Negroponte: why deadlines are deadly

In What’s Going Right in Iraq ambassador Negroponte explains what should be totally obvious to any reasonably literate school age child.

By now it goes without saying that sectarian conflict and extremism in Iraq cannot be solved by military means alone — it will take national reconciliation, economic reform and development, and international support as well. And as a former ambassador to Iraq, I know how difficult it is to create an alternative to coercive violence in a country that has lived under these conditions for decades.

In 2004 the U.N. Security Council laid out an arduous agenda for Iraq when it regained its sovereignty. This included setting up an interim government and electing a transitional government, writing and adopting a constitution, electing a permanent government, and developing national reconciliation based on the rule of law, tolerance and pluralism.

Despite horrific violence, much of that agenda has been implemented, though not national reconciliation. Nonetheless, the Iraqis have come a long way in what has been a short time for them. Pressing them to continue moving ahead on national reconciliation and reform is well-justified. But imposing fixed deadlines would be ill-advised.

Fixed deadlines would empower the obstructionists, stiffening their resolve to resist and delay by showing them where to concentrate their efforts. It would also weaken the moderates who — forced to face a near-term future without us — would hedge their bets and be less willing to broker hard political compromises. This could provoke even greater violence and insecurity, the opposite effect of that presumably intended by those advocating deadlines. That is why President Bush just issued only the second veto of his administration.

The fact is that critically important economic, political and diplomatic progress is being made; we must not allow the fog of war to obscure major developments that are fundamental to stability in Iraq and the region. These developments are more powerful than bombs — they are the stuff of which modern nation states are made and the basis upon which they survive and thrive.

The U.S. has spent more than 84% of its major reconstruction appropriation in 11 sectors. Despite some missteps, inevitable given the chaotic conditions, these projects have brought significant benefits to the Iraqi people and will continue to do so for decades.

…When I was ambassador to Iraq two years ago, the country had no permanent government, no Council of Representatives, no constitution, no IMF Stand-By Arrangement, no hydrocarbon laws in draft or otherwise, no willingness to cut subsidies, no International Compact with Iraq, and no forum for constructive dialogue with its neighbors and international community leaders. Now all that exists. It is what the Iraqis and we are fighting for, and what the terrorists and extremists are fighting against.

For more background I highly recommend the CSIS symposium with Samir Sumaida’ie, Ambassador of Iraq to the United States — see the next post.

The latest bulletins from parliament on the hydrocarbon legislation indicate just how challenging the political process is — Kurdish and Sunni delegates are objecting to the draft’s stipulation of all fields being operated by an Iraqi state oil company. I understand the objection — it’s not the most efficient strategy — but what organization will give all citizens the assurance they are receiving their fair share?

On democrats’ deadlines — could the US Congress meet any deadline? Other than porking I mean… Compare to the learning curve of the Iraqi government — which has not yet been in office for a full year.