Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Foreign Affairs Committee divided on what to do about Iraq

“The recent U.S. troop escalation in Iraq simply is not working.” This remark was part of the opening statement made by House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman and California Congressman Tom Lantos. However neither this, nor any other definitive position were agreed upon during the Foreign Affairs Committee hearing today.

The meeting began with testimony from Anthony H. Cordesman from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, retired Major General John Batiste, and Frederick W. Kagan from the American Enterprise Institute. While all the witnesses shared some similar viewpoints, their overall opinion differed greatly and sparked hours of questions and debate amongst the committee members. Professor Cordesman opened by prefacing his speech with a reminder that, no matter what decisions are reached by the U.S. Congress, the state of Iraq will not be what America desires for at least another 10 to 15 years. He also noted that it has been extremely difficult to see the fruits of a new democracy in Iraq, because the U.S. was not able to provide the country with adequate tools or time. Also, he cautioned against engendering dependency in the new Iraq. On that note, he added that a new Iraq would be built on an Iraq timeline, not a timeline set by any outside force.

Batiste opened his speech by declaring that the U.S. military was at a breaking point already and more violence in Iraq was inevitable, regardless or whether or not the U.S. had a military presence there. He called for a strong plan for withdrawal, one superior to that of the administrations plan of attack. With regards to the military “surge,” a topic that was at the forefront of the day’s debate, Batiste remarked that the current surge is too little, too late.

The last of the opening remarks came from Dr. Kagan who cautioned all parties involved that it is much too soon to be making statements about whether or not the latest surge in Iraq has been successful. He also argued that the plan is to secure Baghdad, not all of Iraq, and that expectations should not be set too high for this latest plan. He commented that any decision made in response to the surge must be just that: a response to the surge, and not a response to information that was provided earlier. Finally, he stated that political progress in Iraq could only be made following military progress and enhanced security and that there should be no expectation for a downturn of either.

Upon the completion of opening statements, a great debate began. The witnesses answered questions regarding the projected outcome of the surge, al-Qaeda’s connection to Iraq, effectively training Iraq’s troops, democracy in Iraq, war in a historical context and how it relates to Iraq, as well as countless others. Each answer sparked more questions and more debates. Through the entire session, one thing remained certain: no one knows what is going to happen in Iraq. The one thing all members agreed on was that despite all planning and projecting, there is no certainty about any one course of action. That did not, however, stop the members from debating all conceivable courses of action.

The complexity of the situation in Iraq and the four-hour debate left more questions unanswered than resolved. Each recommended course of action had a rational base with various supporters, but none left any clear solution as to how the U.S. should go about the situation. Some lawmakers felt that the U.S. must wait a little longer, as they asserted that this is the last chance for the Iraqi people, while others said that forces must pull out as this was the last chance for the U.S. military and the American people. Either way, as the stalemate continues, with no obvious course of action, all will be forced to wait with the same question on everyone’s mind: what will become of Iraq?



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