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How can America get out of Iraq? (pt. 3) PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Tuesday, 18 May 2004 11:48
As the situation in Iraq goes from bad to worse, Stephen F Cohen, John Brady Kiesling, Anne-Marie Slaughter and Ray Close outline possible exit strategies for the US. How can America get out of Iraq?

As the situation in Iraq goes from bad to worse, Stephen F Cohen, John Brady Kiesling, Anne-Marie Slaughter and Ray Close outline possible exit strategies for the US

Stephen F Cohen, John Brady Kiesling, Anne-Marie Slaughter and Ray Close
Friday May 14, 2004

The Guardian

Stephen F Cohen: Act honourably

For the sake of American lives, values and real security, as well as peace and stability in the increasingly explosive Middle East, the US must find a way to withdraw its military forces from Iraq as soon as possible; and do so with some vestige of, yes, honour - not for the bogus reason of international "credibility" but to prevent a malignant who-lost-Iraq politics in our own country.

The o­nly near-term and honourable way out is by linking a firm US commitment to a phased military withdrawal to an Iraqi popular election for a representative national assembly that would itself - not the occupation authorities or its appointees - choose an interim government, adopt a constitution for the country and then schedule elections for the new permanent institutions of government.

For Iraqis, o­nly such a directly elected assembly can have legitimacy and thus the "sovereignty" that the Bush administration is desperately trying to manufacture and "transfer".

Do not mistake this approach for the administration's afterthought of "building democracy in Iraq", which would mean resolving all that tormented country's internal conflicts, and for which America utterly lacks both the power and wisdom even to attempt.

Rather, it means giving the Iraqis an opportunity to do it themselves. (Whether or not they can is their destiny, not ours.)

Considering the devastating consequences of an unnecessary American war, providing such a democratic opportunity is both the least and most we can now do. And having done so, the US can declare, paraphrasing sage but ignored advice given during the Vietnam war, "Mission accomplished. We're going home."

For this democratic exit to work, the US must, as the otherwise vacuous refrain goes, "stay the course", but a course based o­n four promises that must be kept.

American-led occupation authorities will permit free and fair elections to the national assembly, within the next six to nine months, under the auspices of the UN or another international body. They will accept the electoral outcome, even if it is an anti-American majority. Meanwhile, the US will prepare Iraqi security forces but begin its military withdrawal o­nce the interim government is functioning. And Washington will continue to provide funds for the reconstruction of Iraq, as long as the new Iraqi authorities generally abide by their democratic origins.

We must flatly dismiss American proponents of a permanent US garrison in Iraq - for the sake of oil, Israel, some "anti-totalitarian" crusade or empire.

But there still may be three objections to this relatively quick and honourable exit strategy. o­ne is that the American occupation should not end until there is stability in Iraq because the consequences will be chaos and violence.

But this admonition ignores the historical lessons of occupations elsewhere and of the current situation in Iraq. There can be no stability until foreign occupation ends, as is clear from the chaos and violence unfolding today.

The second objection is that anti-American "extremists" will disrupt the election for the national assembly. But if such Iraqis really want America gone, they will support an electoral process that leads to a US withdrawal.

The third objection may be heartfelt: we did not go to war, and lose lives, to risk the advent of another anti-American regime in Baghdad. Yes, the Bush administration went to war to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and when there were none, it said the war was really about democracy.

Now, this afterthought, whatever the political (or economic) outcome, is the o­nly way out and our last chance to be remembered as liberators. The alternative is indefinite, colonial-style rule; growing and increasingly violent Iraqi resistance; an ever more brutal and self-corrupting American occupation; and, eventually, an even more anti-American regime that will come to power by means other than the ballot box.

? Stephen F Cohen is a professor of Russian studies and history at New York University. His latest book is Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia.

John Brady Kiesling: Swallow your pride

President Bush promised the Iraqi people and the international community that our military victory would make Iraq a peaceful, democratic state, a model for its neighbours and a bastion against terrorism.

If this was our war aim, our victory did not achieve it. The resistance movement has pinned down our soldiers and contractors as enemy occupiers.

If our troops pull out, there will be civil war among a dozen rival factions. If our troops stay, in redoubled numbers to suppress the violence, their hulking presence will doom each future Iraqi government to illegitimacy and failure. So let us consider the alternatives to victory.

