Wednesday, January 10, 2007

George Bush Tries to Sell New Strategy

I talked to an Iraqi friend of mine today named Ahmed about what the word on the street in Baghdad was about a troop increase. He said that although Iraqis love to blame all their problems on the US, they are DESPERATE for security and anything that will help the security situation will be welcomed. Ahmed was not sure, however, that 20,000 troops would be enough, but that it would still be a good start, especially if they worked closely with the Iraqi National Army and National Guard troops as force multipliers.

My friend Ahmed is one of the true Iraqi optimists left in Iraq, although things have gotten so bad even he is now considering leaving. His main wish for security is that it gives people like him and those who are trying to help Iraq breathing room in which to do their job of rebuilding and remaking the country. Another friend of mine who runs a human rights and conflict resolution organization in Iraq echoed this statement. He has had to move his family from their large, beautiful home into his office because it is better protected. He's also had to stop all of his trainings and seminars on conflict resolution because there is no way safe enough to meet and it is very difficult for people to move around to attend things with the curfew and lack of security. No one leaves their homes unless it's absolutely necessary. This gentleman told me he was interviewed last month by CNN who wanted to hear about this disturbing trend of targetting professors, doctors, lawyers, activists, (anyone trying to help) and the "brain drain" that is occurring as they flee the country in large numbers.

Back to troops, I'm not sure 20,000 troops is really a large enough number to make a difference, especially when you consider that it would still be way below the proportional numbers of troops in Bosnia needed to keep the peace. Is it just putting more of our troops in harm's way rather than making a viable difference in Iraq?

One good thing is that a change in our policy signals a change in our focus to the Iraqis, at a time when our support and commitment was in question. Leaders, militias, and AQ need to see we mean business. In an ideal world, more US troops mean militias settle down, and leaders have to be on their best behavior. Unfortunately, in practice, (from what I saw for 2 years) is that we just refrain from confronting militias and we do not push leaders on the hard issues. We just nod and believe what they tell us, "yes, we're committed to national reconciliation; yes, we're committed to democracy and human rights." And then they turn around and tell their own people, the press the opposite and then act that way, while we turn a blind eye, comfortable in our knowledge that they TOLD us what we wanted to hear.

Bush's promises to the country tonight during his address about all the Iraqi leadership is going to do and preparing to do differs in no way from what they have said they would do FOR YEARS and have proceeded to do the opposite. This is not a leadership we can work with or who wants a country that is united, democratic, rule of law and human rights- respecting. They want money and power. We need to wake up to that fact and either call a spade a spade or work with other people.'

P.S. My appearance in this photo with Bush is in no way an endorsement of his ideas, his mispronunciations, or his strategy. :-) The photo is from his trip to Baghdad Thanksgiving 2003, during which I got to meet his Chief of Staff Andrew Card, then National Security Advisor Rice, and many others...

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