Column: It’s not our fight

By Matt Simmons

The war in Iraq has been very costly, taking the lives of an estimated 27,000 Iraqi civilians and 2,100 American troops. American taxpayers have paid more than $224 billion for the invasion and subsequent nation building. Despite these huge sacrifices endured by the nation, many government leaders, including liberals such as Sen. Hilary Clinton, D-N.Y., claim that if we pull our troops out now the Iraqi security forces will not be able defeat the insurgency. Their logic begs the question: when, exactly, will the Iraqi government be able to control and end the insurgency?

According to a Dec. 3 report by The Associated Press, Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s office recently issued a 59-page report stating that the Iraqi security forces still have a long way to go. The report also claimed that the security forces need more men, stronger leadership, better training and more sophisticated weapons before they will be able to successfully battle the insurgents. In light of this information, it would be unwise to call for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. Immediately pulling out would jeopardize the security of Iraq and its democratic future.

Still, it is amazing to me that we have been fighting their war for two years and invested billions of dollars in the country, yet the Iraqi forces are still not ready to take over. Could it be that the Iraqis have no reason to step up their efforts as long as our military is there? Maybe American leaders should think about giving them an incentive to accelerate their military’s development.

The biggest obstacle against the development of the Iraqi security force has been the lack of incentive. If we stay the course without pushing the Iraqi government to take more responsibility in defending themselves, it will continue to freeload off the efforts of our military and neglect the need for a capable armed forces. Iraqi leaders should be given a timetable explaining a gradual withdrawal of American troops. By doing so, the Iraqis will know when we will be removing our troops, which will give them the incentive to prepare their troops to replace the exiting American forces.

If any more progress is to be made in Iraq, Iraqi security forces should be the people leading the charge. Our military has accomplished its mission of toppling Saddam Hussein and setting up the foundations for a democratic state. Our men and women should not be forced to do police work that Iraqis should be doing.

On top of that, the Iraqi people will appreciate their democracy a lot more if they know that young Iraqis that died to build and protect it. One of the reasons why our democracy is so strong is because Americans appreciate the sacrifices our forefathers made to secure freedom for us today. It appears that the Iraqi people are willing to take charge, with recent polls indicating that up to 80 percent of Iraqis want our forces out of the country.

The fact is that Iraqi forces could battle this insurgency better than we can. Some of the insurgents are only fighting simply because of the American presence in Iraq. My guess is that some of the insurgents would stop fighting if American troops were not leading the campaign because they would lose support. There is a good chance that Iraqi citizens would be more likely to cooperate with an Iraqi led force than an American led one.

The number one priority for both American leaders and Iraqi leaders should be to improve the capacity of the Iraqi security forces. The U.S. has provided them with ample funding to establish a military strong enough to defeat this insurgency. But as long as we are there as a permanent crutch, the Iraqis will not allocate their scarce funds to develop their military. If a plan for phased troop withdrawal is not the answer, Iraq still needs some incentive to develop its military as quickly as possible. Our military has completed its mission. Now it is time for the Iraqis to take responsibility and fight their own battle.

Matt Simmons is a senior in LAS. His column appears every Thursday. He can be reached at [email protected]