Council on Foreign Relations
JUDY WOODRUFF: I’ll make an arbitrary decision and say we’re going to start. I’m Judy Woodruff. Welcome to what is the fourth in a series of programs sponsored by the council under the heading “Iraq: The Way Forward."
And before we go any further, I want to ask you — I’m told I need to remind all of you that you are to turn off your cell phones, your BlackBerries, and so forth and remind you, of course, that the meeting, as usual, is on the record.
We are going to end promptly at 1:30. And we ask that as a courtesy to our speaker — and you wouldn’t do this anyway, of course — that you not leave the meeting early.
All right. This is “Iraq: The Way Forward,” the fourth in a series. Today the focus is, among other things, lessons learned from the third wave of democratization. And we do have an ideal visitor to speak to this subject. He is professor Larry Diamond. He’s a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He’s a professor of political science and sociology at Stanford University. He has been the editor of The Journal of Democracy since its founding in 1990. And from January to April of 2004 at the personal request of the then national security adviser to the president, Condoleezza Rice, Larry Diamond served as a senior adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. From that experience and from his own observations and research, he wrote the book “Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq.” The book came out earlier this year — it came out in June.
And Larry Diamond, we don’t have time today to go into all of your conclusions, which are really extraordinarily well-documented, but among other things, you write that the cardinal sin of the Bush administration was not so much the decision to go to war, but to go to war so unprepared for the post war. And I’m quoting now, “despite all the detailed warnings to which the administration had access.” You write that to your mind, “this was negligence on a monumental scale;” what is called in the law, you wrote, “gross negligence or criminal negligence.”
That being the case, my first question to you is briefly tell us why did you agree to help the administration out with the political transition?
LARRY DIAMOND: Well, because I was looking forward. I was looking forward then and, despite what you said, the title of my book and so on, I’m looking forward now.
And in this sense, my view of the situation in Iraq and its implications for our national security has changed remarkably little in the two years — and it’s almost exactly two years — since I got that call from my former colleague, Condoleezza Rice.
I felt, even though I had opposed going, to war that Iraq had become what I felt at the time and still feel it was not in advance of the war and that is in interest of immediate and profound importance to our national security and hat if we failed to stabilize post-war Iraq, it would become what it was not before the war, and that is a black hole of instability that would engulf the region, a haven for al Qaeda and the worst terrorist elements and a breeding ground for a lot of terrible things throughout the region.
Moreover, I felt then — and actually still feel now, though with considerably less confidence and hope, but not without some hope — that something positive could be done there; that if you got the situation right from then on, it would be possible to build if not a democracy — and I think we need to talk about what really is possible now politically in Iraq — at least a semi-democracy with some scope for civil society, some scope for political pluralism, some entrenchment of constitutional principles.
And if you look what existed in Iraq before then, that would still be very significant progress.
WOODRUFF: But again, and we don’t want to dwell on this because we are looking forward, but you went over there with that hope, but you came back four months later thinking —
DIAMOND: Well, I — you know, I did not go there thinking that we had squandered our victory and that the administration had been as grossly negligent as I came to conclude it had been.
It hit me while I was there when I saw what was happening — when every single military officer I talked to was complaining about the inadequacy of our force on the ground; when Iraqis were as exasperated as they were about our inability to restore order; when I saw how our efforts and ambitions — principled and idealistic ambitions — to build democracy, help Iraqis reconstruct a civil society, reconstruct the public infrastructure and economy of the country were being frustrated by the pervasive insurgency, which we didn’t have enough troops to contain — we didn’t, frankly, at the time have an adequate political strategy to contain — I think that’s begun to change — and had allowed to happen because of the mistakes we made in preparing for the war and in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Baghdad.
WOODRUFF: So given all that, why — what did you see? There was still something you saw in the constitutional process — the writing of that draft constitution — the TAL, the transitional administration law — there was something you saw during that process that even today gives you hope.
DIAMOND: Correct. Well, I think the transitional administrative law was in one sense a kind of triumph for liberalism in Iraq. And I think that owed a great deal to a small number of individuals, most of all Dr. Adnan Pachachi, whose — people have different views of him; people have different views in Washington of every political actor in Iraq. But there were a set of actors in Iraq who were strongly committed to liberal and constitutional principles and managed to forge a surprising degree of consensus.
Here, often with the, I’d say, useful and sometimes very effective intervention of Ambassador Bremer to bring this about — principles of rule of law, judicial supremacy, limited government and federalism.
I note in the book that I think Ambassador Bremer’s most significant achievement was getting all of the parties to the Iraqi political dispute to agree on a principle that Iraq would be unified, federal and democratic, with federalism at the time particularly incorporating the principle of autonomy for one particular region, Kurdistan, so that it could retain many, not quite all, but many of the powers and the essential, you know, protections that it had from 1991 to 2003.
And though — in fact, in some ways, the situation is more hopeful now than it was then because in April of 2003 when this — in March of 2004 when this document was adopted, the Sunnis had not bought onto this. They thought it was a betrayal of the national integrity to have an autonomous Kurdistan within the constitution.
This summer, when the debate over the permanent constitution was raging, Sunni delegates were objecting to a new and more radical degree of regional autonomy that would allow for a very powerful and aggregated Shi’ite region throughout the entire south, but had come pragmatically, after a year and a half, to accept the reality, and indeed the necessity, of Kurdistan autonomy.
So that is actually a hopeful development that very few people have paid attention to.
WOODRUFF: How do you assess — just picking up on that — how do you assess the constitutional process right now? What do you think the prospects are right now going into the vote in December?
DIAMOND: Well, the vote — in one sense, the constitution is resolved in that it’s been adopted in a formal sense. Now, there are two problems with that. One is that if you look at the constitution, a lot of the lines say, remains to be legislated — remains to be filled in. And the second thing, and much more troubling thing, is that there are elements in the newly adopted constitution that cannot stand, in my view, if Iraq is ever going to be stable.
And these have to do with the federal bargain that was struck in August between the Shi’ites and the Kurds, with the Sunnis utterly and totally excluded from that bargain. And it was precisely their exclusion from that bargain that led Ambassador Khalilzad bravely — I would say heroically — to try and rescue the situation with subsequent negotiations involving key Sunni leaders that led some of the Sunni political parties to say, okay, we can accept the constitution and endorse it in the October referendum with these guarantees.
And the guarantees were that key problems in the constitution that was adopted would be revisited and re-bargained in the new parliament that’s to be elected on December 15th.
But I would say what cannot stand as a provision that allows any number of provinces and therefore implicitly all nine Shi’ite southern provinces, to congeal into a region with powers more or less equivalent to Kurdistan. This will lead to a federation that will be remarkably similar to the three-region Nigerian federation that collapsed in 1966 and paved the way for descent into civil war. It’s just — it’s a formula for the polarization and disintegration of the country.
Moreover, the provision that is joined to that, that implicitly allows regions to control all of the revenue from future oil and gas fields that come into production — so you’ve got 80 percent of that revenue sitting in what could be a new Shi’ite super region, 20 percent that will sit under the control of a Kurdistan region that is very soon, I think, going to wind up incorporating the oil-rich fields of Kirkuk now on their border of Kurdistan, and the Sunnis will be left with nothing in terms of revenue flows from future oil and gas fields, which will be quite significant and everyone knows it.
So unless that is altered so that everybody shares fairly in the existing flows of revenue from the fields that we already know about, in new flows from fields to come into production, you’re not going to get the kind of consensual bargain that will lay the basis for peace in Iraq.
WOODRUFF: And what gives you confidence that those problems can be fixed?
DIAMOND: I think that is the single most difficult challenge in terms of the post-December politicking that Iraqis will have to face and that Ambassador Khalilzad, as one of the crucial mediators, will have to face in the commission that is appointed to revisit some of these constitutional questions.
But one of the things that gives me hope is that I think the political balance is going to change and possibly change quite dramatically after the December 15th elections.
The Shi’ite religious Islamist parties won about 50 percent of the seats in the January elections, but they did so as a result of a shrunken electorate in which the Sunnis were barely present — 5 percent of the electorate, while they’re perhaps 20 percent of the population.
Now they’re coming into the electoral process in a very vigorous way. I think they’ll vote in very, very substantial numbers. That’s a hopeful sign.
The electoral system has been changed, as I said in my book. We had proposed, when I was in the CPA, on the same model of proportional representation not in a single nationwide district, but based largely in the provinces. So every territorial group can know they have a minimum number of seats in parliament based on their share of the population.
This also gives the Sunnis confidence in case violence destabilizes their areas to the point where they can’t vote in such great numbers. They still have a minimum floor of seats. So they have much more hope in the political process.
The Shi’ite religious parties aggregated into the United Iraqi Alliance have not distinguished themselves in government in these last seven or eight months. There’s a lot of dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Ja’afari — his performance, his party’s performance, the coalition’s performance.
Ironically enough, former interim Prime Minister Iyad Alawi, now in the opposition, I think it may turn out to have been a very shrewd decision for him to have gone into opposition, because he’s now the outsider offering to come in and clean up a situation that lacks resolve and decisiveness and effectiveness.
Moreover, Alawi has drawn together an impressively broad coalition. It’s got Shi’a, it’s got Sunnis, it’s got secular people, it’s got people like Pachachi, who have been strongly identified with liberal norms. Alawi’s ticket may perform rather well.
The United Iraqi Alliance, which is fragmented — Achmed Chalabi has pulled out of it; there are deep divisions within it — will not do as well. In fact, I’d be surprised if it exceeds 40 percent of the vote.
And most of the rest of the people who are elected to parliament may very well combine into a political alliance that has a more secular orientation and that tilts toward more democratic and constitutional reforms.
WOODRUFF: Again, what — as you step back and you look at the whole picture, though, what has to happen, both from the standpoint of U.S. policy and any other outside — non-Iraqi, actors here for all this to happen?
DIAMOND: Well, we have to diffuse the insurgency by political as well as military means. This is what our senior military officers have been saying since the insurgency really got going. It’s one of the premier lessons you learn from any insurgency is that there’s no purely military solution, and, as well, that if you have an integrated and comprehensive political, economic and security approach there’s no magic bullet. You don’t solve this in a matter of months, which is why I don’t support Congressman Murtha’s proposal, but we can talk about that.
