War In Iraq: Rebuilding
A recent report from the Center for Strategic & International studies has given the Bush Administration a "scorecard" on preparations for the post-conflict reconstruction of Iraq. Overall, this scorecard gives the Administration a mixed grade on its planning and preparations, which have been significant in certain areas but are still seriously lagging in others.
Bathsheba Crocker, international affairs fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, was online Friday, March 28 at Noon ET, to discuss reconstruction of post-war Iraq and the gaps in planning.
Crocker is a 2002-2003 Council on Foreign Relations international affairs fellow with the CSIS International Security Program, where she is working with the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project. She most recently worked as an attorney-adviser in the Legal Adviser's Office at the U.S. Department of State, where she focused on foreign assistance and appropriations law issues. Prior to that, she served as the deputy U.S. special representative for the Southeast Europe Initiative in Rome, Italy. She has previously served as the executive assistant to the deputy assistant to the president for national security affairs and as an attorney-adviser at the State Department working on economic sanctions matters. She received a B.A. from Stanford University, an M.A.L.D. from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.
The transcript follows.
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Washington, D.C.: Do you see any potential to repair some damaged relationships with other countries by involving them either bilaterally or through the United Nations in reconstruction projects? For example, should we delegate to Turkey, Iraq's neighbor, one aspect of reconstruction to keep it busy on that project (and perhaps distract it from its own aims in the north) for example any needed rebuilding in the north? If this is a viable strategy, how should we involve, or not involve, countries that have put hurdles in our way, like Germany and France?
Bathsheba Crocker: There is potential to repair our damaged relationships with allies and friends and Security Council members, but it will be a protracted processs. Several countries -- like France and Germany -- have said they will participate in the postwar efforts only if there is UN blessing of those efforts. But for now, it's not clear that the U.S. plans for the UN's role coincide with those of other countries. It will be important for the U.S. to start having meaningful discussions as soon as possible at the UN, in order to come to some resolution about the UN's post-conflict role. This would go a long way toward repairing relationships. Even without UN involvement, though, there will be a need for significant help from U.S. friends and allies on a bilateral basis, from providing funds and troops to perhaps overseeing certain reconstruction projects. I am not sure that Turkey should be given a role in the north as that could inflame the Kurdish situation there. If France and Germany continue to refuse to negotiate on any U.S. and UK initiatives at the UN, it could end up that the UN role is limited to humanitarian needs, and reconstruction help from others comes bilaterally.
Washington, D.C.: Are there any coherent plans for the new government of Iraq besides the totally awful idea of a U.S. general running it? I can't imagine a worse scenario both for Iraq and the U.S., and this is the only plan I've heard about.
Bathsheba Crocker: The plan appears to be for the U.S. to run Iraq for whatever period is necessary to stabilize the country and then to start turning power over to an "Iraq Interim Authority" on a rolling basis. The United Nations might be asked to be a coordinating/advisory body to the Iraqi Intermi Authority at that point. But for the immediate term, the U.S. (under the ultimate authority of Gen. Tommy Franks and retired Army lieutenant Jay Garner) will be running Iraq.
Cumberland, Md.: In view of the French conduct at the UN should we allow the French to gain lucrative contracts for Iraqi rebuilding? Shouldn't those contracts go to those who supported us?
Bathsheba Crocker: I don't think it's wise for the U.S. to make unilateral decisions about excluding firms from certain countries in the reconstruction efforts. The more international this processs is, the better it will be, for the U.S. and for Iraq, as well as for repairing some damage to our relationships with important friends and allies. Although the U.S. will be paying for some of the initial reconstruction costs, other countries will also start to contribute to the postwar efforts, and Iraqi oil revenue will be used as well. When U.S. money is not involved, the U.S. may not be able to (and should not) control which companies get access to contracts. If the U.S.-French relationship is further damaged over the next few weeks over issues at the Security Council, though, we might see French companies being excluded.
Washington, D.C.: How significant is it that it has been so difficult to get humanitarian assistance into Iraq so far? What implications does this have for the post-war reconstruction scenario?
