Updates, Live

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Fareed Zakaria about the Way Forward in Iraq


(click here for the Romanian version)

According to yesterday’s Washingtonian wisdom, there were only two possible solutions for Iraq: Stay-the-Course and Cut-and-Run. Each one with slight variations. Stay-the-Course was sometimes rather Change-the-Course (the-Flexible-Approach, to put it more elegantly). Cut-and-Run could also mean various things: immediate withdrawal, phased withdrawal, setting a timetable.

For the partisans of the Stay-the-Course approach there were only two possibilities: win or defeat. Naturally, it followed that American troops should have stayed in Iraq up to the victory. The defeat would have implied too many bad things: Iraq would have become a haven for all terrorist networks; the whole region would have been destabilized; the terrorist threat for US and European countries would have risen at dramatic levels.

The partisans of the Cut-and-Run approach firmly believed that the war in Iraq was a huge mistake; for them a victory would have been absolutely impossible; the only thing to do was to limit the proportions of the mistake.

The Iraq theme dominated the mid-term elections. The outcome of the vote showed very clear the mood in the American society – they have enough of Stay-the-Course, they want Something-Else. So, today there is a new mantra in town: the Backer-Hamilton solution.

Of course, this Something-Else should address all issues raised by both Stay-the-Course and Cut-and-Run. This is what Fareed Zakaria analyses in Rethinking Iraq: The Way Forward, followed by a new column (Don't Punt on The Troops Issue), devoted precisely to the Baker-Hamilton mantra.

Are there only these two possibilities, win or defeat? No, says Mr. Zakaria, there is also another outcome, no-win-no-defeat. It is the way the Korean War ended.

For Americans, the Korean War was not a defeat—the United States had gathered a coalition to resist aggression—but it was certainly not a victory. After three years of fighting and 4 million dead, Korea remained divided—the North a communist bulwark, the South itself turning into a nasty dictatorship—Asia was bubbling over and the danger of war with the forces of international communism seemed greater than before.

And Fareed Zakaria continues,

Something like the close of the Korean War is, frankly, the best we can hope for in Iraq now… a gray ending—one that is unsatisfying to all, but that prevents the worst scenarios from unfolding, secures some real achievements and allows the United States to regain its energies and strategic compass for its broader leadership role in the world.

The United States must redefine its mission, reduce and redeploy its forces and fashion a less intrusive involvement with Iraq, one that both Iraqis and Americans believe is productive and sustainable for the long term.

The US cannot forge a united secular Iraq. In the best case scenario Iraq will become a loose federation, with an equitable share of oil revenues and an equitable representation of each ethnic group in the central administration. US should redefine its mission accordingly.

But, before anything else, the Iraqi society is responsible for its future. The US can help, only the three main communities should firstly express their commitment to be helped – namely by the Americans. Otherwise the American troops are just one more player in a war of anybody against everybody. So far, only the Kurds have expressed their commitment to be helped by the US.

A destabilized Iraq is dangerous for all its neighbors – and Americans share with Iraq’s neighbors a common interest. Some of these neighbors have friendly relations with US, the others are hostile to America. Nevertheless, the US should try to open the dialogue with all of them.

What happens if the dialogue with Iraq’s neighbors proves impossible? Then US should go on alone; there is no magic here.

What happens if the situation goes on the way it is now? Then US should keep two main responsibilities: securing the Kurdish region (the only community who expressed a strong commitment for the American help), and securing the borders between the regions.



Post a Comment

<< Home