“As President Reagan found out in Lebanon in the 1980s, U.S. military forces cannot serve as referees in a civil war,” argued Larry Korb, Senior Fellow of the Center for American Progress, at a hearing yesterday in the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations. “It is a no-win situation militarily. The United States will end up serving as little more than a lightning rod for the blame.”
The hearing focused on political strategies and reconstruction in Iraq, and brought together expert witnesses to discuss alternative perspectives on the issue.
Many of the committee members and witnesses shared Korb’s concerns. “There are no good or easy solutions for Iraq,” Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), chair of the committee, espoused. “We’re faced with scenarios that go from bad to catastrophic.” Ambassador Peter Galbraith agreed, saying, “So far the Iraq war has not achieved a single U.S. foreign policy objective.”
“I think everyone knows where we are today—that’s why the Iraq Study Group made so much sense. But where do we go from here?” asked the ranking member, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA).
Lowey emphasized that the inaction from past congresses will not continue. “The days of Congress offering billions of dollars unconditionally and without oversight are over . . . the American people demand [it].”
The committee and witnesses also discussed the potential effectiveness of the current escalation of troops to Iraq. “At best, in my view, the surge strategy is a postponement of the day of reckoning in Iraq,” Galbraith said. “We are just sending 15 percent more troops.”
“I am very concerned that we have Machiavelli at work here,” Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson warned. “I strongly believe this administration is the most inept when it comes to foreign policy in our history!”
The White House’s incompetence has also had a profound impact on the state of the military. “To continue this high level of troops in Iraq indefinitely is going to break the all-volunteer Army,” Korb warned.
Korb presented a progressive strategy to the committee that would ensure that the U.S. Armed Forces will remain intact. The plan ends the escalation and relieves stress on the military by way of the upcoming Iraq supplemental funding request.
He proposed adding four amendments to the supplemental funding request that would both ensure the troops’ combat readiness and demand that they not be deployed for longer than is appropriate. Details of the stress the escalation is putting on the military and the need to alleviate it can be found in the recently released report “Beyond the Call of Duty: A Comprehensive Review of the Overuse of the Army in the Administration’s War of Choice in Iraq.”
Yet the witnesses agreed that such a strategy must be paired with strong diplomacy. “So far, the United States has not deployed all of the assets in its arsenal to address the growing strategic challenges in the Middle East,” Korb explained. “It is still relying too much on military power rather than integrating its military component with the diplomatic component.”
“[Diplomacy] is complex, it’s not easy. It’s much easier to send in the army,” Wilkerson said. “Diplomacy is not the last weapon of choice, but the first.”
Despite its necessity, Wilkerson does not expect a diplomatic solution to be forthcoming. “This administration does not trust its foreign services . . . This administration thinks that commie pinko dogs live at the State Department!”
Wilkerson did, however, credit the administration for finally agreeing to meet with Iran over matters with Iraq: “It’s better late than never, but it’s way overdue.”
“I’m glad to see that at long last President Bush is ready to meet with Iraq’s neighbors,” Lowey concurred.
Korb described his hope that this first diplomatic gesture is only a first step. “This should be the beginning of a new diplomatic offensive . . . My hope is maybe this is a Nixon-going-to-China beginning.”