Bathsheba Crocker: It is of course significant in that Iraqi civilians are already suffering in certain parts of the country -- such as Basra -- as a result of the war. But it is also significant because providing humanitarian assistance right away is a big part of the U.S. and British campaign to "win the hearts and minds" of the Iraqis and to show the coalition forces to be liberators. It also illustrates that the security situation is still very precarious, and that it will be more difficult for the coalition forces to make Iraqi towns and cities safe and secure for Iraqis and for civilian humanitarian workers after the war.
Gullsgate, Minn.: Kellog-Brown/Root have acquired the reconstruction contracts, sans bids processs. Cheney is still receiving checks for his former involvement with this corporation. How embedded can this relationship be and still come out smelling like a rose -- or more appropriately, the smell of dying oleanders, (native flowers of Iraq)?
Bathsheba Crocker: Because of the high degree of distrust of the Bush Administration's motives, it would be far better if all the contracts were awarded under a very transparent and open contracting processs. It will also be good to offer contracts to companies outside the U.S., and to companies that don't have as close ties to Bush Administration officials. If we start seeing Brown & Root get too many of these contracts, the Administration will have even more of a public relations problem on its hands.
Washington, D.C.: Are there any laws or regulations governing the use of U.S. (e.g. aid) funds in the contracting processs? For instance, is aid required to award the contracts to U.S. firms? Was a large contract awarded today? If so, what was its nature and whom did it go to?
Bathsheba Crocker: It depends on how the funds are appropriated by Congress. Certain types of funds (including those that AID and the State Department provide) are required to be used to procure goods and services in the U.S., the recipient country (here, Iraq), or a developing country. There are exceptions -- for example if something isn't available in the U.S. -- but that wouldn't apply to the initial infrastructure rebuilding contracts that USAID and the Defense Department have put out for bids.
Cumberland, Md.: Do you think that the UN will play the premier role in rebuilding IRaqi that the French want it to assume?
Bathsheba Crocker: I do not think the UN will end up playing the role that the French have said they'd like to see. Bush Administration officials have made clear that they do not want to see the UN running Iraq, although they have stated that the UN will play an important role. I think we are more likely to see a UN assistance mission to an Iraq Interim Authority, like we have in Afghanistan. If we continue to have such a significant disagreement on every issue at the Security Council though, it may not be possible to come to an agreement with the French and others on the UN's role.
Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.: Can you confirm reports that McDonalds plans to set up shop in Baghdad on the ruins of bombed out mosques?
Bathsheba Crocker: Sorry . . . I haven't heard anything about this plan.
Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: I couldn't believe it when I heard Donald Rumsfeld, quoted on NPR this morning, saying, "The United States has no responsibility for Iraq's reconstruction."
I'm absolutely flabbergasted. Do you know where this came from and how it relates to post-war plans?
Bathsheba Crocker: I did not hear Secretary Rumsfeld make that statement. I imagine it has to do with efforts at the UN Security Council to include in a resolution statements saying that the U.S. and Britain, as the occupying forces, have certain legal obligations under the Geneva Conventions to provide humanitarian and other assistance to the Iraqis. I know that U.S. officials have been fighting inclusion of any statements to that effect in the draft resolution about the oil-for-food program. So Rumsfeld may have been making a reference to the Bush Administration's belief that it does not have any such responsibility as a legal matter.
Washington, D.C.: What are the various elements of reconstruction? Are they all realized through the award of contracts, or are a lot of them achieved by NGOs, other humanitarian groups and countries on their own cognizance?
Bathsheba Crocker: There are countless elements of reconstruction, everything from rebuilding roads and bridges to retraining Iraq's police force, disarming and demobilizing Iraq's armed forces, training teachers, getting kids back into school, civil society development programs, a constitutional assembly process, democratization programs, humanitarian assistance.
Washington, D.C.: No one believes the UN can actually "govern" Iraq or secure it after Saddam is gone. So, exactly what kind of UNSC authorizing resolution should the U.S./UK be seeking in the Council? What should the UN be asked to approve?
Bathsheba Crocker: Taking your first point as an assumption (although I think it's a debatable point), what we will probably be seeking at the UN is a resolution authorizing the U.S. and UK plan for interim administration of Iraq. This would involve the plan initially to have the U.S. military and civilian authorities govern Iraq and then turn that authority over to an Iraqi Interim Authority on a rolling basis. The UN might also be asked to approve the processs for establishing an Iraqi Interim Authority, or alternatively, to approve the idea that the U.S. should have responsibility for establishing that Authority.
