- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 11, 2002

On Tuesday, it was reported that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans to hold hearings later this summer to question senior administration officials on their Iraq policy. Sen. Joseph Biden, the committee chairman, stated that he wanted to know the scenarios that are being considered and whether our allies are being considered during the planning phase.

While one can argue whether the president owes the committee such a report, Mr. Biden is correct in his premise that it is time for the United States to declare its objectives. Announcing our intent to take military action, while both focused and correct, is not, nor can it be, the desired end state of American strategy. The German war theorist Carl von Clausewitz, in his military classic "On War," states that when preparing for war, political leaders should never take the first step until they know their last. This rings especially true for Iraq.

The time to declare a desired end state for Iraq is now, before we consider how best to use the military tool to fashion and consolidate what is essentially a political outcome. In considering the above, history teaches us that the United States seldom has a comprehensive plan that spans the continuum from war termination through a civilian-military transition phase and into a well defined end state.

In the Gulf War, for example, the U.S.-led coalition conducted a superb military campaign that led to the defeat of a numerically robust foe. In less than 100 hours, coalition forces succeeded in meeting their military objectives, foremost of which was the expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Upon completion of the ground operation, however, a peace settlement was negotiated that resulted in a postwar environment that left much to be desired. Likewise, in Afghanistan, civilian and military authorities believed that America's hard-earned military success could be consolidated in the postwar phase by the United Nations and assembled coalition allies.

The problem? The U.N. and our allies are not the best means of ensuring that America's national interests are met. By chartering Afghanistan's postwar future by way of the December 2001 Bonn Agreement, the U.N. created a situation not unlike the Dayton Accords of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in which the ends (synergistic political-military efforts leading to the creation of a stable government) could not be achieved by the means. The lesson here is Clauswitzian: We should have determined what we wanted a postwar Afghanistan to look like prior to dropping our first bomb.

Some would argue that by stating our desired political end state, we offer the enemy an advantage. On the contrary, offering the Iraqi people a vision for life after Saddam will only help us. If our declared end state includes economic assistance (to include supporting infrastructure development, privatization, and agricultural development), social advancement (in terms of media reform, citizenship and social programs), and a culturally sensitive approach to good governance and the rule of law, we will give the oppressed people of Iraq a strong reason to capitulate.

Additionally, announcing a desired end state goes farther than providing a vision worth surrendering for: It provides our allies with a reason to join us or at least not to oppose us. In the case of our staunch ally Turkey, announcing our political end game could enable her to match her national security interests to strategic alternatives concerning the Kurds. For our Arab allies, our clearly articulated vision of post-hostilities will help allay fears that the United States is attempting to plant a U.S. flag in Baghdad.

Lastly, when one reads the current mix of offered opinions, one comes to the conclusion that the desired end state for Iraq is to defeat her military and pave the way "for an Iraqi general with a following" who will establish a benign and enlightened post-Saddam regime. This, however, does not qualify as a plan. A better alternative is to map out a multiyear road map that lays out a comprehensive and synergistic plan one that encompasses a complete regime change and allows the creation of stable political and financial institutions, world economic integration, judicial reforms and basic human rights. This road map would assign responsibilities to U.N. and U.S. agencies, establish measures of effectiveness and list the conditions to be achieved before moving on to another task or phase.

We must not take the first step until we know the last.

Roger D. Carstens is an Army Special Forces officer at Fort Bragg, N.C., and a member of the Council for Emerging National Security Affairs (CENSA). The views expressed in this article are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the Army or other U.S. governmental entities.

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