Re-Occupy Iraq?

July 1, 2007 Topic: Security Regions: Persian GulfMiddle East Tags: Golan HeightsIraq War

Re-Occupy Iraq?

Mini Teaser: If the United States seeks to quell the civil war in Iraq, re-occupation may be the answer.

by Author(s): Jeffrey Stacey

This solution will not require the 400,000 to 600,000 troops that various observers have called for, comparing Iraq to places like Bosnia, for example. The emphasis in this effort will be civilian rather than military, although coalition forces will need to enforce the determinations of civilian-run accountability review processes for the awarding of government contracts. Where did all the people go that worked for the CPA? Some went to work for contractors, some remain and many of the foreign-service officers from the State Department are back in the United States. They all need to be recalled, and rapid recruitment of an additional 500 civilian experts will be necessary.

This CPA civilian force will need a sizable military contingent to work solely on the political, economic and social enforcement tasks of the CPA, and these forces can come from the remainder of the yet-to-arrive Baghdad surge-between 10,000 and 12,000 soldiers, roughly three brigades, are still due in the capital in coming months, according to military commanders. With multiple neighborhoods in Baghdad experiencing newfound stability and security due to the surge, one of the yet-to-be-deployed brigades can be used to help cement these conditions by working directly on civil-society-building tasks hand-in-hand with the CPA civilian force, with individual companies-roughly one hundred or so soldiers-assigned to different divisions of the CPA force, but obviously still coordinating with the fighting forces commanded by General Odierno. This entity will exercise the re-taken power, with a plan to achieve initial success in the capital. Once a series of benchmarks have been met in Baghdad, the forces will "take the show on the road", first to Basra and at a later stage to Kirkuk.

Once the militias begin to respond to changes in their incentive structure, violence will start to ebb. Then, months in the future the best way to follow up a stable cessation in violence is to pursue a Dayton Accords-style process, whereby every single significant factional leader is cajoled to attend a conference outside of Iraq, where the leaders will be required to negotiate a lasting political settlement, tearing up the new constitution if necessary.

Even the half-baked surge-and-hope strategy will cost the United States dearly in the short and medium term; thus, it should require little hand-wringing for the administration to commit to a different approach that is not only superior strategically but also unlikely to break the bank beyond the current outsized spending. Only half-implemented, the current strategy has achieved a modicum of stability in several of Baghdad's most violent neighborhoods. But this has occurred at immense cost to U.S. soldiers, with monthly casualty counts the highest in 2007 and among the highest in the war so far (improvement in overall attack numbers is too small to be meaningful). Forward-deployed U.S. and Iraqi forces are unfortunately proving highly vulnerable, and lethal attacks inside the Green Zone have spiked dramatically. Moreover, indications are that after April's massive anti-U.S. protest by Sadr supporters, along with increased intra-Shi‘a violence in the south, the Mahdi Army is again targeting U.S. troops. Prima facie evidence furthermore indicates that Al-Qaeda has implemented a surge of its own.

Reflecting the bleak state of affairs in Iraq, here at home the budding number of Vietnam analogies recall a renowned philosopher's aphorism: "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce." It is imperative to adopt a change in strategy this summer, for an immense amount is riding on the approaching outcome-not least the basic welfare of Iraqi citizens and the long-term national security of the United States. The president, Congress and the presidential candidates need to take a long, hard look at a downward-spiraling Iraq and join hands to implement a strategy with the best prospects for success: one that targets the militias both militarily and politically. If not, U.S. troops should be withdrawn forthwith, and American political leaders held directly accountable for all the costly damage to ensue.

Jeffrey Stacey is a professor of political science and international relations at Tulane University.

1 See Joseph R. Biden, Jr., "Breathing Room", The National Interest, No. 85 (Sept./Oct. 2006).

Essay Types: Essay