TOPICS > Nation

Securing Iraq

August 22, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT


MARGARET WARNER: Does the U.S. need more help in Iraq? For that we get four perspectives. Former Turkish economic minister Kemal Dervis is an opposition party member of parliament in Turkey; a former vice president of the World Bank, he oversaw the bank’s reconstruction program in Bosnia. Former Assistant Secretary of State James Dobbins held top State Department and White House posts under four presidents, dealing with post-conflict Bosnia, Kosovo and Haiti. He’s now director of the international security and defense policy center at the RAND Corporation.

Harvey Sicherman was a State Department official in the Reagan and first Bush administrations. He’s now president of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia. And retired Army Colonel David Hunt, a former green beret, advised the American-led international military force in Bosnia. He’s now a security consultant. Welcome to you all.

Jim Dobbins, let’s look at this issue and let’s start with the two questions, the broader of the two questions that the president addressed. Do we need more troops in Iraq?

JAMES DOBBINS: I think the answer is pretty clearly yes. Seen from a historical perspective, if we wanted to achieve a security level in Iraq comparable to what we were able to achieve in Bosnia and then Kosovo in the late ’90s, we might need between 300,000 and 500,000 troops.

MARGARET WARNER: As compared to what, 150 now.


MARGARET WARNER: You’re talking about covering the entire country?

JAMES DOBBINS: Well, obviously you cover more… more thickly the areas of the country where you are having security problems. But essentially the Iraqi security forces have disintegrated and security throughout the country is going to be provided by the United States and its allies for the next couple of years.

MARGARET WARNER: Colonel Hunt, what is your view of this? More troops needed?

COL. DAVID HUNT: If you want to stay with the Bosnian example as the secretary mentioned, the largest number of troops deployed to Bosnia was 60,000; that was at the height of it in ’97. So if you want to use Bosnia as an example, that’s fine but my point would be the answer is no. We don’t need more soldiers. We need different types. We need people to get in there and turn the power on. We need civil affairs, we need engineers, we need people, more Iraqis in front doing things for their own country – less of our tanks, less Bradleys, more special forces. Most of this country is doing very well.

Tragedy is terrible every time we lose within one of our soldiers, sailors, or marines or airmen. But the answer is not 200,000 people. We did it in Bosnia with 60,000. We can do it here with the same number we’ve got — just a different mix, different people in charge and more Iraqis getting in this to help their own country. But we got to get the power turned on, use goods and services to win the hearts and minds while we’re doing this guerrilla campaign. We have to fight the guerrillas, also.

MARGARET WARNER: Harvey Sicherman, your view, more troops, just a different mix of troops, or as the Pentagon says, they have things everything pretty well under control?

HARVEY SICHERMAN: Well, I think everybody would agree that we need some more. That’s why we’re soliciting some more. And I would also tend to agree with the soldier with us this evening who has the practical experience on the ground. And I hate to second guess deployment and types and all the rest of that. Having said that, we don’t need more troops at any price.

What we have to avoid at all costs is the kind of divided chain of command that we had say ten years ago in Bosnia and that led to a catastrophe before we got it sorted out. We have to have a single chain of command when we’re facing a combination of a bit of a guerrilla war and a terror war simultaneously, so that we don’t have long intertwined chains and many different approvals and all the rest of the stuff that really led to disaster in the Balkans.

MARGARET WARNER: Kemal Dervis, one, do you think it looks like the coalition needs more troops? And, two, what is your view of internationalizing the force? Does it just bring all these problems that Harvey Sicherman just mentioned, or do you think it’s necessary?

KEMAL DERVIS: I’m not a soldier or specialist of that. Bosnia is a tiny country compared to Iraq, in territory maybe one-twentieth or something like that, in population, four million verses twenty-four. So I would tend to agree with you, Jim, that a significantly larger force is necessary, I think, to have security. Without security, nothing can happen.

Without security, economic development, reconstruction, the building of democracy is impossible. So clearly security has to be a priority for everyone who wants Iraq to go back to democracy– well, back, it never was — to become a functioning democracy and good economy. Nobody wants this more than Turkey. Because you know, we’re neighbors. We could be trading partners. A prosperous Iraq would be tremendously good for Turkey. So obviously we in Turkey would want that to happen.

MARGARET WARNER: Jim Dobbins, how much of a problem is this chain of command issue? Yesterday I think Secretary Rumsfeld or Secretary Powell said, you know, I think people want competent, he said competent military leadership, unified military leadership. He was making the chain of command argument. How do you see it?

