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Iraq Not Lost Yet

Even though the Iraqi government is disappointing, it is time that we listen to the Iraqis and let the "Iraqis be Iraqis." Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Donald L. Kerrick
UPI Outside View Commentator
Washington (UPI) Nov 02, 2006
News of late from Iraq continues to show that the current U.S. security policy is ineffective. But the war is not lost yet. Casualties are higher then ever for U.S. forces, and the daily drumbeat of Iraqi police and civilian injuries and deaths never seem to subside. We were all hopeful after the Iraqi election that a legitimate government might emerge and end the violent madness that has swept Baghdad and some of Iraq.

Unfortunately, the election did not produce a viable government with the will or the capability to end the insurgency and build a new democratic Iraq. Our great soldiers, sailors, airman, and marines have served us admirably and deserve a better political strategy. Military force alone without a guiding achievable political strategy is doomed to failure.

Several years after U.S. and Allied forces swept into Iraq security, water, and food all are in short supply. Sen. John Warner, R-Va., recently returned from Iraq with a pessimistic outlook. We still have not recovered from the strategic assumptions and errors that kicked off the Iraqi war. We may never recover. Iraq may be lost. If not lost, it will never be the Iraq envisioned by many at the beginning of the operation. It is time for a total review of our strategy.

The debate over Iraq is embroiled in the election season, which means you either favor "stay the course" or "cut and run." Neither is palatable, and having an intelligent discussion on other options in the midst of a highly charged political season is impossible. But, there are other options, and we must find a way to examine those options and come together as a nation or Iraq will be lost forever.

Even though the Iraqi government is disappointing, it is time that we listen to the Iraqis and let the "Iraqis be Iraqis." At the same time we must get Iraq's neighbors: Turkey, Saudi Arabia, -- and yes, even Syria and Iran -- and moderate Arab states into a dialog on how to stabilize the situation as we decide how to begin a process of relocation or disengagement. U.S. leadership is needed now more then ever.

Our stated strategy has been to withdraw our forces as the Iraqis stand-up their police and military capability. They have been slow in doing so, and recent revelations that some of those forces have been infiltrated by insurgents are disheartening, at the least. We've seen a more aggressive strategy recently on the part of U.S. forces that have resulted in a spike in casualties. The question is what can 140,000, or even 200,000, allied forces accomplish that 40,000 couldn't?

Our leaders should look at options between the extremes that put increased pressure on the Iraqis to advance their takeover by an Iraqi government. We could start by telling the Iraqis that we will withdraw U.S. forces into secure areas within one year. After that, it will be up to them to secure Baghdad and the other hotspots that now seem to be a never ending source of unrest.

With a deadline for relocating U.S. forces to secure areas, the Iraqis would have new and firm deadlines for reaching a political settlement and for completing the build-out of their new security forces. While I am not enamored with dividing Iraq into ethnic areas, it should be looked at closely. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del. has tabled a vision crafted loosely on the Balkans Model. While interesting, we don't want to be guilty of ethnic cleansing in Iraq by forcing groups to relocate to certain areas or face a perilous fate at the hands of hostile ethnic majorities.

Even though there is much uncertainty facing us in Iraq now, we can reduce some of it if we can develop a strategy other then the "stay the course" or the "cut and run" approaches now in the news. We have a short time after next month's election and before the 2007 national campaign kicks off in earnest. Losing Iraq is not ordained unless we fail to seize this opportunity and rebuild national consensus on a new strategy. If we cannot rally around a strategy that has new social, economic, diplomatic and military components, Iraq will be lost and we will have lost another one to extremists.

(Lt. Gen. Donald L. Kerrick (Retired) is a former deputy national security adviser to President Bill Clinton.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

Source: United Press International

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