I never would have found this myself, so i tip my Stetson to Christian Rocca, of il Foglio, the best newspaper in Italy. Turns out that Sens Biden and Hagel–they ARE both running for president aren’t they? (Sure, the whole Senate is always running for president)–wrote some deep thoughts for the WaPo in December, 2002. As you will see, they had no clue of the hell that was to ensue; they, like Tom Friedman, had bought into the “Saudi Peace Plan” that reduxes every few months, but, to their great credit, they realized that if we went into Iraq we’d have to stay for quite a while. Like ten years.
So now they vote for a timed withdrawal. Go figure.
Here are the low points:
OP-ED: Iraq: The Decade After
This op-ed originally appeared in THE WASHINGTON POST on December 20, 2002.
IRAQ: THE DECADE AFTER
By Joseph R. Biden and Chuck Hagel
The United States will face enormous challenges in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, as well as broad regional questions that must be addressed. These are both matters that members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have been focusing on for some time. During a week-long trip to the region, we came away with a better understanding of the possibilities and perils that lie ahead.
In northern Iraq we saw the extraordinary potential of Iraqis once they are out from under Saddam Hussein’s murderous hand. New hospitals, schools, roads and lively media are testimony to the determination of Iraqi Kurds and to the bravery of coalition air crews patrolling the no-fly zone. Just a few hours’ drive from the oppressive rule in Baghdad, a freely elected regional government and legislature (which we were honored to address) are embarked on a path of clear-eyed realism. While neighboring countries fear an independent Kurdistan, Kurdish leaders appear committed to working together for a united Iraq. They realize they could lose everything they have built in the past decade by pursuing independence.
Although no one doubts our forces will prevail over Saddam Hussein’s, key regional leaders confirm what the Foreign Relations Committee emphasized in its Iraq hearings last summer: The most challenging phase will likely be the day after — or, more accurately, the decade after — Saddam Hussein.
Once he is gone, expectations are high that coalition forces will remain in large numbers to stabilize Iraq and support a civilian administration. That presence will be necessary for several years, given the vacuum there, which a divided Iraqi opposition will have trouble filling and which some new Iraqi military strongman must not fill. Various experts have testified that as many as 75,000 troops may be necessary, at a cost of up to $ 20 billion a year. That does not include the cost of the war itself, or the effort to rebuild Iraq.
Americans are largely unprepared for such an undertaking. President Bush must make clear to the American people the scale of the commitment…
This is one reason why we will need our allies to help rebuild Iraq. Cementing a broad coalition today will keep the pressure on Hussein to disarm, build legitimacy for the use of force if he refuses, reduce the risks to our troops and spread the burden of securing and reconstructing Iraq. Going it alone and imposing a U.S.-led military government instead of a multinational civilian administration could turn us from liberators into occupiers, fueling resentment throughout the Arab world.
Iraq cannot be viewed in a vacuum. Disarming and stabilizing that country will be all the more difficult because of the unsettled regional environment, in particular the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While it is essential that the United States aggressively pursue Israeli-Palestinian peace on its own merits, doing so has ancillary benefits for the disarmament of Iraq. Simply put, we will make it easier for Arab governments to participate in, or at least support, our actions in Iraq if they can show their people we are engaged in the peace process…
The key is to empower Palestinian reformers and encourage Arab moderates. President Bush should lose no time in publicly endorsing the “road map” developed by the Quartet — an informal group of mediators on the Middle East from the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia. The road map provides for a series of reciprocal steps to jump-start a renewed peace process. That would give hope to Palestinian reformers and send a clear message to the Arab world that the United States remains determined to pursue an Israeli-Palestinian settlement even as we deal with Iraq.
Working on multiple fronts poses a difficult test for American leadership, but there is no escaping the fact that we face several related, interlocking crises in the region. As the bulwark of freedom and democracy, the United States faces the need to disarm Saddam Hussein and set the stage for a stable Iraq, win a protracted war on terrorism and engage fully on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Working with our friends and allies, it is a challenge we can, and must, meet.
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) is chairman and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
© 2003 The Washington Post Company