I think on the political side, what has needed to happen for a very long time is, number one, a very comprehensive, forward-looking, adept, multifaceted effort to bring the Sunnis into the political process.
I think the Bush administration actually has not gotten sufficient credit. And I know that Ambassador Khalilzad on the ground for the last several months there has not gotten sufficient credit for really, I think, very innovative and effective efforts to achieve this — to have even some of the hardest-line Sunni-Arab tribal, political, religious and nationalist elements competing in these elections, participating in the political process and approaching that inflection point in the the trajectory of our painful experience there, where if they do well in these elections, come into the government and see, in fact, what is the case, in my view — that they can get more for their communities and for their interests and defense of their bottom line from participation in peaceful politics than through violent treating with this insurgency, that actually, they may turn on the insurgency, turn on Zarqawi, turn on the foreign jihadists and send out the message that it’s time to stand down. That won’t end the insurgency, but I think it could generate, in the context of some other things we do, a visible significant diminution of the violence.
WOODRUFF: Are you saying the Bush administration is doing everything it could be doing?
DIAMOND: No. I think in this respect they have done a lot and have made a lot of progress. What the administration has not done, that I think it should be doing, is three other things.
Number one, one thing that unites this insurgency, every single element of it, is a sense of nationalism — Iraqi nationalism for the foreign jihadists, pan-Arab or pan-Muslim nationalism — against what they see as a Western imperial intervention. They believe, whether true or not, that we are seeking permanent military bases in Iraq; that we seek to have a long-term presence there; that we want to control their oil.
I think what we have needed for a long time, and still urgently need, is for the president of the United States to clearly and unambiguously directly look the Iraqi people in the eye, and not even metaphorically by the way, and say, we are not seeking permanent military bases in Iraq. This is not our goal there. And when Iraq is able to defend itself and has sufficient security forces to secure the country, we will be gone. We’re not looking for a long-term military platform there.
Secondly, the —
WOODRUFF: It’s interesting because some people would say, well the administration has made it —
DIAMOND: It hasn’t said — the president of the United States has not said — others in his administration have, but not in a way that has been credible to the many elements of the insurgency that are fighting us in Iraq. We are not seeking and will not request long-term military bases in Iraq beyond the stabilization period. That has not happened.
Secondly, and if the — and if it’s the administration policy then I urge the president to declare this in the coming days, directly and very unambiguously in a televised message to the Iraqi people.
Secondly, elements of the insurgency have been seeking, since roughly two years ago this month, to talk directly to the Bush administration, with international intermediaries present. And for a long time those calls went unanswered. And I think another opportunity was lost to probe some political basis for winding down the insurgency.
I think we need to talk to these people in a very vigorous way. We need to pursue what we can establish in terms of mutual confidence-building measures and incorporation into the political process. And we need international intermediaries to do that. I think the United Nations could be very helpful in helping to mediate, in partnership with ourselves, maybe involving the Arab League as well, a broad dialogue on Iraq’s political future.
And finally, we need to do more — even more than we’re doing now, I think — to accelerate the training and equipping and organizing of the Iraqi security forces that must be able and ready to take over from our soldiers and our Marines if we’re going to be able to get out responsibly.
And once again, as I’ve done in every talk I’ve given in the last 10 days or so, I urge everyone in this room to read James Fallows’ article on the Iraqi army and the effort to train it in the current issue of the Atlantic. I think it’s very intelligent, very comprehensive, somewhat hopeful, but still, in many respects, disturbing piece on the fact that while we’re making progress there is not the sense of urgency on the part of the Pentagon, that this is a matter of overriding priority for the United States now and that there is nothing in the world, in terms of our national security, that takes precedence over this.
WOODRUFF: Why do you think that’s not absorbed at the Pentagon?
DIAMOND: Judy, we go back to the words I used at the beginning. And I was asked to be, you know, restrained here by one of my dear friends, so I will be and simply say that it mystifies me.
I could not understand when I was there — I just couldn’t understand, laying morale outrage aside, I couldn’t understand how we could have soldiers dying in unarmored Humvees and not have our Pentagon feel that every factory that could be mobilized had to be mobilized to solve this problem in a matter of months. I couldn’t understand how we could have soldiers going out into combat and civilians, like myself, frankly, going out into the red zone without adequate body armor. Every British civilian in the green zone was not only issued with the highest-standard body armor, they were required to wear it even inside the green zone, on pain of being — for some maybe it wasn’t such pain — immediately deported out of the mission if they were found not wearing it.
And we were left, I think in essence, to fend more or less for ourselves with our flak jackets an helmets and desert boots.
WOODRUFF: We are — I know you’re going to get a lot of questions. We’ve only got about a minute left. But the — we were supposed to focus on lessons learned in the third wave of democratization. You write — you do allude to that in the book. Do you want to address that? I know there are going to be a lot of questions about Murtha.
DIAMOND: I’d say, you know, time is limited, so let me focus on two lessons.
One lesson has to do with — one set of lessons has to do with, what did we learn from the Iraqi experience for the effort to stabilize and, over time, build democracy in post-conflict situations?
