Washington (UPI) Dec 14, 2005
President Bush sought to rally an increasingly anxious American public Wednesday to stay the course in Iraq as Iraqis prepared to take to the polls to elect their first constitutional government in more than three decades.
"We will fight this war without wavering -- and we will prevail," he said in his fourth speech on the war in recent days.
"The stakes in Iraq are high, and we will not leave until victory has been achieved," he said later.
And later still: "There's only one way the terrorists can prevail: if we lose our nerve and leave before the job is done. And that is not going to happen on my watch."
Bush was speaking at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, located in the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center, just a stone's throw from the White House.
His 29-minute speech to several hundred people -- including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff -- was a rehash of administration justifications for war and continued engagement in Iraq, as well as brush-stroke strategy: flexible military tactics and turning the fight over to the Iraqis as their own coalition-trained security forces gain in operational competence.
It came not only as Iraqis prepared to vote, but as cries on Capitol Hill for a troop withdrawal dateline gained legs and as public opinion polls indicated a nervous public as terror attacks continue in Iraq and the U.S. death toll inexorably rises.
A CBS/New York Times poll of 1,155 adults nationwide Dec. 2-6 showed 59 percent of respondents disapproved of Bush's handling of the Iraq War, versus 39 percent who approved. There was a partisan split, however. Among Democrats only 10 percent approved of Bush's handling of the war, compared with 70 percent of Republicans. Those who identified themselves as "Independents" were mainly on the negative side: 61 percent disapproved.
In the same poll, with a margin of error of plus/minus 3.1 percent, Americans overall were equally divided on whether the United States should have invaded Iraq in the first place -- 48 percent on both sides of the divide.
"The United States did not choose war; the choice was Saddam Hussein's," Bush said after citing Saddam's decade-long refusal to abide by U.N. mandates.
"When we made the decision to go into Iraq, many intelligence agencies around the world judged that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. This judgment was shared by the intelligence agencies of governments who did not support my decision to remove Saddam. And it is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong. As president, I'm responsible for the decision to go into Iraq -- and I'm also responsible for fixing what went wrong by reforming our intelligence capabilities. And we're doing just that.
"At the same time, we must remember that an investigation after the war by chief weapons inspector Charles Duelfer found that Saddam was using the U.N. oil-for-food program to influence countries and companies in an effort to undermine sanctions, with the intent of restarting his weapons programs once the sanctions collapsed and the world looked the other way. Given Saddam's history and the lessons of Sept. 11, my decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision. Saddam was a threat -- and the American people and the world is better off because he is no longer in power," he said.
Bush repeated that the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, had changed the geopolitical equation and his own thinking on foreign policy. The United States, he asserted, could never again wait until a potential threat became an actual threat.
"In an age of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, if we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long," he said.
Underlying current U.S. policy on Iraq, he said, was the belief that a democratic Iraq was essential for the spread of democracy in the region, and thus an alleviation of conditions giving rise to terrorism.
Bush warned, however, that despite the strides made in Iraq, by the United States and the Iraqis themselves, the path ahead was not without potholes. Terrorists could continue fighting to destabilize the new government, and uncertainty would prevail during a transition period.
"We've made real progress in the last two-and-a-half years, and the terrorists see this progress and they're determined to stop it," he said.
"We can also expect that the elections will be followed by days of uncertainty. We may not know for certain who's won the elections until the early part of January -- and that's important for our citizens to understand. It's going to take a while. It's also going to take a while for them to form a government.
"The work ahead will require patience of the Iraqi people, and require our patience, as well. Yet we must remember that a free Iraq is in our interests, because a free Iraq will be a beacon of hope. And as the Middle East grows in liberty, the American people will become safer and our nation will be more secure.
"The work ahead will also require continued sacrifice," he said.
More than 2,000 Americans have died in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion, including those killed in accidents. Bush earlier this week disclosed the U.S. government estimates the Iraqi death toll at some 30,000. The centers of hostilities are just four of more than a dozen Iraqi provinces.
Bush Wednesday honed in again on some war critics, accusing them of partisan politics to the detriment of U.S. troop morale.
"They say that we act because of oil, that we act in Iraq because of Israel, or because we misled the American people. Some of the most irresponsible comments about manipulating intelligence have come from politicians who saw the same intelligence we saw, and then voted to authorize the use of force against Saddam Hussein," he said.
"These charges are pure politics. They hurt the morale of our troops. Whatever our differences in Washington, our men and women in uniform deserve to know that once our politicians vote to send them into harm's way, our support will be with them in good days and bad, and we will settle for nothing less than complete victory."
