DATE January 16, 2008 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: US Army Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl discusses war in
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
When should we get out of Iraq and how should we do it? Those are the
questions we're going to spend the next couple of days discussing with
military leaders, prominent Iraqis, policy analysts and journalists. The
first of today's five guests is Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl. Along with
General Petraeus, Nagl was on the team that wrote the new US Army/Marine Corps
Counterinsurgency Field Manual. He was the operations officer of a tank
battalion task force that was deployed to Iraq's Anbar province in 2003 and
'4. Nagl now commands the 1st Battalion 34th Armor at Fort Riley, Kansas,
where he's training teams of combat advisers who will be sent to Iraq. We
called him at Fort Riley.
Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl, welcome to FRESH AIR. Do you think it's time
now to get out of Iraq, and if not now, when?
Lieutenant Colonel JOHN NAGL: Terry, I believe that the United States has an
enduring interest in security and stability not just in Iraq but throughout
the region, and I'm afraid that an American commitment to Iraq is going to
continue to be required for a number of years.
GROSS: When you say a number of years, you mean two, five, 10, 20?
Lt. Col. NAGL: I'm afraid it's going to be between 10 and 20. The history
of counterinsurgency campaigns suggest that it's, as T.E. Lawrence noted,
they are messy and slow. The average counterinsurgency campaign takes about
10 years to conclude. There are no indications that the counterinsurgency
campaign in Iraq will be shorter than average. So my assessment is that an
American commitment to the security of Iraq will be required for at least a
decade. I think that over time that commitment will increasingly shift from a
US combat role to a US advisory role.
GROSS: So for the kind of presence that you're talking about, how many troops
are you talking about? What kind of military commitment are you describing?
Lt. Col. NAGL: I think that tens of thousands of American troops will be
required for a number of years, probably a decade. Foreign forces can't win a
counterinsurgency campaign, only local forces can do that. But history also
suggests that local forces are much more effective when they're strengthened
and enabled by advanced foreign armies who bring some special capabilities to
the table that host nation armies often don't have. And there I'm thinking of
intelligence assets, of logistics assets and of air strikes and artillery
support, that it can take a long time for a developing army to grow into.
GROSS: Now, you said that you think we're going to need American troops in
Iraq for a long time. And Iraq's defense minister said this week that Iraq
wouldn't be able to take responsibility for its internal security until the
year 2012, and wouldn't be able to defend its borders on its own until 2018.
Does his statement jive with your thoughts?
Lt. Col. NAGL: Almost exactly. The mission of providing internal security
is a difficult one given the challenges that Iraq confronts, although we've
seen some good signs very recently on the political front with the
de-Baathification law amendments being passed really just this week so that
there are some signs of the political reconciliation that is absolutely
essential to success in any counterinsurgency campaign. Very happy about
That said, it is going to take probably another five years, as the Iraqi
defense minister suggested, to come to terms with the internal conflict in
Iraq. Even after that point, however, Iraq lives in a difficult neighborhood.
The Iranians are still not fond of Iraq as an entity, obviously some very bad
blood dating back to the 1980s and before between those two countries. And
defending Iraq against an Iranian threat is in the long-term interest of the
United States, is in the long-term interests of the Iraqi people, and is going
to take even more work than getting Iraqi forces about to confront the
irregular internal threat that they're currently working to fight.
GROSS: Could you describe what the military is doing differently with the
Lt. Col. NAGL: I can. The most interesting thing to the so-called surge
for me is not the additional 30,000 American troops that we've committed into
the fight in Iraq, it's that we've committed them very differently. General
Petraeus had the remarkable opportunity to spend a year thinking hard about
counterinsurgency, was the lead off or the driving force between the US
Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. And that strategy relied on
providing protection to the population of Iraq.
We'd previously done an awful lot of clearing operations, we had cleared the
enemy out of sector, but we hadn't had either the troops nor a full
understanding of counterinsurgency principles to lead us to understand that
once you've cleared, you have to hold what you've cleared and, if possible,
you hold with host nation security forces, strengthened by American advisers,
and then you rebuild a society in that territory you're holding. And it's
been called an oil spot strategy, and it slowly spreads across the face of the
country that's afflicted by insurgency.
GROSS: One of the programs that David Petraeus has been overseeing is the
paying of Sunni militia leaders. Would you describe that program and its
Lt. Col. NAGL: Historically, in a counterinsurgency campaign you don't kill
or capture all your enemies. You actually convince them to come over to your
side. You convince them that it isn't worth fighting you; instead you come to
some accordance of interest. And agreements tend to be negotiated. You don't
have surrender agreements on the deck of the Missouri but shway
shway--"slowly, slowly" in Arabic--the insurgency whimpers away.
