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Published:September 10th, 2005 10:14 EST
Winning the War

Winning the War

By Chris Coplan

Even with the devastation in the Gulf Coast, an underlining thought throughout the entire country for the last few years, and likely for several more, is how do we win the war in Iraq.  Theories ranging from an all-out pullout of troops to a gradual removal of 2,000-3,000 troops every 12 months have been proposed.  Yet still no progress has been made.  However, this week, three experts have given their plans for a successful victory, for all involved parties, in the war in Iraq.  All three agree that the Bush Administration is guilty of improperly handling the war.  All feel that simply pulling out the troops could lead to a massive civil war with the dead ranging in the tens of thousands.  Other than that blaring fact, all three men see the war wrapping up in a different way.

In a piece in the Washington Post titled "Before It's Too Late In Iraq," General Wesley Clark, former supreme allied commander of NATO and a man with leadership experience in Vietnam, feels that the key to victory lies in Iraq’s neighbors.

"The United States should form a standing conference of Iraq's neighbors, complete with committees dealing with all the regional economic and political issues, including trade, travel, cross-border infrastructure projects and, of course, cutting off the infiltration of jihadists."

While this may seem like a good idea, General Clark is very vague on details.  As well, many analysts feel that Iraq’s relationships with its neighbors, mostly Syria and Iran, are not strong enough to be capable of what General Clark has laid out.  Another military expert, retired Army major and Pentagon official Andrew Krepinevich, has a more meticulous plan.  In his article in Foreign Affairs "How to Win in Iraq”, Krepinevich lays out his "out-spot strategy.”  US soldiers sweep through, take out insurgents, and award locals who give assistance and intelligence.  Economies are built up and locals begin to understand the connection and spread units outwards, like a spot of oil would, in a similar pattern.  As local policing forces gain power, the US slowly dwindles its number of deployed troops.  Of course, analysts feel that it is too late for this plan to be implemented, citing that in 2005 insurgents are too well built up to be taken down in this fashion.  Of course, even Krepinevich sees the faults in his plan.

"Even if successful, this strategy will require at least a decade of commitment and hundreds of billions of dollars and will result in longer U.S. casualty rolls.  But this is the price that the United States must pay if it is to achieve its worthy goals in Iraq.  Are the American people and American soldiers willing to pay that price? ... And if Americans are not up to the task, Washington should accept that it must settle for a much more modest goal: leveraging its waning influence to outmaneuver the Iranians and the Syrians in creating an ally out of Iraq's next despot."
It is maybe unlikely Americans are willing to pay such a price.  But there is one last option.  In his blog Informed Comment, Professor Juan Cole lays out his ten point strategy for winning the war.

"1) Withdraw U.S. troops from cities in order to lower our profile and leave Iraqis to do their own policing.  2) Steadily withdraw even those U.S. troops over time.  3) Provide close air support to Iraqi forces during firefights with guerrillas, or in other roles, for as long as the government wants us to do so.  4) Use precision weapons to bomb and strafe insurgents if they mount major attacks on Iraqi forces or cities.  5) Offer military aid to protect key government figures and to prevent sabotage.  6) Help the Iraqi army build up an armor corps.  7) As a quid pro quo, the Iraqis should hold elections on a district basis (to ensure proportional representation for Sunnis and to draw Sunni elites into the government); and 8) grant amnesty to all former Baathists who did not commit serious crimes.  9) Reconstruction money should be given to Iraqi firms, not to U.S. corporations.  10) Regular meetings should be held by the foreign ministers of Iraq's neighbors, along with the U.S. secretary of state and Russia's foreign minister to deal with multinational assistance to Iraq."

Again, problems may arise.  Analysts feel that many Iraqis may not be comfortable with such a plan.  Or that many of the responsibilities the Iraqis may have to undertake could not be adequately completed with the current level of experience most Iraqi leaders have in running a country.  Cole also adds that his plan may not be perfect, but it has a role.

"I cannot guarantee that these steps will resolve the crisis in the short or even medium term.  But I do think that, if taken together, they would allow us to get the ground troops out without risking a big civil war or a destabilization of the Middle East."

While all three plans may not be perfect, they are a step in the right direction.  We should not wish to simply and abruptly leave the Iraqis, nor should we bomb them.  Whatever path is chosen, we-- as Americans-- should ensure it is safe and beneficial for all citizens.