Sunday, August 21, 2016

Iraq Plans: Timing Is Everything

Rabbi Daniel M. Zucker

Intellectual Conservative, June 27, 2008                                                                                      
AINA, July 2, 2008

Now that we have turned the corner and brought most of the Sunnis and many of the Shiites over to our side we need to be very careful not to give our new friends and allies the impression that we are abandoning them.

David Igantius, associate editor and columnist for The Washington Post, wrote a fine Op-Ed on Iraq last week, entitled, “The Right Iraq Footprint.”1  In it he suggests that we follow the sage advice of  Lt. Colonel Dr. David Kilcullen,2 a retired Australian army officer and an expert in counterinsurgency. Kilcullen suggests that the U.S. initiate the process of redefining our relationship with the Government of Iraq. The current heavy presence that we are maintaining in Iraq is not sustainable over an endless period — economically it will exhaust our resources. Kilcullen recommends that we transition to a lighter force, one made up principally of Special Operations forces — both the “black” SOF that will hunt terrorists, and the “white” SOF that will train and fight alongside the Iraqis. He says that we will also need a strong intelligence presence. As uniformed troops decline, the need for CIA paramilitary forces and case officers will increase.3

Kilcullen’s suggestion is an excellent one, but I believe that the question of timing the implementation of this plan is crucial, and for now, premature. Why do I say this? Let’s backtrack a little. Kilcullen argues that our heavy military occupation of Iraq has created enemies unnecessarily. He says it’s human nature — people don't like to see another country's army patrolling their streets. Kilcullen calls it “the antibody response.” He believes that our large-scale presence, although essential for current stability, also creates an angry reaction — and therefore can't be a permanent solution. Kilcullen would have us focus on what General Petraeus has called “sustainable security” through the use and implementation of the lighter SOF teams mentioned above.4

I agree with Kilcullen, but suggest that now that we have turned the corner and brought most of the Sunnis and many of the Shiites over to our side — the recent declaration by 3 million anti-fundamentalist Shiites condemning Iran’s interference in Iraqi affairs being clear proof of the existence of a sizeable moderate Shiite community5 — we need to be very careful not to give our new friends and allies the impression that we are abandoning them. America’s track record of staying the course to finish the job has been less than stellar ever since Vietnam, and not a few in the Middle East harbor doubts about our ability to last for the long haul.6  The Middle East being what it is, and Iraq being even more so — by which I mean to suggest that political alliances can and do change very quickly — we need to demonstrate that “cut and run” — despite Reid, Pelosi, and friends — is not the American way. If we give the wrong impression — and in this arena our presidential candidates and their election teams need to be very careful with what they say — we will lose the friends that we made recently as they scramble to find new alliances that will afford them protection and security. And some of those alliances could cross over to the other side, thus quickly negating all the success that has been so hard won this last year, indeed through the five years of patient, diligent work by our military.

Timing is everything. It is time to carefully begin to lay the groundwork for the changes that Kilcullen correctly suggests. But we probably are a year to fifteen months from starting to implement those changes. Iraqis first need to see that their transition to democracy really is beginning to pay off, and that the U.S. is not about to revert to the Vietnam syndrome of cut and run. Once the Iraqi national elections of 2009 have transpired, and a more balanced government — in terms of sectarian, ethnic and religio-political concerns — has been seated, it will be time to move to Kilcullen’s SOF mode. Until then, America has to prove that the ghosts of Viet Nam no longer haunt us.

One final comment: Ignatius needs to smell the coffee and realize that talking to Iran about Iraqi security — whether above or below the table — is like asking the fox to aid in the security arrangements of the hen-house. Since when does one invite a pyromaniac to join the fire department? Iranian interference in Iraqi affairs is the principal problem in Iraq today — and the same can and should be said about Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank and the Sudan — and the sooner we realize this, the better.

Professor Rabbi Daniel M. Zucker is founder and Chairman of the Board of Americans for Democracy in the Middle-East, a grassroots organization dedicated to teaching our elected officials and the public of the dangers posed by Islamic fundamentalism and the need to establish genuine democratic institutions in the Middle-East as an antidote to the venom of fundamentalism. He may be contacted at


1. David Igantius, “The Right Iraq Footprint”, The Washington Post, June 19, 2008,  p. A19, [1]
2. Lt. Colonel Kilcullen is the special adviser for counterinsurgency to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. During 2007 he served in Iraq as Senior Counterinsurgency Adviser, Multi-National Force-Iraq, and was a key member of the team that drafted General David Petraeus’ Iraq campaign plan.
3. Ignatius, loc. cit.
4. Ibid.
5. Dan Rabkin, “Iraqis Stand United Against Iran”, International Analyst Network, June 14, 2008, [2]

6. Ami Isseroff, “Is US Middle East policy hopeless?”, Mid East Web, June 22, 2008, [3], Barry Rubin, “The Fall of Lebanon”, Global Politician, June 4, 2008, [4], and Walid Phares, “The Nasrallah Speech: Hezbollah ruled, the West is fooled”, World Defense Review, June 2, 2008, [5]  

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