By Anthony H. Cordesman
It is a lesson that goes firmly against the American grain, but it is a natural corollary of limited war. If the course of the political and military struggle shows the United States that it cannot achieve the desired grand strategic outcome, it needs to accept the fact that the United States must find ways to terminate a counter-insurgency war.
Defeat, withdrawal, and acceptance of an outcome less than victory are never desirable in limited war, but they are always acceptable. For all the arguments about prestige, trust, and deterrence, there is no point in pursuing a limited conflict when it becomes more costly than the objective is worth or when the probability of achieving that objective becomes too low.
This is a lesson that goes against American culture. The whole idea that the United States can be defeated is no more desirable for Americans than for anyone else, in fact, almost certainly less so. But when the United States lost in Vietnam it not only lived with the reality, it ultimately did not suffer from it. When the United States failed in Lebanon and Haiti, it failed at almost no perceptible cost. Exiting Somalia was not without consequences, but they were scarcely critical.
This does not mean that the United States should not stay in Iraq as long as it has a good chance of achieving acceptable objectives at an acceptable cost. But it does mean that the United States can afford to lose in Iraq, particularly for reasons that are frankly beyond its control and which the world will recognize as such.
There is no point in "staying the course" through a major Iraqi civil war, a catastrophic breakdown of the political process, or a government coming to power that simply asks us to leave. In all three cases, it isn't a matter of winning or losing, but instead, facing a situation where conditions no longer exist for staying.
In the future, the United States will need to pay far more attention to the option of declaring that it is fighting a limited war for limited objectives if it really is a limited war. It may well need to fully explain what the limits to its goals and level of engagement are and develop a strategy for implementing, communicating and exploiting these limits. One mistake is to tell the host government, or the people you are fighting with, that your commitment is open-ended and that you can never leave; the incentive for responsibility vanishes with it.
Similarly, if you tell the American people and the world that a marginal strategic interest is vital, the world will sooner or later believe it, which is very dangerous if you have to leave or lose. You are better off saying you may lose, setting limits, and then winning, than claiming that you can't lose, having no limits, and then losing. And this should not be a massive, innovative lesson, but it is one we simply do not seem prepared to learn.
The evolution of the insurgency in Iraq is yet another lesson in the fact that focusing on the military dimension of war is an almost certain path to grand strategic defeat in any serious conflict, and particularly in counter-insurgency.
If the United States must engage in counter-insurgency warfare, and sometimes it must, then it needs to plan for both the complexity and cost of successful conflict termination and ensuring a favorable grand strategic outcome. It must prepare for the risk of long-term engagement and escalation, risks that will require more forces and resources; or it must otherwise set very clear limits to what it will do based on the limited grand strategic value of the outcome and act upon them -- regardless of short-term humanitarian costs.
The United States needs to prepare for, and execute, a full spectrum of conflict. That means doing much more than seeking to win a war militarily. It needs to have the ability to make a valid and sustainable national commitment in ideological and political terms. It must find ways of winning broad local and regional support; stability operations and nation building are the price of any meaningful counter-insurgency campaign.
Iraq, like so many other serious post-World War II insurgencies, shows that successful counter-insurgency means having or creating a local partner that can take over from U.S. forces and that can govern. Both Vietnam and Iraq show the United States cannot win an important counter-insurgency campaign alone.
The United States will always be dependent on the people in the host country, and usually on local and regional allies. And to some extent, will be dependent on the quality of its operations in the United Nations, in dealing with traditional allies and in diplomacy. If the United States can't figure out a way to have or create such an ally, and fight under these conditions, a counter-insurgency conflict may well not be worth fighting.
This means the United States must do far more than create effective allied forces. In most cases, it will have to find a way to reshape the process of politics and governments to create some structure in the country that can actually act in areas it "liberates." Pacification is the classic example. If the United States or its allies can't deploy allied police forces and government presence, the result is far too often to end up with a place on the map where no one in his right mind would go at night.
Anthony J. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke chair of Strategy at the center for strategic and International studies in Washington DC. This is taken from his latest CSIS paper "The Iraqi war and its strategic lessons for counter-insurgency."
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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Bush Presents Old Policy In New Wrapping
Washington (UPI) Dec 14, 2005
President George W. Bush did what he does best in his speech on Iraq Wednesday: He reaffirmed his commitment to upholding U.S. and Western democratic values and vowed he would never bow down or accept defeat in the Iraq war.
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