- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2003

A friend of mine, a marketing consultant, is planning a symposium for some Fortune 500 clients. His title is "strategic vision, practical realities." The thesis is that something inevitably gets lost in the best plans of a business organization, not because the plan is bad, but because the execution is flawed.
As there is some element of marketing in statecraft, the concept is readily applied to the reconstruction of Iraq. Everyone of good will has a vision of a sovereign and democratic Iraq governed by Iraqis in accordance with the rule of law. Everyone of good will wants to see a state, which does not threaten its neighbors, where security is preserved, and human rights are guaranteed. The issue is how best to get there.
The approach is quite simple: Keep the Iraqis in, the U.N. down and the French and Russians out. In short, there is no reason we and our coalition allies cannot do it ourselves.
The need for an Iraqi involvement in post-conflict policy is self-evident. The war was fought as a war of liberation, not a war for oil or for imperialist goals. We stated this to be our objective, and this is a commitment we must fulfill to the Iraqi people and the international community. Morally, only the Iraqis can decide on their form of government, their constitution and their leadership. To do this, however, they will need our help; and we must give it.
The non-involvement of the U.N. is also indicated. Remember, this is what got us in trouble the last time around. The U.N. comes with bad references and brings nothing to the table. It proved itself to be a remarkably weak and ineffectual peacekeeping force in the Balkans, and there is no reason to believe it would be any better in Iraq. An effective peacekeeper fires back when fired upon, and there is every reason to believe Iraq will remain a dangerous neighborhood for some time to come. The U.N. just lacks the unity, self-confidence and capacity to do the job and do it right.
The greatest problem with the U.N. as peacekeeper, however, is the influence of the Russians and the French within the world organization. Both nations are enmeshed in inextricable conflict of interest, and ethics should count for something in this world. Iraqi debt owed to Russia and France is estimated at $100 billion, mostly arising out of arms sales to the Saddam regime. If the U.N. is to decide how oil revenues, for example, are to be deployed, there is the potential such funds will be used to retire French and Russian regime debt instead of being used as President Bush pledged "for the benefit of the Iraqi people."
Involvement of the French and Russians in any guise would be most unfortunate. Both states double-crossed us at the U.N. on the implementation of Resolution 1441, and their duplicity should be remembered and not rewarded. In an amazing switcheroo, both ironically have opposed the permanent lifting of sanctions until it is proven beyond peradventure that all weapons of mass destruction have been accounted for and destroyed. And both have pressed strongly for U.N. control over Iraqi oil revenues. Nice try. As Danton exhorted his countrymen in 1792, "De l'audace, encore de l'audace, toujours de l'audace."
It is entirely feasible for a U.S.-coalition-led system to reconstruct Iraq, achieve all security objectives, put the country on the desired trajectory to self-governance and fulfill the economic objectives, as well.
The first phase has already begun under the leadership of retired Gen. Jay Garner, who will report to Gen. Tommy Franks and the Central Command. Ideally, within two to three months Gen. Garner, working with Iraqi groups, can impose law and order, restore the damaged infrastructure, notably power, water, transportation and communications, and revive oil-for-food distribution. Humanitarian, security and economic goals may be achieved with the help of NGOs in the area, as well as support from other nations. There is also the problem of arresting major Ba'ath Party leaders. This has already begun. As for safeguarding energy production centers and clarifying oil arrangements, such issues will be resolved by the American military in conjunction with private sector players. Meanwhile, we build confidence.
Weapons of mass destruction? Remember them? The latest reports are that Saddam destroyed chemical and biological warfare equipment only days before the war began. Nevertheless, the weapons hunt continues under the direction of several military teams working for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.
Obvious coalition tasks for the next phase, which may take as long as two years, will include the organization of a government that features regional autonomy combined with proportional representation and true power-sharing, de-Saddamization of political and military leaders, retraining of a new military and police force, restoration of oil production to pre-1990 levels, and restructuring of foreign debt with the French and Russians taking a huge haircut. This must be so, to paraphrase the observation of Professor Bernard Lewis because they refused to be on the guest list, they should understand that they are now on the menu.
Then, there is the final stage with transition to a sovereign democratic Iraq ready to take its place in the council of nations, hopefully with a new constitution, and a free-market economy sustained in part by oil revenues, which is a stable partner in the search for peace in the Middle East. None of this will be easy; but, if we heed the practical realities, the strategic vision should be eminently achievable without the U.N.

James D. Zirin is a partner in the New York office of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood LLP. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

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