Frederick W. Kagan: Praised in editorial

Historians in the News

On top of interfering with President Bush's new war strategy, Congress may obstruct efforts to rebuild Iraq's economy. Reconstruction is key to defeating the terrorists there.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden, D-Del., who seems to want to see America lose this war as fast as possible, is griping about pledging $1.2 billion for economic reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

At a committee hearing last week, he demanded "some concrete details on why these funds will achieve better results than we've been able to achieve before."

The panel's ranking Republican, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, who makes no secret about his skepticism of the president's troop surge, seemed as peeved as Biden. Lugar is insisting that the military regularly report the details of the use of reconstruction funds to Congress.

According to Frederick Kagan, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who served as a military history professor at West Point, it reeks of hypocrisy.

"It is so bizarre to have members of Congress repeatedly stating their concerns about saving lives in Iraq, then refusing to support measures that would do just that," Kagan told IBD last week.

Victory in Iraq is not possible without successful reconstruction. Kagan shows why in "Choosing Victory: a Path for Success in Iraq," an AEI report published this month.

"Soldiers, whether American or Iraqi, moving through a neighborhood to clear it inevitably do damage," Kagan noted. "Past experience shows that many neighborhoods are willing to accept this price in the hope of having security and peace thereafter, but it is important to provide them with a more immediate and tangible compensation for the violence as well."

Therefore, according to Kagan, "every clear-and-hold operation must be accompanied by an immediate reconstruction program."

He added, "As military commanders move into neighborhoods to establish security, they should also reach out to local leaders to find out what essential services must be restored quickly to permit a basic level of normal life to resume."

Failure to do this leads to high levels of unemployment, which in turn provide the terrorists with a bottomless pool of potential recruits.

What's more, militia groups in Iraq such as the Badr Corps and the Mahdi army are copying Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, providing minimal pseudo-governmental services to establish legitimacy among the populace.

It's crucial for local governments in Iraq to replace terrorists in that role....

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