[Marxism] New strategy for Iraq?
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Oct 20 09:14:26 MDT 2006
Major Change Expected In Strategy for Iraq War
By Michael Abramowitz and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 20, 2006; A01
The growing doubts among GOP lawmakers about the administration's Iraq
strategy, coupled with the prospect of Democratic wins in next month's
midterm elections, will soon force the Bush administration to abandon its
open-ended commitment to the war, according to lawmakers in both parties,
foreign policy experts and others involved in policymaking.
Senior figures in both parties are coming to the conclusion that the Bush
administration will be unable to achieve its goal of a stable, democratic
Iraq within a politically feasible time frame. Agitation is growing in
Congress for alternatives to the administration's strategy of keeping Iraq
in one piece and getting its security forces up and running while 140,000
U.S. troops try to keep a lid on rapidly spreading sectarian violence.
On the campaign trail, Democratic candidates are hammering Republican
candidates for backing a failed Iraq policy, and GOP defense of the war is
growing muted. A new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll released this week showed
that voters are more confident in Democrats' ability to handle the Iraq war
than the Republicans' -- a reversal from the last election.
Few officials in either party are talking about an immediate pullout of
U.S. combat troops. But interest appears to be growing in several broad
ideas. One would be some kind of effort to divide the country along
regional lines. Another, favored by many Democrats, is a gradual withdrawal
of troops over a set period of time. A third would be a dramatic
scaling-back of U.S. ambitions in Iraq, giving up on democracy and focusing
only on stability.
Many senior Republicans with close ties to the administration also believe
that essential to a successful strategy in Iraq are an aggressive new
diplomatic initiative to secure a Middle East peace settlement and a new
effort to engage Iraq's neighbors, such as Syria and Iran, in helping
stabilize the country -- perhaps through an international conference.
One point on which adherents of these sharply different approaches appear
to agree is that "staying the course" is fast becoming a dead letter. "I
don't believe that we can continue based on an open-ended, unconditional
presence," said Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, a centrist Maine Republican. "I
don't think there's any question about that, that there will be a change"
in the U.S. strategy in Iraq after next month's elections.
Richard N. Haass, a former Bush administration foreign policy official,
told reporters yesterday that the situation is reaching a "tipping point"
both in Iraq and in U.S. politics. "More of essentially the same is going
to be a policy that very few people are going to be able to support," said
Haass, now the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. He added that
the administration's current Iraq strategy "has virtually no chance of
succeeding" and predicted that "change will come."
Many Senate Republicans are waiting for the recommendations of the Iraq
Study Group, a bipartisan panel co-chaired by former secretary of state
James A. Baker III, a Republican, and former Indiana congressman Lee H.
Hamilton, a Democrat. Both Baker and Hamilton have made it clear that they
do not see the administration's current Iraq policy as working -- though
they do not plan to issue recommendations until well after the midterm
elections, probably in early January.
Many foreign policy experts believe that the commission could sway
President Bush more than most such study groups because of Baker's close
ties to the Bush family.
In an interview this week, Hamilton said there is no "silver bullet" to
turning the situation around in Iraq but noted that frustration is clearly
rising over the current course. "I can't walk out the door without someone
handing me a recommendation," he said.
Sen. John E. Sununu (R-N.H.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee,
said he is open to "significant changes" in the U.S. approach and is hoping
the Iraq Study Group can supply them. "I don't think anyone in the
administration is pleased about the current state of affairs," he said. "I
would hope that members of the administration are willing to learn from
past mistakes . . . and choose a different path that would allow us to meet
How open Bush will be to a change in course is unclear, even as the
violence escalates -- this week has been one of the bloodiest for Americans
in Baghdad in months. In recent remarks about Iraq, Bush has sounded a more
flexible tone, saying he is open to suggestions for changes and emphasizing
that his commanders adjust tactics constantly. He has repeatedly made it
clear that U.S. patience with the new Iraqi government is not open-ended.
White House officials describe the current turmoil over Iraq policy in
Washington as an expected byproduct of the upsurge in violence. Press
secretary Tony Snow yesterday dismissed a dramatic about-face in policy --
such as a division of the country or phased withdrawal -- as a
"non-starter" and called the idea that the White House will seek a course
correction in Iraq "a bunch of hooey."
Bush has been adamant that the United States will not withdraw its troops
until the Iraqi government can defend itself.
Like many who have met with the president in recent months to discuss Iraq
policy, author and military expert Robert Kaplan said he detected clear
limits to Bush's flexibility. "He seemed genuinely to enjoy the challenges
to his policy that we threw at him," Kaplan said, describing a session Bush
held with several outside strategists at Camp David in June. "He wasn't at
all defensive. He appeared open to any new direction or tactic, except
withdrawal, and yet that is what he might be faced with after November."
Along with the political debate, there also is growing frustration inside
the U.S. military over Iraq, with some officers debating privately whether
the situation there is salvageable. In recent weeks, senior military
officers have offered a torrent of negative comments, a sharp contrast to
the official optimism of the past three years.
"We're obviously very concerned about what we're seeing" in Baghdad, Army
Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq,
said yesterday. He indicated that changes to a plan to restore security to
the capital are being considered. "We find the insurgent elements, the
extremists, are in fact punching back hard," Caldwell said.
In recent days, the demand for change on Iraq has been especially notable
from inside the president's party: Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), the
chairman of the Armed Services Committee, returned from a trip to Iraq
saying that country was adrift and all options should be considered. Sen.
Kay Bailey Hutchison, a conservative Republican from Texas, said this week
that she is willing to consider the wisdom of somehow breaking up Iraq.
Until now, Democrats' calls for withdrawing troops have been largely
irrelevant, but if Democrats take one or both houses of Congress next
month, their views could become significant in shaping strategy.
Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), who would take over the chairmanship of the
Armed Services Committee, said he favors beginning a phased withdrawal of
U.S. troops that "gives the Iraqis notice that they're going to be looking
into the abyss" unless they make necessary changes.
One version of this option was presented to House Democrats last month by
former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who outlined a
four-step plan that would include a joint declaration by the U.S. and Iraqi
governments on a timeline for the departure of U.S. troops, a follow-up
international conference on stabilizing Iraq and a greater focus on
Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), who is campaigning to become the new majority
leader should Democrats take power, said many in his caucus like the idea
behind the Brzezinski plan, though perhaps not all the specifics. "The
Iraqis have to understand that there is a time frame," he said. "Our
commitment is substantial, but it is not unending."
People familiar with the work of the Iraq Study Group say it is also
mulling a variant of the gradual withdrawal idea that would move U.S.
troops out of Iraq but leave a residual force in the region to keep the
violence from spreading and Iraq's neighbors from meddling.
Another idea getting a closer look is a new power-sharing agreement that
would give more power to autonomous regions -- Kurdish in the north, Sunni
in the middle and Shiite in the south -- while weakening the central
government. This idea is most closely identified with Sen. Joseph R. Biden
Jr. (Del.), the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, and
Leslie H. Gelb, a former president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Because there is no oil in what would be the Sunni-controlled area, Biden
and Gelb envision some sort of scheme to share oil revenue with the Sunnis
to get them to agree to such a plan.
Biden said yesterday that if the Democrats win big in next month's
elections, "You have a lot of Republicans who are going to openly join
Democrats and will push back hard against the president."
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