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16 July 2003

In Battling Terrorism, Patience Is Needed in Securing Peace

Op-ed column by U.S. Senator Dick Lugar in July 15 Chicago Tribune

(This column by U.S. Senator Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), who is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, published in the Chicago Tribune July 15, is in the public domain. No republication restrictions.)

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Patience in Securing Peace
By Dick Lugar

(In battling terrorism, the American public is going to have to accept the fact it will be a long-term endeavor)

The United States' decisive military victories in Afghanistan and Iraq are not the end of our war on terrorism but only, to paraphrase Churchill, the end of the beginning. Our battlefield success could be undone by our difficulties in securing the peace. If we let Afghanistan re-emerge as a failed state, or allow Iraq to become one, they will be incubators of terrorism and a source of anti-Americanism throughout the Muslim world.

Enemy elements are still shooting at our soldiers and saboteurs are undermining our efforts to fix the power and water systems. We need to move as quickly as possible, with more troops if necessary, to make the streets safe and restore basic services, to achieve our goal of creating a stable country that is a friend of the United States. The longer Iraqis' expectations remain thwarted, the harder it will be to win their trust.

While we must act with urgency now, we must also have patience in the long term. Rebuilding Iraq will take years. We must prepare our thinking and our institutions for this fact. Before the war, our planners thought that once we decapitated Saddam Hussein's regime and ousted his Baathist cronies, the rest of the bureaucrats and police would show up for work and help run the country. That was a disastrous miscalculation. On my recent trip to Baghdad, every government building I saw had been stripped clean by looters. Not only do we have to train Iraqi policemen -- like the seven young recruits recently murdered by Iraqis in a cold-blooded bombing outside Baghdad -- we have to build from scratch the classrooms in which to train them.

Simply stated, we have become nation-builders in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the war on terrorism we face, as we did in the Cold War, an implacable enemy who will not be defeated quickly. The "Why are we still here?" questions from our soldiers on the ground and the talk of "quagmire" in the press at home show that our leaders need to lay this out clearly to the public.

Afghanistan and Iraq aren't Somalia or Lebanon; deaths of American servicemen are not reasons for retreat. President Bush has wisely set no artificial deadline for leaving. We will stay as long as we need to create a stable country. Let's stop dismissing nation-building as "international social work," somehow unworthy of a great power. To the contrary, it's a basic step toward victory in the war on terrorism.

Based on the lessons we've learned in Afghanistan and Iraq, we need a five-year plan for rebuilding Iraq's government and the economy, with a budget detailing domestic expenditures and investments, how much money will come from Iraq itself, the United States, and from other countries, and how it will be disbursed. Five years may be too short or too long, but Iraqis, Americans and people throughout the world need clear evidence that we will stay the course. On the ground in Baghdad, the doubts are palpable: how long will the Americans last? How soon before they tire and pack up? Without an uncompromising show of resolve, the war could be lost through self-doubt, recriminations, and second-guessing from the easily discouraged.

A solid American commitment is vital to secure international help, both in peacekeepers and other reconstruction workers, as well as money. All the major nations, whatever their stance before the war, have a stake in bringing about a stable Iraq. Equally important, adding more players to the team will put an international face on reconstruction, rather than an exclusively American one, bringing more legitimacy to the process in the eyes of both Iraqis and many skeptics in the Muslim world.

Robust foreign participation will also help convince Americans at home, whose support is vital to success, that the U.S. isn't shouldering the load alone. Rosy pre-war assumptions that Iraqi oil revenues would pay for rebuilding were wildly off the mark, and we can't get meaningful international donations and investments without a serious, persuasive budget.

For the long term, we need to reorganize our military to fight the new terrorist foe. Just as we structured our armed forces to counter the Soviets during the Cold War, our military must complete its transition to a force prepared to battle terrorism across a broad front. We've already done part of the job: the successes in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrate that we can strike and defeat an enemy anywhere in the world. Now we need to go further and develop a military that can perform just as brilliantly the day after major combat ends. Future conflicts will almost surely require the same kind of national rehabilitation we're struggling with today.

The Pentagon has traditionally been reluctant to commit American troops to peacekeeping missions, and some of our military officers insist that policing functions are not appropriate for U.S. forces because they can erode war-fighting capabilities. Therefore I was pleased to see Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's recent speech opening the door to consideration of a standing, U.S.-led international peacekeeping corps. We need to recognize that in battling terrorism, post-combat chaos, whether the result of looting, the lack of police and civil administrators, or other causes, threatens our national security, and we must develop the capacity to deal with it.

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(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)