And what General Petraeus has done is an outreach program that actually we
started. I was actually in Al Anbar back in 2003, 2004, and made some very
halting gestures in this direction. I held meetings with Sunni sheiks, with
Sunni tribal leaders, and tried to convince them that it was in their interest
to work with us. I'm not sure I succeeded as much as I would have liked to,
but did manage to plant some seeds. And over the three years, the four years
since that time, that process has continued. There's been continued
negotiations between Army and Marine leaders in Al Anbar with some of these
Sunni leaders. Some of them frankly insurgent leaders, or at least favorably
inclined toward the insurgency, if they're not actually insurgent fighters
In one case I know of, a Marine general officer traveled to a nearby country
to talk to one of the Sunni leaders who is in exile there to try to work these
negotiations. So it's a diplomatic process as much as a military process.
And it's one that, after years of hard work, is bearing remarkable fruit and
it has turned some of our enemies--not just not against us, but has turned
them against our common enemy, al-Qaeda in Iraq. And that is one of the key
reasons for the success that General Petraeus saw in 2007.
GROSS: So how much do we pay each leader, and what do we expect in return for
Lt. Col. NAGL: We pay them, as I understand it, about $10 a day. And we do
not provide them with weapons. In most cases, most of them have weapons, have
AK-47s, and that's all the weapons they need for the missions they're doing.
And it's sort of a neighborhood watch on steroids. What these folks do is
insure that the people in their locality belong there, and they remove foreign
fighters, al-Qaeda in Iraq, by whatever means are necessary. And there are,
obviously, some dangers in that kind of approach, but what...
GROSS: What are those dangers?
Lt. Col. NAGL: Well, the danger is that you've got citizens taking law into
their own hands.
GROSS: You discovered this little instruction manual for American service men
in Iraq during World War II, and you thought it was so interesting you had it
republished and wrote an introduction for it. And in that introduction you
said, "The key to success in a counterinsurgency campaign is providing enough
security to the people that they feel empowered to reveal the identity of the
killers who hide among them in plain sight. The local people will identify
the insurgents to you, but only if they believe you will be with them for the
long haul to prevent reprisals."
What are the implications of that for the United States?
Lt. Col. NAGL: Terry, you did me too much credit. It was actually the
University of Chicago who found that lovely little book. The implications of
the passage you read, that is that population security is the essence of
success in any counterinsurgency campaign, that is the driving force behind
the counterinsurgency strategy that General Petraeus has implemented in Iraq
over the past year.
The real problems I saw when I was there early on in 2003, 2004, a number of
the people, in my opinion, believed that their long-term interests were with
the government of Iraq, but short term, they couldn't take that risk. They
were not secure enough. We didn't have Iraq security forces in sufficient
numbers or of sufficient quality that they could protect the Iraqi people
We are now moving toward a position where the Iraqi security forces are good
enough, and the people sense the momentum. It's like a football game, they
understand that it is now more likely that the government of Iraq will protect
them over the long-term and be able to prevent them from being hurt even in
the short term, and that has what has led to the decisions to eradicate
al-Qaeda in Iraq, largely on the part of the Iraqi people and the Sunni
tribes, who were the heart of the insurgency. The folks I was fighting
against in 2003, 2004 in 2007 decided to get rid of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and Iraq
is better as a result of that.
GROSS: Part of the goal, maybe the largest part of the goal of the surge, was
to create a kind of stability in Iraq that would enable the political process
to proceed and to, you know, for a political infrastructure to be created. Do
you think that the surge is actually leading to that larger goal? The surge
has been successful militarily in many ways, but is it leading to that larger
goal of the political process moving forward?
Lt. Col. NAGL: Two weeks ago, Terry, I would have agreed almost completely
with the premise of that question. I would have argued that, although the
surge has produced security, much better security, through large portions of
Iraq, the political progress that was the ultimate objective of that military
security was not forthcoming. Literally in the past week, the Iraqi
government has taken steps that make me enormously--enormously is too
strong--that make me cautiously optimistic that this Iraqi government is going
to take the reconciliation steps that it needs to take--the passage of the oil
law, the bringing former Baathists back into the government once they've been
properly vetted, bringing the concerned local citizens councils into the Iraqi
government and making them officially part of the Iraqi security forces. It
is now much more possible that those things are going to happen. There is no
guarantee, but I am much more hopeful than I was just two weeks ago that we're
going to see the political progress that our soldiers have paid for at such
great cost over the course of 2007.
GROSS: Have you ever felt, during the course of the war in Iraq, that there
was a disconnect between the political goals of the war and what the military
could actually achieve?
Lt. Col. NAGL: David Galula is a famous--famous in my world, at
least--French Army officer, a counterinsurgent. He wrote a wonderful book
called "Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice" based on his
experiences in Algeria back in the late 1950s; he wrote the book in 1963, and
we relied heavily on Galula's work when we were writing the Army/Marine Corps
Counterinsurgency Field Manual. Galula says that in any counterinsurgency
campaign only 20 percent of the fight is military, 80 percent of the fight is
political, economic, diplomatic and informational.
I believe that the military has done a remarkable job and has demonstrated the
ability to learn and adapt. We were not as ready for counterinsurgency as we
should have been in 2003, but we've learned, we've adapted, we've gotten
better at it. We need concomitant political progress, not just from the Iraqi
government but also from all of the other elements of national power here in
the United States, which also were not as prepared to wage counterinsurgency,
to win the 80 percent of the fight that is political. Neither our political
forces nor our diplomatic forces were as ready to wage this war as they should
have been. But we have adapted and learned, and we are making progress.
It would be horrific to me if, having made so much progress, learned so much
and come so far--after admittedly not a very good start--were we to forsake
all of that progress and leave an Iraq that is not just a humanitarian tragedy
for people I know and people who have fought with me, but also a lasting
security threat to the region and to the United States. And I'm very hopeful
that America will remain committed to this fight, understanding that we as a
military have learned and adapted and are getting better at this kind of war.
GROSS: Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl, thank you very much for talking with us.
Lt. Col. NAGL: Terry, thank you.
GROSS: Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl spoke to us from Fort Riley.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Interview: Former Iraqi government official Ali Allawi discusses
war in Iraq
TERRY GROSS, host:
Today and tomorrow we're asking military leaders, prominent Iraqis, policy
analysts and journalists when and how should we get out of Iraq. Our next
guest, Ali Allawi, was the minister of trade and the minister of defense under
the interim Iraq governing council from 2003 to 2004, and then was minister of
finance in the Iraqi transitional government between 2005 and 2006. He fled
Iraq as a teenager and didn't return until after the US invasion. In the
interim, he developed a successful career in finance. He now divides his time
between Iraq and England, where he teaches at Oxford University. His book
"The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace" was published
Ali Allawi, welcome to FRESH AIR. In January of 2007 you wrote, "What was
suppose to be a straightforward process of overthrowing a dictatorship and
replacing it with a liberal leaning and secular democracy under the benign
tutelage of the US has instead turned into an existential battle for identity,
power and legitimacy that is affecting not only Iraq but the entire tottering
state system in the Middle East."
Did you ever think that overthrowing Saddam Hussein was going to be like a
straightforward, easy process?
Mr. ALI ALLAWI: Not really. I mean, if you go back to the 1990s when we
were all active in the opposition, and as the buildup to the war took place,
we thought it was really quite a straightforward military issue, where the
regime would be overthrown in a matter of weeks. And then it was a question
of undoing the dictatorship over the last three decades. We never thought
that the age-old issues that were hidden under the surface in Iraq would erupt
in such a way and that we would be given a kind of interval to put the new
order into place. But this was not to be, obviously.
GROSS: Do you want the US troops to leave?
Mr. ALLAWI: Yes. I mean, I do want them to leave and I've gone on record
before as saying that they should leave, but I think they should leave not
just under the domestic pressures of the United States, of domestic US
politics, but they should leave only after a reasonably stable and orderly
system is retained in Iraq and the Middle East as a whole. And I think that
requires a shift in US emphasis from just securing the landscape in Iraq, as
it were, to one where they proactively work towards a future for Iraq that is
in equilibrium, and it's inside the country as well as with the regional
GROSS: What would the consequences be if the United States started to
withdraw now or very soon, before the kind of stable political government that
you want to see is in place?
Mr. ALLAWI: Well, I think what'll happen is that the security institutions
of the government, namely the army and the police and intelligence services,
will basically fall under the sway of whoever is responsible for the
government right now. They'll be factionalized. But the main issue is not
whether we have a stable political order; this will not happen for a long
time. The main issue is whether we have enough central government security
forces that are able to withstand low level assaults or even higher level
assaults from insurgents and from terrorists. I don't think we are very far
from that. And when I way that, I mean maybe six to nine months, we'll have
enough divisions--perhaps five or six well trained divisions--we have a
reasonably good police force. There's a big question mark about the
intelligence apparatus because it is still not loyal to the Iraqi government.
It is, in fact, managed and operated as an extension of the American
intelligence apparatus. This has to change.
