[FoRK] Article from the Chicago Sun-Times
Joseph S. Barrera III
joe at barrera.org
Mon Sep 20 19:46:42 PDT 2004
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BY ROBERT NOVAK SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
Inside the Bush administration policymaking apparatus, there is strong
feeling that U.S. troops must leave Iraq next year. This determination
is not predicated on success in implanting Iraqi democracy and internal
stability. Rather, the officials are saying: Ready or not, here we go.
This prospective policy is based on Iraq's national elections in late
January, but not predicated on ending the insurgency or reaching a
national political settlement. Getting out of Iraq would end the
neoconservative dream of building democracy in the Arab world. The
United States would be content having saved the world from Saddam
Hussein's quest for weapons of mass destruction.
The reality of hard decisions ahead is obscured by blather on both sides
in a presidential campaign. Six weeks before the election, Bush cannot
be expected to admit even the possibility of a quick withdrawal. Sen.
John Kerry's political aides, still languishing in fantastic speculation
about European troops to the rescue, do not even ponder a quick exit.
But Kerry supporters with foreign policy experience speculate that if
elected, their candidate would take the same escape route.
Whether Bush or Kerry is elected, the president or president-elect will
have to sit down immediately with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The
military will tell the election winner there are insufficient U.S.
forces in Iraq to wage effective war. That leaves three realistic
options: Increase overall U.S. military strength to reinforce Iraq, stay
with the present strength to continue the war, or get out.
Well-placed sources in the administration are confident Bush's decision
will be to get out. They believe that is the recommendation of his
national security team and would be the recommendation of second-term
officials. An informed guess might have Condoleezza Rice as secretary of
state, Paul Wolfowitz as defense secretary and Stephen Hadley as
national security adviser. According to my sources, all would opt for a
Getting out now would not end expensive U.S. reconstruction of Iraq, and
certainly would not stop the fighting. Without U.S. troops, the civil
war cited as the worst-case outcome by the recently leaked National
Intelligence Estimate would be a reality. It would then take a resolute
president to stand aside while Iraqis battle it out.
The end product would be an imperfect Iraq, probably dominated by Shia
Muslims seeking revenge over long oppression by the Sunni-controlled
Baathist Party. The Kurds would remain in their current semi-autonomous
state. Iraq would not be divided, reassuring neighboring countries --
especially Turkey -- that are apprehensive about ethnically divided nations.
This messy new Iraq is viewed by Bush officials as vastly preferable to
Saddam's police state, threatening its neighbors and the West. In
private, some officials believe the mistake was not in toppling Saddam
but in staying there for nation building after the dictator was deposed.
Abandonment of building democracy in Iraq would be a terrible blow to
the neoconservative dream. The Bush administration's drift from that
idea is shown in restrained reaction to Russian President Vladimir
Putin's seizure of power. While Bush officials would prefer a democratic
Russia, they appreciate that Putin is determined to prevent his country
from disintegrating as the Soviet Union did before it. A fragmented
Russia, prey to terrorists, is not in the U.S. interest.
The Kerry campaign, realizing that its only hope is to attack Bush for
his Iraq policy, is not equipped to make sober evaluations of Iraq. When
I asked a Kerry political aide what his candidate would do in Iraq, he
could do no better than repeat the old saw that help is on the way from
European troops. Kerry's foreign policy advisers know there will be no
release from that quarter.
In the Aug. 29 New York Times Magazine, columnist David Brooks wrote an
article (''How to Reinvent the GOP'') that is regarded as a neo-con
manifesto and not popular with other conservatives.
''We need to strengthen nation states,'' Brooks wrote, calling for ''a
multilateral nation-building apparatus.'' To chastened Bush officials,
that sounds like an invitation to repeat Iraq instead of making sure it
never happens again.
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