[Mb-civic] MUST READ: The Real Choice in Iraq - Zbigniew Brzezinski
- Washington POst Op-Ed
swiggard at comcast.net
Sat Jan 7 07:26:19 PST 2006
The Real Choice in Iraq
By Zbigniew Brzezinski
Sunday, January 8, 2006; B07
"Bring 'em on."
-- President Bush on Iraqi insurgents, summer 2003
The insurgency is "in its last throes."
-- Vice President Cheney,
" . . . there are only two options before our country: victory or defeat."
-- President Bush, Christmas 2005
The administration's rhetorical devolution speaks for itself. Yet, with
some luck and with a more open decision-making process in the White
House, greater political courage on the part of Democratic leaders and
even some encouragement from authentic Iraqi leaders, the U.S. war in
Iraq could (and should) come to an end within a year.
"Victory or defeat" is, in fact, a false strategic choice. In using this
formulation, the president would have the American people believe that
their only options are either "hang in and win" or "quit and lose." But
the real, practical choice is this: "persist but not win" or "desist but
Victory, as defined by the administration and its supporters -- i.e., a
stable and secular democracy in a unified Iraqi state, with the
insurgency crushed by the American military assisted by a disciplined,
U.S.-trained Iraqi national army -- is unlikely. The U.S. force required
to achieve it would have to be significantly larger than the present
one, and the Iraqi support for a U.S.-led counterinsurgency would have
to be more motivated. The current U.S. forces (soon to be reduced) are
not large enough to crush the anti-American insurgency or stop the
sectarian Sunni-Shiite strife. Both problems continue to percolate under
an inconclusive but increasingly hated foreign occupation.
Moreover, neither the Shiites nor the Kurds are likely to subordinate
their specific interests to a unified Iraq with a genuine, single
national army. As the haggling over the new government has already
shown, the two dominant forces in Iraq -- the religious Shiite alliance
and the separatist Kurds -- share a common interest in preventing a
restoration of Sunni domination, with each determined to retain a
separate military capacity for asserting its own specific interests,
largely at the cost of the Sunnis. A truly national army in that context
is a delusion. Continuing doggedly to seek "a victory" in that fashion
dooms America to rising costs in blood and money, not to mention the
intensifying Muslim hostility and massive erosion of America's
international legitimacy, credibility and moral reputation.
The administration's definition of "defeat" is similarly misleading.
Official and unofficial spokesmen often speak in terms that recall the
apocalyptic predictions made earlier regarding the consequences of
American failure to win in Vietnam: dominoes falling, the region
exploding and U.S. power discredited. An added touch is the notion that
the Iraqi insurgents will then navigate the Atlantic and wage terrorism
on the American homeland.
The real choice that needs to be faced is between:
An acceptance of the complex post-Hussein Iraqi realities through a
relatively prompt military disengagement -- which would include a period
of transitional and initially even intensified political strife as the
dust settled and as authentic Iraqi majorities fashioned their own
An inconclusive but prolonged military occupation lasting for years
while an elusive goal is pursued.
It is doubtful, to say the least, that America's domestic political
support for such a futile effort could long be sustained by slogans
about Iraq's being "the central front in the global war on terrorism."
In contrast, a military disengagement by the end of 2006, derived from a
more realistic definition of an adequate outcome, could ensure that
desisting is not tantamount to losing. In an Iraq dominated by the
Shiites and the Kurds -- who together account for close to 75 percent of
the population -- the two peoples would share a common interest in
Iraq's independence as a state. The Kurds, with their autonomy already
amounting in effect to quasi-sovereignty, would otherwise be threatened
by the Turks. And the Iraqi Shiites are first of all Arabs; they have no
desire to be Iran's satellites. Some Sunnis, once they were aware that
the U.S. occupation was drawing to a close and that soon they would be
facing an overwhelming Shiite-Kurdish coalition, would be more inclined
to accommodate the new political realities, especially when deprived of
the rallying cry of resistance to a foreign occupier.
In addition, it is likely that both Kuwait and the Kurdish regions of
Iraq would be amenable to some residual U.S. military presence as a
guarantee against a sudden upheaval. Once the United States terminated
its military occupation, some form of participation by Muslim states in
peacekeeping in Iraq would be easier to contrive, and their involvement
could also help to cool anti-American passions in the region.
In any case, as Iraqi politics gradually become more competitive, it is
almost certain that the more authentic Iraqi leaders (not handpicked by
the United States) -- to legitimate their claim to power -- will begin
to demand publicly a firm date for U.S. withdrawal. That is all to the
good. In fact, they should be quietly encouraged to do so, because that
would increase their popular support while allowing the United States to
claim a soberly redefined "Mission Accomplished."
The requisite first step to that end is for the president to break out
of his political cocoon. His policymaking and his speeches are the
products of the true believers around him who are largely responsible
for the mess in Iraq. They have a special stake in their definition of
victory, and they reinforce his convictions instead of refining his
judgments. The president badly needs to widen his circle of advisers.
Why not consult some esteemed Republicans and Democrats not seeking
public office -- say, Warren Rudman or Colin Powell or Lee Hamilton or
George Mitchell -- regarding the definition of an attainable yet
tolerable outcome in Iraq?
Finally, Democratic leaders should stop equivocating while carping.
Those who want to lead in 2008 are particularly unwilling to state
clearly that ending the war soon is both desirable and feasible. They
fear being labeled as unpatriotic. Yet defining a practical alternative
would provide a politically effective rebuttal to those who mindlessly
seek an unattainable "victory." America needs a real choice regarding
its tragic misadventure in Iraq.
The writer was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the Mb-civic