So sometime around the summer or maybe the autumn of this year, I think we
should be in that position. So if the United States gives a date
certain--say, December 31st, 2008, I think that could not be too far off.
This is what I would, in fact, vote for.
GROSS: Do you think that there's likely to be a civil war between Sunni, Shia
and Kurds when the United States withdraws?
Mr. ALLAWI: No, definitely not. I think what you call a civil war has
already taken place, and, frankly, one side has won. What we have now is a
situation where it is highly improbable that the Shia majority would allow
itself to be marginalized again. Now, whether they take this as a signal to
build a sectarian state is another matter. I hope not. What has happened now
is the balance of power inside Iraq has shifted, in my mind, permanently--if
you look at Iraq in sectarian terms. What we must do now is to build a
nonsectarian basis of politics, which is another set of issues and challenges
where the United States cannot play, I think, a large contributing part.
GROSS: Now, how do you see your future? You were active in the government as
a minister and an adviser after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. We're
speaking to you now from London. You're teaching now at Oxford University.
Do you plan on becoming an active member of the government again? Do you plan
on going back to Iraq? Like, what's--project for us how you see your future
in the changing Iraq.
Mr. ALLAWI: I mean, I see my future in Iraq, obviously, I mean, I was there
only a few weeks ago, and I intend to spend far more time there. The main
issue to me personally is security, in the sense that I have to have enough
comfort that I would not be personally attacked or shot. I mean, I've already
been a target of two serious assassination attempts so I have to be careful
about these things. But once this is sorted out--and I hope it will be this
year--then I see my personal future back in Iraq.
GROSS: So there have been two assassination attempts against you that you
know of, so you don't think it's safe enough for you to go back and be a
member of government, and that, I guess, is an example of part of the problem
in developing a real political process in Iraq. If it's not safe to be in
government, what kind of government can you have?
Mr. ALLAWI: Well, that's an issue. But I think it's more safe now than it
was before. I mean, I was in Baghdad, as I said, about three or four weeks
ago, and I could only get around with about 15 people as bodyguards. Now, I
hope that the average number would not be 15, it would be, say, five. At that
point, I think, it would allow us to freely travel around the country.
GROSS: Ali Allawi, thank you very much for talking with us.
Mr. ALLAWI: Thank you very much, Terry.
GROSS: Ali Allawi service in the interim Iraq governing council and the Iraq
transitional government. He teaches at Oxford University.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Interview: Retired British army General Sir Michael Rose talks
about Iraq and withdrawal from Iraq
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
Today and tomorrow we're asking the question, when and how should we get out
of Iraq. Our next guest, General Sir Michael Rose, is a retired British army
general. In a 2006 commentary in a British newspaper The Guardian he called
for the impeachment of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair for leading England to
war under false pretenses. Rose commanded the UN protection force in Bosnia
in 1994, and then became adjutant general of the British army. He's written a
book about the Revolutionary War and lessons that can be applied to the war in
Iraq. It's called "Washington's War" and will be published in the US in
General Sir Michael Rose, welcome to FRESH AIR. Let me start by asking you,
where did you stand on the invasion of Iraq?
General Sir MICHAEL ROSE: Well from the outset, of course, I'd been following
the events developing in the Middle East quite closely, and I'd also been
reading a lot of the intelligence material that was being published in the
United Kingdom, in particular the famous Blair dossier which was published in
September of '02. I was persuaded from the outset that any invasion of Iraq
would be based on a false premise and would result in a catastrophe really for
the people of Iraq and for the Western powers, who, of course, his first
priority is fighting global terror. And by invading Iraq, of course, we were
going to make it almost impossible for the West to be able to mobilize the
very people we need to help us fight al-Qaeda, and that are the Muslim people
of the world.
GROSS: Now, in June you said, "There's no way we're going to win the war and
we should withdraw and accept defeat because we're going to lose on a more
important level if we don't." Would you explain what you meant there?
Gen. Sir ROSE: Well, what I meant was that, by continuing with this costly,
unnecessary and probably unwinnable war, we would be alienating the very
people of the world, the Muslim people of the world, we would be continuing to
alienate them and make them hostile parties at a time when we needed their
help to fight the very real threat from al-Qaeda. And our position in the
Muslim world, the Western countries' position, has been greatly damaged by the
invasion of Iraq.
Now, the arguments that are arrayed against that are that, of course, by
pulling out of Iraq we would be allowing the insurgents and terrorists to win.
And I just do not believe that to be the case because of course what you would
be doing, it would be handing over responsibility for security to the Iraqi
forces and the Iraqi government completely, and they would therefore be in the
forefront of the war against terrorism alongside the Western countries. And,
of course, they know far better how to fight the war than we do.