Teaneck, N.J.: Is there any model of a successful rebuilding after conflict that can be used as a model? Or will the Administration make it up as it goes along (like everything else it does).
Bathsheba Crocker: The models that most people cite as successes are Japan and Germany after World War II. There have been a few successful post-conflict efforts -- Namibia is generally considered to have been one -- elsewhere, but the jury is still out on most of the recent efforts, such as Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor and Afghanistan. Parts of those efforts have gone well, but it's too early to call them successful.
Washington, D.C.: What do current estimates regarding the costs of rebuilding Iraq look like? And to what extent will these material costs determine whether it is individual countries (ie. U.S. and its war allies) or international bodies that carry out this work?
Bathsheba Crocker: The estimates are all very high, but there is a significant range -- from $25 billion overall to over $500 billion overall. A reasonable estimate is about $100 billion overall, which assumes $20-25 billion a year for 4-5 years.
Athens, Ga.: How should the occupation forces prioritize the reconstruction of Iraq? Should they begin rebuilding southern cities first, or Baghdad? If the siege of Baghdad is long, should southern reconstruction begin before Baghdad is taken?
Who will design these reconstructed areas, Iraqis or Americans?
Bathsheba Crocker: Reconstruction efforts should begin on a rolling basis, as it will be important from the very beginning to show that the U.S. is committed to seeing through its promises, and so that Iraqis see immediate improvement to their lives. Reconstruction efforts could begin in Iraqi cities and towns as soon as they are safe and secure enough for civilian workers to enter. I am not sure what the plans are for design of reconstructed areas, although it will of course be important to involve Iraqis in those sorts of decisions.
Cumberland, Md.: Just as rebuilding in Afghanistan is plagued by terrorists from al Qaeda and the Taliban, do you think that terrorist groups like Fedayeen Saddam will hamper rebuilding efforts in Iraq in the same way?
Bathsheba Crocker: Such groups could delay reconstruction efforts if they continue to undermine the ability to make Iraq's cities and towns safe enough for Iraqis and civilian aid workers. This is why it will be particularly important to make sure that there are enough stabilization forces all throughout the country to maintain public security, and that there are rapid reaction combat forces stationed at points throughout the country that could come in to stabilize an area with a significant amount of violence or terrorist activity.
Show Low, Ariz.: Everyone has questions about bids for reconstruction. The more important question is, how will we pay for all of this?
Bathsheba Crocker: It will probably be paid for with funds from a variety of sources. Some of it will be U.S. money -- and the President already requested some money for reconstruction in his supplemental budget request this week. Some small portion may come from Iraqi frozen assets throughout the world. The U.S. government has already seized $1.7 billion in Iraqi frozen assets that it plans to use for reconstruction needs. It is hoped that other bilateral and multilateral donors will also contribute, but the amount of such contributions will depend on the state of our relations with friends and allies and the outcome of discussions at the UN Security Council.
Austin, Tex.: How is the US going to face the very real possibility of trying to "reconstruct" and provide aid to a population that may remain largely hostile? (I suspect the idea is that once Saddam is gone, aid workers and military governors will mostly be welcome. But I think it's fair to say that our judgement of Iraqi public reaction thus far doesn't give much cause for confidence.)
Bathsheba Crocker: Again, this gets to the public security question. If the population is largely hostile, rebuilding attempts will obviously be difficult. However, it will be important to start such efforts right away, to show that the U.S. has good intentions for the Iraqis and plans to follow through on the promises President Bush has made about Iraq's future.
Washington, D.C.: It sounds as if the U.S. will have a significant presence in the post-reconstruction period. To what extent will we be able to split our resources on Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terror?
Bathsheba Crocker: Our resources are certainly already stretched, and this will only stretch them further. Although the President has already submitted a request for some initial U.S. funds for the reconstruction effort, I think there is an expectation that a large part of the financial commitment will be met with contributions from other countries and with Iraq's oil revenues rather than with U.S. funds.