JAMES DOBBINS: I think there is a tradeoff between unity of command and broad participation. But in both Bosnia and Kosovo, we managed to satisfy both requirements. In Bosnia, the U.S. contributes 22 percent of the force structure. In Kosovo, we contribute only 16 percent. And yet we’ve been able to mount very substantial, very successful peacekeeping efforts with broad participation, using, in that case, NATO, as the basis for a multilateral, not a unilateral, chain of command, which satisfied U.S. leadership and broad participation. And we can design something like that for Iraq if we tried.

MARGARET WARNER: Colonel Hunt, your view of this chain of command issue?

COL. DAVID HUNT: Yeah. I think it’s a little bit disingenuous to talk about Kosovo and Bosnia and then flip and say it doesn’t work. The fact is in Bosnia we had U.S. leadership, we had a British three star on the ground but it was a four star admiral by the name of Stuffy Smith who started out– we had a four star who is now running for president, Wes Clark. Anyway, we’ve had U.S. leadership.

The problem with Iraq is that we are getting some soldiers killed; we are fighting a counter guerrilla campaign, which only recently we admitted to. Once we get — security is clearly critical in order to get Iraq back in Iraqi control. But if we slam in two hundred thousand or three hundred thousand more soldiers, it’s more difficult to get them out. We’ve got to get the Iraqis in the police, Iraqis in the military, Iraqis running their country, their judicial system, all of that. That is not about more soldiers. It’s about more Iraqis.

MARGARET WARNER: But Col. Hunt, I also want to get your view on whether the force needs to be internationalized. I mean, yesterday General Abizaid, the head of the central command said he would love to get at least some more soldiers from Islamic countries. Are there things that having foreign troops there, whatever kind they are, their skills, or just what they look like or the languages they speak, that they can do things that having an all Anglo-American or mostly Anglo-American force can’t?

COL. DAVID HUNT: Absolutely. Language is one of it. We can certainly use– we need more than 18 people from Tajikistan, and in all due respect to our Turkish friend, we could use a lot of help from Turkey. We could start out by – if they let us use their country. But the Turkish military is excellent. We would love to have more Turks involved. They didn’t want to participate up until now maybe.

But there are great things that these other military… the French, although we don’t like the French for a lot of reasons, have a great military. They could be very helpful. But the problem with the French is rather obvious. But they have got a great military, so does South Africa, so there are very good countries with good military to be there.

The problem is you can’t break up the chain of command in the middle of a counter-guerrilla campaign; it’s not a good idea, so if these countries would come in under U.S. leadership and British coalition leadership, it will work. The United Nations are great people; they do United Nations refugees very well but we do not want the United Nations in a fight that we’re in now.

MARGARET WARNER: Harvey Sicherman, you’ve raised this whole unity of command issue to start with. Do you think, as Jim Dobbins says, that there is a way to skin the cat, there is a way to have some sort of centrality of command and at the same time get an international face, and international skills on that force?

HARVEY SICHERMAN: I think you can do it, but, of course, the parties have to be willing to do it. We went through a whole song and a dance with the United Nations where we had members of the Council who were not willing to contribute a decisive military force, but who nonetheless wanted a veto over the use of our force, which was decisive.

So we can make arrangements, there are lots of arrangements, face saving and otherwise, that can be put together. Yet at the end of the day, we have to be in a decisive position until this thing settles down. And anything we do to impugn that chain of command now is just going to involve everybody in more needless bloodshed, and will yield advantage to the enemy.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. Kemal Dervis, tell us what is going on with Turkey. In the middle of the summer, the Joint Chief’s Chairman, General Meyers, said the U.S. was negotiating with Turkey to send troops in. There were reports today that one of the reasons Powell is pursuing this U.N. resolution is that he wants to give “political cover” to maybe Turkey, India, and Egypt to send troops. What’s the state of play in terms of Turkey’s willingness to send troops?

KEMAL DERVIS: Willingness, you know, I can’t speak for the government. I am in your position. I can only give you my personal view. But Turkish public opinion as public opinion throughout the world, and particularly in Europe, wants a United Nations leadership here.

And as Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, we listened at the beginning of the program, burden sharing is fine, and I think we all want Iraq to go back to peace, to become a democracy, to be secure, to be free. And I think there is burden sharing needed for that. But burden sharing also then means sharing of responsibility of decision making power. Of course there are bigger and smaller powers in the world, and the U.S. will be in a leadership position.

