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Adjusting Our Policy In Iraq

A U.S. soldier with machine gun after an attack on a U.S. convoy, in Fallujah, Iraq, Monday, Nov. 10, 2003.
AP
CBS News Consultant Col. (Ret.) Mitch Mitchell provides occasional commentary on miliary matters for CBSnews.com.

Today L. Paul Bremmer returned to Iraq with a message from President Bush to the 24 member ruling council. We are not privy to its contents, but most analysts are certain that it contained a stern warning to the council not to miss the Dec. 15 deadline for a new Iraqi constitution. Rumors had been flying that the council was slow to act and was delaying the democratic process.

"Better late than never" are the only words that adequately describe the Bush Administration's realization that its post-war policy in Iraq has been weak and rambling. Even the military has been slow to react to terrorist and insurgent campaigns that are daily growing in strength and scope. How could so many critical errors have been made in our campaign to recover and reconstitute Iraq?

It all boils down to assumptions and stubbornness. The White House expected Iraqi people to work with us, once Saddam Hussein was removed from power. Many did, but many others, especially those without jobs, did not. They couldn't see the advantages of American occupation. That made them susceptible to the influence of the Saddam loyalists and certain terrorist organizations who promised a different and better future. Recruits for the campaign against American occupation were easy to come by. Now, our soldiers and representatives from allies helping us in Iraq are paying the price. If only there would have been some kind of recovery plan which rapidly put Iraqis back to work and restored their infrastructure much more quickly, we wouldn't be struggling now to bring order to a country becoming more chaotic with each passing day.

Sometimes we can be arrogant, and sometimes we can be stubborn. Sometimes the two go hand in hand. It has taken us six months to realize that the progress we are making in helping Iraq recover is not fast enough to win over the Iraqi people. Many who don't want us there under any circumstances are influencing those who are not sure. A new terrorist-based insurgency has taken hold, and we have stubbornly stood by watching it grow, yet proclaiming success at every small opportunity. Politicians and military commanders alike missed the big picture. We are losing the peace because we refuse to change our tactics to address reality. It is time to face that reality and take dramatic steps to turn the campaign in our favor.

From the political side, this will require a huge infusion of money now into Iraq's recovery. We must make the environment safe and nurturing for all Iraqis who seek legitimate jobs and opportunities to take care of their families. If they can't get that from us, they'll take the path of least resistance and wind up in terrorist training camps. Those we turn away at the work places will be returning with bombs.

Our military has recently stepped up offensive operations against insurgents and terrorist groups and is slowly and painfully extricating itself from duties that the Iraqis themselves could perform. We don't have sufficient forces for effective peace keeping operations throughout Iraq. They should be brought in, and not just from the United States. We still need far more support from the U.N., but our stubbornness continues to get in the way.

Though we have seen as recently as today our forces increasing the size and magnitude of attacks against the enemy, we still don't have the initiative. It is vital that we put so much pressure on the enemy that he can no longer strike us at the time and place of his choosing. We had the initiative against Saddam's armies. It will be harder, but not impossible, to do the same against the insurgents. What remains to be seen is whether our political and military leaders have the will to make it happen.

  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.