Viable Alternatives to Build a Stable Democracy in the Iraqi Political Environment










Joel Roberson

Law of Nationbuilding

Chicago-Kent College of Law

December 21, 2006

Viable Alternatives to Build a Stable Democracy in the Iraqi Political Environment


I.          Political Landscape of Iraq

            A.        Brief Overview of the Creation of Iraq

1.         British Empirical Line Drawing

                        2.         British Colonial Influence

B.        Rise of Saddam Hussein

1.         Growth of the Baath Party

2.         Centralization of Power

            C.        Alternatives Outside the Baath Party

1.         Influence of Religious Leaders

2.         Influence of Political Exiles

II.        Post-Conflict Events that Affect Future Options

A.                 Effect of Looting on Existing Infrastructure

B.                 Imposition of Political Change by the US-Led Military Forces

C.                 Imposition of Political Change by the Coalition Provisional Authority

IV.       Alternatives Available to the United States

            A.        Stay the Course

                        1.         Background

                        2.         Investing in Democracy

3.         Building Infrastructure

            B.        Withdrawal of Troops

                        1.         Background

                        2.         Encouraging Iraqi Investment in their Destiny

3.         Risking a Power Vacuum and the Possibility of a Failed State

            C.        Increase Troop Presence

                        1.         Background

            2.         Establish Greater Security for the Iraqi People

                        3.         Threat of Increased Loss of Life and Greater Violence

D.        Internationalize Nationbuilding in Iraq

                        1.         Background

            2.         Iraq Study Group Urges Internationalization

            E.         Dividing Iraq into Three States

                        1.         Background

                        2.         Three United Iraqi States

3.         Establish Three Separate Nation-States

                        4.         Difficulty Dividing Iraq into Three Distinct States

Conclusion: The Best Route to Success in Iraq


Three and a half years after invading Iraq, America stands at crossroads.  After a lightning-quick military assault resulting in a toppling of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime, progress in Iraq is now at a virtual standstill.  Violence has embroiled the entire nation in gruesome bloodshed.  Despite minor victories – like national elections and the killing Al Qaeda terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi – chaos and violence continue to spread throughout Iraq.  As early as the summer 2003, Iraqis began to attack one another as the Sunnis fought to keep power and the Shiites sought to retaliate for years of oppression.  Many believe Iraq has officially devolved into a civil war as Iraqi-on-Iraqi, sectarian-motivated attacks proliferates.  The United States military is caught in the middle attempting to stop the violence and eliminate terrorists so the nationbuilding can continue.

Back home in the United States the political landscape, which had previously been “red” with support for the Bush Administration, switched allegiances and supported a wave of Democrats into power in both the House and Senate in the 2006 midterm elections.  Although issues like corruption and immigration were key to the political take-over, the war in Iraq dominated the 2006 election cycle.  The rising storm of discontent was sufficiently strong to remove Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld from office to bring in a set of “fresh” set of eyes to head the Department of Defense.  Approval ratings for President George W. Bush and Congress are at all time lows.  Each of these factors has moved the United States government to a position where they are seeking new alternatives to salvage some kind of success.  As a result a steady stream of diplomatic, political, and military advice was solicited by President Bush in order to chart a new way forward in Iraq.  This has included the bipartisan Iraq Study Group (ISG), State Department diplomats, military historians, retired generals, Defense Department planners, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

            This paper seeks to analyze the options the United States is considering moving forward in Iraq.  To orient the reader, this paper provides a brief history of the creation of Iraq and a description of its political landscape.  The paper also provides a summary of major post-invasion actions that have influenced the availability of future options in Iraq.  The paper will consider and evaluate five proposed directions for the future course of the US in Iraq.  Finally, this paper suggests one possible course of action to secure a stable democracy in Iraq.

I.          Political Landscape of Iraq

            The nation of Iraq has been an influential power broker of Middle East throughout recent history.  Iraq gained notoriety at the end of the 20th century when it invaded Kuwait in 1990 seeking to increase its power and resources in the region.  The defiance of United Nations (UN) sanctions resulting from the Kuwait invasion were influential in leading to the situation in Iraq today.  Understanding the political landscape in Iraq, however, requires a historical look into how Iraq had become a tyrant in the Middle East.

            A.        Brief Overview of the Creation of Iraq

            Although Iraq is often best known for its vast deserts and plentiful oil rigs, many believe the area within its borders was once the biblical location of the Garden of Eden.[1]  The area is a constant battleground featuring the rise and fall of a number of empires including the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Medes, Persians, Parthians, Islamic caliphates, Mongolians, Seljuks, Ottomans, and the British.[2]  Each empire left its own imprint on the future of Iraq.  The British colonial rule left Iraq with three basic changes: 1.) an established, arbitrary border; 2.) unified nation including Kurds, Sunni, and Shia; and 3.) continued the tradition of rule by military force.

A.                 British Empirical Line Drawing

The nation of Iraq we know today did not come into being until the early 20th century.  During the rule of the Ottomans, the central part of Mesopotamia was governed as three provinces: Mosul (Kurdish north), Baghdad (Sunni center), and al-Basrah (Shiite south).[3]  While the First World War raged in Europe, a great struggle for influence in the Middle East created “chaos in Central Asia . . . a source of danger and promise” for the British interests.[4]  British colonial administrator Lord Alfred Milner described British imperial interests as securing the semi-circle from South Africa through Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Persia, India, and all the way to New Zealand “free from future interference of ambitious powers.”[5]  Control over this semi-circle would provide a contiguous land bridge connecting British areas of influence.

Following defeat in the First World War, the Ottoman Empire was divided amongst the British and French.[6]  As the Ottoman Empire was collapsing, British envoys won the confidence of the Turkish leadership causing the Ottoman armistice negotiators to demand to deal only with the British.[7]  As a result, the British took control of Palestine, Jordan and Mesopotamia, which included the Ottoman provinces of Mosul, Baghdad, and al-Basrah, gaining a crucial corridor to their far-East territories.[8]  To determine the border between Jordan and the new Mesopotamian state of Iraq, the British simply split the Syrian Desert at the mid-point of the Baghdad-Amman road and then followed physical features to fill in the border.[9]  Thus the nation of Iraq came into existence by arbitrarily melding three Ottoman provinces combining three sectarian groups under one common government.

                        2.         British Colonial Influence

            The British colonial control influenced the future direction of Iraq.  The British imposed Faysal ibn Hussein al-Hashim, an Arab from Syria, as the King of Iraq in 1921.[10]  Al-Hashim was the first of three “Hashimite” kings over the new Iraqi state supported by British colonial rule.[11]  The Hashimites were preferred to direct colonial control, but the kings status as Syrian Arabs kept them from ever being fully accepted by the Iraqi people.  The Hashmite government was the first in Arab history to face a military coup when the military raised up to oust the pro-British executive cabinet, though leaving the popular Hashimite King Ghazi because he had already established himself as anti-British.[12]  When the Rommel’s German armored columns threatened to take control of Iraq with the help of some Iraqi pro-Nazis, the British rallied a military response to keep their imposed government in place.[13]  By limiting the rule of Iraq to only those the British supported and keeping them in power through use of force, the British rule continued to ingrain Iraqis with the tradition of rule based on might.

B.        Rise of Saddam Hussein

            A boy named Saddam Hussein was born during the British Hashimite reign – likely April 28, 1937 – to a Sunni family in the Iraqi town of Tikrit.[14]  Hussein’s father died before his birth, but Saddam grew up under the watch of his step-father, Hassan Ibrahim or “Hassan the Liar”.[15]  Reportedly, Ibrahim was a career thief and local bully and raised Saddam on petty crime.[16]  As a teen, Hussein educated himself to pass the military entrance exam, but ultimately failed.[17]  Frustrated by the failure to gain admittance to the Iraqi military, Saddam would eventually turn to a small political resistance party called the Baath Party.[18]

1.         Growth of the Baath Party

            The Baath Party was started in the 1930s in Syria as a Pan-Arab party seeking the unification of a single Arab state.[19]  While advocating generally for pro-Arab policies, the Baath Party remained secular or even hostile to Islamist ideology.[20]  The members of the Baath Party were made up primarily of intellectuals, soldiers, and students that pieced together a political agenda focused on Arab nationalism.[21]  Upon encouragement from a family friend, Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, Saddam Hussein joined the Baath Party and became a low-level security officer in the 1950s.[22]  The Baath Party seized control of Iraq away from the Hashimite monarchy in 1958 in a military coup lead by General ‘Abd al-Karin Qasim.[23]  However, the Party quickly became disenchanted with General Qasim when he failed to support Pan-Arabist policy.[24]  In 1959, the Baath Party sent a seven member assassination team – including Saddam Hussein - to assassinate Qasim but the attempt failed.[25]  After the failed attempt on Qasim’s life, Hussein was forced to flee the country to Syria for several years.[26]

            The Baath Party managed to oust Qasim in a second military coup in 1963.  However, the Baath Party emerged from the coup ideologically split and ended up getting purged from power itself.[27]  While the Baath Party regrouped, Hussein’s family friend, Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, emerged as the leader of the streamlined Party and Saddam was his right-hand man.[28]  In 1968, the Baath Party and group of soldiers participated in their third military coup to return to power with al-Bakr in control.[29]  The Baath Party would rule over Iraq from 1968 until its removal and dissolution in 2003.

2.         Centralization of Power

            To solidify the Baath Party rule over Iraq, the Party sought to consolidate political and military power.  Saddam Hussein was appointed as the head of the Jihaz Hunin, the Baathist internal security force, as well as the Deputy Secretary-General of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), the main policy making body.[30]  Hussein, whose self-professed hero was Joseph Stalin, began a cold-blooded struggle for power.[31]  Hussein went on the offensive politically outmaneuvering all opposition until he and al-Bakr were the only viable leaders left.[32]  To reduce the risk of future military coups, Hussein began to undermine the power of any potential military challenger and replace them with his closest allies.  As head of the Jihaz Hunin, Hussein allowed Nadhim Kzar, the chief of the Iraqi internal security force to conduct ruthless torture and assassinations until he plotted to kill al-Bakr at which point Hussein had him executed along with 35 others.[33]  Eventually Hussein’s power play would even lead him to convince al-Bakr to give up his powerful leadership position with the defense ministry to be replaced by Hussein’s cousin.[34]  Two years later, al-Bakr was forced to step down from his position and Hussein took over control of Iraq on July 16, 1979.[35]

            Upon seizing control, Hussein sought to eliminate the remaining potential challengers.  Hussein forced the Secretary-General of the RCC to step down and confess to supporting a Syrian-backed coup along with 54 alleged co-conspirators.[36]  To instill fear into even those who survived, Hussein ordered the execution of the alleged traitors by firing squad and required all the remaining Baath Party officials to be a part of the firing squad.[37]  Having eliminated any short-term threat to his power, Saddam proceeded to consolidate authority with only his closest advisors, prevent low-level Party members from gaining clout by constantly shifting their positions, and made sure all information went through him.[38]  By creating a regime built on fear and discipline, Hussein created a monopoly of power that would keep him in power for the next 24 years.

            C.        Alternatives Outside the Baath Party

            As discussions turned to the replacement of the omnipresent Saddam Hussein in early 2003, the US needed a group of politicians untainted by the Baathist regime that had personalities powerful enough to demand the respect of the Iraqi people.  Based on Iraq’s violent past, the party that takes power must be strong enough to keep control of the country – by US military might if necessary.  Finding viable alternatives would prove difficult because a generation of Iraqis had been taught that “any sign of individual initiative could have been fatal under Saddam.”[39]  For Saddam, indoctrinating Iraqis in submission started as children where a “small boy is still in our hands and we must transform him into an interactive radiating center inside the family” by teaching “them to criticize their mothers and fathers respectfully if they hear them talking about organizational and party secrets.”[40]  There were two basic alternatives to the Baathist leadership in Iraq: 1.) Religious Leaders; and 2.) Political Exiles.

1.         Influence of Religious Leaders

            While claiming religious authority to lead the nation of Iraq, the Baath Party was not particularly religious.  Religious leaders in Iraq were permitted to exist so long as they did not interfere with the Baathist rule over Iraq.  After the Baath regime was toppled, the Iraqi religious leaders began an intricate competition for political power.

            For the last thousand years, the Shiite population received religious instruction from the hawza of Najaf.  The leading Shiite currently on the hawza was the Iranian-born Ayatollah al-Sistani.  Al-Sistani is a traditional Muslim leader who believes that a cleric should not be active in politics.[41]  Hoping to receive buy-in for the US occupation from the Shiite community, the US coalition asked al-Sistani to endorse the occupation.[42]  Al-Sistani refused to endorse the occupation, but also did not condemn the US presence in Iraq.[43]  When the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) attempted to impose a constitutional commission selected by the CPA, al-Sistani weighed in by insisting that a legitimate constitution must be created by elected representatives.[44]  By doing so, al-Sistani thrust himself into the spotlight of the new Iraqi political regime.  Many commentators took al-Sistani’s moves as a strong Iraqi embrace in democracy, however the call for democratic representatives to draft the new Iraqi constitution may have been a purely self-interested move seeking to ensure a Shiite majority would draft a friendly document.  Although al-Sistani’s early adept political moves assured his status as a power-broker, it is unlikely that al-Sistani will ever enter into elected politics because he has refused the granting of Iraqi citizenship and maintains he will die an Iranian citizen.[45]

            A second influential religious leader is the 32 year-old Moqtada al-Sadr.  Moqtada is the youngest son of the martyred Mohamed Sadiq al-Sadr.[46]  Mohammed was a part of the “speaking” hawza aligned with Iran’s Khomeini supporting that religious leaders should be active in politics.[47]  When Mohammed eventually challenged the Baathist regime supporting their overthrow, he was assassinated along with his two older sons.[48]  Moqtada was the only son to survive to take over the religious teachings of his father.[49]  Moqtada fiercely opposes the US occupation and publishes an anti-American newspaper called al-Hawza.[50]  Seeking to establish a religious government run by clerics, Moqtada attempted to establish his own Iraqi government shortly after the US invasion.[51]  Al-Sadr has declared that democracy itself is “un-Islamic” and must be resisted.[52]  After Moqtada was involved in the assassination of a rival cleric, the CPA attempted to arrest al-Sadr, but soon determined that his arrest would cause greater turmoil than his movement itself.[53]  Today, al-Sadr’s militia, the Mahdi Army, has been grown in strength and influence and many believe that the Iranian-backed Hezbollah has trained between 1,000 and 2,000 of the militia’s force.[54]  It is clear that Moqtada is a religious leader that the US will be forced to go around or through in order to create a stable democracy in Iraq.

2.         Influence of Political Exiles

            During the Hussein era in Iraq, thousands of Iraqis fled the country seeking refuge around the world.  Many of these exiles were influential in encouraging the United States and Great Britain to initiate a war in Iraq.  The difficulty for exiles, however, was that none had the name recognition or the constituency base to garner national support and almost every exile thrust themselves into the political spotlight too soon and appeared to be a puppet for the US coalition.[55]  George Packer perceived the exiles as holding lower popularity levels than the Americans themselves during the early stages of the rebuilding.[56]

One of the most influential of the political exiles is a man named Ahmad Chalabi.  Chalabi is a Shiite Iraqi by birth, a mathematician by British and US education, a wealthy banker by trade, and an effective political leader of the dissident group, the Iraqi National Congress (INC).[57]  The INC became an umbrella organization for the opposition groups to the Iraq Baathist party which Chalabi was able to garner tens of millions of dollars from the CIA.[58]  Chalabi’s INC party fell out of favor with the Clinton Administration after it failed its own attempted coup and Chalabi was accused of leaking information about the CIA’s other plans to destabilize the Hussein regime.[59]  However, Chalabi played his cards right by setting up roots with Republicans and neo-conservatives like the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Trent Lott, Jesse Helms, and Newt Gingrich who would soon take control of Washington, DC.[60]  Backed by the support of Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, many believed that Chalabi would be anointed the new leader of Iraq after riding in victorious on the American tanks.  In the last days as the favorite son of the Bush Administration, Chalabi was invited to the State of the Union Address by First Lady, Laura Bush.[61]  While Chalabi’s credentials and relationships with the Republican officials made him the top choice by Americans pre-invasion, Iraqis failed to accept Chalabi and other exiles as their leaders when they arrived.[62]  They were seen by some to be simply another group of warlords that were enjoying the spoils of the fallen Baathist regime.[63]  Chalabi was forced to take a backseat to Iraqi “internals” – at least for the time being.

            Another influential exile is Kanan Makiya.  Makiya is a secular Iraqi intellectual, professor, and author.  In 1989, Makiya published a book called Republic of Fear describing the violence of Saddam and his Baathist party.  In early 1991, Makiya thrust himself into the public spotlight by becoming a vocal advocate encouraging the United States march into Baghdad to overthrow Saddam and his regime.[64]  Makiya worked with fellow exiles to draft what they called “Charter 91”, a document advocating the creation of a Republic of Tolerance through a democratic, secular Iraq.[65]  The ideas of democratic regime change held by Makiya caught the eye of a number of neo-conservatives.  In fact, Makiya was with President Bush when the news showed Saddam Hussein’s statute being torn down in Baghdad.[66]  Makiya was eternally optimistic that all the Iraqi people needed was the opportunity to choose democracy and they would thrive.

II.        Post-Conflict Events that Affect Future Options

            After the military victory over Iraq in 2003, it was necessary to rebuild the country from the months of extensive bombing and the years of neglect from Saddam Hussein.  Significant criticism has been leveled at the Bush Administration that while the military victory was accomplished in record speed, there was no significant thought put into establishing security in the aftermath.  The chaos that ensued following the primary military conflict made the terrain very unstable for the first Iraqi steps towards democracy.

A.        Effect of Looting on Existing Infrastructure

            On April 9, 2003, a statue of Saddam Hussein in central Baghdad was pulled down by Iraqis with the help of a US Marine Corp vehicle.[67]  In the days and weeks that followed, Iraqis continued to express their distaste at the toppled regime and take advantage of their freedom from tyranny to loot Baathist government buildings.  The looting was so extensive that in some government buildings the urinals had been removed and the electrical wiring had been pulled out of the walls.[68]  The widely broadcast scenes of looting by news organizations, prompted then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to respond that

while no one condones looting, on the other hand one can understand the pent-up feelings that may result from decades of repression and people who’ve had members of their family killed by that regime, for them to be taking their feelings out on that regime…freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.”[69]


Without orders to disrupt the looting, US soldiers stood by and watched as locations across Baghdad were looted.[70]  On the eve of the critical 2004 Presidential election, the New York Times reported that the looting went beyond just commercial products and included the looting of weapons dumps throughout Iraq like the one at Al Qaqaa.[71]  Many fear these weapons were taken by local militias and terrorists and may have been used to in the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) which have been deadly killers of both Iraqis and the US military.  Across Iraq, industries that were not protected by private security, including the oil industry, were crippled by looting and a lack of funding.[72]  The Ministry of Oil in Baghdad, however, was the only government building protected.[73]  This experience left the Iraqi public feeling helpless to the lawlessness that set in and gave the new Iraqi government a huge set-back before it had even started.  CPA officials put a dollar figure of $12 billion on the amount infrastructure lost through the looting.[74]  The looting and violence also cost the Americans the luxury of being considered liberators as Iraqis found quickly that the US force could not or would not stop the criminal activity that threatened their homes and businesses.

B.        Imposition of Political Change by the US-Led Military Forces

            The entire US military strategy was designed around a quick transfer of power to the Iraqis.  Before the war had even begun, President George W. Bush signed National Security Presidential Directive number 24 which delegated the responsibility for reconstruction to the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), a new section of the Department of Defense.[75]  Then-Secretary Donald Rumsfeld picked retired Lt. General Jay Garner to head up the new ORHA.[76]  In reality, much of the early nationbuilding was delegated to the US military forces because security and staffing shortages kept civilian workers from implementing their own policies.

            Garner and the ORHA flew to Kuwait to plan out their mission in Iraq.[77]  One month after arriving in Kuwait, the ORHA created an “Initial Working Draft” of their post-conflict plans in Iraq.[78]  In its mere 21 pages, the ORHA outlined the extent of its mission to prop up a sovereign government by August including establishing government ministries, drafting and ratifying a constitution, and electing national leaders.[79]  One of the spokes in Garner’s plans was to leave the Iraqi military in place and continue to pay salaries.[80]  On April 21, 2003, five days after producing the working draft of post-conflict plans, Garner received clearance and flew into Baghdad to start his mission.[81]  After only three days on the ground, Garner was notified by Rumsfeld that he was going to be replaced by Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III.[82]  By May 10th, Garner was flown to Qatar to welcome Bremer and brief him on the conditions he would find when he arrived in Iraq.[83]  On May 11, 2003, General Tommy Franks, commander of the Coalition ground forces, got on Iraqi radio to proclaim that the Baathist party of Iraq had been dissolved.[84]  In early May, 2003, the Department of Defense was already planning on reducing the number of the troops to below 30,000.[85]  In Garner’s two-page parting memo delivered to President Bush, he described Iraq as well on its way to full reconstruction.[86]

C.        Imposition of Political Change by the Coalition Provisional Authority

            On May 12, 2003, the reconstruction efforts were taken over by the Coalition Provisional Authority, with Ambassador Paul Bremer at the helm.  In an interview with PBS, Bremer said his instruction from President Bush was to “Go over there. Use your judgment as to how things should transpire in terms of the economic, the political, and the security situation, and give me your best judgment.”[87]  While in Iraq, the CPA made thousands of decisions in an attempt to move the country towards democracy.  Two of Bremer’s earliest decisions made in his first four days in Iraq were to dissolve the Iraqi Armed Forces and bar the top tiers of Baath Party leadership from government service.[88]  One of Bremer’s first decisions was to reverse the ORHA’s policy of incorporation and dissolve the Iraqi Armed Forces, the Ministry of the Defense, and the Ministry of Information and terminate all payments to those organizations.[89]  This decision made thousands of armed Iraqis with military training unemployed – including a number of Iraqi generals who were working with ORHA staff to help re-constitute the military and restart military pay.[90]  Bremer counters that the Iraqi Armed Forces had already been dissolved as a result of combat or desertion and his order merely confirmed the situation on the ground.[91]  This order w

On May 16, 2003, Bremer decreed that members of the top four levels of the Baath Party were summarily removed and barred from government service.[92]  It is estimated that this included around 30,000 employees of the state.[93]  Employees in the lower ranks of the prohibition were able to appeal the decision to the Supreme National Debaathification Commission.[94]  Bremer defends his decision based on the US experience rooting out Nazi officials in post-war Germany.[95]  The combined effect of dissolving the military and intelligence apparatus as well as barring the top Baathist Party members put thousands of Iraqis out of work with little love lost for the American occupiers.

III.       Alternatives Available to the United States

There have been five major alternatives proposed as the next step for America to take in Iraq.  First, the Bush Administration has long described its strategy as “staying the course” in an attempt to outlast the insurgency.  Second, a near-term withdrawal of US troops, either immediate or phased, has been proposed by critics of the Administration.  Third, an increase in troop levels has been supported by a few policy-makers in an attempt to provide greater security for the Iraqi people.  Fourth, internationalizing governance of Iraq to a multinational organization with experience in nation-building has been favored by some.  Fifth, after sectarian violence has become more prevalent, pursuit of a three-state solution splitting the country of Iraq based on ethno-religious lines has received significant consideration.  These alternatives will be described and evaluated.

            A.        Stay the Course

PROPOSAL: Allow the civilian and military leaders in Iraq to continue efforts currently in progress to establish the stability, infrastructure, and leadership necessary for a healthy, liberal democracy.

                        1.         Background

On May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier to announce the end of major conflict in Iraq touting “Mission Accomplished.”[96]  When asked about the rising casualties in Iraq on July 3, 2003, the President expressed confidence that the military strategy was sufficient to deal with the increased threat and his message to terrorists was to “bring them on.”[97]  As military conflict mired US troops in Iraq at the end of 2003, President Bush described the US mission in Iraq in the following way,

We will stay the course until the job is done . . . And the temptation is to try to get the President or somebody to put a timetable on the definition of getting the job done.  We're just going to stay the course.  And it's v’ry important for the Iraqi people to know’that. [98]


The “stay the course” strategy became the mantra for Administration supporters against their opponents who in their words wanted to “cut and run” by setting dates to begin withdrawal.  It is important to look behind the rhetoric to evaluate the effectiveness of the “stay the course” alternative.

                        2.         Investing in Democracy

            Part of building a functioning democracy, is establishing a military that can defend her country against outside aggressors.  The Bush Administration has pledged that it will remain until democracy is established and the military is functioning independently.  President Bush frequently summed up the US exit strategy in the following terms, “As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down, and when our commanders on the ground tell me that Iraqi forces can defend their freedom, our troops will come home with the honor they have earned.”[99]  Although part of the “stay the course” strategy, supporting the creation of a self-sufficient Iraqi military is generally a goal supported by both political parties. 

            However, accomplishing the US goal of a free, capitalist, and democratic Iraq will require a long-term commitment of troops.  Each day American troops remain in Iraq the Iraqi people are reminded their country is still occupied by a foreign nation.  Restless Iraqis have become more easily motivated to join insurgency efforts to fight both their American occupiers and competing sectarian leaders.  The question is now posed whether “staying the course” in Iraq is actually supporting or opposing Iraq’s transition to democracy.

3.         Building Infrastructure

Part of the “stay the course” alternative includes building the physical, political, and military infrastructure for the new Iraq.  By making the everyday lives of Iraqis better than they were under Saddam, the US hoped to win the “hearts and minds” of the Iraqis.  However, much has been said about the failure by the Bush Administration to create a plan for a post-Saddam Iraq.  The rebuilding of Iraq has further been hampered by the continued lack of security and constant terror attacks.

One of the first priorities after the fall of the Saddam regime was rebuilding the physical infrastructure to a workable level.  This involved replacing that which was destroyed in the “Shock and Awe” air campaign as well as the infrastructure Saddam allowed to deteriorate.  A team sent in by then-Secretary of Transportation, Norman Mineta, found the US-led invasion caused minor damage to the transportation system[100].  Through the efforts of the Department of Transportation and funding from USAID, Saddam International Airport was able to reopen as Baghdad International Airport in July, 2003.[101]  Unfortunately, the oil, gas, and electrical infrastructure continues to fare worse.  Nearly $6 billion has been spent in Iraq updating the electrical infrastructure, however in February, 2006 Baghdad still receives only six hours of electricity each day.[102]  Despite, the intentions of the US and her allies, Iraq’s current infrastructure remains insufficient to handle the normal needs of modern Iraqis.

ANALYSIS: The policy behind the “stay the course” open-ended will not likely lead to success by itself.  Infrastructure building, training, and responding with flare-ups of violence has been the policy of the Bush Administration since the fall of the Baathist regime in 2003.  More than three years later, however, Iraq still fails to show significant signs of progress.  In fact, the country appears to be less stable today and more prone to violence, particularly sectarian-based violence, than it did during the initial combat operations.  The argument could certainly be made that Iraq today is less stable than it was under Saddam Hussein when there was a state monopoly on violence.  The insufficiency of the “stay the course” plan is revealed when American leadership in Iraq like Ambassador Bremer announce that their instructions were to “use your judgment” with a mere 10 days to prepare before taking over control of a foreign, complex nation.  Additionally, the open-ended commitment of the “stay the course” strategy requires that the US stay involved in Iraq until the “job is done,” but refuses to define the criteria for a completed job.  The American people spoke out against the current handling of the situation in Iraq through their vote in the midterm elections in 2006.  Although aspects of the current plan like infrastructure building and troop training are absolutely necessary to regaining stability, the current Bush Administration policy has proven untenable.

            B.        Withdrawal of Troops

PROPOSAL: Begin the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq either immediately or according to a phased schedule.

                        1.         Background

One of the most vocal advocates for an immediate withdrawal of US troops is Representative John Murtha (D-PA), who released the following statement on November 17, 2005:

[T]he Iraqi people and the emerging government must be put on notice that the United States will immediately redeploy. . . . Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily.  IT IS TIME TO BRING THEM HOME.[103]


Crediting Murtha with changing the discourse on Iraq and helping Democrats win back a House majority, House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi endorsed Murtha in an unsuccessful bid to become the Majority Leader for new Democratic majority.[104] 

A number of political candidates – primarily Democrats – in the 2006 mid-term elections adopted a compromise position by calling for the “phased redeployment” of US troops – often according to a timetable.  Policy-makers differ on the length of the timetable and/or the conditions that would trigger a phased withdrawal.[105]  One week after winning the majority of Congress, incoming Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, Carl Levin (D-MI), stated:

“[W]e should pressure the White House to commence the phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq in four to six months…make it clear to the Iraqis that our presence is not open-ended and that they must take and make the necessary political compromises to preserve Iraq as a nation.[106]


The proposal of near-term troop withdrawal is argued to lead to two basic results which are not mutually exclusive.  First, a troop reduction by the US-lead coalition could encourage Iraqis to make a greater investment in ending the violence and establishing a new government.  Second, removing the US-troop presence could cause a power vacuum that would be filled by the party with the biggest weapons arsenal.

                        2.         Encouraging Iraqi Investment in their Destiny

            The most common defense of a withdrawal of troops is to encourage the Iraqi people and their leaders to take responsibility for their own destiny.  In John Murtha’s defense of withdrawal, he stated, “I believe with a U.S. troop redeployment, the Iraqi security forces will be incentivized to take control.”[107]  Some believe that Iraqi leaders have failed to take a stand in the future of their country because they rely on the Americans for keeping order.  In Murtha’s mind, the military has completed its mission and the situation requires a purely political solution now.[108]  As the death toll of American lives approaches 3,000, many have begun to wonder whether democracy in Iraq is worth the pain and suffering each additional casualty brings.  However, it was recently leaked to the public that the Bush Administration is concerned that the current Iraqi leaders under Nouri al-Maliki do not have the requisite power or resolve to end the violence and move the country towards peace.[109]

3.         Risking a Power Vacuum and the Possibility of a Failed State

            Despite their stance on how the US ended up in Iraq, many civilian and military policy-makers and commentators warn against the withdrawal of troops.  The Bush Administration has argued that setting timetables for withdrawal provides a date after which the terrorists and sectarian militia may take control of the country by force.  The biggest fear is that Iraq will become a failed state and a terror-haven posing an even worse threat than when Saddam was in power.  Public Policy scholar Andrew Krepinevich, Jr. describes the strategy of the insurgency as seeking to force a premature departure by the US from Iraq in order to seize the state through a disciplined foreign-financed coup.[110] 

Military leaders have generally cautioned against a drastic reduction in troops in the face of increased violence.  On November 15, 2006, General Abizaid testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee opposing plans for a phased withdrawal.[111]  However, this contradicts General Abizaid testimony in the Fall of 2005 which supported a withdrawal to help ease the insurgency in Iraq.[112]  The opinion of average US soldiers on the idea of beginning a withdrawal from Iraq provokes mixed responses.  Lieutenant Colonel Mark Suich’s take on the prospect of withdrawal from Forward Operating Base (FOB) Sykes was, “Take us out of that vacuum -- and it's on the edge now -- and boom, it wo–d becom’ a free-for-all . –. a raw contention for power. That would be the bloodiest piece of this war.”[113]  Captain Jim Modlin, also stationed at FOB Sykes, indicated some change was needed:

Pulling out now would be as bad or worse than going forward with no changes . . . . Sectarian violence would be rampant, democracy would cease to exist, and the rule of law would be decimated.  It's not 'stay the course,' and it's not 'cut an’ run' ‘r other politica’ catchp’rases.‘ There are ’eople's lives here.  There are so many different dy’amics that go on here that a simple solution just isn't possible.[114]


It is clear that the opinions, even amongst the military decision-makers, are split.

            One of the greatest fears expressed about a military withdrawal is the threat of who will fill the political vacuum after the US departs.  These fears played out on a small scale in early November in the province of Diyala which borders Iran.  This predominantly Shiite province was once considered a secure area, however sectarian violence has begun to spread through the area.  Feeling pressure to begin withdrawing, American Colonel Brian D. Jones attempted to transfer some control of this province to the newly appointed commander of Iraq Army’s Fifth Division, Brigadier General Shakir Hulail Hussein al-Kaabi.[115]  Al-Kaabi is a Shiite who was appointed to his role by the government in Baghdad.[116]  After taking control of the Diyala province, al-Kaabi brought Col. Jones a list he had received from Baghdad of individuals who needed to be arrested.[117]  The list included every Sunni local leader with whom the Americans had been working with to try to establish the peace.[118]  The Iraqi Fifth Division began to carry out several operations aimed solely against the Sunni population.[119]  The actions appeared to be solely aimed at securing the Diyala province as a Shia province rather than maintaining the peace.[120]  In early November, American commanders decided that any transfer of power at that point was premature and a full transfer of power was delayed at least until spring, 2007.[121]  By the end of November, the Diyala province has been characterized as “volatile” as military encounters there grow greater than ever – including one fire-fight that lasted for 40 hours straight and resulted in 72 killed insurgents along with two American casualties.[122]  A mere handful of weeks after the failed attempt to transfer control of this province to the new Iraqi Armed Forces, US commanders describe the new insurgents that have moved into Diyala as “remarkably disciplined.”[123]

ANALYSIS: Withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq is a reality that the American people and policy-makers should be prepared for.  After three years in Iraq, the increasing violence and loss of American lives are a source for concern, however the decision to withdraw US troops before a stable government has been created is a decision that requires serious consideration.  In the best case scenario, a near-term withdrawal of troops would cause Iraqis to quell the violence and step up to the podium to lead the new nation of Iraq forward while at the same time.  Under a worst case scenario, the nation would progress into a full civil war that could last for several years and result in some, if not all, of the country becoming a haven for terrorism. 

The United States’ primary (“slam dunk”) purpose for a pre-emptive attack on Iraq was to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction which could easily be transferred to terrorist organizations.  The purpose stated less frequently in public was rid Iraq of a brutal dictator creating a model democracy as an example for the entire Middle East.  After the presence of weapons of mass destruction was determined to be inaccurate, the Bush Administration began to publicly focus on its second goal of establishing healthy democracy.  An immediate withdrawal from Iraq would fail at this goal and likely leaves Iraq in a broken state that is more dangerous to international security than it was under Saddam.  Some argue that the United States no longer has the possibility of success in Iraq and should therefore withdrawal immediately.  The story from Diyala in the previous section is a mild example sectarian retaliation would likely engulf the nation if the US leaves without democratic protections in place.  Most policy-makers wish they could return to the debate authorizing the use of force in Iraq with the knowledge we have today, but unfortunately the United States must live with the decision it made before and after entering Iraq and at the very least establish a Iraqi stable government and a military that can protect itself.

That being said, the United States must have an exit strategy from Iraq to avoid perpetual dependency on the US military as well as to require Iraqis to take the lead in determining the future of their nation.  It is necessary that the withdrawal of US troops is a valid option for the US and a reality for the Iraqis in order to force Iraqi participation in the future of their country.  The timing for a withdrawal from Iraq could be phased or set to a timetable, however, that timetable should coincide with progress on the ground towards a stable Iraq that is not susceptible to harboring and supporting terrorism.  For the US to succeed at its stated goals in Iraq, a withdrawal in the midst of sectarian and insurgent violence would leave Iraq as a broken state – one in which the entire world would have to bear the consequences.  Withdrawal must be a reality for the Iraqi people, but withdrawal must begin and end based on the decisions of the US policy-makers.

            C.        Increase Troop Presence

PROPOSAL:  Increase the number of Coalition troops in Iraq to stem the violence and train the new Iraqi Armed Forces.

                        1.         Background

Prior to the start of the invasion into Iraq, a major in the Marine Corp that sat on the National Security Council (NSC) estimated that a force of 500,000 would be needed to attack and hold Iraq in a memo given to then-NSC Director Condoleeza Rice.[124]  Around the same time, General Eric Shinseki, then-Army Chief of Staff, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that troop levels required for the occupation of Iraq would be “something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” because Iraq was a “fairly significant” piece of geography.[125]  Former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Ambassador Paul Bremer, reportedly told an aide in Baghdad that it “wasn’t politically possible” to get any additional troops in Iraq and anyone who felt like they were unsafe should “go home.”[126]  Later, Bremer made waves when he reportedly said that “The single most important change -- the one thing that would have improved the situation -- would have been having more troops in Iraq -- the beginning and throughout” at a private address in September, 2004.[127]  The leadership of the Department of Defense like Paul Wolfowitz dismissed General Shinseki’s estimate as “wildly off the mark” and eventually dismissed General Shinseki from service.[128]  Wolfowitz followed saying, “It’s hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself . . . . Hard to imagine.”[129]

From the start of the Iraq war, Senator John McCain has been a vocal critic of the number of troop with which the US entered the war.  Senator McCain stated in November of 2003, “The simple truth is that we do not have sufficient forces in Iraq to meet our military objectives . . . . Our overall troop level in Iraq does not reflect a careful assessment of what it takes to achieve victory.”[130]  Despite the mid-term election results in 2006, McCain believes that an increase in troop levels still has a strong chance of salvaging Iraq.  McCain points to the weakening of the US influence in the Middle East and to the writings of extremists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden as the strongest factors for sending more troops into Iraq.[131] 

As President Bush seeks advice on a new course in Iraq, views on an increase in troop levels vary.  The Iraq Study Group (ISG) rejected the proposal of making a substantial increase in troops because it was unrealistic given the current size of the military.[132]  The ISG said that it would support a short-term increase in troops to either stabilize Baghdad or assist in troop training.[133]  Long-term, the ISG recommended that “subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection” be withdrawn by the first quarter of 2008.[134]  

In contrast, some in the Pentagon leadership which met with President Bush on December 13, 2006 planned to recommend an increase in troop levels by about 40,000 troops coupled with a strategic realignment of their mission to include missions against the militias of al-Sadr and the insurgents of Al Anbar province.[135]  Some commentators have termed this strategy as America “doubling down” on its bet for the future of Iraq to use the common betting term.[136]  General Peter J. Schoomaker, current Chief of Staff of the Army, cast doubts on plans to build up troop levels at a December 14th congressional hearing stating “The Army is incapable of generating and sustaining the required forces to wage the global war on terror.”[137]  It was reported that the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the US Armed Forces did not endorse calls for a troop build-up, but rather presented the President with plans to focus on political and economic solutions to current violence while devoting up to 15 percent of the current combat troops in Iraq to training the new Iraqi Armed Forces.[138]  Meanwhile, Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki began a “national reconciliation” conference where he announced an official end to Bremer’s de-Baathification of the Iraqi Armed Forces was over and all former military officers were welcomed back into the military.[139]  Any US change in plans for Iraq may be subject to change after Robert Gates is sworn in as the new Secretary of Defense on Monday, December 18, 2006.[140] 

            2.         Establish Greater Security for the Iraqi People

Looking back, many commentators believe that the failure of the US military to prevent the looting of governmental offices, weapons dumps, and the private industries created an environment of insecurity amongst the Iraqi people.  According to Noah Feldman, a “security umbrella” is the necessary first duty of a nationbuilder.[141]  Only after security has been restored can meaningful nationbuilding begin.  By failing to create a secure environment, many Iraqis, accustomed to rule of the most powerful party, turned to militias and tribal leaders for a sense of security.

            The policy-makers supporting an increase in the number of US troops on the ground hope that a larger force would quell the violence and increase security for the Iraqi people.  According to Clausowitz’s military theory, ensuring victory requires overwhelming force.  Meanwhile US troop levels stand at approximately 140,000.  While Senator McCain acknowledges to sustain an increased troop presence, the entire military would have to grow, he suggests increasing troops levels to around 200,000.  However, General Abizaid testified on November 15, 2006 that under current force capacity the US military could add up to 20,000 troops, even this modest increase could only be sustained short term.  If the increase in troop levels is limited to a short term increase of 20,000 troops, it is unlikely that overwhelming force Clausowitz suggests could be achieved.

                        3.         Threat of Increased Loss of Life and Greater Violence

            Any increase in US troop levels brings with it a threat of increased loss of American lives.  As American casualties approach 3,000 – of which a vast majority occurred after President Bush declared an end to “major combat operations” – the willingness of the American people to accept the growth in casualties has severely waned.  Others argue that the growth in violence in Iraq is directly related to the continued US presence in Iraq and increasing the number of troops would simply drive more to participate in the violence.  For instance, John Murtha stated that insurgents “are united against U.S. forces and we have become a catalyst for violence.”[142]  Based on the inability to implement a significant increase in troop levels, it may be necessary to enact a change in military strategy to prevent increased loss of life and greater violence.  According to a recent Los Angeles Times / Bloomberg poll, only 12 percent of the country supports an increase in troops in Iraq.[143]

            One alternative military strategy proposed by Andrew Krepinevich, Jr. is the so called “oil spot strategy”.[144]  This strategy is so named based on its expansion of military influence from one isolated spot to the entire region similar to oil expanding over water.  Two prerequisites to this strategy are 1.) a commitment by the US to enhance the battle preparedness of Iraqi forces; and 2.) end the perpetual rotation of military leaders in and out of Iraq in order to encourage a continuity in leadership.[145]  The “oil spot strategy” requires the US military to choose a limited number of centers of military influence similar to the Green Zone in Baghdad.  From these centers of influence, joint Iraqi/American forces would gradually expand their sphere of security outwards over time.  The inner sphere (or expanding Green Zone) would be a secure zone where Iraqis could return to a sense of normalcy while transacting business and politics in a secure environment.  Krepinevich proposes that Iraqi units take the lead expanding the outer ring of influence with American troops ready-in-waiting for any penetration into the security zone.  If successful, this strategy would return expanding sections of Iraq back to the Iraqi people while taking some of the burden off the American troops.  The strategy relies on a successful concurrent political strategy that is successful in bringing Iraqi tribal leaders around to support US unification initiative.  The major detractors to the “oil spot strategy” are the inability to abandon the centers of influence once it has begun in order to fight flare-ups around the country and the lengthy commitment this strategy requires.  However, the opportunity to return expanding regions of Iraq back to secure, normal life while integrating Iraqi military forces into the fight for their own future is very attractive.

ANALYSIS: An increase in the level of troops in Iraq creates the potential for great risks as well as great rewards.  For the purposes of this analysis, success will be considered increased security for all Iraqis and stability to pursue political objectives.  The risks of an increase in troop levels are political, economic, and most importantly in human lives.  The war in Iraq has become largely unpopular as the conflict extends year after year without significant progress.  While the final decision to increase troops lies with the President at the advice of his military leaders, the political risk that even increased violence cannot quell the violence is great.  Any time troop levels are altered – increased or decreased – it comes at significant cost as personnel and equipment must be rotated in and out of the country.  To sustain an increase in troop levels, a new Democratic Congress would likely have to approve funds to support troop increases both in Iraq as well as state-side in order to accommodate the increased strain.  Finally, the increased troop levels come at grave risk to the lives of America’s bravest men and women.  Weighing the increased risk of human life against a political victory is always a grave decision must only be made with a grave evaluation of the likelihood of military success.

            The reward reaped by a successful increase in troops would bear political and military dividends.  Politically, the goal in Iraq has been to establish stable democracy.  Although it is impossible to return to the early days of the Iraqi conflict and remedy the lack of security felt by the Iraqis, an increase in troop levels could provide sufficient security to allow political progress and reconstruction to resume full speed.  Militarily, the goal in Iraq has been to toIple the BaatIist regime and eliminate the threat of insurgent and local militias to the new regime.  The number one priority for terrorists, insurgents, and radical leaders is to effectuate the withdrawal of US troops before a stable government has been created leaving a security vacuum that can be filled by their own forces.  A military success at quelling violence to a level that allows progress creating a stable government would be a huge success in the face of a complex network of terror attacks.

            Although the initial invasion of Iraq crushed any formal resistance, the US military has faced a formidable task attempting to conquer the local resistance with its current force.  The ability to tame the opposition in Iraq is an attractive option and would help solidify victory in Iraq.  It is unlikely that a solution purely focused on putting more boots on the ground would succeed unless accompanied by a shift in strategy.  Specifically, two options are to attempt to follow Krepinevich’s “oil spot” strategy or to focus the troop increase on Iraqi troop training along with imbedded troop units that will work directly within Iraqi units.  As Secretary Gates evaluates the plan to increase troop levels, it will be important for civilian policy-makers to listen to the opinion of military commanders regarding the risks and challenge the military to bring new, innovative strategies to the Iraqi theater.  Based on the dynamic nature of the threat in Iraq, if the solution includes more troops, it must be in an intelligent manner to move American interests towards victory.

D.        Internationalize Nationbuilding in Iraq

PROPOSAL:  Engage the international community to either turn some control over to an organization with experience nationbuilding or invite international partners – including Iran and Syria – to help determine the future of the nation.

                        1.         Background

On September 23rd, 2003, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “Iraq: Next Steps How to Internationalize Iraq Reconstruction and Organize the U.S. Government to Administer Reconstruction Efforts.”[146]  During this hearing, Senators from both sides of the aisle requested testimony from public policy experts on how to engage the international community in Iraq.  In his campaign for President, part of Senator John Kerry’s proposed plan was the internationalization of reconstruction in Iraq.[147]  Laying out his vision at Westminster College in Missouri, Kerry said, “[W]e have to truly internationalize both politically and militarily: we cannot depend on a US-only presence.”[148]  Kerry’s plan was to appoint an “International High Commissioner” and ask NATO to play a more dominant role training the new Iraqi military.

            2.         Iraq Study Group Urges Internationalization

One of the major components – in fact the first 18 recommendations – of the Iraq Study Group’s report was a suggestion to engage Iraq’s neighbors, including difficult neighbors like Syria and Iran, to play a role in stabilizing the future of Iraq.[149]  The ISG recommends that a new diplomatic push should focus on creating regional buy-in to stabilize Iraq, secure its borders, and build its economy.[150]  The ISG strongly recommends that America engage its enemies like Syria and Iran in “diplomatic dialogue, without preconditions.”[151]  The ISG also suggests that dealing with regional conflicts like the Palestine-Israeli conflict is also key to creating peace throughout the region.[152]

ANALYSIS: Based on the increasingly violent situation in Iraq, it is unlikely that any international organization would be willing to take-over administration of the nation-building efforts in Iraq.  The Bush Administration should however, seek advisors willing to assist establishing a new government infrastructure and train the new Iraqi Armed Forces.  It will likely be difficult to secure direct diplomatic dialogue between all of Iraq’s regional neighbors.  Engaging Iraq’s neighbors will be key so the United States or Iraq itself should consider inviting all of the Iraqi neighbors to the table to discuss important issues regarding security, borders, and the regional economy.

            E.         Dividing Iraq into Three States

PROPOSAL: Cause an end to the nation of Iraq as it is currently known and divide it into three states or three nation-states.

                        1.         Background

This proposal has been publicly proposed in two different forms.  The first, proposed most thoroughly by Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), suggests the division of Iraq into three separate states, with a limited, unified central government.  The second, argued most ardently by Peter Galbraith, suggests the division of Iraq into three separate, autonomous nation-states.

                        2.         Three United Iraqi States

On May 1, 2006, Senator Joseph Biden, in cooperation with Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, made a proposal that would result in a unified Iraq with three separate states.[153]  Sen. Biden proposed the creation of three largely autonomous states along ethno-religious lines – Kurd, Sunni, and Shia - with a unified central government.  Under th– Biden proposal a relatively weak, central government would be responsible for “border defense, foreign policy, oil production and revenues.”  Biden indicates that this solution can be done within the parameters of the new Iraqi constitution and without redrawing the Iraqi national map.

In order to get the Sunni population to sign on to the three-state proposal, Biden suggests a concession guaranteeing 20 percent of the present and future Iraqi oil.  This concession would bring the Sunni population to the table because it would guarantee a cut in the known oil which is located in the Kurdish north and Shia south.  The concession would keep the Kurds and Shia at the table by guaranteeing that the country would remain unified maintaining its leverage to negotiate oil sales internationally.

The United States is required to be the power broker and support for the adoption of this proposal.  Sen. Biden proposes that the US maintain and grow the reconstruction of Iraq with incentives to guarantee the protection of the rights of women and minorities.  The United States would also engage Iraq’s neighbors to ensure that they do not attempt to subvert the new united states of Iraq.  Finally, the US would responsibly draw down troops transitioning more and more power to the Iraqis forcing additional responsibility to rest in Iraqi hands.

3.         Establish Three Separate Nation-States

            Peter Galbraith unapologetically calls for the division of Iraq into three separate, autonomous nation-states.  Galbraith states that the best argument for partitioning Iraq into three nation-states is because “It has already happened.”[154]  Out of humility, the United States policy-makers should defer to the Iraqi people.[155]  Galbraith believes that the civil war in Iraq can be traced all the way back to August 29, 2003 when a suicide bomber killed Ayatollah Bakr al-Hakim, a leader in the largest Iraqi Shiite party.[156]  By attempting to broker a unified Iraqi government, the United States would be committing to an indefinite participation in internal Iraqi politics.[157]  And in Galbraith’s mind, “There will be no reason to mourn Iraq’s passing.  Iraq has brought virtually nonstop misery to the 80 percent of its people that are not Sunni Arabs and could only be held together by force.”[158]

                        4.         Difficulty Dividing Iraq into Three Distinct States

            There are a number of difficulties with dividing Iraq into three distinct states or nation-states.  Not the least of which is determining what body has the ultimate power to divide up a sovereign nation.  One recognized definition of a nation-state which has been adopted in US federal courts is an entity that has “competence, within its own constitutional system, to conduct international relations with other states, as well as the political, technical, and financial capabilities to do so.”[159]  Some suggest statehood is granted simply be being recognized by others as constituting a state

[T]he word "state" means an entity that has a defined territory and population, under the control of a government, and that engages in, or has the capacity to engage in, formal relations with other such entities. A state is a body politic possessing sovereignty.[160]


The United States presence in Iraq as occupiers requires the restoration of public order and safety, however, except in extreme circumstances, it must be done within the laws in force in the country.[161]  In 1971, the United Nations claimed the right to recognize new nation-states in its decision to recognize Namibia and place sanctions on South Africa until it left the country.[162]  Based on its international obligations, it would be very difficult for the United States to mandate the partition of Iraq into three separate nation-states.

            Additionally, there will be difficulty dividing up the large cities and holy places in Iraq like Kirkuk and Baghdad.  The northern city of Kirkuk straddles the Kurdish and Sunni religious territories.  Kirkuk is an oil rich city occupied by Iraq’s Kurdish, Sunni Arab, Turcoman, and Chaldo-Assyrian population.[163]  During the reign of Saddam, significant numbers of Sunnis settled into the Kirkuk area.  Iraq’s new constitution provides that the control of Kirkuk would be decided by a local referendum at the end of 2007.[164]  Baghdad provides an even more difficult  situation.  Split amongst Sunni and Shiite populations, Baghdad has become a hotbed of sectarian violence.  Under the Iraq’s new constitution, Baghdad is prohibited from joining any of the regions subsequently formed.  If policy-makers were to decide to divide the country into three nation-states, splitting important cities like Kirkuk and Baghdad will dominate and may block the creation of a three-state solution.

            Finally, all of the risks of an immediate withdrawal would also apply where Iraq were divided into three-states.  Many fear that the creation of three states would create the risk of one or more of the states failing and becoming a safehaven for terrorism.  If, for instance, Iraq were divided into three states, many fear that the Sunni state would attract former Baathists and Al Qaeda operatives eager to inflict pain on the United States and regain control of Iraq and its oil profits.  A failed ethno-religious state would create an equally debilitating situation as a failed nation of Iraq.

ANALYSIS: The three-state solution is perhaps the most intriguing of the three proposals.  This proposal seemingly offers an opportunity to turn back the clocks to the Ottoman Empire and allow the provinces of Mosul, Baghdad, and al-Basrah to each develop their own destiny with some degree of autonomy.  Sectarian violence has been a growing source of the instability in the country.  The Biden and the Galbraith plan each propose a way forward that allows Iraq to be divided along sectarian lines that may be a new direction for Iraq.  However, splitting the nation into three states may not be a universal problem-solver. 

Establishing three states under a common umbrella government or three separate states will not in and of itself end the violent relationship between these religious groups.  In fact, after the borders are penciled in, it may encourage violence or antagonistic handling of any Iraqi unlucky enough to be living in a state that does not share their religious practices.  The only way to avoid violence and perhaps genocide would be to engage in mandatory relocation of Iraqis into their appropriate state.  Forced relocation is a possibility, but as the Israeli-Palestine conflict has evidenced, requiring an individual to leave their home may cause significant problems itself.  Urban areas housing Iraqis of different sectarian backgrounds, like Kirkuk and Baghdad, will present significant problems splitting the nation into three states.  Mandatory relocation would also likely mark an end to hopes of establishing a liberal democracy that harbors individual freedoms.  While a unified, heterogeneous Iraq must, by necessity, be accepting of diverse religious views, a homogeneous state may adopt strict, religiously repressive rules to govern their population.

Additionally, splitting Iraq into three states may compromise US efforts to ensure the new Iraq will not harbor or support terrorists.  Upon division, it is conceivable that insurgent and Al Qaeda fighters could congregate in the Sunni controlled area to train and prepare for attacks in Iraq and beyond.  Prolonged presence by the US military in the region would be still be required to ensure that the territory of Iraq did not become a breeding ground for terrorism.  The parties currently seeking to destabilize Iraq for political gain would likely continue to attempt to seize power at the state level.   

The risk of continued sectarian violence and harboring of terrorism are not reasons for the failure of the Biden or Galbraith plan.  There is a very real possibility, however, that a shift in policy towards a three state plan would not reduce the US involvement in Iraq, but perhaps could extend it as three separate parallel governments are established in a continued violent environment rather than one national system.

The Best Route to Success in Iraq

            Since 2003, the United States has asked Iraq to fit its complex, dynamic society into a pre-manufactured cookie-cutter democracy.  Novice Iraqi politicians have faced demands to forge political coalitions as they simultaneously engage in 21st century political environment.  After analysis, both here and throughout the political arena, it has become clear that each of the proposed alternatives has the potential for benefit and detriment for the future of Iraq.  One thing that is certain as the President seeks to chart a new way forward in Iraq in 2007 is that the “stay the course”, open-ended commitment in Iraq must change.  The new course for US policy in Iraq likely lies in a mixture of these five proposals.  After an atypical string of weeks in early December, 2006 where the Bush Administration invited outside advice on options available within the fiscal, legal, and logistical restraints currently available, the Administration officials are likely the most informed to chart a new strategy moving forward.  The Administration should not feel handcuffed to past policy, but must define what success in Iraq means today and embrace the policy best suited to achieve that success in Iraq.

Definition of Success: Success in Iraq should be defined as the development of a unified, federal Iraq that is governed by a stable democracy accepting, though not necessarily embracing, of diverse cultural and religious differences. 

Proposal: The best route to success in Iraq should empower moderate Iraqis to take control of their own destiny while reducing violence and outside political influence, growing the economy, and rotating the US military from harm’s way as soon as possible.  

These goals are admittedly a tall task, but can be achieved with a combined commitment from the Iraqi people and US political, diplomatic, and military leaders.

Empowerment of Moderate Iraqis

The empowerment of moderate Iraqis has both a political and military component.  Politically, there are two primary objectives: 1.) identify and promote political leadership; and 2.) encourage an environment of compromise and national reconciliation.  Since Saddam took power in 1979, membership in the Baath Party was the only way to power in Iraq and even that power was limited to prevent any threat to Saddam Hussein regime.  In the wake of the ouster of the Baath Party, new political parties are still timidly testing the waters of democratic political advocacy.  Iraqi political parties must be encouraged to quickly identify local and national leadership that is representative and holds the charismatic personality qualities that will garner popular support.  To train Iraqis in political organization, grassroots movements, and advocacy, the full experience (without the rhetoric) of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and US national political parties should be offered to help train emerging political leadership and staff.  As in the United States, the political leaders chosen will not be perfect, nor will they be permanent.  The United States and its coalition, must then responsibly promote the new Iraqi leadership to the international community as the face of Iraq while allowing the new leadership the opportunity to learn crucial lessons about ruling their nation. 

To establish a stable democracy, the new Iraqi leadership must be able look beyond their personal political religious beliefs and encourage an environment of compromise and reconciliation.  Debate and compromise are two of the most important aspects of a democracy, but are two things that the United States can never force on Iraq.   These qualities are best understood not as a sign of weakness, but an opportunity to prove the merits of your position and achieve the best results for your country.  In an Iraqi environment where personal freedoms are currently guaranteed at the barrel of a gun, there are significant barriers to political compromise.  Representatives from the legislatures of the United States Congress, British Parliament, and other world democracies can provide advice to the Iraqi leadership.  Moderate political leadership will ultimately have to make a decision to seek compromise instead of violence.  If the Iraqi leadership decides that the nation is best served by splitting into the confederation of three states or three separate nation-states, the United States should honor that decision, assist in the negotiation of the division of the country, and prepare an exit strategy aimed at preventing the failure of any of the new states.

Moderate leadership is also necessary in the Iraqi Armed Forces.  Although progress is being made to reconstitute the Iraqi military, the military units are generally split according to religious differences and hand out justice accordingly.  Establishing an effective Iraqi military will require integrated military units committed to the protection of Iraq against common enemies instead of acting according to religious motivations.

Reducing Violence and Outside Political Influence

The US efforts to win the peace in Iraq have failed.  Easing the violence in Iraq will have the greatest impact on the lives of the Iraqi people who have faced increasing insurgent and sectarian violence for the last three years.  Ending the violence in Iraq requires both a military and increasingly a political strategy.

Militarily, the US must change its tactics in Iraq.  Currently the US military is forced to police the streets, conduct raids on suspected safe-houses, and respond to insurgent flare-ups.  Despite the valiant efforts of the US forces, the violence in Iraq continues to grow.  Fighting the insurgency has been like attacking Hydra – every time the US cuts off the head of the insurgency in one place, another one grows in its place.  To more effectively deal with the violent situation, the US must change its mission to focus more intently on training new Iraqi troops to take the lead in the fight for their own future by adjusting its deployment to increase the number of coalition troops sent to train Iraqi soldiers.  Iraqi troops would have the advantage looking and speaking like their fellow countrymen. The United States should also use the experience of its military leadership, active and retired, by putting emerging Iraqi military leaders through training with America’s best and brightest soldiers.  As Iraqi military leaders are identified, they should receive special training in applicable international and national law that governs combat including the personal freedoms protected under the new Iraqi constitution.  The decision to embed Iraqi and US troops in mixed units is another option to consider, however this must be a military decision because language and chain of command barriers may complicate this tactic. 

To help end the violence, a political solution must accompany the new military strategy.  Simply placing Iraqis at the forefront will not by itself solve the violence problem in Iraq.  Iraq must engage in internal and external diplomacy that engages dissenting views politically rather than militarily.  National reconciliation between the sectarian groups is necessary for the survival of a unified Iraq.  Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has started the process, but a genuine commitment to turning the page must be adopted.  The Iraqi politicians and religious leaders must devote all available efforts to finding common ground on the role of government and the end of unrestrained violence.  Economic and political incentives should be employed as leverage to make the stakes clear and entice parties to the table.  Diplomatic efforts do not end at the borders of Iraq.  Iraqi, US, and European officials must engage in diplomatic negotiations with Iraq’s neighbors to make clear the interests for each nation to establish a safe and secure Iraq for each of their best interests.  Political considerations should be taken into account when deciding which country’s diplomats will enter negotiations and whether the negotiations will be public or kept private.

Growing the Economy

Iraq currently suffers from staggeringly high unemployment.  The disrepair of internal infrastructure, failure of businesses, and the continued internal violence has lead to significant unrest amongst the Iraqi people.  Security concerns have prevented large scale reconstruction projects from being completed.  Car bombs frequently attack lines of Iraqis looking for work at police stations and job centers.  If efforts to quell the violence are successful, rebuilding and economic growth should become primary goals of the US-led coalition.  International commitments to fund the rebuilding Iraq should be pursued to continue the infrastructure building.  As Iraqis return to work, the number of Iraqis available to incite violence will diminish and the incentive to stabilize the security situation will increase.

Rotating US Troops Out of Harms Way

Just as the military option is an important part of diplomatic negotiations, the option to withdraw troops is necessary to negotiate peace.  While the “stay the course” open-ended commitment to democratizing Iraq was meant to discourage the opposition of democracy in Iraq, it did not place a sufficient sense of urgency on the need to establish a Iraqi leadership that could unite the country and quell the violence.  The US military has served valiantly in Iraq, addressed mistakes quickly and definitively, and sacrificed brave men and women.  Combat has taken a toll on the US military and rotating our troops out of harms way should be a constant endgame strategy. 

However politically attractive an immediate withdrawal from Iraq may be, US troop levels should not be reduced until Iraq new Armed Forces can take over security to bolster the elected leadership in Iraq.  To ensure that waiting for the Iraq Armed Forces does not turn into a continued open-ended commitment, benchmarks and deadlines should be put into place to ensure the progress of the Iraqi military.  Benchmarks should include total number of combat-ready Iraqis, special-trained response forces, officers trained.  Although the initial US occupying force would have benefited from as many as 200,000 additional ground forces, based on military estimates it is unlikely that the military could sustain such a large increase in deployment to Iraq today.  To achieve its goals of curbing violence and reaching Iraqi military benchmarks, the US military should consider short-term increases in the number of troops to achieve specific military goals.  Additionally, to sustain current military commitments as well as any new threats that may arise, the US military should appropriately grow its total force strength.

As the Bush Administration charts a new way forward for Iraq, it is crucial that all new and alternative ideas for developing a stable democracy in Iraq.  The United States should not hesitate to call upon America’s vast intellectual, political, and military leadership to be directly involved in specific training of Iraqis that will be guiding the new Iraq forward.  The US coalition should seek to empower moderate political and military leadership that are prepared to lead the country through compromise and reconciliation.  Violence and direct outside influence in Iraq must be curbed to allow the Iraqi local and national government to develop.  A primary goal of both Iraq and the United States should be to grow the economy to put more Iraqis back to work.  Finally, the US should set benchmarks that will facilitate greater opportunity to rotate American troops out of harms way making it clear to Iraqis that withdrawal of US troops is a reality.

[1] Kenneth M. Pollack, The Threatening Storm 4 (Random House 2002).

[2] Id at 4-6.

[3] Id. at 5.

[4] David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace 357 (Henry Holt and Company, LLC 1989).

[5] Id. at 358.

[6] Pollack, supra note 1, at 5.

[7] Fromkin, supra note 4, at 369-372.

[8] Pollack, supra note 1, at 5-6.

[9] Id. at 6.


[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id. at 7.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] George Packer, The Assassin’s Gate 50 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2005).

[21] Pollack, supra note 1, at 7.

[22] Id.

[23] Id. at 8.

[24] Id.

[25] Id.

[26] Id.

[27] Id. at 8-9.

[28] Id. at 9.

[29] Id.

[30] Id.

[31] Packer, supra note 19, at 49.

[32] Pollack, supra note 1, at 9.

[33] Kanan Makiya, Republic of Fear 6 (University of California Press 1998) (1989).

[34] Pollack, supra note 1, at 10.

[35] Id.

[36] Id.

[37] Id.

[38] Id.

[39] Packer, supra note 19, at 49.

[40] Makiya, supra note 33, at 78.

[41] Noah Feldman, What We Owe Iraq 37 (Princeton University Press 2006) (2004).

[42] Id.

[43] Id.

[44] Id. at 40.

[45] Peter W. Galbraith, The End of Iraq 174 (Simon & Schuster 2006).

[46] Packer, supra note 19, at 264.

[47] Id.

[48] Id.

[49] Id. at 264-265.

[50] Id. at 265.

[51] Feldman, supra note 39, at 39.

[52] Id. at 99.

[53] Id. at 88.

[54] Michael Gordon et al, Hezbollah Said to Help Shiite Army in Iraq, N.Y. Times, Nov. 28, 2006, at A1.

[55] Feldman, supra note 39, at 42.

[56] Packer, supra note 19, at 202.

[57] Id. at 75-76.

[58] Id. at 76-77.

[59] David Ignatius, The CIA and the Coup that Wasn’t, Washington Post, May 16, 2003, at A29.

[60] Packer, supra note 19, at 77-78.

[61] Press Release, White House, Special Guests of Mrs. Bush at the State of the Union (January 20, 2004) (on file at

[62] Packer, supra note 19, at 141.

[63] Id. at 141.

[64] Id. at 9.

[65] Id. at 12.

[66] Id. at 99.

[67] Anthony DePalma, A Nation at War: An Overview: April 3, 2003; Americans at Baghdad’s Airport, Fleeing Civilians, a Toppled Statue, N.Y. Times, Apr. 4, 2003, at B1.

[68] Packer, supra note 19, at 101.

[69] Donald Rumsfeld, Department of Defense News Briefing with General Richard B. Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (April 11, 2003) (transcript available at

[70] Packer, supra note 19, at 137.

[71] James Glanz et al, The Conflict in Iraq: Tracking the Weapons; Huge Cache of Explosives Vanished From Site in Iraq, N.Y. Times, Oct. 24, 2004; at A1.

[72] Neela Banerjee, After the War: Economic Lifeline; Widespread Looting Leaves Iraq's Oil Industry in Ruins, N.Y. Times, June 10, 2003, at A1.

[73] Packer, supra note 19, at 138.

[74] Id. at 139.

[75] Id. at 120.

[76] Id. at 121.

[77] Id. at 132.

[78] Id.

[79] Id. at 132-133.

[80] Id. at 133.

[81] Id. at 139.

[82] Id. at 144.

[83] Id. at 145.

[84] Baath Party Is Dissolved, American General Tells Iraqis, Associated Press, May 11, 2003.

[85] Packer, supra note 19, at 142.

[86] Id. at 145.

[87] Interview by Martin Smith from PBS Frontline with L. Paul Bremer, Civilian Administrator, Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority (Aug. 1, 2003) (transcript available at

[88] Packer, supra note 19, at 190.

[89] Jane Arraf, U.S. Dissolves Iraqi Army, Defense, and Information Ministries, CNN, May 23, 2003 (article may be accessed at

[90] Packer, supra note 19, at 194-195.

[91] Interview with L. Paul Bremer, supra note 75.

[92] Packer, supra note 19, at 191.

[93] Sharon Otterman, Iraq: Debaathification, Council on Foreign Relations,, Apr. 7, 2005 (available at

[94] Id.

[95] Interview with L. Paul Bremer, supra note 75. 

[96] President George W. Bush, President Bush Announces Major Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended, Remarks by the President from the USS Abraham Lincoln (May 1, 2003) (available at

[97] President George W. Bush, President Bush Names Randall Tobias to be the Global Aids Coordinator, Remarks by the President from the Roosevelt Room (July 2, 2003) (available at

[98] President George W. Bush, President Bush Holds a Press Conference (December 15, 2003) (available at

[99] President George W. Bush, President Addresses Troops at Osan Air Base in Osan, Korea (November 15, 2005) (available at

[100] Honorable Norman Mineta, Remarks to the National Defense Transportation Association (May 12, 2003) (available at

[101] Press Release, USAID, Completed Projects: Airports (accessed on December 8, 2006) (available at

[102] Glenn Zorpette, Re-engineering Iraq, IEEE Spectrum Online, Feb. 2006 (available at

[103] Press Release, Congressman John Murtha, War in Iraq (November 17, 2005) (available at

[104] Jonathan Weisman, Pelosi Endorses Murtha as Next Majority Leader, Washington Post, Nov. 13, 2006, at A1.

[105] Matthew Dallek, Cut and Run isn’t Cutting It with These Democrats, L.A. Times, November 5, 2006, at M3.

[106] White House Rebuffs Call for Troop Withdrawal in Iraq, CNN, November 14, 2006 (available at

[107] Press Release, supra note 92.

[108] Id.

[109] Michael Gordon, Bush Adviser’s Memo Cites Doubts About Iraqi Leader, N.Y. Times, Nov. 29, 2006, at A1.

[110] Andrew Krepinevich, Jr., How to Win in Iraq, Foreign Affairs, September/October 2005.

[111] Michael Gordon et al, General Warns of Risks in Iraq if G.I.’s are Cut, N.Y. Times, Nov. 16, 2006, at A1.

[112] Mark Mazzetti et al, A Shifting Enemy: U.S. Generals Say Civil War, Not Insurgency, Is Greatest Threat, N.Y. Times, Nov. 18, 2006, at A8.

[113] Josh White, Soldiers in Iraq Say Pullout Would Have Devastating Results, Washington Post, Nov. 6, 2006, at A13.

[114] Id.

[115] Richard A. Oppel, Jr., Sectarian Rifts Foretell Pitfalls of Iraqi Troops’ Taking Control, N.Y. Times, November 12, 2006, at A1.

[116] Id.

[117] Id.

[118] Id.

[119] Id.

[120] Id.

[121] Id.

[122] Edward Wong, Some Fighters in Iraq Adopt New Tactics to Battle U.S., N.Y. Times, Nov. 24, 2006, at A16.

[123] Id.

[124] Packer, supra note 19, at 77-78.

[125] Army Chief: Force to Occupy Iraq Massive, Associated Press, Feb. 25, 2003 (available at

[126] Packer, supra note 19, at 316.

[127] Robin Wright et al, Bremer Criticizes Troop Levels, Washington Post, Oct. 5, 2004, at A1.

[128] Packer, supra note 19, at 114.

[129] Id. at 114-115.

[130] Senator John McCain, U.S. Situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, Remarks before the Council on Foreign Relations, Washington, DC (Nov. 5, 2003) (transcript available at 

[131] John Heilprin, McCain Says More Troops Needed in Iraq, Associated Press, Nov. 19, 2006 (available at

[132] Iraq Study Group, The Iraq Study Group Report 50 (available at

[133] Id.

[134] Id. at 49.

[135] Julian Barnes, Larger U.S. Effort in Iraq is Proposed; More Troops and Aid, and an Anti-Sadr Offensive,Ooffer the Best Odds for Victory, Pentagon Planners Say, L.A. Times, Dec. 13, 2006,  at A1.

[136] Id.

[137] Ann Scott Tyson, General Says Army Will Need to Grow, Washington Post, Dec. 15, 2006, at A1.

[138] Robin Wright et al, Joint Chiefs Advise Change in War Strategy, Washington Post, Dec. 14, 2006, at A1.

[139] Nancy Trejos et al, A Call to Hussein-Era Soldiers, Washington Post, Dec. 17, 2006, at A33.

[140] Barnes, supra note 124.

[141] Feldman, supra note 39, at 79-81.

[142] Press Release, supra note 92.

[143] Barnes, supra note 124.

[144] Krepinevich, supra note 99.

[145] Id.

[146] See the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee website at

[147] Dan Balz, Democratic Platform Assails Administration: Draft Statement, Written With Kerry Campaign, Attacks Bush on Security and Economic Policies, Washington Post, July 4, 2004, at A4.

[148] Id.

[149] Iraq Study Group, supra note 121, at 32-41.

[150] Id. at 34

[151] Id. at 36.

[152] Id. at 39.

[153] Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr., The Way Forward in Iraq: Avoiding Partition, Preserving Unity, Protecting America’s Interest, Remarks to the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia (May 1, 2005) (transcript available at 

[154] Peter W. Galbraith, The Case for Dividing Iraq, Time, Nov. 5, 2006 (article available at,9171,1555130,00.html).

[155] Galbraith, supra at 43, at 206.

[156] Id. at 175.

[157] Galbraith, supra note 136.

[158] Galbraith, supra note 43, at 206.

[159] Knox v. Palestine Liberation Organization 306 F.Supp.2d 424, 438 (S.D.N.Y., 2004).

[160] John R. Kennel, J.D., Corpus Juris Secundum International Law § 5 (2006).

[161] Annex to the Hague Convention Oct 18, 1907, art. 43.

[162] Legal Consequences for States of the Continued Presence of South Africa in Namibia Notwithstanding Security Council Resolution 276 (1970), 1971 I.C.J. (Jun. 21).

[163] Id. at 202.

[164] Id..