"Surprising Roadblocks for the U.S. in Iraq"

''Surprising Roadblocks for the U.S. in Iraq''
Mon Nov 17 02:25:14 2003

November 17, 2003:

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''Surprising Roadblocks for the U.S. in Iraq''
Drafted by Matthew Riemer on November 17, 2003

The Bush administration has begun facing its two biggest challenges in Iraq, both of which seem incongruous with American might and wealth: lack of military personnel and/or the will to properly apply them to stabilize Iraq in the unexpected "post-war" environment of guerrilla warfare and social unrest; and lack of money and resources to adequately and speedily rebuild the ravaged country. These two issues are at the forefront of the Bush administration's Iraq policy as the White House is heartily lobbying the international community to install their own respective military forces, while getting Congress to approve $87.5 billion in funding for continued military and rebuilding activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Confronted with a protracted and bloodier than expected occupation, following the conclusion of what President George W. Bush termed "major combat operations" -- approximately 261 soldiers have died since May 1 -- Washington has sought the assistance of the international community to better deal with the security situation in Iraq through the introduction of foreign troops and civil workers. The Bush administration's intent is to take as much pressure as possible off the U.S. military, primarily designed to fight large-scale wars, not to police chaotic urban zones or to fight insurgents on their own territory. It is also their desire to socialize the more dangerous aspects of the occupation and the burgeoning guerrilla conflict so that the U.S military can conserve resources for other regional operations that may be inevitable in the coming months.

This effort can also be seen on a political level within the context of the re-election hopes of President Bush. If the White House is able to corral a greater number of countries into committing troops to Iraq, the president and his administration -- specifically the likes of Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz -- will appear vindicated on charges of unilateralism and anti-internationalism, which is one of the most widespread and accepted criticisms of this White House's foreign policy. It would be both an international and domestic political victory over their critics if the Bush administration were able to create a true coalition of military forces sharing constabulary duties in Iraq.

The fewer U.S. soldiers in Iraq fighting insurgents and policing the country mean fewer deaths and injuries for American forces. Inasmuch as the death and casualty figures act as a barometer for the successful execution or progress of the situation in Iraq, the fewer the casualties the more convincingly the Bush administration's efforts in Iraq can be portrayed as legitimate and competent to the American people. But as U.S. casualties mount, while occurring in greater concentration -- such as the Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters recently shot down -- most countries are extremely reluctant to commit troops to such an unstable and deteriorating situation. Notably, Turkey, Japan, and India have for the moment decided to withhold their forces from the Iraqi theater. And to punctuate the wisdom of these decisions by U.S. allies was the bombing of the headquarters for Italian forces in Nasariya last week, which killed nearly twenty Italian soldiers and police.

There are also those in the international community who feel vindicated by the current situation in Iraq, observing that this is what they were afraid of all along. Foreign diplomats, in off-the-cuff asides, have also expressed the sentiment -- surely felt by much of the European citizenry -- that Washington is getting what it had coming to it, and wonder aloud how the United States could have the firepower and personnel to take over Iraq but not to competently police it. The Bush administration has also been chided as hypocritical for now coming to the very international body it had so recently scorned for not agreeing with the goals and timetables of its foreign policy, as well as coming in need of help to countries it reprimanded for not going along with its original Iraq invasion plans.

When President Bush announced that he was requesting $87 billion from Congress for U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan many Americans responded with incredulity at the astronomical figure. During the build-up to the war and during the conflict itself, several Bush administration officials had gone on record quoting figures that were mere fractions of what the president eventually asked for.

It was also repeatedly claimed that Iraq's oil revenue would make up the lion's share of the rebuilding costs. Because of this intent, many of Iraq's oil fields and infrastructure facilities were the first areas secured by U.S. and British forces during the opening days of the war. However, due to the supposedly unexpected condition of disrepair encountered by U.S. specialists, sabotage by insurgent elements, and a lack of pre-war planning by the Bush administration, Iraq's oil industry continues to remain paralyzed and is no longer a tenable source of revenue in the short-term. This issue, like that of internationalizing the military presence in Iraq, is not only one of central importance to the immediate future of Iraq but is critical in the sphere of U.S domestic politics as President Bush's re-election bid draws near.

As the situation in Iraq slowly but surely evolves, several critical questions should be asked: Why is the United States in such need of foreign military assistance? Is the need and its subsequent publicity designed for domestic political consumption? Is it a goodwill gesture towards the international community, affording many originally skeptical countries the chance to now become involved? Or is there a legitimate need to reinforce U.S. forces now dealing with a longer than expected deployment and low troop morale? Is massive monetary expenditure what Iraq needs to become peaceful, stable, or democratic? At what point does the amount of money invested become moot when the fundamental problems aren't ones of a financial nature but ones of cultural and religious divides, historical legacies, and social discontent?

The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an analysis-based publication that seeks to, as objectively as possible, provide insight into various conflicts, regions and points of interest around the globe. PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader. PINR seeks to inform rather than persuade. This report may not be reproduced, reprinted or broadcast without the written permission of inquiries@pinr.com . All comments should be directed to content@pinr.com   

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