Saturday :: Jul 28, 2007

Move Beyond Failure In Iraq

by Steve

We’re spending billions of dollars on Iraqi reconstruction projects, apparently without Iraqi involvement and acceptance of which ones are being built first, and now we wonder why the Iraqis are not taking ownership of the completed projects and running them. It appears from this new report by the Inspector General that this administration never invested the Iraqis in their own reconstruction, exacerbated by the problem that the Iraqis fully expected that once we blew things up and toppled Saddam, we would deliver to the Iraqis a country with better infrastructure than what they had. Now the Iraqis see that we cannot deliver basic services like electricity for ice and air conditioning; clean water and basic sewage services in large part because we didn’t plan to do so, nor did we ever provide enough security to allow it.

On top of this, Prime Minister al-Maliki doesn’t trust and has a chilly relationship with General Petraeus, undercutting any hopes we had that basic security could improve, and undermining any assumptions that the Iraqis would be fully invested in their own security. Part of this distrust comes from our arming and funding of Sunni security forces within Iraq without the approval of the Iraqi government. If the Iraqis are not invested in their own reconstruction, and if the Iraqis distrust CENTCOM to a point that they won’t be invested in their own basic security, then isn’t it time that both the security and reconstruction efforts become international affairs run by people who know what they are doing and have a stake in doing it?

I argued for exactly such an approach four months ago, and nothing has changed my mind since. Why aren't we getting the Iranians and Saudis directly invested in a solution, and why aren't we getting the international community involved in reconstruction and regional security as well? How can any effort succeed in Iraq if it continues to have an American face?

One of the big clubs used against redeployment advocates by the proponents of endless war like Joe Lieberman and John McCain is the allegation that we would be granting a huge propaganda victory to Al Qaeda and native insurgents if we leave the Iraqis to chaos. This debate is already underway with the British withdrawal from southern Iraq. Yet the discussion has focused on an absolutist “we stay indefinitely or we go now” choice; no one talks about replacing American or British forces with other forces from nearby, invested-in-the-outcome nations, or even with UN forces as part of a regional security compact.

Similarly, as we have failed at the reconstruction effort, no one talks about handing this job off to folks with more experience doing it, like the UN or other international outfits that have a better track record working with the locals. The only option ever discussed seems to be an endless pipeline of American taxpayer dollars to Bush/Cheney campaign contributors for more and more failed projects that were never developed with the Iraqis at the outset.

Isn't it time for this country to debate handing off the security and reconstruction effort to countries that are invested in the solution and know what they are doing?

Steve :: 11:45 AM :: Comments (19) :: Digg It!