But I do believe that if one wants to make this work, and if the international community is to be effective, it has to be under the leadership of the U.N. and let me add one thing: The situation is different now. I think everybody has the same objective. You know, before the intervention, there were different views. Let disarmament take place through the inspectors and all that. Now everybody wants Iraq to become safe, to grow, to become a democracy and to develop, so there is commonality of interest actually, and I think this is an opportunity to get the international community under U.N. leadership to streamline this effort.

MARGARET WARNER: But are you saying as a practical political matter that you don’t think the government and the parliament of which you’re a member could go forward with that even if the Turkish military wanted to, unless just because of public opinion, unless there was some sort of U.N. mandate?

KEMAL DERVIS: I can’t speak for the government but public opinion would be favorable to Turkish participation if there is a United Nations mandate.

MARGARET WARNER: And without it?

KEMAL DERVIS: Without it public opinion is very much against it.

MARGARET WARNER: Do you think that then the U.S. should be willing to push for a resolution that also shares, at least in political and economic reconstruction if not militarily the authority, Jim Dobbins?

JAMES DOBBINS: I think the United States is going to have to be willing to give others a voice in the management of the enterprise commensurate with their contribution. At the moment, we’re doing that. We give them very little voice, they give us very little contribution. The question is whether we can negotiate an arrangement in which there’s a bigger contribution and bigger voice while maintaining adequate unity of command and commonality of purpose.

Now if you listen carefully to what Kofi Annan said, he did not call for a U.N. force. He did not call for a force under U.N. command. And he would not accept that even if we were prepared to do it because the U.N. has never done anything on this scale. He called a multinational force, that means a force under a lead nation, but it means a force the purpose of which is set out in the U.N. Security Council resolution, which has some responsibility to report back periodically to the U.N. Security Council about how it is meeting those needs and which has a command structure which clearly would be under the U.S. as the dominant contributor would have places for other countries, commensurate with their contribution.

MARGARET WARNER: But are you saying still that… what the U.S. officials are saying is we don’t want the U.N. or the Europeans trying, we’re — we meaning the United States — says it wants to run the political rebuilding, transformation of Iraq by itself, wants to make Iraq into this free market democracy. And it just doesn’t want these other countries that it says it doesn’t trust, to do that.

JAMES DOBBINS: In order to secure a larger force in Iraq, which I think most people are coming to agree that we need, including apparently the president of the United States, we are going to have to cross one of two thresholds. We are either going to have to increase the overall size of the U.S. military so that we can dispose of great reserves for the purpose.

Or alternatively, we are going to have to share responsibility for this with other countries commensurate with the degree to which they are prepared to contribute. One or the other is going to be necessary.

MARGARET WARNER: Harvey Sicherman, does that sound like a formula that you could accept or the United States should accept?

HARVEY SICHERMAN: It sounds like a workable formula. And you also have to consider that the administration has been more than eager to have the U.N. in there with respect to what we call the nation building exercises. And indeed, that’s what Mr. de Mello was doing. And some of this argument I think has been, as they say in Washington, overtaken by events. I prefer to use the expression, overcome by events because basically back in May, the U.N., I think it was Resolution 1483, recognized the occupation and called on everybody to help the Iraqi people. Now that’s why de Mello was there.

Now you have the bombing, so that de Mello’s blood, as has baptized the United Nations into this battle. There isn’t any other choice but to get into it. I think Jim Dobbins — I know Jim a while and he’s certainly got his hand on the pulse — the elements are there to pull the thing together and I don’t think the administration is all that reluctant to share in the nation building exercise. What it is reluctant to do, quite justifiably, is to muddle the chain of command in the middle of a war.

MARGARET WARNER: Last word from you, Kemal Dervis. Do you think that if the U.S. just wants to keep the military command but is willing to share in other respects, that would be enough for Turkey?

KEMAL DERVIS: I agree with Jim. There has to be an overall U.N. framework that specifies, you know, the legitimacy of all this — the reporting back. Under that heading, one can then work out practical deals on the military side, on the economic side.

I think there could be a real role for NATO within that framework. And after all, NATO has a unified chain of command. So I think all this is possible, but one has to make sure that the international community sees that this is within a legitimate United Nations framework.

MARGARET WARNER: All right, gentlemen, thank you all four very much.