U.S. cannot leave Iraq in worse shape than before the war

Posted: Thursday, October 16, 2003

It appeared (last) Thursday that President Bush and Iraqi administrator Paul Bremer had synchronized their messages: Things are going well in Baghdad. ...

The president has gone on the offensive to sell his Iraq policies to the American people once again, now that polls indicate they are having doubts. That's not just his right but his responsibility, given the sacrifices he is asking of American lives and American dollars.

But if progress in Iraq is to be measured by the presence of lights and air conditioning, then it's also to be measured by the presence of violence. ...

President Bush has asked for $87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, $66 billion to support our military presence and $21 billion for reconstruction. Some Democrats and even some Republicans have questioned those sums, suggesting that the money might better be spent on educating American children and rebuilding American cities and making sure American workers have health care. They have a point, but one that would have been better argued before the war than after.

As terrorism expert Jessica Stern says, the United States probably has more to fear these days from failed states, where anarchy fosters violence, than from those run by tyrants. If Iraq is not now a failed state, then it is at great odds of becoming one if Americans leave it worse than they found it. That said, the American people will not support spending $87 billion a year in Iraq indefinitely, and perhaps not for the five years that leaders have said we will need to be there. Even if Americans go along, the Iraqis are unlikely to. ...

Journal Star, Peoria, Ill.

Oct. 12

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