Ending Occupation, Ensuring Security
July 15, 2005 - 11:33am ET
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Today, Robin Cook, former U.K. foreign minister, writes that given the current situation, the Pentagon's secret plans for withdrawal from Iraq will only make the situation worse. This raises an important point for progressives trying to find an viable and credible exit strategy for Iraq: What role should the multinational force play in such an exit strategy?
There are four major points defining the current occupation. First, the majority of Iraqis want the occupation to end. Second, the large-scale use of combat troops to prosecute the counterinsurgency mission is doing more harm than good, with the Iraqi health ministry reporting that twice as many Iraqis have been killed by the occupation as by the insurgents. Three, large parts of the Kurdish north and the Shi'a south have stayed relatively peaceful due to experienced commanders who have worked closely with local leaders to solve problems and ensure security. Lastly, the insurgency is driven by local, Iraqi politics more than vague notions of global jihad.
Taking these points into account, a responsible progressive exit strategy should include a military component and that military component should focus on an interim constabulary role. Constabulary missions are essentially transitional policing, where more robust paramilitary capabilities are still required. This would have to be in the context of an inclusive, negotiated political process as well as a sophisticated reconstruction plan utilizing NGO expertise and local labor to supplant for-profit contractors.
How do we make that transition? First off, we'll need to take the counterinsurgency mission off the plate of regular combat troops and underprepared Iraqi forces, and place it in the hands of a more discrete intelligence and special ops task force. Then, we'll have to shift our tactics from raids to presence. Marine Lt. Jonathan Morgenstein, recently returned from his civil affairs post in Ramadi, described the senselessness of sporadic raiding here. Our objective must be to make the streets of Iraq safe for Iraqis.
But there has to be something in it for the local population, which is why a shift in mission for the multinational troops cannot be successful without a political and reconstruction strategy. Reconstruction done by NGOs and local labor will provide the jobs, the schools and the infrastructure that will boost the local economy, establish local participation in governance and ultimately restore hope. Combined with a good-faith political process, this exit strategy triad has the best chance of working.
For progressives, that means accepting the fact that not all withdrawals are created equal. A viable withdrawal strategy requires that U.S. and other coalition troops provide security for Iraqis; essentially, what they should have done in the first place. The alternative is civil war in Iraq, and that serves no one's ends.
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