Iraq is conquered; unfortunately, winning the peace is proving far more difficult. Bringing down an unpopular, isolated dictatorship in a wreck of a country is one thing. Creating a liberal, multiparty, multiethnic democracy where one has never existed is quite another.
Officially, the Pentagon proclaims that we will stay “as long as necessary” and leave “as soon as possible.” That is a worthy policy, but it will be attainable only if Washington sets modest goals and a firm departure date.
Unexpected opposition to the U.S. occupation has caused the Pentagon to delay withdrawing American forces. Forget dropping to 30,000 troops by the end of the year, as promised by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Instead, analysts are talking about pushing the total up from 160,000 to 200,000 or even 300,000. To find the troops necessary to maintain even the smaller garrison, the Pentagon has announced that occupation tours will run one year, twice the typical tour in Bosnia and other “peacekeeping” operations.
Nevertheless, advocates of nation-building are advancing an expansive agenda. As New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof argues,
To leave behind a stable Iraq, we must establish order, nurture a free press and independent police force, purge the civil service of Baath thugs, help Iraqis write a constitution...