I think this will be the last time in a long time that we invade a country in a preemptive way where, you know, we didn’t absolutely have no other choice. But it won’t be the last time that we need to deploy force in some way to stabilize a post-conflict situation. Hopefully, it will be much more multilateral than this was in the future.
But I think we learn that if you don’t have order, you don’t have anything. So you’ve got to have adequate numbers of troops.
And one of the things that the U.N. high-level panel on future threats and challenges noted is that we’re basically tapped out now in the world in terms of peacekeeping and peace-implementation forces in the world.
And I think as a democracy promoter, one of the things I learned is, we need a bigger United States Army. We need more ability —
WOODRUFF: Does that mean a draft?
DIAMOND: No, but I think that after Iraq, when our ability to recruit new soldiers, Marines and so on, I think, recovers, as it will, it means we need to invest in a variety of ways and maybe shift some portion of the Pentagon’s budget into enlarging the United States Army in terms of its steady-state size, so that we’ve got more capacity to deploy sufficient numbers of troops on the ground in situations that we might not even be able to expect now.
At the same time we need to facilitate — we collectively; I’d say the world — the recruitment of significantly larger numbers of standing forces in the armies of lots of different countries in the world that could be deployed to Darfur, that could be deployed to a country like Liberia, that could be deployed perhaps to Afghanistan, where I think we still don’t have enough — nearly enough — forces there, and we’re beginning to see the consequences of it.
I have said in the book that I think we need to have a much better institutional capacity to do this, and I don’t think it belongs in the State Department; that’s a diplomatic agency. I don’t think it belongs in the Pentagon; that’s a war-fighting and, you know, maybe peace-implementation institution.
I think that the agency that is best housed to become the seat of this is the U.S. Agency for International Development. And I think one of the things I’ve learned is that it would be useful for a lot of reasons for the United States to have a cabinet-level department that could lead and coordinate and develop the expertise in-house, standing ready to be deployed in rapid fashion for international reconstruction and stabilization and for development.
Lots of countries have ministries of overseas development. If it’s becoming as important as the Bush administration says it is, and they’ve gone more to advance foreign aide than previous administrations have, then I’d say, let’s raise it to the level of a Cabinet department that brings these functions together with greater stature, greater resources, greater expertise.
Finally, the more general lesson is, Iraq is not the only country in the world, by far, where people of different ethnicity, language and identity, need to learn to live together with one another. And I think we see again what I’ve seen over and over in my work, that creative provisions, shaped and fitted to the particular country’s circumstances, of power sharing at the center and devolution of power to local areas, with federalism as a key principle, are simply vital to managing ethnic and identity conflict in a way that can get different peoples to live with one another in a democracy.
WOODRUFF: And you write about Nigeria and other places.
DIAMOND: And as a possible lesson, again, that we can learn something from.
WOODRUFF: A nascent example.
DIAMOND: Nascent, troubled, but not without some lessons.
WOODRUFF: All right, much provocative that we’ve heard. Let’s start all the way on the left with Robert McFarlane (sp).
QUESTIONER: Larry, thank you for coming.
One of the issues that you identify to be overcome if there is to be stability in the future is equitable sharing of the economic wealth of Iraq. And because of the mal-distribution of oil, the Sunnis are, of course, particularly concerned.
I wonder if anybody at the time you were there or since has focused upon natural gas, and the very good news that most of it in Iraq is in Sunni provinces. This is shut in now, and one may ask why, but if you’re in the oil business, oil people always shut in gas; it’s a nuisance. However, it is becoming a fuel of choice in most of the world, from China to the United States.
And my question is, has anybody focused on that and that it really could be a strategic lever to bring Sunnis into an accommodation of a minority position in the government? Two hundred trillion cubic feet of gas — roughly $2 trillion worth at current market — is a pretty good incentive. Has anybody focused on that?
DIAMOND: No, I haven’t heard a focus on that. And I agree with you that it’s a promising prospect out there on the horizon.
But the problem is that it’s only a prospect. And because it would take quite a lot of capital investment to bring it in, I think, to production, as probably any future production is going to require very significant capital investment, you’ve always got sort of the veil of the future hanging over you in terms of developing some confidence in what your revenue streams are going to be.
And this is why I feel as a matter of principle — I actually feel this quite strongly in general terms — that revenues from natural resources, of course, better mined by private companies than from the state, but whether the revenue comes directly from control of production or from production by private corporations, domestic and international, that then pay royalties to the central state, I think they should flow into the central state and then flow out to the various provinces and regions by some kind of revenue distribution formula that puts a large emphasis on — not necessarily an exclusive emphasis, but a large emphasis — on fairness of distribution, equality of distribution, to different sub-federal units, based on their estimated share of population.
Now, you do have the reality that there are costs associated with local production of oil, and I would think gas, as well — ecological costs, displacement costs and so on. And Nigeria has institutionalized — and I think it’s helped national unity in Nigeria — the principle of derivation, that there will be some portion or percentage of the revenue that goes back to the region or province of origin of production.
