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U.S. Faces Immense Challenges in Iraq, Scholars Say

U.S. Faces Immense Challenges in Iraq, Scholars Say

Brookings seminar on conduct of war, establishing peace in Iraq. By Anthony Kujawa, Washington File Staff Writer.

Washington D.C. -- (WF) April 10, 2003 -- U.S. scholars assessing coalition military strategy in the war against Iraq's Saddam Hussein and the challenges of rebuilding a post-war Iraq said the United States must first establish security and meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.

Speaking at Brookings Institution seminar in Washington April 10, the scholars concurred that the rebuilding of Iraq is an immense task that will require the cooperation and long-term commitment of the international community in order to foster an enduring Iraqi democracy.

Assessing Iraq's military strategy, Kenneth Pollack of Brookings said that two important factors explain the rapid fall of Saddam Hussein's regime: 1) the speed and overwhelming power of coalition forces, and 2) the people of Iraq were not willing to fight for Hussein's regime.

The former Iran-Iraq military analyst for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency speculated that Saddam Hussein felt the line of Republican Guard divisions he formed from Karbala to Al Kut would slow coalition forces longer than was the case. Saddam Hussein probably felt he would have time to form a second line of defenses on the outskirts of Baghdad, said Pollack.

"I think Saddam was extraordinarily over-confident about his ability to preclude the war altogether," added Pollack, who speculated that this might explain the unpreparedness and slow mobilization of Baghdad's defenses. As Republican Guard units were forced to retreat to Baghdad, said Pollack, they were highly disorganized and damaged by U.S. air and ground attacks and this contributed to the rapid collapse of Baghdad.

Yet Pollack stressed that the coalition, "has not yet liberated all of Iraqi territory," and that battle ahead, particularly in Hussein's hometown of Tikrit could become a "very messy fight."

Assessing U.S. military strategy in the war in Iraq, Michael O'Hanlon, also of Brookings, said that the special operations forces used early in the war and the innovative urban combat tactics used toward the end were particularly effective.

O'Hanlon explained: "A year ago the military wanted to go in big and strong and conventional, Rumsfeld wanted to go in small and creative and innovative, and each side dropped part of its idea and kept the good part. The system really worked because Rumsfeld's ideas for innovation and Special Operations were juxtaposed with the military's preference for a big force."

James Dobbins, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at RAND, discussed the transition from combat operations to reconstruction, outlining many of the challenges the Bush administration will face in establishing security and meeting the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.

Coalition forces must first reimpose order, prevent retributive violence and maintain Iraq's territorial integrity, Dobbins said, and he warned: "It's worth remembering that we went into Kosovo to protect the Albanians from the Serbs and then spent the next three years protecting the Serbs from the Albanians. It's quite likely that we will be faced with similar tasks in Iraq."

Examining, historic parallels in nation-building, Dobbins concluded, "It's only where we stayed longer, made a longer-term commitment that we had a lasting effect."

Dobbins warned of a persistent tension which will run through U.S. politics "between getting it done quickly and getting out quickly ... or staying long enough so that we've had a lasting, transformative effect on Iraqi society."

Concluding his remarks Dobbins said that it has never been in doubt that the U.S. could win the war, but that "winning the peace is less certain. And winning the peace on our own is even less certain."


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).