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July 2005

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First Things First: A Personal View

The national calamity still unfolding on the United States' Gulf Coast impacts, albeit indirectly, on the American military effort underway these past two-plus years in Iraq. In this observer's personal opinion, the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina calls into question the feasibility of a continued armed engagement involving some 150,000 American troops against bands of urban guerrillas and terrorists almost half a world away.

To recap: Since World War II, two major U. S. engagements were undertaken in line with the Containment Policy directed against world communism—in Korea and in Vietnam. Both interventions were continued after public support for those campaigns had sunk below fifty percent. This was especially evident in the Vietnam War, a losing effort that, as we all know, dragged on for years.

Again Americans find themselves bogged down in a difficult, dragged-out civil conflict—something verging on a civil war—with no end clearly in sight. Even before the recent hurricane struck, a majority of the American people polled no longer supported the conduct of the Iraq war.

Further, the huge storm in the south of the United States has unloaded its cost on all of us, not only those in its destructive path. Caring for and resettling the survivors, burying the dead, cleaning up the widespread damages, providing for better protection next time, and beginning to rebuild—all long will long occupy the nation. It will call for the dedication of an enormous amount of resources.

How does all that impact the war in Iraq? The vast reaches of current budget deficits, accompanied by incongruous tax cuts, obviously will go up and up. The dedication of huge sums of money will be necessary to fund a recovery from the natural disaster called Hurricane Katrina.

Accordingly, the question arises: Does this new set of circumstances call into question the extent of America's involvement in Iraq? Will anywhere near the current level of commitment continue to be practicable?

Maybe not; probably not. Choices almost certainly will have to be made. And if not, what to do?

All who read these comments will be familiar with the word “Vietnamization,” the appellation given the process through which America extricated itself, with oh! such agonizing slowness, from that political/military quagmire thirty-odd years ago. Vietnamization supplied and promised more material aid to Saigon, while concurrently withdrawing American troops: added Vietnamization of the war, less Americanization. There would be more responsibility for the Saigon government, less for Washington. (The process resulted in a North Vietnamese military takeover of the South by 1975, as we also all know, but that is another story.)

What does this signify for us today? How about an “Iraqization” of the current war, I ask—hopefully with better results? By that I mean a speeded-up, concentrated program of Iraqi national defense training along with necessary equipment, with a definite, scheduled (although not publicized), early extraction of American troops. Emphasis would be on training and on the early aspect. Let the Iraqis—Sunni, Kurd, and Shiia alike—take primary responsibility for both the defense and the development of their country. The nation as a whole, we might recall, has access to untold oil riches, and has had for decades.

As a result of Hurricane Katrina, the United States has on its hands a major challenge in mobilizing for, carrying out, and funding a response to perhaps the worst natural disaster ever experienced here at home. It may very well be time, in this observer's opinion, to “Iraqize” the effort that now occupies so much of America's resources, an effort that stretches on indefinitely at present. First things in importance first, I say.

Editor Henry E. Mattox,
Sept. 2005

American Diplomacy
Copyright © 2005 American Diplomacy Publishers Chapel Hill NC
www.americandiplomacy.org

Dr. Mattox is the editor of American Diplomacy.

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