So when you integrate these two principles of equality and derivation, then you’re just talking about numbers rather than the symbolism of it. And once you start talking about numbers and percentages, you’ve got the capacity to strike a bargain.
QUESTIONER: (Off mike.) Jim Moody (sp).
I wanted to ask you whether there is a lingering effect of the fact that we didn’t protect the museums and the central bank, and both were plundered, even though they — the Pentagon was deeply informed ahead of time by (significant ?) experts in both Treasury — U.S. Treasury — and the State Department cultural people — this must not happen. It went ahead and happened, for lack of — if you have time to talk about —
I really want to ask you about this Yugoslav model. You said earlier that we didn’t want to descend into a black hole. There were a lot of concerns that Yugoslavia should never be allowed to break up, but it did, into, you know, various parts, each of which now pretty much guarantees security within its region, and it hasn’t descended into a black hole of chaos and civil war that some predicted.
Is there any potential — if things don’t hold together, can you see anything other than a black hole if it breaks into pieces, like — the Yugoslav model?
DIAMOND: It response to your first question, it’s not just those two buildings or types of institutions; we didn’t defend virtually anything except the oil ministry. And that was the beginning, and it was a very sharp, profound beginning of Iraqis’ disillusionment with the United States, what we could do to protect them and what we were there for.
That’s done and over, and like I said, you have to move on and look forward. I do want to note, however, something that most Americans, I think, the world in general, are unaware of. Recently in my travels, I met with one of the top American scholarly anthropological experts — archeological experts — on Iraq’s archeological treasures. And he told me that most of them have been irrevocably looted and destroyed in the last two years.
And all I can say — I won’t dwell on it — there is no point trying to parse responsibility here now. It’s not the purpose of this meeting. But this is a tragedy for world culture and civilization of almost incomprehensible proportions.
WOODRUFF: Two years, you mean after —
DIAMOND: Since the end of the war.
WOODRUFF: And since that period when there was so much focus on —
DIAMOND: Yes. Yeah, in other words, it’s been ongoing, the looting, the marauding, organized criminal rings during instability and so on.
QUESTIONER: It only took a few GIs (at the door ?) to stop it, I was told, but they didn’t —
DIAMOND: I’m not talking about the museum, actually. That’s not true, and that’s not fair. I’m talking about the ziggurats and the dispersed archeological sites around the country. It’s actually quite a number of them. And it would have taken, I think, quite a larger number of people and a more strategic plan to do that, and there were lots of other priorities.
I’m just reporting what was told to me, to reflect on your point.
The larger point is that, as a political scientist, I would say, be careful about drawing lessons. There’s a tendency to always take a model of someplace else — a template — and impose it on a new situation. And every situation has a certain type of historical, cultural and political distinctiveness. Yugoslavia was not surrounded to anything like this degree, and really not all that much, by other countries that were going to intervene in anything like the way that Syria has intervened, Iran has intervened, Saudi Arabia has implicitly done certain things and Turkey is prepared to intervene to advance or prevent certain outcomes.
And maybe it will come to this. I mean, already we see signs, if you’ve see the article, I think, in the New York Times yesterday, a piece of, I think, very distinguished and disturbing political reporting about population exchanges — minorities of Shi’ia or Sunnis respectively in one dominant community moving into an area where their own people are a clear majority.
And these population transfers were a precursor of horrific violence in advance of the Nigerian civil war. And it’s something — when people move, it’s like, you know, the birds in the coal chamber; it’s telling you something.
So we need to pay attention to that. It’s a very dangerous and volatile interethnic situation there on the ground on a daily basis.
But to simply throw in the towel and say, we give up; let’s break apart the country, my concern is, it isn’t going to happen peacefully. It’s my major concern that Turkey is not going to sit aside and watch an independent Kurdistan created, nor will Syria, nor will Iran, each with their own restive Kurdish minorities.
A lot of the Iraqis believe in the idea of a united Iraq. It’s important that we understand the sense of nationalism here, and there are, you know, Sunni minorities in Basra; there are Shiite minorities in Saddam’s home province of Salaheddin. The population transfers may have begun, but they are nothing on the order of what would happen in chaos and violence if the country began to break apart.
QUESTIONER: President Bush has been giving “stay the course” speeches and I understand why he would do that. But if you were writing a speech for him and if you wanted to rally support for a forward-looking strategy for Iraq, what would you have him say?
DIAMOND: At the moment, I’d have him speak live on television to the Iraqi people and I’d have him say, you’re going to go to the polls in just a very few weeks now in one of the most important political events in your lifetime that could be the real birth of Iraqi democracy. It’s a little bit of an extravagant statement — I don’t think democracy is really going to be in the cards in the near term — but like I said, semi-democracy is progress. We really want this to happen. We want you to have your own government. We don’t want to control your oil. We’re not there to control your destiny. We want you to rebuild your state, rebuild your society, rebuild your economy, and build a democracy. And as soon as you have one that can stand on its own, we will say thank you, we will leave militarily, and we will be your partner in every other way that’s necessary for you to be safe, independent and prosperous as a country. Therefore, I want to reiterate — this is a bit of a fiction because I don’t think it’s ever been stated clearly — but I want to reiterate what several of my members of government have said over time: we are not seeking and we will not seek permanent military bases in Iraq; that’s not why we’re there. We regard you as a sovereign nation. We have no long-term designs on you.
