September 25, 2002 | Executive Summary on Iraq
As the Administration intensifies its efforts to build international support for a U.S.-led campaign to end Saddam Hussein's brutal and menacing regime in Iraq, some are questioning America's commitment to an effort to rebuild Iraq after such a war. The Administration has yet to present its plans for post-war Iraq. But that should be the last element of its argument that military force is needed to oust a regime that actively supports terrorism and pursues weapons of mass destruction (WMD) despite pressure from the United Nations to stop. (Details of Iraq's weapons programs are included in the paper's Appendix.)
The President should make it clear that a U.S. military presence in post-war Iraq will be deployed to secure vital U.S. interests, but not as an exercise in so-called nation-building, the open-ended policy of his predecessor in which American troops were sent into troubled regions where vital U.S. security interests were not directly threatened. In many cases, the Clinton Administration used this policy reactively to accommodate the concerns of other countries, mistakenly assuming that their interests were always America's. Often this meant expanding the definition of peacekeeping beyond what it was intended to accomplish. Consequently, U.S. forces found themselves in situations not suited to the use of military force.
To make it clear that a post-war U.S. military operation in Iraq would not be another nation-building exercise, the Bush Administration should state that the U.S. military will be deployed to Iraq to secure the vital U.S. security interests for which the campaign would be undertaken in the first place. Specifically, these war aims are to:
At the political level, the Administration also should utilize the post-war U.S. military presence to help give Iraq's new, presumably more friendly leaders a better opportunity to develop an inclusive, federal system of self-government. In cooperation with other countries, U.S. forces should assist in providing the basic security for the process of political and economic reconstruction to take place. However, it should not be up to U.S. military forces to construct this new government. Whatever new security structure is put in place after Saddam Hussein is gone, U.S. forces should not be saddled with the responsibility of governing the county or of creating the political entities that are to govern. That should be left to the Iraqi people and whatever interim government is created to govern the transition process.
Organizing the post-war U.S. military presence in Iraq around these three specific war aims would enable the Administration to define the scope of the military mission for the American people and to justify a continued presence in Iraq. The Administration's plan for the involvement of U.S. military forces in Iraq after the war to eliminate Saddam Hussein's brutal regime should rest on three foreign policy pillars:
Baker Spring is F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy and Jack Spencer is Policy Analyst for Defense and National Security in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation.