Is Iraq A Failed State?

Senators Joseph Biden, D-Del., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Senators Joseph Biden, D-Del., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Two U.S. Senators offered decidedly different perspectives on the state of Iraq's government and the prospects of success for the U.S. military's "surge" in that nation.

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., dismissed the argument that a military push on the part of the United States could by itself ensure the political success of the Iraqi government. "Look, the idea there's going to be a strong, central government in Iraq is not going to happen in your lifetime, it's not going to happen in mine," Biden told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation. "It's the central fallacy of this administration's policy."

"The purpose of this surge was to give breathing room to acquire some political reconciliation. There is no political reconciliation. And the total number of Iraqi civilian deaths are up around Iraq, not down. The number of people fleeing their homes has gone from 50,000 a month to 100,000 a month since the surge."

Biden referred to the Biden-Levin Amendment to immediately draw down combat troops and have them out of the country by March 2008, leaving only those necessary to train the Iraqi army to protect U.S. civilians in Iraq and to deny al Qaeda the ability to occupy Anbar province. "That requires about one-fifth of the number of troops we have there."

"It is true things are better where our military is physically sitting. But it's like putting your fist in the water - the minute you take the fist out of the water, you can't even tell it was ever there. That's why there's a need for a political settlement.

"It doesn't matter how many troops we put there. Unless you have a political settlement, when we leave we're going to leave chaos behind. And you'll find you have a regional war.

"We should begin to draw down these combat troops and get them out of the civil war."

Meanwhile, Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Air Force Reserve who had just returned from Reserve duty in Iraq for the last two weeks, offered Schieffer the point of view that the surge of troops has been working and only needs more time and more troops to be successful.

"Well, the surge has worked," Graham said. "It's provided a level of security I haven't seen [in Iraq before]. We're finally getting the formula right. Anbar is just not about more troops; Anbar is about the local people, the Sunni Arabs in Anbar rejecting al Qaeda."

Graham pointed to a jump in recruits for the police force in Anbar and a diminishing of al Qaeda's influence in the same area because of the surge. "We can hold areas now because the Iraqi people are getting involved," he said.

"The government at the central level is dysfunctional, but it's not a failed state. [And] the worst thing that can happen for America is a failed state in Iraq, where Iran is the winner and al Qaeda comes back."

Graham predicted that there would be a major breakthrough in political reconciliation in Baghdad, and on the benchmarks, because of pressure being placed on Iraqi politicians by their own people at the ballot box.

"That's the best pressure that could be applied - the people themselves, frustrated with their own elected representatives, having their say. And I saw that all over Iraq.

"The Iraqi people are tired of the killing. They're tired of the dying. And that frustration is beginning to float up to the national level."

Closer to home, Graham predicted that any Senate effort to withdraw troops would fail. "Now is the time to pour it on and not withdraw - more of the same. More political, economic, military support will affect dramatically the outcome in Iraq."

Graham suggested, though, that U.S. support alone would not be all that is needed to ensure that change in Iraq is successful, "if you could have an economic surge, if the international community could come in, if the Gulf States could come in and provide economic help.

"We have a chance to change things on the ground forever in a way that would contain Iran and diminish al Qaeda. We have a long ways to go yet, but we're about to turn a corner."

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at and