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
Related Materials from the Atlantic Community
- Ian Carver asks: Are Conditions Improving In Iraq?
- The Atlantic Community Editorial Team on Iraq: Who’s Got the Best Plan?
- Retired General James Jones thinks that The Surge Rocks!!
- James Glanz and Stephen Farrell report that Number Of Displaced Iraqis Soars After US Troop Increase