Then, after the election, I think we might draw some hope for it. I think the president should address the American people and say, look, we have a plan for a phased withdrawal over a period of time that’s reasonable. It’s going to be linked to events on the ground in Iraq. We’re not to leave and leave the country in chaos, but there are elements of progress here. The Sunnis are coming into the political progress — process. There’s a wider, more power sharing government than there’s ever been before. We have been in dialogue with elements of the insurgency, and we’re making progress in getting them to do what the political wing of the IRA did — come into the process while the IRA disarms and winds down. And we have a strategy that is both political and military in nature, but it’s lead by political inclusion and dialogue on the one hand, and training of the Iraqi army on the other. And these are the initiatives we have taken, not all of them that we’ve been able to disclose until now, that show real progress.
So I’m not saying stay the course because I intend to do it alone; I can’t do it with you. But I’m telling you, the American people, there are these elements of progress here. And you know, stick with me so that we don’t lose this opportunity to stabilize a country that would otherwise, to the expectation of most experts, be plunged into chaos if we were to withdraw prematurely.
I do think if the president is going to prevail on that regard, he’s got to bipartisanize this in a more effective way. He’s got to bring in Democrats and Republicans into the White House, consult them more on what he’s doing, brief them more on what he’s doing, and you know, talk to a lot of groups that perhaps he has not been so willing to talk to until now.
I think things are moving. I actually do see signs of hope, and there is a certain irony in the timing of Congressman Murtha’s call in this regard because I think we may be on the cusp of a more positive turning point. But I do think there are these elements that aren’t happening and really need to in the next few weeks in terms of what kind of government emerges and what kind of political calculation emerges among the Sunnis in terms of whether they reach that point where they’re willing to have their mullahs get up in the Friday mosque, their imams, and say during Friday prayers: it’s time to suspend the violent struggle. That can only happen — that statement, that turning point — when they say that, and we have evidence that they are saying that at Friday prayers, that’s when we’ll know that the political situation is changing. And that is only going to happen as a result of dialogue directly with many elements of the insurgency, and I think that’s not going to happen effectively without international mediation.
WOODRUFF: And you have some hope that that could happen?
WOODRUFF: Okay. Right here.
QUESTIONER: Gene Marans, Cleary Gottlieb.
We talk about democracy, and you talk about mullahs and mosques. How much development do you see of a true spirit of democracy among the citizens in development of institutions, democracy such as freedom of the press, and other elements that would help produce an informed and vigorous electorate?
DIAMOND: Well I think there is a lot of pluralism and diversity in the Iraqi press. It’s historic, and it builds on a tradition of a certain degree of civil society and pluralism that existed in Iraq between the early 1920s and the end of the monarchy in 1958 that people have not paid attention to, but my colleague at Miami University, Adid Dawish, has written a very important article about and is beginning a book on now. So there is a tradition to build on.
There’s been a growth of Iraqi women’s organizations, youth groups, more liberal-minded political parties. The irony is that in the midst of this brutalizing violence and the coverage of it by the media — in a way, if I may say so, with all due respect, Judy — and I don’t blame this on you, and I don’t think you’ll disagree with me, but you’re free to if you want to — that has a tendency, particularly the television media, to operate with the motto, “if it bleeds, it leads,” we haven’t seen as much of the efflorescence of Iraqi civil society as is really taking place. On the other hand, the efflorescence has been contained in people’s houses, in small community buildings. It hasn’t been able to move around, mobilize and campaign because of the pervasive violence and intimidation.
So I think it’s there. I think it’s hopeful. But I don’t think it’s really going to flower unless we turn a corner on the violence. That is the fundamental condition for I think obviously stabilizing Iraq, but stabilizing Iraq in this sense of dramatically — not 100 percent, but dramatically reducing the violence is the fundamental condition for allowing elements of democracy to flower and mobilize and seep into people’s consciousness.
WOODRUFF: I think on the media point, guilty as charged with some exceptions. (Laughter.)
WOODRUFF: Yes, this young woman back here.
QUESTIONER: Hi, I’m Bay Fang with U.S. News & World Report.
I’m just wondering, it seems like it’s more difficult recently to say that the insurgents are motivated purely by, you know, pan-Arab nationalism or Iraqi nationalism because they’re targeting not just Westerners or, more recently, Western journalists, but also security forces — Shi’as, Sunnis who want to participate in the political process. So in that sense, would the president just coming out and saying, you know, we don’t want permanent bases there, would that actually help, or would that have to be you know, a wider —
DIAMOND: Of course there would have to be a lot of other things. And let me say — since I said something about the media, I’ll say something more — that, you know, one thing I do admire about the media in Iraq — our media, for example — is the courage and skill with which they’ve operated in a formidably difficult situation. You were there, Baye (sp); I saw you there. You’re all taking, I think. incredible risks to bring us as much of the story as you can. You just lost an office there. So I really commend all of you for what you’ve done on the ground there.
