be in a worse situation with the Americans gone, for there will be nothing then to moderate the wrath of the Shiite majority against them.

Ultimately, no elected Iraqi government will survive unless it and the majority of Iraqis are willing and able to defend it themselves.

This is true whether U.S. forces stay there for one more year or for the dozen more years that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld indicated may be necessary. And since it is opposition to the U.S. military presence that is what partly (though by no means entirely) motivates the insurgents, the withdrawal of U.S. forces would serve to reduce that motivation.

Although criticized by so many, Bush rendered an extraordinary service to the people of Iraq by toppling the regime of the vicious Saddam Hussein and his even more vicious sons.

It is doubtful Iraqis could have gotten rid of them on their own. But the United States cannot resolve all of Iraq's many problems. The Iraqi people are the ones who must do that. Bush needs to realize that the time may be fast approaching when we can best help the Iraqi people by letting them help themselves.

Mark N. Katz is a professor of government and politics at George Mason University.

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Walker's World: Iraq's Gloomy Experts
Washington DC (UPI) July 1, 2005
President George W. Bush did himself no favors with last week's televised address on Iraq. Most of the U.S. media commentary seemed more concerned with the lack of applause from his military audience at Fort Bragg, N.C., (they were asked to refrain from making the event look like a pep rally) than with the substance and policy implications of his speech.

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