Debating the Troop Surge in Iraq

Martin S. Indyk
Martin S. Indyk
Martin S. Indyk Former Brookings Expert, Distinguished Fellow - The Council on Foreign Relations

February 15, 2007

TONY JONES, HOST: Well, the question being asked here, vociferously by the Prime Minister, is what would be the consequences for Iraq if US combat forces, all of them, were withdrawn by March of 2008. What do you think the consequences would be?

MARTIN INDYK, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION, WASHINGTON: I think the consequences of America’s defeat in Iraq will be very bad. That’s not something that keeping the troops there or withdrawing them is going to make a significant difference to, in my opinion. In my view, we have to shift now from a policy of trying to intervene in the civil war to a policy of trying to contain this implosion in Iraq from exploding and affecting American interests in the wider region and, therefore, in my view, what we need is a phased redeployment, essentially to the borders of Iraq, whereby we can deter neighbouring countries, like Iran or Turkey, from intervening and provide safe havens and humanitarian relief for the Iraqis who will be fleeing what increasingly will become a process of ethnic cleansing, and that is the best way, I think, that we can prevent defeat in Iraq from becoming a complete disaster for American interests in the broader region.

So, in my view, a redeployment, a reduction of the forces of about 75,000 troops, makes more sense than pulling the plug in the way that Senator Obama would like. But, there is a legitimate debate here about what is the best thing to do. For the Prime Minister to suggest that those who are debating this issue are somehow responsible for the disaster there is, I think, the kind of argument that we hear from Vice President Cheney, but the American people aren’t listening to that anymore because they understand that the original sin, if you like, sits with the Bush administration for getting us into this horrible mess in the first place.

TONY JONES: Forced by the Prime Minister to give a specific answer to that question that I raised before, Kevin Rudd has now virtually adopted the Baker Hamilton plan of a staged withdrawal. Was that wise?

MARTIN INDYK: Look, Tony, you’re asking me to intervene in Australian politics, which I would rather not do.

TONY JONES: Well, let’s put it this way, what’s your assessment of the Baker Hamilton plan, as a preferred option?

MARTIN INDYK: Well, as I said, I think that a phased redeployment to Iraq’s borders and a focus on trying to contain the implosion makes sense. That is part of what Baker Hamilton recommended. They also recommended a stepped up effort to train the Iraqi forces. That, I think, will be a lost cause, simply because, as things fall apart, I think, the Iraqi Army will fall apart and join either the Sunnis or the Shiahs in this process.

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