Iraqi reconstruction underway

Posted 11:20 a.m. May 10

by Elspeth A. Weingarten
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

With the United States’ seizure of the Iraqi leadership last week from the capital city of Baghdad, the war is moving quickly. Scholars predict where the U.S. government expects to be in the next week.

“We’ve moved into a less exciting period which is actually going to continue for the next decade,” said Peter W. Singer, an Olin Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institute. “We’re now having to move into a governing role.”

Singer said Gen. Jay Garner, head of the Pentagon’s Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, would begin reconstruction efforts in Iraq. The group intends to run the country during its transition period lasting from the end of the war to the start of a new government.

Most scholars interviewed predicted that political talks would continue, in hopes of starting to form an interim Iraqi government.

Jennifer D. Kibbe, also an Olin Fellow at the Brookings Institution, said U.S. forces might have to remain in Iraq to maintain social order, despite their reluctance to do so.

James H. Lebovic, associate professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University, said U.S. forces cannot perform a peacekeeping function and at the same time win the hearts and minds of the people, as the administration expects to do, without making themselves vulnerable.

Lebovic said he expects not to see large-scale resistance to U.S. forces, but hit-and-run attacks that play on the forces’ vulnerability.

Lebovic said he expects that, in the long term, U.S. troops will spend their time completing military operations and searching for people whom he said the Secretary of Defense refers to as “dead enders.”

These are people fighting to the bitter end for the old order — not necessary against the United States or for Saddam Hussein — but for the old order, Lebovic said.

Lebovic said he expects, at least in the short term, increased public hostility directed at the United States because the Iraqi people can easily blame coalition forces for their current problems.

Under the old regime, he said, people suffered fear of oppression, arbitrary arrest, and torture and murder. But those issues affect people less in their daily lives than the lack of electricity, food, access to medical care, and a source of income. The key, then, is a government that can provide those needs, he said.

Lebovic said Iraqi resistance or acceptance of the U.S. presence depends on whether or not the new situation is better for most people in the short term, regardless of politics.

“I think they’re about 99 percent thrilled that we got rid of the guy,” Kibbe said.

Kibbe said that Iraqis must see that their immediate life is improved under U.S. control because, once the initial glee of getting rid of Saddam Hussein fades, it will look more like U.S. occupation.

Most said they expect the government to continue searching for weapons of mass destruction.

“We haven’t found it because Saddam Hussein was working up to the very last days to hide this stuff from the weapons inspectors,” said Maurice East, professor of International Affairs at George Washington University.

East said the United States will find weapons, but never enough to assuage the harshest critics of the administration and of U.S. force in Iraq. He said he also expects the United States to find biological agents, but none prepared for immediate use.

East said the president should start making the case that, even if we don’t find weapons of mass destruction, we have enough circumstantial evidence to justify the war because Saddam Hussein has a history of having these weapons, as well as a history of crimes against humanity.

“I think Bush can make that case,” East said.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.