A Real Plan for Success in Iraq
When the President flew out to the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and posed under the banner that read: “mission accomplished,” he made it clear he did not understand the scope of the mission. We need a success strategy. Only success that can honor the sacrifice of so many American men and women; it is only success that will allow Iraq to stand on its own; and it is only success that will allow our soldiers to come home. Early exit means retreat or defeat. Wes Clark has a plan to internationalize the reconstruction, counter the terrorists’ guerilla war more effectively, and give Iraqis a greater stake in our own success.
What Do We Do Now?
General Clark believes we need to clearly define our mission in Iraq by deciding what constitutes success. Our mission is to create a secure, stable Iraq with a representative government. Only this will make America more secure and enable our troops to come home. Success means that Iraq is strong enough to sustain itself without outside forces but is no longer a threat to its neighbors; that representative government has taken root so Iraq can be a model for democratic hope in the Middle East; and that Iraqi society and the Iraqi economy are healthy enough so that Al Qaeda cannot recruit there.
Wes Clark’s strategy in Iraq will be guided by the following principles:
- End the American monopoly. From the beginning, the Administration has insisted on exclusive control of the Iraqi reconstruction and occupation. This has cost us the financial and military support of other nations and made America a bigger target for terrorists. Ending the American monopoly will change the way this enterprise is viewed-in Iraq and throughout the world.
- Re-incorporate our allies. Fixing the Administration’s missteps will require skilled diplomacy at the highest levels. General Clark will call a summit of leaders from Europe, the United Nations, Japan and the Arab world to launch a new, internationalized effort in Iraq. They will be more willing to help if America works with them on issues they care about: climate change, the International Criminal Court and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
- Create a new international authority. The Coalition Provisional Authority, which is the American-led de facto government of Iraq, should be replaced. But the United Nations is neither able nor willing to assume the daunting task of governing Iraq. General Clark would create a new international structure to govern Iraq-the Iraqi Reconstruction and Democracy Council-similar to the one formed in Bosnia. The interim government would have representatives from the European Union, the United States, neighboring countries and others who support our efforts to build a democratic Iraq.
- Transform the military operation into a NATO operation. General Abizaid, commander of US forces in the Middle East, would remain in charge of the operation, but he would report to the NATO Council, as General Clark did as commander of NATO forces in Kosovo. If we take these steps, we can expect NATO countries to contribute around 50,000 troops. With NATO support and U.N. endorsement, we can also get Arab countries in the region to step in. Their presence would prove that this is not an American occupation, but an international and regional effort to stabilize Iraq.
- Force Mix. The Bush Administration has failed to formulate an effective tactical plan. No such plan will be viable without substantial contributions from military leaders on the ground. Still, General Clark would approach the problem as follows:
- Consider adding troops. General Clark will look at whether adding forces will help the effort in Iraq. He will not measure success in Iraq by a reduction in troops or failure by an increase. It’s more important to do the job right so all the troops can come home sooner.
- Adapt to guerilla war. One mistake in Vietnam was trying to use conventional forces to fight an unconventional war. The more unarmored humvees we have, the greater our vulnerability to roadside bombs. We have suffered more losses in routine patrolling and transit than in active counter-insurgency efforts. We need to ensure the right mix of forces to fight a classic guerrilla war. That means more Special Forces and other light forces better suited for counter-insurgency.
- Better use of intelligence resources. To protect our soldiers we must do all we can to find out who’s attacking our soldiers. That means better intelligence work and improved relations with the civilian population. Yet intelligence specialists and people who can speak to Iraqis in their own language are scarce. We need to take the linguists and intelligence specialists now involved in the search for WMDs and assign them to our military counter-insurgency efforts. International inspectors are willing and able to take over this mission. We must also augment our intelligence capability with new technologies and better recruitment in the Arab-American community.
- Train Iraqi security forces, freeing up U.S. troops. We need to empower Iraqis to provide routine security so American soldiers can focus on urgent tasks like counter-insurgency. General Clark will implement a comprehensive two-tier plan: train police first, then military.
- Summon the old Iraqi army for duty at the local level. We need more Iraqi paramilitary units and police at the local level. General Clark will use thorough background checks, generous pay rates, and real political control for Iraqis-as well as appealing to Iraqis’ sense of nationality-to put Iraqis in charge of basic security, freeing up US soldiers to focus on our most urgent tasks, including counter-insurgency.
- Reconstitute the Iraqi Army so that it eventually can do the work the occupation force now does-guarding Iraqi borders, keeping order, and fighting insurgents. It will take considerable time to have an Iraqi Army trained enough and integrated enough to do the job.
- Engage neighbors for better border security. Iraq is now a magnet for every jihadist in the Middle East. Closing the borders requires cooperation from the countries bordering Iraq. But currently, Syria and Iran don’t want us to succeed because they fear they are next on our invasion list. General Clark will engage Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia with both carrots and sticks. We have serious issues with each of these countries, but closing those borders is the most urgent priority right now. We must show Iraq’s neighbors that cooperation with us is in their interest and will help their region.
- Secure Ammunition. Today, 600,000 tons of ammunition from Saddam’s arsenal have yet to be secured, and thousands of shoulder-fired missiles remain at large. Terrorists have used these stockpiles to attack our forces. We should destroy that ammunition immediately or else secure it with surveillance technology and troops from other countries willing to come to Iraq.
- Give the Iraqis a rising stake in our success. Iraqis will be more likely to meet the security challenge if we give them a greater stake in our success. That means establishing a sovereign government in Iraq right away. Because Americans chose the current governing counsel, many Iraqis see it as illegitimate. General Clark believes we cannot transfer full authority to Iraqis before they have the capacity to succeed, but we should help the Iraqis quickly establish their own government to replace the existing counsel.
- Elect a truly representative government. The Iraqi people have already elected 50 city and regional councils in Iraq. These councils could elect a new interim government in Iraq just as state legislatures once elected members to the U.S. Senate. This new government would represent Iraq internationally and control oil revenues, funds and any frozen assets through a transparent, internationally audited process. Transfer of government functions to this new government would progress week by week. The interim government would launch a new process to write a Constitution This constitution would be an Iraqi document-not written by Americans or people appointed by Americans-and would set the terms for free and fair elections.
- Promote information exchange to advance civil society. To encourage the growth of civic organizations, media, neighborhood groups-and promote reconstruction-we should open the West to Iraq for exchange programs so that Iraqis who have been isolated for years can see the what the rest of the world does with its economy, schools, health care, media and government.
Preventing Foreign Misadventures
- Promote security through multilateralism. No nation will ever have veto power over our security. But turning our back on our allies makes it harder to protect ourselves and our interests. Despite our overwhelming military, economic and political strength, we cannot pursue Arab-Israeli peace, support reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, deal with the challenges of North Korea, track down Osama bin Laden, fight the global war against terrorism, face the problem of Iran, and return to prosperity in this country, unless we have allies to help us.
- Modernize international institutions to combat new threats. General Clark will pursue a new Atlantic Charter to repair and modernize our security partnership with Europe. The Charter that will define the threats we face in common and demand action from our allies to meet them while offering a promise to act together.
- Create a new agency for international assistance. General Clark believes America should lead the world in addressing the causes of human misery by attacking the problems of poverty, disease, and ethnic conflict with the same energy and skill we have brought to the challenge of warfare. A new agency would combine the existing development efforts of our government with a real budget for research and development, planning and the ability to draw on the new national Civilian Reserves that General Clark proposed in October. These efforts will reduce the anger and alienation that gives rise to terrorism, and win us more friends and partners around the world. It will be far easier to ask gain international support for our concerns when other countries see us helping them on theirs.