The tactics of U.S. forces have generated great hostility
say Prof. Michael Byers - photo by Martin Dee
UBC Reports | Vol. 52 | No. 2 | Feb. 2, 2006
Iraq Three Years Later: What Should Be Done?
March 19 marks the third anniversary of U.S. President
George W. Bush launching the war in Iraq. Since then, the
country has been savaged by insurgents, tens of thousands
of people have been killed, and the infrastructure of one
of the Middle East's richest countries lies devastated. We
asked three UBC experts the simple but intensely difficult
question: What should be done?
Baghdad With a Map
By Derek Gregory, Distinguished University
Scholar and Professor of Geography. Author of The colonial
present: Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq (Blackwell).
There's an old story about a tourist getting lost and stopping
to ask for directions, only to be told: "I wouldn't try
and get there from here..." The mess in Iraq is likely
to produce much the same reaction, but telling the White House
the same thing is pointless. Instead, we need to turn the
map upside down. We should not be guided by how to get the
United States out of the quagmire it has so maladroitly manufactured.
We should stop appealing to the malignant calculus of domestic
political advantage and economic profiteering. Instead, we
should ask what can be done to help the people of Iraq. Like
all compasses, this one has four cardinal points.
First, there must be a serious appraisal of the situation:
not a Disneyesque fantasy (how many times has Bush identified
a milestone that turns out to be a tombstone?) but a rigorous
analysis of the political, economic and social damage wrought
by Saddam, sanctions and the war combined. This means accepting
that the present situation is a joint responsibility. Bush
and Blair were in this together, and if their governments
were to spend half the resources on critical analysis that
they devote to spinning we might get somewhere.
Second, negotiations must be opened with the leaders of the
nationalist insurgency. It is the height of madness to assume
that opposition to the occupation is ungrounded in reason.
Bush and Blair's mantra is that people resort to political
violence because that is the sort of people they are, which
conveniently means that the only solution is a military one:
but in many (most) cases insurgents are responding to a series
of real grievances that require other solutions.
Third, there must be a clear and proximate deadline for the
complete withdrawal of all coalition forces from Iraq, and
a complete cessation of the air war that has continued to
devastate lives long after the vainglorious 'end of major
combat operations'. To repeat: military violence is part of
the problem, not the solution.
Fourth, there must be a major reconstruction programme that
is not devoted to boosting the profits of foreign companies.
The Iraqis must be allowed to determine their own economic
policy and to benefit from their own skills and resources.
The UN has been compromised by the sanctions regime, but it's
still the best we've got: so I suggest a UN development agency
that is not a creature of the Security Council, that works
with a properly constituted Iraqi government, and that is
supplied with funding adequate to the task.
Let's Help Bush Out of his Mess
By Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair
in Global Politics and International Law. Author of War Law:
Understanding International Law and Armed Conflict (Douglas
Sept. 11, 2001 would have been the making of most U.S. presidents.
The American people were united, sympathy for the United States
was sky-high, and governments everywhere were terrified of
further terrorist attacks.
George W. Bush should have seized the opportunity for global
co-operation by framing the "war on terror" as a
struggle against crime and engaging multilateral mechanisms
such as the United Nations. Instead, he eschewed UN authorization
for the intervention in Afghanistan, threatened other states
and recklessly violated human rights. He then invaded Iraq,
a country which played no role in the 9/11 attacks and posed
no threat to America. More than 30,000 people have died as
a result of the war, while the economic costs -- according
to Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz -- exceed $1 trillion.
Resolving the situation will be intensely difficult. The
tactics of U.S. forces have generated so much hostility that
they must be withdrawn, not just from Iraq's cities but also
from its oilfields and airbases. Yet the Iraqi army is hardly
prepared to take over, not least because it remains grossly
unrepresentative of the country's religious diversity. A large,
well-equipped UN force is needed, drawn from a wide range
of countries, including Muslim ones. Such a mission would
be lengthy, dangerous and expensive, and would have to operate
with complete independence from the United States.
Yet Washington would have to make some strong commitments
before any UN mission could succeed. It would have to support
unequivocally a UN Security Council resolution authorizing
the mission. It would have to contribute financially, above
and far beyond its regular UN dues. And it would have to become
a team-player on other key issues such as climate change and
nuclear proliferation. Creating the reciprocal political will
within the international community would then require strong
leadership by a widely-respected country not currently involved
in Iraq. For a new Canadian prime minister intent on repairing
this country's relationship with the United States and reclaiming
our global influence, the mess in Iraq could provide a real
-- if risky -- opportunity.
What's a Nice Way of Saying: "Cut and Run"
By Colin Campbell, Canada Research Chair
in U.S. Government and Politics. Author of Preparing for the
Future: Strategic Planning in the U.S. Air Force (Brookings,
winner of the 2004 Brownlow Prize of the U.S. National Academy
of Public Administration).
Apart from disseminating bogus claims about Saddam Hussein's
weapons of mass destruction capabilities, George W. Bush and
Tony Blair dealt cavalierly with the difficult of invading
and occupying Iraq. They did not pursue adroitly enough efforts
to gain access for the U.S. Army 4th Division through Turkey
to Northern Iraq. And, they grossly underestimated the force
required to establish security after the overthrow of Hussein.
The continuing insurgency resulted from the inadequacy of
initial force structure and poor planning. Disconcertingly,
the U.S. administration still has not made the requisite moves
to reverse this debacle. Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld
cannot agree on the structure and roles of Provincial Reconstruction
Teams (a concept imported from the allied effort in Afghanistan).
In the fall, the two top U.S. generals in Iraq locked in conflict
over whether they should concentrate troops in urban centres
or move them closer to the border with Syria. The Army and
the Marines are grappling with two problems in responding
to the ever-lethal improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Broken
procurement procedures have produced persistent bottlenecks
in provision of both armored vehicles and body armour. Perhaps
more alarmingly, new body armour specifications would take
troops beyond the load to bodyweight threshold of 30 per cent
to 50 per cent.
Late last year, a British brigadier -- Nigel Aylwin-Foster,
who recently served in Iraq -- lambasted the U.S. Army for
"cultural insensitivity" bordering on "institutional
racism." He also maintained that the Army simply has
failed at the transition from conventional warfighting to
counterinsurgency. The Army chief of staff must see an element
of truth in this assessment. He has circulated Alylwin-Foster's
critique to all of his generals.
I suggest that you divest your Iraq counterinsurgency shares
-- including any in NATO and UN stocks. The U.S. military
has to go through a massive transformation of its mind-set
regarding its role in the world. Its entanglement, largely
against its will, in the Iraqi quagmire has confounded this
process. Without the U.S. operating effectively at the core,
NATO and the UN would find little role in bringing peace to
Iraq -- the job is that large and the curve that sharp. Does
"Sell!" sound better than "Cut and Run?"