It Takes More Than Guns
By Walter B. Slocombe
Tuesday, October 14, 2003; Page A23
BAGHDAD -- For the past five months I have had the privilege of serving here on the team of civilians and soldiers from the United States and some 30 other nations working with Iraqis. Our goal is to get this country to early full sovereignty as a state that is both decent for its people to live in and a constructive and stable force in a strategically critical region. This is in America's national security interest.
The effort has many parts -- the American soldiers who raid houses where terrorists are hiding, civilian engineers repairing electrical generators, Iraqi schoolteachers preparing lessons from textbooks cleansed of Saddam Hussein's indoctrination, newly trained Iraqi border guards checking passports against lists of terrorists, the Governing Council debating how to draft a new constitution. Each of those parts contributes to security, not just for Iraq but for the United States and the world, and each must be continued and expanded if we are to succeed.
Soon Congress will vote on the president's request for funds for those efforts in the coming year. Part is needed to pay for the U.S. military's direct costs of operations here; part -- about a quarter as much -- is sought for nonmilitary programs such as training new Iraqi police and fixing irrigation systems. The money is listed in different categories, but in the context of Iraq today, each program will, in the phrase so often used in the debate, "support our troops." A large part of the reconstruction money will train and equip Iraqis to take on for themselves the security tasks that otherwise would have to continue to be done by American soldiers.
On the streets of Iraq, one can already see the beginnings -- Iraqi police on patrol jointly with American MPs and, increasingly often, by themselves; Iraqi guards on duty at banks, schools and power stations; Iraqis in the Civil Defense Corps, not American soldiers, checking IDs and searching cars at checkpoints. By the end of the month, it will be soldiers from the first battalion of the New Iraqi Army who will watch over a distant desert section of the border with Iran that is now guarded by an American military unit. Increasing the Iraqi capacity for self-defense against both internal and external enemies will speed the day when U.S. military forces can be drastically reduced.
But it is not just the programs explicitly labeled "security" that serve both broad U.S. national security objectives and every American's goal of the safe and early return of our troops. Those goals are also served by the funds for building the Iraqi infrastructure. Success against the terrorists in Iraq, both imported and domestic, who attack our troops and the prospect of a free Iraq, requires that the lives of the Iraqi people improve in material terms. Rapid progress on this front is essential to maintaining the support of the Iraqi people as we fight the terrorists.
Iraq is rich in resources -- not just oil, water and fertile soil but a resourceful population with a respect for education and hard work. But for those resources to be mobilized as the basis of a stable, democratic, prosperous and peaceful country, everything from the railroads to the electric grid to the school system must recover -- not from war damage, which was minimal, but from a generation or more of neglect, corruption and mismanagement.
This task will take many years, and most of the money after the president's supplemental funding request will have to come from Iraq's own efforts, private investment and the support of the international community as a whole. The U.S. contribution now being considered is designed to address only the most urgent needs -- to bring electricity production close to demand so factories can reopen, to increase the safety of drinking water, to repair the worst of Hussein's depredations on the environment, to build basic conditions for private investment, to bring communications into the 21st century and to meet the most critical of a host of similar basic needs. Doing that contributes to security every bit as much as training police or reopening border control posts.
As the Iraqis see that their lives are improving in material terms, as well as in new freedom, they are increasingly supporting our security efforts -- with tips on impending attacks, with participation in reconstruction efforts and with the recognition that, while no one likes to have an occupying army in his or her country, cooperation with the coalition is the right course for Iraq.
Americans, whether or not they supported the war or the course of action that led to it, have a common interest in crowning the dedication and sacrifices of our service men and women with a successful peace, in which Iraq is free and stable and terrorism is denied a base for new assaults. That will require continued military effort, with all the human and financial costs it entails. But achieving our goals and safely ending this military effort will also require that we bring to bear the nonmilitary measures for which the reconstruction part of the supplemental request will provide.
The writer is director for national security and defense in the Coalition Provisional Authority for Iraq. From 1994 to 2001 he was undersecretary of defense for policy.
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