Let’s revisit the NEW policy that any of the Presidential candidates will need to adopt if there is to be an end to the mess called Iraq. In my recent posting “So, What’s Next”, I listed 6 elements of a new policy and in this post, I would like to elaborate why each is important. My elaboration is in italics.
1. International support based upon a new and more cooperative, non-unilateralist view of the world.
The strongest link to the rationale for invading Iraq (without sanction from the UN) is found in the unilateralist declaration of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) issued in 1998. Such household names as Richard Pearl, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, and good old boy Dick Cheney were signatories. This document blatantly proposes that America has the power and it should use it to make the world the way it sees proper. Without assigning other potential reasons for the invasion (like Israeli lobbying or the simple greed for oil), the NPAC idea of promoting democracy through pre-emptive wars is not a doctrine endorsed by the UN or for that matter a majority of other countries.
If we want to begin to take the finances and wealth (form munitions sales) out of the conflict, we will need an International agreement to curtail these activities. Without a repudiation of NPAC by the next President and a call for International cooperation, there will be no sensible path forward.
2. A recognized “honest broker” approach to the entire Middle East.
From day one with the Bush Administration, the US policy in the Middle East was Israel – yes, Arabs – no. The Saudis were ok since they had oil. The Palestinians were forgotten and when convenient, were blamed. The Israelis were allowed to build walls, erect barriers and check points, and to possess of land well within the Palestinian lands. There was little or no effort by the State Department in finding a peaceful solution and the President’s heavy schedule of mountain biking and jogging simply did not permit him to become personally involved.
The continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict allows all Arabs to play the victim role and enables the more radical elements to do what any other policitical faction does… seek the remaining wealth of the land. A settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian question will isolate the other conflicts (between Arabs) and enable a broader settlement.
3. A serious national policy to develop alternative energy sources that will reduce green house gases and cut our dependence on foreign oil by 50%.
I believe the fundamental drivers behind PNAC (or at least the White House gang) was oil. There were two strategic purposes, first to obtain sufficient supplies that gasoline for the US could be plentiful and stable in price, and second, to deny or limit the access to oil for China and India so that the US could influence both their foreign and domestic policies. Just doing the numbers tells you that the Chinese and Indians with a combined 2 1/2 billion people will sop up all the oil in short order.
The US must acknowledge this and rapidly move onto an economy that is not strapped down by foreign oil. Eliminating this strangle hold will open wide our foreign policy options. The Middle East is a big zero in our worldly needs and will be a threat only to those that remain fossil fuel bound.
4. Closure of Guantanamo and the return of all prisoners to their home countries unless they are transfered to US courts and tried under US law. There can be no secret evidence or witnesses.
Guantanamo is a very sad chapter in American history when the President and his Adminstration should how cowardly they really were. These are men who sought “deferments” or cushy (and protected) National Guard assignments rather than serve in the Vietnam War. These “chicken hawks” freely sent other citizens children off to Iraq but did not do the same for either themselves or their children. From these unpatriotic heros has come the disgraces of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and enhanced interrogation. American history and values have been based upon due process and respect for human dignity.
Until Guantanamo is closed and the prisoners are either freed or processed in American courts, and there is a full return to the principles of the Geneva Convention, America will always be suspect in any negotiations to settle differences in the Middle East.
5. The mission of US troops in Iraq must be changed with a eventual withdrawal in mind. Whether it is training or simply peace keeping, the scope of the mission must be reduced.
In parallel with points 1-4, the President must announce a new mission for American troops. We must renounce any “occupation” status and adopt a training or ready stand by posture. We must signal that our combat role is finished and will fire only if fired upon.
6. Careful thought must be given to separating the country into three parts (Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite) with an imposed split of oil revenues. (The idea is that these groups will fight for their oil anyways but if they are already assured some split (plus foreign investment incentives), they might not fight so hard for more.
The final exit strategy is unknowable at this point. The main Shiite and Sunni factions could decide to live side by side, or they could decide the spoils were still unevenly divided. In the path where fighting continues and political compromise is not forthcoming, the US should look to a “soft divide” into three states within a state concept. The Kurds, the Sunnis, and the Shiites would each control about a third. Oil revenues, however would be shared on some basis (probably a third each). It is possible that in setting up this 3 State approach, Iran and Saudi Arabia might conclude that they should encourage more compromise ahead of this type of step. In any case, no movement, then 3 States.
These 6 points are all necessary to cleanse outselves of the stench created by Bush and Cheney, and to convince the other parties that the new US foreign policy is NEW. If the next President rejects such an approach, we will be discussing this again during the 2012 election campaign.