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Kissinger hails Iraq troop surge, says withdrawal not an option

Mike Sheehan
Published: Friday January 19, 2007
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Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, an iconic conservative who continues to command the attention of the White House, praises President Bush's moves in Iraq and says that leaving the war-torn nation is not possible under present conditions.

Kissinger has penned an editorial in which he states that Bush's "bold decision to order a 'surge' of some 20,000 American troops for Iraq has brought the debate over the war to a defining stage. There will not be opportunity for another reassessment."

The elder statesman remarks that the early strategy of replacing U.S. forces with Iraqis was "in retrospect, premature," and says that the "most flagrant shortcoming of Iraqi forces" is that they are unclear on what they're fighting for and for whom.

Kissinger asserts that the Iraq war is part of a larger conflict, namely "the assault on the international order conducted by radical groups in both Islamic sects," particularly against the United States. He insists that despite public disenchantment with the war in Iraq, "under present conditions, withdrawal is not an option."

He calls America "the indispensable component of any attempt to build a new world order."

Perhaps most telling, Kissinger declares that the U.S. is in Iraq as "an expression of the American national interest to prevent the Iranian combination of imperialism and fundamentalist ideology from dominating a region on which the energy supplies of the industrial democracies depend."

Excerpts from Kissinger's op-ed, which is available in full at this link, follow...

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An abrupt American departure will greatly complicate efforts to help stem the terrorist tide far beyond Iraq; fragile governments from Lebanon to the Gulf will be tempted into pre-emptive concessions. It might drive the sectarian conflict within Iraq to genocidal dimensions.

Graduated withdrawal would not ease these dangers until a different strategy is in place and shows some progress. For now, it would be treated both within Iraq and in the region as the forerunner of a total withdrawal. President Bush's decision should therefore be seen as the first step toward a new grand strategy relating power to diplomacy for the entire region, ideally on a nonpartisan basis.

The purpose of the new strategy should be to demonstrate that America is determined to remain relevant to the outcome in the region; to adjust U.S. military deployments and numbers to emerging realities; and to provide the maneuvering room for a major diplomatic effort to stabilize the region.

Of the current security threats in Iraq the intervention of outside countries, the presence of Qaeda fighters, an extraordinarily large criminal element, the sectarian conflict the United States has a national interest in defeating the first two; it must not involve itself in the sectarian conflict for any extended period, much less let itself be used by one side for its own sectarian goals.

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