I said that the one thing that unites all elements of the insurgency is this. But of course, there are a lot of other dimensions to the insurgency. To understand the insurgency, we need to disaggregate the insurgency, and I think we can do it in the following ways.
Less than 10 percent of the insurgency we know now, I think by means of analytic consensus, consists of foreign jihadists, of whom Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi is obviously the most diabolical, powerful and dangerous. The rest of them are Iraqis. There is an element among those Iraqis of Ba’athists who will only die hard, who want to bring Saddam back to power or a Saddamist type of regime back to power. Fortunately, they are also a small minority, but they are a minority with a tremendous amount of funds to draw on by virtue of having access to some portion of the billions of dollars that Saddam Hussein stole from his country and peppered away in bank accounts all over the Middle East and Lord only knows where else. And that money has been used to help fund the insurgency, my guess is from safehouses in Syria and elsewhere.
Beyond that are Sunni tribal, religious, political, Arab-nationalist elements who are fighting for more tactical reasons. Now, it’s not only resistance to Western occupation. It’s also fear that they’re going to be overrun by Iran, which they often take the Shi’ite religious party simply to be stocking horses for Iran — I think a very simplistic reading of those parties in that movement — that they’re not being given their due course in the political system. They think, even some of them, that they are a majority or a plurality of the population — shows you how unrealistic they are — because by no independent account are they much more than 20 percent of the population.
And so there are a variety of motivations. But I think those other motivations can largely be addressed by political means. It’s not just the U.S. saying, we’re not going to stay indefinitely. We’re not going to seek permanent military bases. We have some kind of time frame for withdrawal that doesn’t extend into the indefinite universe.
It’s also brokering compromises among Shi’a and Sunnis and obviously, Kurds, so that, again, the minimum interest and security of each group is assured. Robert Dahl, the famous political scientist from Yale, talks about the need at the dawning of a democracy to establish a system of mutual security so that each group knows it’s not going to be wiped out politically and in this sense, physically. Each group knows its minimum needs will be met — maybe not its maximum aspirations, which are in every single case to control power for itself.
You need power sharing at the center, credible constitutional guarantees and devolution of power as the key orienting principles to bring about that bargain. And I think that’s achievable. Let me say, finally, that I do worry that there’s so much blood under the ground — blood on the ground and water under the bridge — that it’s increasingly difficult to do.
Every time there is a bombing of a Shi’ite mosque or festival, clearly targeted at Shi’ite civilians, every time there is victimization of a Sunni group, like those who were discovered in this torture chamber, run by the Interior Ministry, which, I must stress, is run by one of the worst militias in Iraq — the Badr organization, trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who the Interior Ministry for the country being the head of that militia — it feeds this dynamic of ethnic vengeance and retaliation.
So I do think that can only go on for so long in an escalating basis before it basically tips into civil war. And in that sense, I do think we’re racing against the clock.
WOODRUFF: Okay, we’ve got many, many -
DIAMOND: And we are too. I apologize.
WOODRUFF: — many, many hands up. I’m going to go, let’s see — to somebody who hasn’t asked a question.
Back there, yeah?
QUESTIONER: Marc Ginsberg
A question about the victory lap that Chalabi tried to take around Washington the other day and the domestic political leadership situation that will emerge as a result of the parliamentary elections in December.
Can you just look into your crystal ball, given the sense of ineptitude that the Ja’afari government has among Iraqis, what do you see as something to hold onto as a result of these elections? And what do you predict would be the leadership that may emerge from these elections?
DIAMOND: I think that there is a quite a — you know, if you were betting in Las Vegas, you would be betting on Adel Abdel Mahdi, who is the — a key figure, but a somewhat more secular one, in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, who, I might add, has as its militia the Badr organization, although, Adel Mahdi himself is not identified with it directly, but it’s the same party and the same militia — and Iyad Allawi.
Now — not Chalabi — although we can’t count Chalabi out. He’s one of the most brilliant politicians that I’ve seen operate in terms of just his ability to survive, maneuver, recover. You know, I must say, just as a political scientist in coldly neutral terms, I think the man has a lot of political skill. I won’t comment otherwise.
I think the most likely outcome in a free and fair election is that some Shi’a, particularly free from being instructed this time by Ayatollah Sistane, who said, you’re free to vote, you Shi’a faithful, however you see is correct. What subterranean message will come to the Shi’a in the final days of the campaign we don’t know yet.
But the likelihood is, with that development, with the partial break-up of the United Iraqi Alliance — Chalabi leaving, some others running as independents — and with this sense of partial disillusionment that you note of Prime Minister Ja’afari’s performance at the helm of this coalition of Shi’ite religious parties, the United Iraqi Alliance, I think that in a free and fair election, the United Iraqi Alliance would be hard pressed to reach 40 percent of the vote — maybe 35 percent.
And if you figure, then, that some of these votes are likely to go to Iyad Allawi’s alliance, which could get as much perhaps as 25 percent of the vote, with the Kurdish parties running together as an alliance getting 20 percent of the vote and Sunnis and other independents getting the remainder, you see the potential, under this analysis, for allowing to form a new and very broad based, much more secular government than the current one.