GROSS: Now, this week Iraq's defense minister said that Iraq wouldn't be able
to take full responsibility for its internal security until the year 2012 and
wouldn't be able to defend its borders from outside threats until 2018. So
how does the United States take that into account?
Gen. Sir ROSE: I don't think we've been doing it very effectively even
whilst we've been there. And I certainly don't think what he says is
necessarily true. He has a strong vested interest in retaining the money and
the support that he's currently getting from the American presence. I don't
think that we should disconnect from supporting the Iraqi armed forces and,
indeed, I think that the continuing program of army and equipping and training
them would probably go on. But I do not believe that we should remain on the
ground in Iraq as an army of occupation.
GROSS: So when do you think we should get out? Should there be a timetable
or should we be setting a date? And if so, what should that date be?
Gen. Sir ROSE: I think we should certainly give some kind of time frame for
withdrawal. That would place the responsibility for their own security on the
Iraqis in a way that possibly they're trying to put off at the moment because
they have a vested interest in the continuing presence, certainly the presence
administration there of the American armed forces. The fact that there's been
such a rapid improvement in the security situation has not necessarily come
about because of the additional 20,000 troops, the so-called surge that took
place last year. It's mainly come about because General David Petraeus, of
whom I have an enormous respect and of course who understands more about
insurgency rules than I do, I think he's accepted that America needs to bring
on side the Sunni insurgents. Of course, the Sunni tribes are not endemically
anti-West or anti-American. Indeed, for many years they were our strongest
allies in the West. But by disempowering them we alienated them and forced
them into an insurgency. And by bringing them on side now, albeit we will be
abandoning our democratic dream, I think we are making Iraq ultimately a more
safe and secure place.
GROSS: You're referring to the fact that General Petraeus' strategy is, in
part, to pay Sunni militia leaders and Sunni sheiks and try to get them to
stop the insurgency and team up with us in fighting al-Qaeda. Do you--go
Gen. Sir ROSE: I think General Petraeus' strategy of bringing the Sunni on
side is an essential one and one that should have been taken a long time ago.
GROSS: But when we pull out and we stop paying the Sunni militia leaders,
might they take up arms again in something like a civil war?
Gen. Sir ROSE: I think a civil war is likely. I think there is going to be
some great convulsion in that country at the very least because the Sunni will
certainly use their training and their equipment and their army to try and
regain power in that country. And, of course, the Shia will try and stop that
GROSS: So is there anything that the United States should be doing before it
withdraws or as it withdraws or after it withdraws to try to prevent that from
Gen. Sir ROSE: Well, the Sunni would say that that is the very thing that
America's policy, that America wishes to happen. America, I think, would be
more comfortable with a Sunni, albeit a nondemocratic, government in Iraq,
than having a Shia government there which of course always, one suspects, may
have the hand of Iran controlling it.
GROSS: Now, the Brits withdrew from Basra last summer, and you wrote, "The
British government, having declared that the Iraqis were now capable of good
governance and could look after their own security, withdrew their troops from
Basra and concentrated their remaining forces into a single base at the
airport. This was done regardless of the true qualities on the ground." Are
you saying that the British declared success even though they hadn't really
achieved it and then they pulled out?
Gen. Sir ROSE: Well, of course, that's exactly what we did. We'd been
making very little impact right from the start, I mean, other than having got
rid of Saddam Hussein's Baathists in the south. We made very little impact on
the three main pillars of good governance, security or reconstruction. We
were too few in number and our resources, in financial terms, were far too
small. And so we were merely there, in a way, as a form of camouflage for the
American presence to the north. We were never able to control the behavior of
the police in Basra, or indeed how the administration was functioning. And,
of course, corruption is one of the greatest threats to the stability of Iraq.
And that's certainly true in the south. And I don't think we ever were able
to solve that. So we did what was necessary, declared victory, and we have
GROSS: So what have the consequences been in Basra? What did the British
Gen. Sir ROSE: We left behind a more stable form of rule in which the Iraqis
are running their own affairs in their own way. I mean, the policemen who we
for five years have taken to our training colleges in the United Kingdom,
merely returned back to Iraq and, in many cases, continued with their
traditional ways of getting convictions, which of course was arrest, torture,
confession, conviction. Nothing has changed.
Also, the women's rights are not being properly respected. And the two
competing militias are still fighting for power in the south. There was
nothing we could have done about it given the lack of numbers that we
GROSS: What are the lessons, if any, there for the United States?
Gen. Sir ROSE: Well, I think the lessons for the United States come not from
necessarily the war in Iraq today but from the American war of independence.
When Britain, the global superpower, which suffered the similar arrogance and
hubris of a superpower that American administration had when it invaded Iraq,
accepted, finally, defeat. The administration was thrown out at the time, the
administration of Lord North and Germain and George III. And farsighted
people who had the moral courage to accept defeat and see through the
consequences of defeat were able to recover Britain's position in the end of
the 18th century and allow us to prepare for a much greater threat, which of
course was from France.
And within 25 years of withdrawing from North America and giving the Americans
responsibility for their own future, we were taking on the greatest military
genius the world had ever seen, Napoleon. And we would not have been able to
do that had we not halted that unnecessary and, as I say, costly and
unwinnable war in 1785. And at that point we immediately started to lay down
the keels of new ships and rebuild our armies so we could take on a greater
threat. And indeed we went on to build our great empire.
And neither America nor Great Britain would have become the two forces for
good in the world that we became in the 19th century and, indeed, in the 20th
century had we not had the moral courage to accept defeat in 1785.
GROSS: Is the analogy there that you think the United States should be
preparing to fight a bigger enemy, i.e. al-Qaeda?
Gen. Sir ROSE: That is absolutely so. And our continuing presence in Iraq
is making it very difficult for us to win friends amongst the Muslim people of
the world, the very people we need to mobilize on our side if we're ever going
to make proper progress against al-Qaeda, transnationally. Now, of course,
within Iraq and particularly in the Sunni triangle, al-Qaeda have been
virtually eliminated. Why they've been eliminated, because the very people
who brought them into Iraq and employed them, the Sunni--and of course they
only did that to help them fight the army of occupation--have now changed
sides and joined forces with the Americans and of course are leading them to
their old former allies and were able to destroy them.
GROSS: But what kind of security and order and human rights do we owe Iraq
before pulling out after the chaos that we created?
Gen. Sir ROSE: Well, of course, we can't just walk away and leave the Iraqis
completely to their own affairs. They will--not only because we invaded their
country and allowed situations of chaos, disorder and killing to happen in
that country--I mean, we must remember there are some two million people,
mainly middle class professionals have fled from that country and there have
been another two million displaced within that country, leaving aside all the
damage and killing that have happened in that country. And of course they
will need enormous help to try and rebuild themselves in the future.
But one shouldn't underestimate the ingenuity and the technical ability and
the sophistication of the Iraqi people. The presence of the foreign occupy
has torn them apart in a way they've not been torn apart before. And I think
that our departure will make it easier for them to work together, shoulder to
shoulder, albeit with a bit of help from outside, to rebuild and reconstruct
their country not as a model of Western liberal style democracy, but as a
country that is stable, functioning, moderate and an ally of the West.
GROSS: You're a general who has opposed the war in Iraq knowing that, you
know, your men were there fighting it, and people from your regiment are now
in Afghanistan. So what is it like for you to believe that the fighting isn't
going to achieve the political goals and yet really have your heart with the
men who are fighting?
Gen. Sir ROSE: Well, of course, everything I say has come about as a result
of either visits on the some ground in Iraq or else talking to young soldiers
and their officers about the realities. And of course they cannot speak out.
And I believe it is a moral responsibility for retired military who can
understand the difficulties that they're up against, although the politicians
apparently can't speak out for them in the political field, and that's exactly
what I've been doing for the past seven or eight years. I applaud the
professionalism and the heroism and the determination of the young men and
women both in America and from my own country fighting in the front line. But
unless they're the right political platform, and there is a sense of realism
about the resources and the strategies that are being employed, then of course
they're unnecessarily wasting life. And that one cannot live with.
GROSS: Well, General Sir Michael Rose, I want to thank you very much for
talking with us.
Gen. Sir ROSE: Thank you.
GROSS: General Sir Michael Rose's book "Washington's War" will be published
in the US in April.
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Interview: Kanan Makiya talks about troop withdrawal from Iraq
TERRY GROSS, host:
Today and tomorrow we're asking when and how do we get out of Iraq. My next
guest, Kanan Makiya, was one of the Iraqi exiles who advocated the US invasion
of Iraq. In 1992 he convened the Human Rights Committee for the Iraqi
National Congress, the transitional parliament based in northern Iraq. Under
the pseudonym, Samir al-Khalil, he wrote "The Republic of Fear: The Politics
of Iraq," which became a best seller after Iraq invaded Kuwait. Makiya is now
a professor at Brandeis University and is the founder of the Iraq Memory
Foundation which is preserving the record of Saddam Hussein's crimes against
the Iraqi people.
Kanan Makiya, welcome to FRESH AIR. Just start by telling us where you stood
on the invasion of Iraq.
Mr. KANAN MAKIYA: I supported the war on the basis of the nature of the
necessity to remove this particular odious regime. That was my point of
departure, in being for the war.
GROSS: Did it go the way you thought it would?
Mr. MAKIYA: No, it didn't.
GROSS: Do you think the US should pull out now? And if not now, when?
Mr. MAKIYA: I think pulling out now would have very enormous consequences on
Iraq, to begin with, but also on the whole Middle East. Iraq is not likely to
hold together with a precipitant and fast withdrawal because while there have
been very significant gains on the military front with the surge, these have
not transferred as yet into political gains. The political class that has
emerged out of the 2003 war is in many ways a disappointment. And it has not
yet been able to bring about the consensus amongst many different parties in
Iraq. It has not been able to build the coalitions and to create the
discourse of a single national country with a purpose heading towards
reconstruction and development and so on. It significantly failed on all
these fronts and tends to behave in a very sectarian way.
So in those kinds of circumstances, while it is true there have been very
significant military gains, withdrawal would simply lead to a rollback of
those military successes because we need to solidify them with political
GROSS: So what kind of political gains are you looking for? Like, what would
be the right time? What would the benchmarks be?
Mr. MAKIYA: I'm looking for a change in the way the government functions.
At the moment the Iraqi government is beholding to the constituent parts that
won victory in the 2005 elections. So, for instance, ministers are parceled
out according to different factions. Muqtada al-Sadr gets X number of
ministers and X number of portfolios. The Supreme Council for Islamic
Revolution gets another. The Kurds get more portfolios. That means that
government is formed not on the basis of people who are best at what they do,
are the professionals and technicians and technocrats, but rather based upon
shifting alliances within the dominant block, the Shiite block. That system
results in paralysis at the governmental level.
We have seen it over and over again, and no prime minister of three or so who
have been in office since the change in sovereignty has been able to overcome
the inefficiencies it causes. It results in a prime minister who's unable to
act and unable to have his authority actually carried out. So that's probably
the biggest obstacle.
The other is a way of looking at politics, which is one in which a discourse
is created that is really Iraqi rather than sectarian. At the moment we have
people who see themselves as victims of the former regime and who are actively
competing with one another as victims. Very few of the leading personalities
and very few people inside this political class created by 2003 have yet been
able to develop what you might call a new Iraqi program, a program that looks
to the construction of a new national identity post the Saddam era.
GROSS: Well, if American troops stay in Iraq until Iraq solves its sectarian
and political problems, that sounds like it might be a really long stay.
Mr. MAKIYA: Well, I'm not saying, you know--and I think we should stay in
Iraq until all these problems are solved. That is really--there are two
issues here, two separate issues. And I do want to put you in a very dilemma
that what is in American best interest may not very well be what is in Iraqi
best interests. It's a sad and difficult thing for me to say, but it is
nonetheless true. It may very well be that, from a purely American sort of
self-interest point of view, it might be better to withdraw, you know, sooner
after certain steps are taken. But I'm just telling you the consequences on
Iraq of such a withdrawal are the ones I think that I've spelled out.
From an Iraqi point of view, it's an unmitigated disaster for the United
States to withdraw quickly. And once--and if that is true, it's true it's a
disaster for the region, not only for Iraq.
GROSS: Do you think if the United States stays in Iraq longer it will be seen
as a commitment to Iraq or as a commitment to occupation? I mean, don't a lot
of people really hate the United States for its continued presence in their
part of the world?
Mr. MAKIYA: I don't really buy that, Terry, and I never did and I still
don't think it's true. The errors and mistakes did lead large numbers of
people say, `My God, I had no idea they were so incompetent. I mean, I can't
believe this.' Some people say they're better off not having been there in the
first place. But when push comes to shove--take for instance the Sunni
community in Iraq today, it's today, of all people--it was the biggest
community behind the insurgency--least wants the United States to withdraw
because it now is turning increasingly to the United States as a protector, as
a guarantor of its rights inside Iraq until the political situation
So things are never quite what they seem. True, there was an occupation, but
the occupation is now in the past also. The United States is no longer
determining everything about Iraqi affairs. It's playing an important role in
the security arena, but it does not decide legislation, constitutional issues
and so on and so forth. Iraqis do that.
GROSS: Kanan Makiya, than you so much for talking with us.
Mr. MAKIYA: Thank you, Terry.
