Iraq: U.S. interests best served by a quick exit Charles V. Peña Director of Defense Policy Studies Cato Institute, Washington, DC May 2, 2003
According to President Bush • The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq's new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. • Rebuilding Iraq will require a sustained commitment. • We will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more. Speech at the American Enterprise Institute February 26, 2003
According to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld • How would we feel about an Iranian-type government with a few clerics running everything in the country, the answer is: That isn't going to happen. AP wire story, April 25, 2003 • Iraq belongs to you [the Iraqi people]. The coalition has no intention of owning or running Iraq. AP wire story, April 30, 2003
According to Jay Garner • We won’t quit until we know they’re on the right road. • To get them comfortable with self-government I don’t think will take long. • All we care about is them establishing a democratic process that creates a government that expresses the freely elected will of the people. • What kind of government, what kind of process – that’s up to them. Washington Post, April 20, 2003
According to Iraqi protestors • No to America. No to Saddam. Our revolution is Islamic. • No Sunni. No Shiite. Only One Islamic Nation. • No Bush. No Saddam. Yes, yes to Islam. • No to imperialism. No to Israel. No to America. No to Saddam. • Leave our country. We want peace. America is God’s enemy. • We thank the Americans for getting rid of Saddam’s regime, but now Iraq must be run by Iraqis.
Iraqi protestors (cont.) • We will not accept a government that oppresses us. There must be an elected government. • We cannot be part of a process which is under an American general. • The American presence is unacceptable and there’s no justification for it staying in Iraq. • You are masters today. But I warn you against thinking of staying. Get out before we force you out.
U.S. rhetoric is a jumble of contradictions • One thing is certain: we will not impose a government in Iraq. President Bush Remarks at Lima Army Tank Plant, Lima. OH April 24, 2003 • The coalition alone retains absolute authority within Iraq. Lt. Gen David McKiernan “U.S. Warns Iraqis Against Claiming Authority in Void,” New York Times, April 24, 2003
Two options • First option is president’s vision of sustained commitment • Constitutional democracy • Civil society • Free market economy • Cost could be substantial • Estimates range from $75 billion to $500 billion • Likely to borne by U.S. taxpayers • Implies a prolonged U.S. military commitment likely to be viewed as an occupation
Options (cont.) • Second option is to hand the government back to the Iraqi people as quickly as possible, followed immediately by U.S. military withdrawal • Administration rhetoric suggests this is the general approach being taken • But the result could be an Islamic state or Iran trying to exert influence • Administration has declared this as unacceptable U.S. seems to want to do both options, despite inherent contradictions
A third option • Transition government back to the Iraqi people as soon as possible • Followed by U.S. military withdrawal • Leave democratization, policing and internal security, and nation building to a coalition of the willing • Other countries (or possibly the UN) assume the costs and risks • Reduces likelihood that U.S. becomes a convenient target • Might be the least bad of not very good options
U.S. interests best served by a quick exit • IF Iraq was a threat, that threat has now been eliminated • Having invaded Iraq, the U.S. may have little choice but to help rebuild it • But that does not mean an Iraqi New Deal • U.S. needs to set modest goals and a firm departure date • NOT a “made in America” democracy • Remember the legacy of the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia
Quick exit (cont.) • Primary objective should be to hand the government back to the Iraqis in the shortest possible time • Withdraw U.S. troops at earliest possible opportunity • Let Iraqis determine their own government • NOT a U.S. hand-picked or approved government • Avoid favoritism to Iraqi exiles United States must be willing to live with a less than perfect outcome. But in deposing Saddam, be careful what you wish for.
Events that do not portend well • “U.S.: At Least 7 Iraqis Killed in Mosul Protest,” Reuters, April 16, 2003 • U.S. troops killed at least seven Iraqis in Mosul when a demonstration against their presence in the northern city turned violent on Tuesday. • A prominent Kurdish-backed leader in the city accused U.S. forces of stoking tensions by raising the Stars and Stripes over the [government] building [occupied by U.S. forces].
Events (cont.) • “U.S. Forces Return Fire at Iraq Protest,” AP, April 29, 2003 • U.S. soldiers opened fire on Iraqis at a demonstration after being shot at with automatic rifles by some in the crowd. • The director of the local hospital said 13 people were killed and 75 injured. • The demonstrators reportedly were protesting U.S. troops' presence in Fallujah. But some townspeople said the protest was held by students aged 5 to 20 to ask the soldiers to leave the school they were staying at so classes, scheduled to resume Tuesday, could take place.
Events (cont.) • “U.S. Troops Fire on Iraq Protestors Again,” AP, April 30, 2003 • For the second time this week, U.S. soldiers fired on anti-American protesters Wednesday in the city of Fallujah. • The mayor said two people were killed and 14 wounded. • The shooting in Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, occurred less than 48 hours after gunfire during a demonstration Monday night that hospital officials said killed 13 Iraqis.
Downside risks to lingering in Iraq • U.S. nation building track record is spotty, at best • Post-war Germany and Japan not comparable to Iraq • Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo more likely examples • Nation building in Afghanistan still uncertain outcome • Lebanon in the 1980s • If the U.S. takes sides in an internal power struggle, the likely result is that U.S. forces will become a target for guerilla war and terrorism
Risks (cont.) • Soviet Union in Afghanistan • If U.S. is viewed as an occupying power, Arabs and Muslims throughout the region might flock to Iraq to expel the American infidel