Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Needed: A Democratic Plan for Iraq

Most Americans now regret, with reason, the decision to invade Iraq in March 2003. It turns out that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, no significant connection with Al-Qaeda, and no involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Was Saddam Hussein a vicious dictator? Assuredly. Are Iraqis better off now that he is gone? With 3,000 civilian casualties a month to insurgent actions, that's debatable. Is the United States safer as a result of the invasion? No.

But we can't turn back the clock. And if most Americans regret the invasion, they recognize that we can't just withdraw and leave behind a mess. Here the Democrats face a challenge. The electorate is unhappy with the Republican administration and the Republican-dominated Congress that put us in our present position, but they won't vote for Democrats simply because the Democrats oppose Bush. The Democrats have to put forward a compelling U.S. policy alternative for Iraq -- and to get us back on track regarding the war on terror.

One of the better plans I've seen comes from Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, unveiled in a September 10 speech at the National Press Club:
[W]hat should we do - what would I do - to make America safer in five years?

I would start with Iraq, for no strategy to make America safer can succeed unless we first solve Iraq. Iraq has already cost us dearly in lives lost and money spent. Because our forces are tied down, our ability to act against our enemies is limited -- and they know it. Because we hyped the intelligence before going in, our ability to convince allies -- and the American people --- of new dangers has been diminished. Because we diverted our energy and resources from Afghanistan, it is on the verge of failure.

This administration has no strategy for success in Iraq. It has a strategy to prevent defeat and pass the problem along to the next President. The overwhelming reality in Iraq is a sectarian cycle of revenge. Throwing more troops at Baghdad won't fix this mess. We need a political settlement that allows each group to pursue its interests peacefully.

I've offered just such a plan, not unlike what we did in Bosnia. It would keep Iraq together by providing each group breathing room in their own regions, getting Sunni buy-in by giving them a piece of the oil revenues, creating a major jobs and reconstruction program to deny the militia new recruits, and bringing in Iraq's neighbors to support the political process. If we do all that, we have a chance to bring most of our troops home by the end of 2007, without leaving chaos behind.

Getting Iraq right won't guarantee success on those other fronts we're fighting. But it will give us much more freedom, flexibility, and credibility to make the profound changes to our national security strategy these complex threats demand.

And it will make it easier to put our focus back on other profoundly important developments that will shape this century, like the developing roles of China, India, and Russia as major powers; the shortage of reliable sources of energy; and the growing impact of climate change.

Today, I am announcing a four-part plan to move America toward greater security. It flows from my conviction that protecting our homeland requires a dramatic reordering of our priorities; that real security comes from prevention, not preemption; that working with strong partners is better than alienating them; and that advancing democracy is about more than elections.

And my plan starts from the premise it is time for America to recapture the totality of our strength -- our military, economic, and diplomatic might -- and the power of our ideas and ideals. That is what won the Cold War. That is what has gotten lost these past five years.
Complete speech

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