My blog contains a large number of posts. A few are included in various other publications, or as attached stories and chronicles in my emails; many more are found on loose leaves, while some are written carelessly in margins and blank spaces of my notebooks. Of the last sort most are nonsense, now often unintelligible even when legible, or half-remembered fragments. Enjoy responsibly.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

How to get out of Iraq (Part 2 of 3)

Thought the American press corps has seemed strangely uninterested in this question – one that goes to the very heart of our intentions in starting the war in the first place – now is the time to find out. The latest evidence was that at least four, and possibly as many as a dozen, permanent military bases are being built throughout the country.

Our predictable scenario for the neoconservatives is to arrange for the new government of Baghdad to invite American forces to stay in Iraq as a semipermanent, Korea-like stabilizing force and thus legitimize construction of several garrisons for the stay-behind forces. These may amount to troop levels of as many as fifty thousand on a rotating basis and would provide legitimacy for a permanent U.S. military presence in the Middle East. Once again, the French and other colonial powers will testify to the vulnerability of static garrisons to a continuing anti-occupation insurgency.

A serious disengagement plan, however, must be based on a central reality: We cannon insist on a pro-American, client-state Iraqi government of the sort long envisioned by the neoconservatives. This may have been their dream, but Iraq’s long, complex history and complicated mixture of cultures should have shown it years ago to have been a pipe dream.

In any case, we will never end our self-defeating occupation and assure the Iraqis and others in the volatile region of the Middle East that we have no imperial intentions, as they now widely suppose, until this issue is settled. It is one thing to continue intensive diplomatic and even commercial attention to the area; it is quite another to leave behind several brigades (or perhaps a full division or more), helicopter wings, and weapons depots. This issue will be the clearest indicator of our policy and intentions. Either we came to bring democracy to the Iraqis, or we came to use Iraq as the base from which we would wield our influence through military force in the future.

Few would dispute now that the restoration of order, security, and stability in Iraq is going to take far longer than we were led to believe when the preemptive war was undertaken in 2003. “We can’t simply walk away now” is the way this is usually put. Therefore, any serious disengagement plan must provide for replacement capabilities in training and equipping Iraqi security forces.

This is a role that NATO can fill, but our allies must be asked, because NATO nations are already providing more than sixteen thousand troops for stabilization and nation building in Afghanistan. NATO peacekeepers units can oversee the training of Iraqi police and military forces and move those units into the principal security roles, especially border control missions to seal Iraq off from foreign jihadists. Those jihadists in any case will have much less interest in Iraq once the United States has departed, and will be much less welcome by Iraqi citizens.

Persuading NATO nations to assume this role will require diplomacy, especially since many of its member nations were peremptorily and arrogantly dismissed as “old Europe” (in the words of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld) when they refused to suppose the Bush administration’s preemptive invasion. Nevertheless, skilled diplomats have overcome greater hurdles when they have a will to do so and when they can offer incentives. Further, NATO troops are filling important security and combat support roles in Afghanistan and are perfectly capable of training Iraqi security units.

The incentive for NATO and other democratic nations to participate in Iraq should be provided by internationalizing the country’s reconstruction program. Construction and engineering companies from Europe and some Asian nations should be both permitted and encouraged to participate in competitive bidding for major infrastructure project contracts. Energy and electrical systems, water and waste treatment plants, transportation facilities, and communication projects should not be handed out to a few politically favored American companies.

Further, the burden of financing Iraq’s reconstruction should not be borne solely by United States taxpayers. We should quickly establish a Bank of Iraqi Reconstruction financed by Western democratic governments. Given the ability of their own construction and engineering companies to participate in major reconstruction projects and thus to recycle the investment their national governments will make in this bank, this will provide the quid pro quo required by European and Asian countries to contribute. Faced with mounting reconstruction and occupation costs, President Bush appealed in the spring of 2004 both to NATO and to the Group of Eight nations to provide troops and financing for Iraq’s reconstruction. He failed. He failed simply because he neglected to include the key component: He did not also invite those nations to bring their own major contractors into the economic distribution. His message was, “We want your money and your troops, but Halliburton will do all the work and reap all the profits”.

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