There are two problems with this. One is that I think there’s going to be a massive — this is my prediction — massive amount of vote fraud in this election. And I say this because the electoral system still has an element of overall national proportionality. So every party has an incentive to inflate their votes in their own areas as hugely as possible to get the maximum number of votes. There were very significant attempts at vote fraud in this constitutional referendum in certain provinces, the provinces where it could have mattered.
Some of them were turned back; some of them were investigated and found that they were turned back and didn’t quite mature. But the constitutional referendum was a tepid exercise compared to what’s at stake in the December elections. And one of the things that most worries me is that there is no capacity on the ground to monitor the voting in these different actual polling stations.
And I think that we’re going to need a very vigorous effort on the part of the United Nations mission, on the part of the Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission, on the part of the United States Embassy and others to seriously investigate the complaints that will arise and ensure that where there’s, you know, votes coming back from precincts that just defy logic — you know, 95 to five or something — or where — when you have 320 people voting in a polling booth where 280 were registered, that those are going to be investigated. And maybe the polling will be redone in some places.
I think word has to go out that there’s not just going to be license to stuff ballot boxes here, or we won’t even know how to evaluate the results and to what extent they reflect the popular will. There’s no way to have a perfect election, but this is something that’s deeply troubling me now.
WOODRUFF: Okay, we’ve only got about a minute left. We’ve got a really terrific question over there. Oh, the hand went down. Come on, you’ve got to have more confidence in your question. Yeah, right here.
QUESTIONER: It felt like a setup, but I’ll do it anyway.
Professor Diamond, I want to link Jim Fallows with John Murtha for a minute and do it this way. I think it’s fair to say that Fallows reaches three conclusions, the first of which is that the Americans cannot win this war, only the Iraqis can.
Second, that the only way the Iraqis can win it is if the Americans stay long enough —
QUESTIONER: Very long — in order to train them in order to be able to do that. And third, that he does not see the likelihood of the political will for us to do that.
And so my question is, A — what do you think about his conclusions? And B — if one were to buy them, how wrong is Congressman Murtha?
DIAMOND: Let me say — this is really a tough one because so much of my heart and emotions are with Congressman Murtha. First of all, I don’t think I’m the only person in this room that admires this man and what he’s done in the military side of his life and what he’s done to lead a responsible — much more though — much more than some other elements of his party posture on defense issues over a long period of time.
My heart and emotions are leaning in one direction. My head leans in the other direction. And usually when that happens, I try to go with my head. And my head here is telling me — and I think the president of the United States in a bipartisan way with a lot of people behind him and some signs of progress to show the American people to sustain the mission, needs to say, think about what will happen if we just withdraw, say we’ve had enough and this place tilts into civil war?
First of all, it’s going to be — in my opinion; I could be wrong — a bloodbath, what Tom Friedman called Lebanon on steroids, a 1980s style deeply warlord-ish, endemically, pervasively violent terrain, with all of the regions powers intervening for their own ends, and really, tens of thousands — maybe hundreds of thousands — of people dying in a regional conflagration that could easily spill across borders in very unpredictable ways.
Secondly, al Qaeda, which has gotten a kind of foothold in Iraq, but one that’s constantly under pressure, constantly being pursued by the United States military, constantly moving around, will have a foothold in some part of the Sunni triangle where they don’t have to move around, where they can operate with a kind of haven like what Osama bin Laden had in Afghanistan.
I believe they would use this haven in the Sunni lands of Iraq not only to visit violence on the Shi’a as part of the civil war — on the Iranians, as they will be called — but to train terrorists for the larger jihad against Europe and the United States and, I would say, the broader civilized world.
One of the things that I’m told is happening by, I think, people who are keenly well informed, but has not been well reported, is that some of the jihadists internationally who are coming into Iraq, are coming in from Europe for training to go back to Europe. Now, that is only the harbinger of what would follow if hell descends on Iraq. And I think that if it were not for that, the way I felt about Vietnam in the late 1960s might be much more like the way I would feel about Iraq now. But I think we have a national interest in Iraq that dwarfs where we were in Vietnam in the late 1960s. And I think this is one of the respects in which the administration had not adequately, you know, conversed with the American people.
WOODRUFF: And you’re very clear that it is worth American lives?
DIAMOND: I think it is, Judy, if we have a plan. If I believe what Congressman Murtha said, that we’re fumbling around hopelessly; that we’re inevitably going to wind up having to retreat and leave Iraq in whatever position it’s in — roughly similar to now — and so why lose several hundred more American lives and tens of billions of dollars to simply have that happen two years from now rather than now?
If I believed that, then, of course, Congressman Murtha’s conclusion would be the logical, compelling conclusion. But I see elements of political progress on the ground. And you know from the title of this book, I’m the last person to try and justify political progress on the ground in Iraq simply in defense of the Bush administration.
I see elements of progress on the ground. I see elements of progress in the security situation, as well as elements of deep worry. And I think that we have to try to build on that. And it may take a number of years, but it would be a number of years in which, after a certain point — maybe 18 months from now — we could really begin to draw down quite significantly if pass that inflection point politically.
WOODRUFF: Larry Diamond, thank you very much.
DIAMOND: Thank you. (Applause.)
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