War, huh, what is it good for?

Published 2:39 pm Monday, December 4, 2006

By By Tray Smith
A consequence of the Democratic takeover of Congress in last month's midterm elections has been a constructive dialogue about our nation's war policy.
The Iraqi Study Group, the National Security Council and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are each preparing a list of recommendations intended to resolve the current situation in Iraq. Those groups have been pre-empted by dozens of pundits and politicians proposing their own strategies for the war effort. Unfortunately, too many of those proposals are addressing the situation in Iraq as if it is the sole responsibility of the United States.
Proposals to send additional troops to Iraq have ironically gained as much momentum as timelines for troop withdrawals in the aftermath of the election. According to those who support such proposals, additional troop levels will allow us to crack down the insurgency and achieve an expedient win over the terrorists in Iraq. On the surface, this proposal appears to be a silver bullet. But after adding thousands of Iraqi forces to the fight, we have seen no correlating decline in violence. Assuming that American troops will be more effective than Iraqi troops just because our forces are superiorly trained and equipped is a mistake, because any larger footprint in Iraq simply increases the public face of an already unpopular occupation, fueling violence against our troops even further. There was a time when additional troops may have made a difference, but that time has long since past.
Also gaining traction is the idea that we should negotiate with Iran and Syria for their assistance in Iraq. Our desire to contain and weaken Iran during the 1980s led President Reagan to send a special envoy of support to Iraq, Iran's enemy at the time, during the Iran-Iraq war. As leader of that envoy, Donald Rumsfeld was captured shaking hands with Saddam Hussein in a now infamous photo, infamous because Rumsfeld later went on to lead the American effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Why then would it make sense for us to ignore the lessons of history and send a diplomat into Iran or Syria in order to negotiate with dictators who we are already confronting diplomatically and may have to confront militarily in the future? Iran will be all too happy to stop sending high-tech explosives to insurgents in Iraq granted we cease our objections to her pursuit of nuclear weapons. Negotiating with Iran and Syria will only reduce our ability to successfully block their efforts to pursue weapons of mass destruction, support terrorism and threaten Israel.
Partitioning Iraq into three separate autonomous zones in order to allow the Kurds in the North, the Shiites in the South and West, and the Sunnis in the center of Iraq to govern themselves while allowing a central government in Baghdad to secure the borders, maintain the army, dispense oil revenue and negotiate with foreign powers has also been discussed as a way to end the sectarian divisions within the country. But such an idea will only aggravate the current situation, as Shiites who become the overwhelming minority in the Sunni portion of the country will become ever more violent, fearful of being controlled by another Sunni regime such as that of Saddam Hussein's. Meanwhile, Sunnis caught living in the enormous Shiite zone will either be forced out of their homes or will become more violent, hoping to regain the countrywide control they had under the former regime.
There is no longer a military solution to this effort. Our forces are clearly dominating over the insurgents in Iraq, as noted by the small number of U.S. casualties both in comparison to the number of insurgents we have killed and the number of casualties we have incurred during previous conflicts. Yet the violence in Iraq is continuing to grow unabated. That is because the violence is not between Americans and Iraqis, it is between Iraqis and Iraqis, and our country has no role to play in such a conflict. If ever President Bush's notorious "Mission Accomplished" banner was appropriate, it is now. We have successfully overthrown Saddam Hussein's regime and watched as his own people administered justice to him – the death penalty. We have successfully established a democratic government in Iraq, and stood by as that government took power. We have successfully killed the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Zarqawi. Our mission in Mesopotamia is complete. And thanks to the work of our armed men and women, the Iraqis now have a government of their own- that they elected – to solve their problems. The outcome of this war will now be determined entirely by political circumstances, circumstances that must be decided by the Iraqis themselves.
Adding additional troops, negotiating with Iran and Syria, or partitioning Iraq into autonomous zones are not bad ideas in their own right. But if we add more troops, lets make them Iraqis, as the Iraqi people will have more respect for and less hostility towards forces from across town than forces from across the ocean. If Iran and Syria are brought into this process, let them negotiate with the sovereign government in Iraq, as Iraq is not the world's sole superpower that will be responsible for containing those nations' pursuit of WMDs and support of terrorism in the future. If Iraq should be partitioned into separate zones based on ethnic groups, then the Democratic government of Iraq should make that decision.
Meanwhile, we should stop looking for a solution to this situation, because there is not one within our grasp. We cannot reduce the amount of blood to be shed in the streets of Iraq, only the Iraqis can. But we can reduce the amount of our blood that will be shed. It is absolutely necessary that we do not let the situation in Iraq deteriorate to the point where the violence there could boil over into the region and the world. It is also in our strategic interest to have a permanent base in Iraq. But we can achieve those objectives without leaving thousands of our troops standing in the middle of warring sects, risking their lives not in pursuit of our ambitious war policy but instead for our lack of one. One half of our forces in Iraq should come home immediately, and the remainder of them should be redeployed north to peaceful Iraqi Kurdistan where they can focus on helping the Iraqi army with training, intelligence and logistics while also maintaining a quick response force that could contain any violence that threatens the rest of the world by preventing the terrorists from exporting their attacks elsewhere.
That is the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a sophomore at ECHS and former intern in the Riley administration. He can be reached for comment at tsmith_90@hotmail.com.

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