Securing Iraq

Kenneth M Pollack
Kenneth M Pollack Former Brookings Expert, Resident Scholar - AEI

April 21, 2004

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for giving me the opportunity to appear before you to discuss the issue of establishing security in Iraq.

This month has been more than just a bad month. The events of this month are a warning. They are a warning that all is not well in Iraq and that if the United States does not make some major course corrections very quickly, worse will likely follow. For this reason, I hope that the events of this month will serve as a wake-up call to those in Washington and Baghdad charged with rebuilding Iraq.

We are not doomed to failure there. There is still much good in that country, and many positive forces which, if harnessed could be used to someday build a peaceful, prosperous, and pluralist Iraq. I would not yet use the term “quagmire” to describe our situation there.

Indeed, some of the events of the past weeks underscore just how powerful some of the forces working in our favor remain. While the fighting raged in Fallujah, Kut, Kufa and several other cities, the rest of Iraq remained relatively quiet—or at least no more dangerous than usual. Most of Iraq’s leaders, including most of Iraq’s Shi’ite religious establishment counseled their followers not to cast their lot with Muqtada as-Sadr and his Mahdi Army, and many expressed disdain and anger at his bid to tear down the U.S.-led reconstruction of Iraq. The people of Iraq, mostly did not heed his call to arms. Most continued to express the sentiment that his path was the road to civil war, and that was a road they did not wish to travel.

These positive factors should be a constant reminder that if we fail in Iraq, the fault will lie in ourselves, not in our stars.

Mr. Chairman, I am delighted that you have chosen to focus this hearing on security in Iraq because security is the single most important aspect of our reconstruction effort, and the single greatest failure of our efforts so far. It is no exaggeration to say that our failure to provide security is threatening the entire reconstruction effort. We must get security right and we must do so very quickly or the events of last week will soon become a far more common, more widespread, and more deadly occurrence.