Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Kerry and options for Iraq

Comments on Gregory Djerejian's on Jaw-Dropping Fare Indeed

As one commenter said, Nader is on the Florida ballot. As a European and British, this is nothing to do with me, but as Christopher Caldwell argued in the FT (11 Sept), Nader's campaign forces Kerry to adopt a more anti-war line, so as not to lose votes to him. Pure political opportunism ? Of course. I remember James Rubin in Foreign Affairs a year ago writing that we might have had to go to war, but waiting to autumn (fall), getting wider international backing and a 2nd resolution; and in the buildup to war, arguing in a British TV debate, very much along the lines of leaked British documents : "The truth is that what has changed is not the pace of Saddam Hussein's WMD programmes, but our tolerance of them post-11 September." (Is Rubin one of the less than adequate prospective 6th floor appointees at State that Greg mentions, I wonder.)

Having said that, if Kerry is elected, he might manage to get a little more European support. He would be able to say : 'I didn't want this mess any more than you did, put now we're in it, it would be a disaster if we didn't sort it out...' It's not much, but it is something.

As for the options now, Arjun (20 Sept 07:35 PM ) is right to say that what Iraqis want is key, but I'm less confident than he that this will allow foreign forces to stay for as long as is needed. If an Iraqi government is truly sovereign and representative, it could ask US troops to leave. The occupation was very unpopular and, rightly or wrongly, many Iraqis see the foreign troops as the problem not the solution.

In the short term, more troops, more activity on the ground, are probably needed. Trying to deal with the terrorists / insurgents from the air is a disaster in PR terms. There was a rumour a few months ago that 3000 more UK troops were to be sent. Nothing came of that, but it may still be under consideration. A hard sell ? Yes.

The NYT story that Greg links does say : 'Meanwhile, the Iraqi security forces are growing steadily. ... "Their capabilities are still uneven, but they're improving as we arm and equip them better, improve their infrastructure, give them additional training, and help them weed out the weak leaders..." '  It's a race against time and touch and go, I'm afraid.


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