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U.S. Should Provide Iraqis and Americans With a More Coherent and Compelling Vision for Iraq’s Political Future

June 25, 2003
Council on Foreign Relations


Experts Urge President to Deliver Major Address to the Nation on Importance of Getting the Job Done Right in Post-War Iraq

June 25, 2003 - With mounting costs to American lives and treasure in Iraq, and success there so clearly tied to American staying power and the coherence of U.S. strategy, the Bush administration must sharpen and deepen its commitment to making Iraq a better and safer place, conclude former UN Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering and former Defense and Energy Secretary James R. Schlesinger, co-chairs of the Council-sponsored Independent Task Force on post-war Iraq. As a first step, the President should set the direction for his administration by making a major foreign policy address to the nation, explaining the importance of seeing the task through, as well as the costs and risks of U.S. engagement in postwar Iraq.

“So much of the future effectiveness of U.S. foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, will turn on whether we can help Iraqis to a better future and whether others around the world see this is happening,” say the co-chairs. Their recommendations, drawn from recent deliberations of the Task Force, were released today in a "Chair’s Update" to the Task Force’s report in March, Iraq: the Day After. Both projects were directed by Council Fellow and former National Security Council Aide Eric Schwartz.

Develop a clearer political vision and strategy: The absence of a clear vision and strategy to shape Iraq’s political landscape has undermined progress in the post-war transition and rebuilding effort, and created uncertainty among Iraqis. The U.S. Civilian Administrator, L. Paul Bremer, has sought a more assertive role for the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, and he has made good progress. But he should now go further, by defining a U.S. vision and strategy for Iraqi involvement in the political transition process. This includes the procedures surrounding interim administration; the process for transfer of authorities to Iraqis linked to specific benchmarks of progress; and the development of local governance, local political institutions and civil society.

Employ a wiser approach to communicating with the Iraqi people: Although there is broad public support in many regions for the coalition presence, there is hostility toward the United States in parts of Iraq that threatens to undermine U.S. objectives. Moreover, there are limits to shaping public consensus in Iraq through the traditional tools of public diplomacy. U.S. officials should make more concerted efforts to speak "through Iraqi leaders," by broadening their interaction with leaders at the local, regional, and national levels. And though there are obvious risks, U.S. troops in Iraq serve important policy goals through broad interaction with the general public in a way that is reassuring about the coalition presence. Public diplomacy programming should not only impart information, but should emphasize political dialogue with Iraqis and the free flow of ideas as a means to promote a more democratic political culture.

Promote public security and the rule of law: The administration should reaffirm its commitment to sustain a large presence of U.S. military forces to ensure stability as long as necessary, even as U.S. officials seek to recruit military forces from other capable states. The administration should also augment efforts to recruit international civilian police; deploy experts in criminal investigation to address the threat of criminal syndicates and black market activity; and accelerate efforts to establish institutions that will promote respect for the rule of law.

Improve management and operations in the oil industry: While UN Security Council Resolution 1483 paved the way to restore Iraq’s petroleum exports and increased capacity over time, substantial challenges remain. The administration should ensure a clearer chain of command for decision-making by defining the parameters of U.S. involvement and speaking with a consistent voice to Iraqi authorities. It should also establish greater transparency and effective communication within the oil sector.

Share the burden with international partners: Appointing the UN secretary-general’s special representative (SRSG) for Iraq has created opportunities for greater burden sharing, which would lighten the load for the U.S. government and enhance international support for the postwar transition effort. But it not clear that the administration envisions a meaningful role for the SRSG, whose appointment it so actively sought. Ambassador Bremer should work with the SRSG to establish interim political institutions and promote international support for the rebuilding effort.

Prepare for the next peace stabilization and reconstruction challenge after Iraq: Iraq is neither the first nor the last post-conflict peace stabilization and reconstruction operation the United States will embark upon. The president should commit the United States to serious and sustained effort to build U.S. capabilities in peace stabilization and post-conflict reconstruction, so that managing these operations becomes a genuine national competence.

Established in 1921, the Council on Foreign Relations is a nonpartisan membership organization, publisher, and think tank, dedicated to increasing America’s understanding of the world and contributing ideas to U.S. foreign policy. The Council accomplishes this mainly by promoting constructive debates and discussions, clarifying world issues, and publishing Foreign Affairs, the leading journal on global issues.

Full text of the Chair’s Update to the Council-sponsored Independent Task Force, Iraq: The Day After.

THOMAS R. PICKERING, co-chair of the Task Force, is Senior Vice President for International Relations at Boeing. His diplomatic career spanned five decades, and included service as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations. He retired from government in 2000 as Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs.

JAMES R. SCHLESINGER, co-chair of the Task Force, is the Chairman of the MITRE Corporation’s Board of Trustees and is Senior Advisor at Lehman Brothers. He is also Counselor and Trustee for the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Chairman of the Executive Committee at The Nixon Center. He served as Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Energy.


