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September 18, 2007 |  4 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

General Petraeus's Iraq: Before=After

Jan-Friedrich Kallmorgen: the only news from the White House and Petraeus findings is that any decision on American troop withdrawal is postponed: President Bush is betting it all on positive trends in Iraq. Should the situation improve, Germany too will have to do its part.

The White House report and the Petraeus testimony are a tactical victory for George W. Bush during the high season of the American presidential campaign. Their findings allow the president to stick to a strategy that it is opposed by the majority of Americans and half of Congress. The White House hedged its bets on Petraeus’s hand, and by deferring to the assessment from the four-star general, the Bush Administration ensured that this summer’s critics were largely silenced.

Looking beyond the domestic tactics in Washington, however, what does the future look like for Baghdad? What do the middle- and long-term strategies for Iraq look like? How will the political questions—the inclusion of Sunnis in the central government, the allotment of oil profits, reforming the constitution and the federal system and, most importantly, the future of the country after the establishment of stability—be answered?

One must hope that the coalition forces in Iraq—which, after the British withdrawal from Basra, are basically only Americans—will succeed in significantly improving the security situation. This is a conditio sine qua non. But the question of whether the Iraqi government will finally be prepared to lead is an entirely different issue. The recently published report of the American Government Accountability Office (GAO) openly charges the Maliki government with failure on the vast majority of benchmarks set by the US Congress for the Prime Minister.

But let’s take the optimistic view: the terror attacks can be stopped, al-Qaeda pushed back, the Iraqi borders secured and the Iraqi army and police made more effective. The government will succeed in bringing the Sunnis back into the Cabinet and parliament, and the Americans will have another chance to win the hearts and minds of Iraqi citizens.

Given this rosy scenario, the Americans would be able to transfer responsibility back to the Iraqis bit by bit over the next few years. However, even the most effective Iraqi government will not be able to construct any semblance of a functioning political system without ‘external aid’, a buzzword that gets almost no reaction among members of Berlin’s foreign policy community. Most of them believe that if the US broke Iraq, it’s the Americans’ job to fix it.

Across party lines, the unilateral “no” to the war in 2002 looks to be the Schroeder government’s most memorable achievement—never mind that the decision was based on populist political sentiment. So let’s get back to the buzzword: Iraq needs external support— from Germany, the land of peace, with all its soft power.

So what would such support look like? The training of police forces in the UAE is one place to start. We must also step up our financial assistance, as long as the security situation permits. Development aid and direct investment would ideally run hand in hand. And finally: state building, because it is well within our capacity to do so. Germany and the EU have a wide array of tools at their disposal to aid in building civil society, from legal training to the establishment of party organization.

With regard to these considerations, targets must remain realistic. It is hard to say whether someday there will be a democracy in Iraq in the Western tradition, with a free-market economy and legal stability. If the answer is yes, the process will likely last decades as opposed to years, so the European initiative should begin now. Goals should be defined and benchmarks set. The Americans have their own to-do list for the country, but it can be amended and improved.

Getting involved in external aid to Iraq will do more than serve the interests of the Atlantic alliance. Germany and Europe will assume responsibility for the stability of a country in the heart of the Middle East, one which borders potential EU member Turkey. We Europeans depend on this region as a major source of our oil, and terrorist training camps where attacks on Germany might be planned could take root there. What’s more, we face the possibility of a dramatic tide of refugees fleeing from the region and into the West. It is in our best interest to think about what we can do to help in Iraq.


Jan-Friedrich Kallmorgen is co-publisher of the Atlantic Community and head of the Transatlantic Program at the German Council on Foreign Relations.

translation by Will Nuland

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Valentina  Klausen

September 18, 2007

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Jan -
thank you for your insightful article. I also agree that not only should Europe do more, but at some point it won't have an option of not doing something. I don't think refugees might make it in huge numbers ("thank God" for strict asylum-laws), but I share the assessment, that a new Afghanistan might develop over there. Yesterday's remarks by French Foreign Minister Koucher should make any foreign policy "expert" in Berlin be very cautious about the approach in foreign policy, otherwise Germany might end up isolated in "Old Europe", but this time without its western neighbor. Lets all hope the Greens stay out of office for a long time!
 
Gunnar  Schmidt

September 19, 2007

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Valentina, what has Kouchner said on Iraq?
I only heard him talking about a war with Iran, but then he was forced to tone down is hawkish statement.
 
Donald  Stadler

September 20, 2007

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I don’t believe the Germans are doing nearly enough in Iraq. Neither is the UN. This was and is understandable while there was a civil war ongoing. It remains understabdable in Bagdhad.

But Bagdhad is not remotely the whole of Iraq. Germans and the UN wish to do reconstruction work in lieu of combat. Excellent.

Kurdistan has been peaceful for several yers, but where are the Germans and the UN? Anbar province has gone from being the eye of the hurricane to one of Iraq’s most peaceful places in the space of four or five months. The place is a physical shambles (most former battle zones are), but physically it’s improving as the rubble gets cleared. So are Germans planning to sent in recinstruction battalions? Perhaps - but I haven’t heard of anything yet.

You may be interested in two photo blog posts written from Ramadi and Anbar by Michael Totten. The first (focussing on physical damage) is particularly shocking; it may remind older Germans of portions of post-war Germany. http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/001514.html

The second post focusses on the people and the relations between former enemies - the Americans and Anbar province Sunni’s.
http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/001517.html

One last point: “among members of Berlin’s foreign policy community. Most of them believe that if the US broke Iraq, it’s the Americans’ job to fix it.”

Many Germans seem confused by the at times extraordinary anger many Americans aim at Germany and Germans over the Iraq War and other differences. I think the above quote illustrates some of the psychic difference. Many Americans (myself included) believe that Germany ‘broke’ Europe in WWII and quite possibly WWI. If one apply’s the concensus described by the quote above Americans could have taken the attitude that ‘Germany broke Europe; it’s the German’s job to fix it.” If Americans had taken that attitude the Marshall Plan would never have taken place, and perhaps more importantly the NATO Alliance would never have been signed and a prostrated Europe not protected during the critical period when you could not do so yourself.

One can make the valid argument that the Marshall Plan was only a catalyst and that Europe mostly reconstructed itself; I wouldn’t argue (much). Similar comments could be made about NATO.

But the fact is that the US did pitch in to both when it was not strictly necessary from our national POV. The US benefitted from the Marshall Plan and NATO; Europe (and particularly Germany) benefitted far more. When Americans read “it’s the Americans’ job to fix it.”, it sounds like the rankest of ingratitude. And (in fact) it is exactly that.
 
Robert  Shawley

September 24, 2007

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Europe definitely has to get involved more, but the question is can it? The fact that the US continues to use its influence with the Iraqi government on channeling contracts for reconstruction towards coalition countries.
Add to this the following factors:
1. provision of security for foreign reconstruction projects and personnel remains firmly in the hands of Americans
2. we have made it clear that European help is appreciated - but only so long as it finds a place within the American strategy and thus deprive Europeans of any kind of independent maneuverability in a possible engagement
3. the focus on what needs to be done in the country is different in Europe than in America and many Europeans argue there needs to be a shift in strategy

Clearly, Europe has an incentive to engage in Iraq, as it will be subject to fall-out much more than the US. As the specter of American withdrawal draws nearer, most European experts and policy-makers have become more aware of that - even though a large part of the public continues to be dumb enough to gloat at America's defeat. However, if European's only choice to engage in Iraq is by supporting a strategy they believe is inherently flawed I can't quite blame them for keeping out as much as they have.
 

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