Iraq - "not an easy out"

Send another 100,000 troops to Iraq


The Orlando Sentinel

(KRT) - As I retched over Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's lame justification for U.S. troops' lack of certain necessary protections in Iraq, my thoughts drifted back to the pre-war period.

My concern then was that the Bush administration was barreling toward a premature, risk-filled decision on the basis of meager evidence.

I laid out several potential scenarios, including the one I favored. I anticipated a price tag of a few hundred billion dollars, and "a relatively short battle phase, modest casualties and victory - but not an easy out." I added that U.S. troops would need to occupy Iraq for years; that such a presence would create enemies and greater American casualties; and that terrorist groups would more easily recruit new members and intensify their targeting of U.S. interests.

I mention this not in an I-told-you-so mode, but because of my expectation that the Bush administration - after sustained salivating over the prospect of showing Saddam Hussein a thing or two - had, at the very least:

_A solid strategy.

_An abundance of organized, well-evaluated, actionable information on Iraq and its complex population.

_A clear decision-making system that would enable sound thinking, creativity and flexibility.

_A plan to rapidly expand U.S. military forces, should allies lag or unanticipated circumstances arise.

Unfortunately, it eventually became evident that the Bush administration had embarked on its venture with the wide-eyed enthusiasm and naivete of a first-time tourist with a dog-eared, incomplete travel guide.

Otherwise, why would the intervention find itself in such disarray? Why would Rumsfeld talk about "going to war with the Army you have," rather than with a properly equipped, defended and led military force? And why would a post-war Iraq administrator, former Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, lament the absence of a clear plan, both when he served there and now?

Future prospects for greater clarity appear bleak. Americans received pitifully little guidance on this issue during the recent presidential campaign. Every time the subject came up, I could not decide whether Bush or John Kerry offered the most general, low-on-detail, unsatisfying vision for Iraq. In fact, Americans are still waiting to hear - in detail - how the Bush administration intends to prevail.

I'm not considering an exit strategy at this point, because none is evident. The focus must be on stabilizing Iraq, creating some economic momentum, and launching diplomatic initiatives to bring in more voices and resources.

The Bush administration should stop fooling around with puny U.S. troop increases, and deploy at least another 100,000. That kind of bold move would provide the muscle to lock down troubled areas, thwart insurgents, promote order and restore respect for authority.

Simultaneously, the White House must press other nations to forgive more of Iraq's foreign debts. It also should consider a proposal by Garner to give each Iraqi family $1,000 - not as a handout but in exchange for meaningful gestures, such as the turning in of weapons.

Finally, President George W. Bush should take the lead in organizing a regional conference on the Middle East that would include Iraq. Talk has circulated about a possible U.S. special envoy to the Middle East. Well, an unlikely but capable person has volunteered: businessman Donald Trump. I was persuaded after hearing Trump speak recently about his desire to promote Middle East peace-building and his willingness to serve, if invited. Why not?

Mr. Bush clearly has calls to make_to order more troops, to cajole Iraq's creditors, to gather funds for Iraqi families, to set up a regional conference and to hire Trump. And a few more to remaining advisers who shared in the ineptitude of the Iraq intervention with a simple message: "You're fired."



John C. Bersia, who won a Pulitzer Prize in editorial writing for the Orlando Sentinel in 2000, is also the special assistant to the president for global perspectives and a professor at the University of Central Florida. Readers may write to him at the Orlando Sentinel, 633 North Orange Ave., Orlando, Fla. 32801, or by e-mail at
Is sense breaking out in the USA at last? Someone is linking Iraq's economy with the insurrection; shame it wasn't Bremer and American Reconstruction Inc.

There have been some good posts recently about the ineptitude of the post war 'plan' - let's have some views from arrse members.

Over to you...

(good of the guy to put his email address on, too...)

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