J. BRIAN ATWOOD is Dean of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. He served as the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development during the Clinton administration.

KENNETH H. BACON is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Refugees International. Between 1994 and 2001, he served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and Pentagon spokesman.

EDWARD P. DJEREJIAN is the founding Director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. He has also served as the U.S. Ambassador to Syria and Israel and was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from 1991 to 1993.

JAMES F. DOBBINS is the Director of RAND’s Center for International Security and Defense Policy. He was Ambassador the European Community (1991-1993), Special Assistant to the President for the Western Hemisphere (1996-1999) and Assistant Secretary of State for Europe (2001-2002). He served as the Clinton administrations special envoy for Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo and most recently as the Bush administrations Special Envoy for Afghanistan.

STANLEY FISCHER is the Vice Chairman of Citigroup and the president of Citigroup International. He has served as the first Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund from September 1994 to August 2001 and as Special Adviser to the Managing Director from September 1, 2001 until January 31, 2002.

REND FRANCKE is currently the Executive Director of the Iraq Foundation. She has written extensively on Iraqi politics and is the coauthor of The Arab Shia: The Forgotten Muslims, published in 2000.

BART FRIEDMAN is a Senior Partner at Cahill, Gordon & Reindel and serves on the Brookings Institution Board of Trustees.

CARL GERSHMAN has been the President of the National Endowment for Democracy since 1984.

JOHN C. HULSMAN is a Research Fellow in European Affairs, at the Davis Institute for International Studies at the Heritage Foundation.

JEANE J. KIRKPATRICK is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University. She served as a U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations during the Reagan administration and was a member of President Reagan’s cabinet and National Security Council.

ELLEN LAIPSON is the President and Chief Executive officer of the Henry L. Stimson Center. She worked on U.S. policy toward Iraq in the 1990s at the National Intelligence Council, the National Security Council, and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. She served as Vice Chair of the National Intelligence Council from 1997 to 2002.

ROBERT A. MALLEY is the Director of the International Crisis Group’s Middle East Program. He was on the National Security Council staff from 1994 to 2001. He finished his tenure at the NSC as Special Assistant to the President for Arab-Israeli Affairs.

PHEBE MARR is a leading specialist on Iraq and was a Senior Fellow at the National Defense University.

EDWARD L. MORSE is a Senior Executive Advisor at Hess Energy Trading.

GREGORY S. NEWBOLD is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. A retired Lieutenant General, he was formerly the Director of Operations on the Joint Staff.

DIANE ORENTLICHER is a Professor at American University's Washington College of Law.

JAMES A. PLACKE is currently a Senior Associate at Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) and a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Previously he was director for Middle East Research at CERA.

KENNETH M. POLLACK is a Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies and Director of Research, at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy. He served as Director for Persian Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council from 1999 to 2001.

ERIC P. SCHWARTZ, director of this Task Force, is a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He was on the National Security Council staff from 1993 to 2001. He finished his NSC tenure as Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for Multilateral and Humanitarian Affairs.

JOHN M. SHALIKASHVILI is a Visiting Professor with the Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. After the 1991 Gulf War, he commanded Operation Provide Comfort, the international mission that provided humanitarian assistance and protection to Kurds in northern Iraq. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1997, after serving as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

RICHARD H. SOLOMON is President of the United States Institute of Peace. He formerly served as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 1989 to 1992.

GORDON R. SULLIVAN is the President and Chief Operating Officer of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA). He served as co-chair of the Commission on Post-Conflict Reconstruction, a joint project of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and AUSA. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1995, after serving as the Army’s 32nd Chief of Staff.

FRANK G. WISNER is Vice Chairman of External Affairs at American International Group, Inc. Ambassador Wisner has served in a number of senior positions in the U.S. government, including Undersecretary of Defense for Policy from 1993 to 1994, and Undersecretary of State for International Security Affairs from 1992 to 1993.


RACHEL BRONSON, Council on Foreign Relations

WENDY CHAMBERLIN, U.S. Agency for International Development

SCOTT R. FEIL, Alion Science and Technology

DAVID L. GOLDWYN, Goldwyn International Strategies, LLC

ARTHUR C. HELTON, Council on Foreign Relations

PAUL D. HUGHES, U.S. Department of Defense

JUDITH KIPPER, Council on Foreign Relations

LAITH KUBBA, National Endowment for Democracy

RICHARD W. MURPHY, Council on Foreign Relations

ANDREW PARASILITI, Office of Senator Chuck Hagel

DAVID L. PHILLIPS, Council on Foreign Relations

ROBIN ROIZMAN, Office of Representative Tom Lantos

DENNIS SABAL, U.S. Department of Defense

JAMES A. SCHEAR, National Defense University

ANITA SHARMA, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

JOSEPH SIEGLE, Council on Foreign Relations

PUNEET TALWAR, Office of Senator Joseph Biden

Contact: Lisa Shields, Vice President, Communications, (212) 434-9888