France and Germany’s quick negative reaction to the Bush administration proposal for a greater role for the United Nations in Iraq underlines an obvious truth: Getting more nations to join the U.S.-led effort in that troubled country will not be easy. The risks and costs of involvement are great. To get others to sign on, the administration will have to cede more control over the non-military side of the Iraq operation than it is now contemplating.
With the right kind of U.N. resolution, it will be possible to add 50,000 to 70,000 non-U.S. troops to the 21,000 already there. Britain, France, India, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey could each deploy 10,000 troops or more within the next few months. Other countries, including many of our NATO allies, should be able to provide an additional division’s worth of troops. These additional forces could protect vulnerable sites and infrastructure, leaving the American forces to concentrate their efforts on hunting down killers.
Beyond new troops, more money is needed. The bill to the U.S. taxpayer for our involvement in Iraq may top $150 billion for one year—and that covers only the American military effort and emergency reconstruction spending. Paul Bremer, who heads the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq, has said it might well take “several tens of billions” more to begin putting Iraq back on its feet. These are amounts that other countries, especially our friends in Europe and Asia, should help provide. It is important to remember that in the Balkans, the United States contributed no more than 20 percent of the reconstruction funding.
And we need more people to help the civilian rebuilding effort. Bremer’s CPA is stretched too thin to have any real impact. Even today it has no permanent presence in half the Iraqi provinces, leaving many civilian nation-building tasks in the hands of an overstretched U.S. military. Enhancing policing capacity is priority one. We need foreign monitors, trainers and actual police in large numbers—capabilities that our European friends and countries such as Argentina and Brazil can help with.
To get more troops, more money and more civilians to join the Americans and others already in Iraq will require a new U.N. resolution. The military side of this will be uncontroversial. The United States can remain in overall command, as it has in many previous instances when the United Nations authorized deployment of a multinational armed force (e.g., in Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia). These are combat forces, not blue-helmeted troops, no different from the soldiers and Marines who are there now.
The critical issue instead will be the political side of the effort—and the kind of deals Washington is willing to make to get other countries to contribute the troops, money and personnel needed to succeed.
To get others to join, President Bush must be willing to hand over leadership of the CPA and political control to others. We have done this before. In Bosnia, we maintained command of the military structure but ceded leadership on the civilian side in order to obtain the strong engagement and resources of the international community. In Iraq, as also was done in Bosnia, there could continue to be a free-standing body—not a U.N. offshoot—to develop that country’s political and economic institutions. The head of such an organization would report to the U.N. Security Council but could also report to an ad hoc body—call them the Friends of Iraq—that would include the enhanced number of nations making real contributions of troops and money. This would not be the U.N. nightmare some have envisioned.
We’ll have to strike some side deals with countries such as Russia to get them on board. Iraq’s financial situation must be regularized through the International Monetary Fund and with debt rescheduling (and perhaps forgiveness) through the Paris and London Clubs. To secure the agreement of Russia and others who hold significant prewar contracts, we and the new Iraqi leadership will have to honor many of these contracts. Doing that, along with allowing these countries to participate in new contracting, would open the way for their security forces to engage—and for a positive attitude toward the new Iraq.
What would we get from this? First, by reaching deals with countries that need a Security Council resolution to justify their participation in Iraq to their publics, we would dramatically increase the numbers of military and police and spread the political responsibility and risk among a much larger pool of nations, including Islamic countries. Right now the United States is the sole focus and target.
Second, dividing responsibility between U.S. military leadership and a European at the head of the political/economic area would allow for the entry of many more talented and experienced personnel to manage the nation-building process that Pentagon senior officials abhor and want to be rid of. Along with the injection of much greater financial resources, this would help jump-start a slow and inconsistent development effort.
Washington would not need to lose influence in this important area. We should ensure that the new CPA chief is from a supportive European ally, such as Britain. One suggestion would be Jeremy Greenstock, the new British representative in Iraq—an ideal candidate who has vast experience in post-conflict operations and was until last month Britain’s U.N. ambassador. We cannot afford to fail in Iraq, but it is becoming painfully obvious that we are unlikely to succeed on our own. Ceding some control so that others can share the burden would seem a small price to pay.