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Re-occupy Iraq - NOTICE This material may be protected by...

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Re-Occupy Iraq? Jeffrey Stacey T HE U.S. occupation of Iraq has reached a dramatic turning point: The costs to America in blood and treasure dictate that a new president from either party will have to take the United States in a dramatically different direction. Admit- ting privately that there is no Plan B, the current administration appears to have put all its eggs in one basket. U.S. armed forces are implementing a surge of 20,000 in the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. WTiile it could be a step in the right direction, even this "surge and hope" strategy will likely falter soon, as U.S. forces will be unable to clear and hold Baghdad neigh- borhoods until Iraq's militias are dealt with in a dramatically different way. But earlier phases of the war bode ill for the current strategy. Tens of billions have already been spent in reconstruction aid, the Maliki government has previous- ly resisted benchmarks and timelines, and similar troop surges have failed in each of the last three years. Furthermore, the condition of Iraqi forces is grim: They cannot be trained more quickly, retain their sectarian loyalties and have proved unreliable in battle. In fact, American commanders have privately concluded that Iraqi troops will not ever be battle- ready in sufficient numbers (though ap- parently they have not determined that Jeffrey Stacey is a professor of political science and intemational relations at Tulane University. a permanent U.S. troop presence in Iraq will be necessary). Yet in terms of pros- pects for coalition-force success, it is a formidable challenge to implement coun- terinsurgency stratagems once an insur- gency has fully taken hold; moreover, a cohesive, legitimate government is re- quired for them to succeed. This patently is not the case. At this stage—with de facto partition in the form of ethnic cleansing already fairly advanced, untamed and amorphous militias meting out substantial destruction and power grabs by the political factions taking the form of a feeding frenzy—the way forward is perilous. With a variety of alternative strategies on the table, the administration's choice of "surge and hope" will be debated by historians for years to come. Democrats have unveiled a plan for phased with- drawal; Senator Joseph R. Biden (D-DE) and others suggest partitioning Iraq; the International Crisis Group advocates a conference of all international and na- tional political actors; and the Baker- Hamilton Iraq Study Group focuses on diplomacy with Iraq's neighbors. The problem with these alterna- tives, however, is clear. With regard to the Baker-Hamilton report, what is most surprising is how unimaginative and un- varied the recommendations were. The sole novel element involved a suggestion to reach out diplomatically to Iran and Syria. However, Iran is riding high in the 58. .The National Interest—JuUAug. 2001.
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region and has no incentive to help rein in Shi'a militias; it would demand that the West desist from its pressure over Iran's nuclear development. Syria would seek a voice in Lebanon again—possibly
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