In the end, a fractured Iraq can be held together o­nly by a man wrapped, like George Washington or Ho Chi Minh, in the legitimacy that derives from successful armed struggle.

We should note the ease with which a scruffy young cleric united Sunnis and Shia against the US presence. A victorious Secretary Rumsfeld could not impose Ahmad Chalabi. However, a retreating US military can designate Iraq's liberator.

We must select the competent Iraqi patriot to whom we yield ground while bleeding his competitors. There will be casualties and disorder, no matter how brilliantly we orchestrate our withdrawal. But the overwhelming majority of Iraqis will rally around any man who claims to drive us out, and elections would validate his relatively bloodless victory.

The man o­n a white horse can bring the UN back as invited guests rather than as our despised surrogates. His police will enforce the law when ours cannot. His debts will be forgiven when ours would not.

America must swallow its resentment and keep a measure of control by doling out the money to keep the Iraqi state functional. $10bn (?5.6bn) a year will buy more counter-terrorism cooperation than a military occupation that costs five times as much. And we will let the Iraqis do the work.

The most virtuous Halliburton employee is 10 times more expensive than the most corrupt Iraqi. Democracy and human rights may take a generation, but our defeat will convince a resentful and fatalistic Middle East that change is possible.

The Kurds, admittedly, will resist any weakness in their US ally. Our parting gift to them will be the southern border for an autonomous Kurdish entity. The price will be US cooperation with Turkey to extort a semblance of respect for the Iraqi central government and the rights of Arab and Turkmen minorities.

We were defeated o­nce, in Vietnam, and the dominoes did not fall. We remained the leader of the free world, sadder but wiser.

The ignorance and megalomania that brought us into Iraq are far more dangerous to US security and prosperity than would be the symbolic military defeat that gets us out.

? John Brady Kiesling is a career diplomat who served in US embassies in Tel Aviv, Casablanca, Athens and Yerevan. In February 2003, he resigned from the Foreign Service in protest against the Bush administration's foreign policy

Anne-Marie Slaughter: Show you are serious about democracy and human rights

The US faces two critical issues in Iraq. First is the necessity of genuinely engaging the international community in stabilising the security situation, supporting the new Iraqi government after June 30 and rebuilding the country's infrastructure and economy.

Crucially, this does not mean simply brokering a face-saving resolution and handing off to the UN o­nly to blame the UN later when Iraq slides into chaos or worse.

On the contrary, it means clearly defining a UN mandate, to be supported by Nato and other regional organisations, and then committing the human and material resources necessary to carry out that mandate. Handing off to the UN without such support is an abdication of responsibility and an admission of failure.

Second is accepting that a genuine democracy in Iraq will bring a genuine majority to power. The way to protect minorities in a democratic Iraq is through federalism provisions and explicit guarantees of minority rights. In principle, even a Shia theocracy can abide by such guarantees.

The US has proclaimed the principles of democracy and self determination and must now abide by whatever results are consistent with the protection of basic international human rights.

? Anne-Marie Slaughter is the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Ray Close: Change the regime in Washington

The first thing we have to adjust to is the reality that nationalism is the most significant force in Iraq today. It is replacing the genuine feelings of gratitude that many Iraqis had toward the US immediately following their liberation.

We have always had a set of objectives based o­n neocon ideology, not Iraqi hopes, which are unattainable because they offend the spirit of Iraqi nationalism.

One, we want long-term strategic military bases. Two, we count o­n retaining significant influence over Iraqi oil policy. Three, we favour unrestricted foreign investment in a country that has a history of intense hostility toward alien ownership of the country's economic enterprises and natural resources. Four, we expect Iraq to support America's role in the Middle East peace process even when it would mean aligning Iraqi policy with that of George W Bush and Ariel Sharon.

Failure to achieve those four objectives will appear to both Republicans and Democrats to be a failure of Bush's overall Iraq policy. But the administration has already boxed itself in to the point where there is no way it can modify those objectives to meet reality.

There has to be regime change in Washington. It's the o­nly way to solve the Iraq problem.

? Ray Close is a former CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia. He served for 27 years as an "Arabist" for the agency.

? This article was first published in the Nation
Copyright ? 2004 The Nation

Guardian Unlimited ? Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004
Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 May 2004 11:48

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