Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Iraq - We Can Still Lose The Peace

Anthony Cordesman, a one time virulent opponent of the Iraq War whose opinions were permanently linked on the NYT op-ed page, was also one of the first to change his opinions once he saw the effectiveness of the surge. He chimes in today in the Washington Post, reminding us that there is still much to do to help stabilize Iraq before pulling out of the country and that, failure to do so could result in Iraq imploding.

As Mr. Cordesman notes:

. . . First, we need to ensure that Iraq can finish "winning" and continue to "hold." We should make clear that we will be flexible about the speed and level of our withdrawal of U.S. forces if an elected Iraqi government needs a limited amount of added help to defeat al-Qaeda and establish national security. We should also make clear that U.S. military advisory teams, including the embedded advisers necessary to make Iraqi combat forces fully independent and effective, will stay as long as Iraq wants them. We should be prepared to maintain and strengthen our advisory teams to help Iraq develop effective police and a criminal justice system.

If necessary, we should provide military assistance and equipment until Iraq can emerge from the budget crisis triggered by the collapse of world oil prices . . .

Second, we must help Iraq "build." U.S. help will steadily grow more important as the necessary transition from armed nation-building to post-conflict reconstruction occurs over the next three to four years. This means keeping our economic and governance advisers in place as long as Iraq wants them. It means keeping our Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in the field and replacing their military members with civilians. It means a major U.S. effort to support Iraq in dealing with both the International Monetary Fund and its debt and reparations problems. It might require carefully targeted economic aid in select areas. Iraq's budgetary and governance problems are solvable, but they will require years of additional aid and support.

. . . The final dimension of the "hold" effort requires giving the highest possible priority to helping Iraq develop its oil fields and renovate and increase its export capabilities.

. . . Yes, some of these actions will cost U.S. lives and dollars. Such costs, though, will be far lower than the mid- to long-term cost of throwing away a high probability of leaving Iraq with lasting security and stability. The United States must find a way to leave Iraq that ensures the stability of the Persian Gulf -- a region with close to half of the world's known oil and gas reserves and where America's future credibility will be as critical to dealing with jihadist terrorism as is the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In strategic terms, Vietnam was always expendable. Iraq and the Gulf are not.

Do read the entire article. It is the height of irony that the Iraq War is now Obama's war. He can't win it - its already been won. But he can loose the peace if he is not careful.

No comments: