TCS Daily

A Roadmap for Victory

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - January 3, 2006 12:00 AM

Now that the Iraqi people have once again defied expectations by participating in yet another successful election, it has come time to determine how best to proceed in the next phases of reconstruction. The challenge in planning the next phase is twofold.

First, the United States must continue to help an independent Iraq provide for its own security and self-sufficiency, which will allow American forces to withdraw in a manner consistent with the fulfillment of reconstruction goals. Second, the US must ensure that the creation and implementation of reconstruction goals do not inadvertently lead to a premature decision by American policymakers to withdraw forces from Iraq before the final reconstruction tasks are complete.

A reader of Greg Djerejian's excellent Belgravia Dispatch weblog puts his finger on the dilemma facing American policymakers:

"The political dynamic surrounding the war here on the home front is all about concretizing a plan for winning and leaving. The President is painting himself into a corner where, if he's losing or proved clueless, he'll need to defer to people who want a timetable, and if he's winning, he'll have to signal it by starting to incrementally withdraw troops."

The reader then goes on to provide a very innovative solution:

"The challenge is to figure out a way to transform the political dynamic here so that it doesn't undermine the chance to actually win there. My thought is that maybe instead of a timetable, we propose a roadmap. Domestically, a published roadmap could benchmark progress in a way that allows us to evaluate the administration's strategy, and alleviate pressure for symbolic troop withdrawals. In Iraq, it could co-opt many of the people who want the U.S. out."

Djerejian responds by asking for ideas as to what a successful roadmap might entail and lists a few suggestions of his own. Being a fan of the roadmap idea (as opposed to the timetable idea), the following are suggestions as to what should be included in the formulation and implementation of such a plan:

  • The proficiency of Iraqi security forces. A sine qua non of any roadmap should be the attainment of proficiency and expertise in war-fighting and counterinsurgency operations by Iraqi security forces. Proficiency and expertise are attained when Iraqi security forces are able to shoulder the burden in fighting insurgents and in putting down any attempt to undermine the integrity of a reconstructed Iraq. To ensure proficiency and expertise, the United States should not be content with merely training Iraqi security forces in-country, but should seek to establish a long-term strategic partnership between the American and Iraqi militaries. Such a partnership could entail, among other things, joint military educational programs at any of the American war colleges, the holding of joint exercises, peer-to-peer exchanges dedicated to exploring new avenues of security cooperation and other joint endeavors designed to assist the Iraqi military in its long-term goal of ensuring internal stability.

  • The revitalization of basic services both for humanitarian and counterinsurgency purposes. When water, power and other basic humanitarian services are functional, it serves not only to significantly enhance the living standards of the populace (itself an important prerequisite of any successful reconstruction program) but also to dilute the power of any insurgency campaign. Insurgencies thrive on popular discontent and when the reasons for that discontent are removed from the equations, the raison d'être behind the insurgency dissipates. A happy and contented populace is less likely to cooperate with an insurgent force and since insurgencies depend on popular cooperation to preserve themselves against the generally greater material power of the state, that lack of cooperation can prove crippling to an insurgency.

  • The achievement of final status on outstanding political questions. Political reconstruction is promising, as three successful elections represent more than a positive sign. But outstanding political questions remain and those questions must be resolved as part of any roadmap. Iraq must decide whether it will constitute its political structure in the fashion of a strong unitary state, a loose confederation or a federalist system that straddles the fence between the two extremes. Additionally, the Iraqi people must make an ultimate decision on the role that religion will play in their civic lives, especially concerning whether the Iraqi Shi'a clergy will continue to practice the doctrine of quietism when it comes to the clergy's participation in Iraqi political life. Every effort must be made to ensure that whatever the role of religion, the kind of fanaticism that leads to terrorism must have no part whatsoever in a new Iraq.

A timetable must not be attached to the roadmap; the goals it contains must be important enough to warrant waiting until they are achieved. Once they are achieved, then the United States can think about troop withdrawals. And their achievement will be made far easier by the fact that a roadmap will allow for the measurement of goals, rather than a mere marking of time beyond which calls for military withdrawal become irresistible even if the reconstruction mission in Iraq is not achieved.

The author is a TCS contributor. Find more of his writing here.


I am certain that such a roadmap already exists, in general form in the White House and in specifics at the Pentagon.

I am equally certain that the LTM (left tributary media) are upset that they were not asked for their input; and, that their approval was not required before the roadmap could be implemented.

Roadmap is still based on election timetable
I applaud the Iraqis in their efforts to instill a somewhat form of democracy. However, I disagree with the roadmap proposal.

In 2006, congressional elections are going to take place. The proposed roadmap will have to be to the liking of the new congressional majority. There is no guarantee that a congressional majority after the election will be supportive of the war. A congressional majority against the Iraq war can refuse to fund the whole ordeal and immediately start American withdrawal. This happened in the latter years of America's involvement in the Vietnam conflict.

In 2008, the presidential election is going to take place. And it just may happen that a candidate might propose a non-interventionist foreign policy that might win favor with a majority of Americans that support such a policy. This could certainly mean a speedy withdrawal of funding and American troops.

Again, I wish the best for the Iraqis. In my opinion they need to depend more on themselves than the US. Anyway, these possible scenarios can put a wrench in the fan of a roadmap.

The road ends at the Kurdistan border
The Kurds in Control
National Geographic, January 2006,

...For the first time in their long history, Kurds are wielding significant political power, successfully negotiating for control over their own military forces and authority over new oil discoveries in their own terrain. Under the federated Iraq being called for by the international community, they would have powers of autonomy that match—or even exceed—what they now enjoy.

But in the end, the essential Kurdish truth today is that they can't give up the dream of outright independence. After 14 years of self-rule, the Kurds can no longer imagine themselves as Iraqis. To travel through Kurdistan is to follow an intense national debate whose central issue is no longer the pros and cons of full, unambiguous separation from Iraq. It's how best to secure it. I came to think of it as a debate between Builders and Warriors...

End of the road
I appreciate your support of the notion I proposed in Belgravia Dispatch about a roadmap, and particularly your energy in starting to flesh the idea out.

My sense, though, is that your approach wouldn't address the concerns legitimately raised by administration critics. In effect, your idea of a roadmap is to identify the things that would actually constitute victory, and then publically commit to withdrawing troops once they have been achieved. I don't think that goes far enough, in the U.S. or Iraq, to impact the situation politically. No doubt the Bush administration does plan to withdraw troops once the goals you list have been achieved. A public statement to that effect would be of only limited value.

My thought is something more incremental -- along the lines of the Reagan - Gorbachev "confidence building" measures around nuclear weapons. Think of it this way: suppose we do have three types of opposition in Iraq - radical Islamicists who have entered the country because they see it as the current front in their war on the West, deposed Baathists who want their percs back, and lots of Iraqis, particularly Sunnis, whose lives have been uprooted by our invasion and who can't stand being occupied. What can we do, in our conduct of the war, to convince the third group that we're on their side - we want to help get the country back on its feet; we want to get out of there and stop occupying them as soon as possible. Sure we say that, but how do we prove it?

There are things we should be doing unilaterally -- rebuilding infrastructure, supporting the legitimacy of whatever government emerges, etc. I would add a public promise not to erect or maintain permanent bases to that list.

But the point of a roadmap is to highlight and commit to quid pro quos - once car bomb attacks cease in a certain area, we commit to withdrawing troops from regular patrols in that area; we will reduce overall troop levels in line with overall insurgant activity. I don't know the specifics, but specific committments that we in fact carried out would build support for the war effort without undermining it.

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