Thomas Barnett on Iraq
TB: [The military has] been bumping up against the reality ever since the end of the Cold War, that it’s not just enough to win the war anymore. If you don’t follow through on the peace, then heck, you might as well just schedule the next decapitation regime-toppling visit seven, eight years hence. I mean, we went to Iraq, we went back to Iraq. We went to Haiti, we’ve been back to Haiti already. We went to Somalia, and we are sort of back in Somalia through our support with Ethiopia there.
HH: And the AC-130s.
TB: Unless you fix the aftermath, and connect the country, leave it more connected than you found it, the problems and the lack of stability that led rise to the initial conflict just repeats itself time and time again.
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HH: Dr. Barnett, when we went to break, you were saying it’s not enough to decapitate an enemy regime. If you leave it there without connecting it to the core, that group of economically developed, globalized countries, it will in fact revert into perhaps at least as bad a situation. Does that argue for a prolonged commitment of American men and material to Iraq this time?
TB: It does, I mean, because we’ve known for years now, from looking at countries post-conflict, post-disaster, post-civil strife, but the recovery process typically extends as much as ten or twelve years. That corresponds, by the way, to most estimations of what it takes to defeat a stubborn insurgency. It’s a long term process of nation building, which is a controversial subject. We’re very snake-bitten on it, because of our effort in Vietnam. But the key thing I’d like to note in terms of differences between Iraq and Vietnam is with Vietnam, we had superpowers funding the other side, and we really don’t have that here. We have a much less powerful opponent, in terms of the radical Salafi jihadist movement, which in many ways is really a parasite that tends to come into conflict situations, so that if we abandon Iraq to that kind of sectarian violence, we’re really, in many ways, turning it over to become an outpost what will inevitably draw us back in this long war against radical extremists.