Checklist For Success In Iraq

Mitch Mitchell CBS News Consultant
CBS News Consultant Col. (Ret.) Mitch Mitchell's analysis of what the United States is, and isn't, doing well in the battle to stabilize Iraq.

BACKGROUND: On April 7 2003, I wrote an article entitled "The Next War in Iraq." In that article I suggested that the next war had already begun and that our forces would be the principal targets for those who resented our presence in their country. Since there was no formal surrender, those who opposed our presence in Iraq continued the fight and, indeed, have been killing US soldiers almost daily. This remains intolerable. It should not be happening and could be stopped if U.S. officials at the highest levels looked for innovative ways to bring peace and stability to the country. Such change can not occur if we continue to use our most precious commodity—people—to man stationary outposts, guard important buildings and patrol in areas where the likelihood of attack is far too high. It can not occur if we don't find better ways to work with the people of Iraq.

WHAT WE ARE DOING? Commanders in Iraq are now reporting some success in controlling the population and eliminating organized and random resistance. Their tactics have evolved in response to the situations they face daily. Many feel they are finally gaining the upper hand, and some suggest victory may only be months away. They are wrong, but some of what they're doing is beginning to have positive effects. The long and short of it is that they are adapting to their environment:

  • Trying to understand and respect Iraqi culture
  • Working hard to repair the war damage and restore the infrastructure
  • Applying money to issues requiring quick resolution (Purchasing new equipment to improve utilities, for example)
  • Compensating victims for losses of life and property (In Vietnam we called it solatium)
  • Reducing daily military presence among the population
  • Replacing soldiers on guard and patrol with local law enforcement officials
  • Meeting frequently with city officials and clergy and making them part of the solution
  • Launching intelligence-based focused attacks to eliminate pockets of resistance
  • Getting armed forces from other countries to help stabilize Iraq
  • Getting better human intelligence
  • Looking for Saddam. Finding him is very important

    WHAT WE AREN'T DOING? The sighs of resignation that reverberate through our Capitol are disgusting and morally bankrupt. Those who tell us to prepare for the long haul and to expect more casualties are simply defeatists. We have gone into Iraq without a comprehensive recovery and rebuilding plan and are now flying by the seats of our pants. There is no sense of urgency. No one is thinking out of the box at a time when the situation in Iraq demands such action. We are not:

  • Consulting with Captains of Industry to find the best way to restore and improve the Iraqi infrastructure
  • Applying huge quantities of money and other resources to expedite Iraq's recovery
  • Giving the Iraqis a large enough role in their own recovery and reconstitution
  • Asking the United Nations to do peacemaking and peacekeeping
  • Using our armed forces to best advantage. Protecting them by not making them easy targets
  • Disarming the Iraqi population
  • Winning over the Iraqi people. They still hate us and want us to leave

    WHAT SHOULD WE BE DOING: We must address what we are not doing (above) and find the most daring and innovative approaches to solving each problem. This involves taking great risks for great gains. If we don't find a way to show the Iraqi people that we are truly helping them move to a better way of life, we'll lose the peace and have to come home disgraced. We don't have much time left to accelerate the recovery process. For every Iraqi who is happy we are trying to make life better for him, there are two others who rejoice each time another American is killed. This is not the time for a "long haul" or a timid approach to getting Iraq back on its feet. We must accelerate the process, even if it requires the expenditure of many more resources up front.

    We should study history more. If we did we would discover that more than two millennia ago, when Alexander the Great conquered the predecessors of the present-day Iraqi people, he immediately assimilated into their culture, adopted their codes, laws, and even their manner of dress. He won them over in peace as he had so handily done in war. It would appear that military commanders on the ground with the Iraqi people are beginning to learn the lessons of Alexander. Unfortunately, those in our country who make policy and have the power to change the glacial and dangerous recovery of Iraq are slow or unwilling to take the radical steps needed to turn a bad situation into a win.