A Strategic Crossroad

Lawrence J. Korb Testifies to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Way Forward in Iraq

Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony outlines nine key lessons that point to the necessity for a diplomatic surge in Iraq.

Chairman Biden, Senator Lugar and members of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you to discuss the war in Iraq. I cannot think of a more critical issue facing the nation at this time.

It is important to note right up front that, because of numerous mistakes made during the last 46 months, no good options now exist. As the Iraq Study Group (ISG) report noted, the situation in Iraq is “grave and deteriorating,” and no one can guarantee that any course of action in Iraq at this point will stop the sectarian warfare, the growing violence, or the ongoing slide toward chaos. Inaction is drift, and sticking with the “current strategy” is not an acceptable option.

In 2003, the Bush administration made a fundamental strategic mistake in diverting resources to an unnecessary war of choice in Iraq and leaving the mission unaccomplished in Afghanistan. This error has allowed the Taliban to reconstitute in Afghanistan, weakened the position of the United States in the world, and undermined the fighting strength of U.S. ground forces. It also diverted critical U.S. resources from effectively addressing the Iranian nuclear threat, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the situation in Lebanon.

Today, the United States once again finds itself at a strategic crossroads. This time, however, there are at least nine key lessons of the past four years of failure that make choosing the right path forward abundantly clear. These nine lessons point to the obvious—it is time to strategically redeploy our military forces from Iraq and begin a diplomatic surge not a further military escalation as the president has proposed.

1. The fundamental security challenge in Iraq is a violent struggle for power among empowered Shiites, embittered Sunnis, and secessionist Kurds.

2. The open-ended U.S. combat deployment fosters a culture of dependency in Iraq.

3. Iraq’s neighbors are already involved in Iraq and must be part of the solution.

4. The U.S. must deploy its full diplomatic weight to address the problems in Iraq and the Middle East.

5. Further U.S. military escalation in Iraq will not make Iraq more secure.

6. The U.S. military escalation in Iraq will undermine the fight against global terrorist networks.

7. Many of the proponents for the proposed U.S. military escalation of 21,500 troops got us into the Iraq quagmire.

8. The 110th Congress has a responsibility to the American people.

9. We must change course now.

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