GROSS: Kanan Makiya is a professor at Brandeis University and founder of the
Iraq Memory Foundation.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Interview: Peter Galbraith talks about troop withdrawal from Iraq
TERRY GROSS, host:
Today and tomorrow we're asking the question, when and how do we get out of
Iraq. Our next guest, Peter Galbraith, is the senior diplomatic fellow at the
Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation and was the first US ambassador
to Croatia. From 1979 to '93 he was the Iraq expert for the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee. He worked closely with the Kurds and documented Saddam
Hussein's campaign against them. He's the author of the book "The End of
Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End." His next book
about Iraq, "Unintended Consequences," will be published in June.
Peter Galbraith, welcome back to FRESH AIR. Where did you stand on the
invasion of Iraq?
Mr. PETER GALBRAITH: I went along with the invasion in spite of some
reservations because I believed that the Saddam Hussein regime was a genocidal
regime and that its removal would be a good thing for the people of Iraq. And
I was wrong. And I should have seen the incompetence, the lack of planning
for what happened after we took Baghdad because I was talking to people in the
Pentagon, and I saw the lack of preparation and I wish I had spoken out about
GROSS: You wrote a book titled "The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence
Created a War Without End," and you've said, "We have an approach that will
condemn us to an endless war because we have not bothered to learn a lot about
what the country is like." Do you still think we're condemned to an endless
Mr. GALBRAITH: If our goal is to try to build a unified, democratic and
stable Iraq, we're going to be there forever because the country has, in fact,
broken apart. It has a civil war between its Sunnis and Shiites. And we have
no strategy to resolve any of that.
GROSS: So is your solution, if you were asked one, to just keep staying until
we can work out a unified, stable Iraq, or to get out because you think we'll
never accomplish the goal of the unified Iraq?
Mr. GALBRAITH: We won't accomplish the goal of the unified Iraq. I don't
even think the goal is a desirable one. Why should we, the Americans, hold
together a country where a substantial part of the population of that country
doesn't want to be part of the country? My view is that we should get out of
the business of nation building in Iraq, accept that Kurdistan in the north is
going to continue to be a de facto independent country and probably someday
will become fully independent, a member of the United Nations. We might
encourage the Sunnis and Shiites, both of whom think of themselves as Iraqi
but have diametrically opposed views of what that means, to try to work out
some arrangement, some power sharing arrangement where each administers its
own part of the country. But if they can't, I don't think that we should stay
GROSS: Now, I know you had been proposing in the past that Iraq be divided
into three separate entities, one for the Kurds, one for the Sunni and one for
the Shia. And I'm wondering if you still think that that's the way to go?
Mr. GALBRAITH: First, I think the United States should not be in the
business of partitioning Iraq and it should not be in the business of trying
to put Iraq back together again. Second, Kurdistan already exists as its own
region, with its own flag, its own army, with no presence of the central
government. That ought to remain. The question is whether the Sunni or the
Shiites will form their own regions, more or less like Kurdistan. There's a
process in the Iraqi constitution that would allow each of these communities
to decide if they want to do that or not. But that is their decision, first,
as to whether they follow the constitutional procedure and second whether they
actually do that.
But regardless of what they do, the US approach ought to be focused on what
mission we can accomplish; and where there is no mission to accomplish, and
that's true for much of Iraq, we ought to get out.
GROSS: So when do you think we should get out?
Mr. GALBRAITH: Basically, I think our presence ought to be related to the
mission that we can accomplish. And I think we cannot think of Iraq as a
single country; and so that if we're going to analyze it, we need to look at
it region by region. In the Shiite southern half of the country, there is no
mission that we can accomplish. We are not going to make that area democratic
because it would involve replacing the Shiite governorate councils and ruling
clergy and militias that effectively run the place. And that would involve a
whole 'nother war, would pit us against the Shiite population, and the Bush
administration has no intention of doing that. That being the case, I would
get out of southern Iraq immediately.
Now, in the case of the Sunni area, the center of the country, the one mission
that has been very important to us is been to disrupt al-Qaeda. We have, in
the last year, fallen upon a strategy that has dealt a severe blow to
al-Qaeda. And that strategy involved creating a Sunni militia, called the
Awakening Councils, paying for them. And they in turn have fought al-Qaeda
and dealt it a major blow. As long as those councils are able to do that I
would be withdrawing from the Sunni areas, maybe keep a small presence to
coordinate with them, but basically be getting out of there.
GROSS: Peter Galbraith, thank you very much for talking with us.
Mr. GALBRAITH: Well, really great talking with you again, Terry.
GROSS: Peter Galbraith is senior diplomatic fellow at the Center for Arms
Control and Nonproliferation. He's the author of the "End of Iraq" and a
forthcoming book about Iraq titled "Unintended Consequences."
Our series on when to get out of Iraq continues tomorrow.
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
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