get rid of the yanks from iraq

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    Iraq: Winning the Unwinnable War
    James Dobbins
    From Foreign Affairs, January/February 2005

    Summary: By losing the trust of the Iraqi people, the Bush administration has already lost the war in Iraq. Moderate Iraqis can still win it, but only if they wean themselves from Washington and get support from elsewhere. To help them, the United States should pull out its troops as soon as it can without jeopardizing the elections, train Iraqis to beat the insurgency on their own, and rally Iran and European allies to the cause.

    James Dobbins is Director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at Rand. He was a U.S. Special Envoy in Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti, Somalia, and Afghanistan.

    Iraq: The Logic of Disengagement
    By Edward N. Luttwak
    Foreign Affairs, January/February 2005

    The Middle East Predicament
    By Dennis Ross
    Foreign Affairs, January/February 2005


    The recent American presidential campaign has had the perverse effect of postponing any serious national debate on the future U.S. course in Iraq. Electoral considerations placed a premium on consistency at the expense of common sense, with both candidates insisting that even with perfect hindsight they would have acted just as they did two years ago: going to war or voting to authorize doing so. The campaign also revealed the paucity of good options now before the United States. Keeping U.S. troops in Iraq will only provoke fiercer and more widespread resistance, but withdrawing them too soon could spark a civil war. The second administration of George W. Bush seems to be left with the choice between making things worse slowly or quickly.

    The beginning of wisdom is to recognize that the ongoing war in Iraq is not one that the United States can win. As a result of its initial miscalculations, misdirected planning, and inadequate preparation, Washington has lost the Iraqi people's confidence and consent, and it is unlikely to win them back. Every day that Americans shell Iraqi cities they lose further ground on the central front of Iraqi opinion.

    The war can still be won--but only by moderate Iraqis and only if they concentrate their efforts on gaining the cooperation of neighboring states, securing the support of the broader international community, and quickly reducing their dependence on the United States. Achieving such wide consensus will require turning the U.S.-led occupation into an Iraqi-led, regionally backed, and internationally supported endeavor to attain peace and stability based on the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.


    In the eyes of the Iraqi people and of all the neighboring populations, the U.S. mission in Iraq lacks legitimacy and credibility. Only by dramatically recasting the American role in the region can such perceptions begin to be changed. Until then, U.S. military operations in Iraq will continue to inspire local resistance, radicalize neighboring populations, and discourage international cooperation.

    Within Iraq, the most pressing issue is when and how to stage the national elections currently planned for January. Continued insecurity could prevent anything approaching a free campaign and a fair ballot. On the other hand, prolonged postponement of the elections could precipitate civil war. The United States has little choice, consequently, but to try to accommodate the preferences of the moderate Shiite leadership for early elections. At the same time, the electoral system must be adjusted to ensure that the minority Sunni population will be adequately represented in the new government, even if large elements of that population are prevented from voting or choose not to in protest. Making such adjustments could delay the balloting by a few months, but not doing so would ensure an unbalanced result and risk pushing Iraq one step closer to civil war.

    Assuming elections do occur, the new government will emerge with only modestly enhanced legitimacy. Shiites and Kurds may be adequately represented, but the Sunnis will not be. If they cannot or do not vote, the Sunnis will be underrepresented. If the electoral system is modified to peg the number of representatives to the number of eligible rather than actual voters, the Sunnis will be represented by individuals they regard as unrepresentative. Elections are always polarizing events, and in a fragile, deeply conflicted society such as Iraq's, they could deepen the gulf between Sunnis on the one hand and Shiites and Kurds on the other.

    In the meantime, the insurgency will continue to rage and probably gather further momentum, at least in Sunni areas. If Shiite extremists do not gain influence within the new governing establishment, they too are likely to continue opposing it violently. U.S. and international forces will remain widely unpopular, and they could come under pressure from the new government to leave or to drastically curb their activities.
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