By Rachel Brody |
The current debate over the timing of the U.S. withdrawal of forces from Iraq is misplaced. The retention of a relatively small number of U.S. troops in that country would not have measurably effected its political stability. Conversely, the withdrawal of those forces will not particularly incentivize the various political factions to intensify their struggle for power. The U.S. maintained a very large military contingent in the Republic of South Korea even as that country went through periods of enormous political turmoil. ROK President Park Chung-hee was assassinated by the director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency in 1979 and a short-lived military government came to power. The size of the U.S. contingent in South Korea remained relatively stable during the period of that country's transition to a full-fledged democracy. The presence of U.S. forces around the world for almost 50 years has been irrelevant to the comings and goings of governments.
The United States retains the basis for a strong relationship with Iraq. The Department of State is operating the largest embassy in the world in Baghdad. Part of its responsibilities will be to maintain strong military-to-military contacts between our two countries through the Defense Attache's Office. Bringing Iraqi officers to the United States for advanced military education is a further way of maintaining a strong bond between our two countries and simultaneously inculcating in them the values of democratic governance and civilian control over the military.
U.S. arms sales to Iraq also will provide a continuing source of connectivity as well as serve as an indirect means of influence with the Iraqi government. Do not forget that the Iraqi Army is largely U.S.-trained and equipped. Iraq has signed contracts for U.S. military equipment worth at least $11 billion. These sales include F-16 fighters, M-1 Abrams main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery pieces. Along with this equipment comes a training requirement and supply chain that will connect our two countries for years if not decades to come. This has been the U.S. experience in other countries; Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE come to mind.
About Daniel Gouré Vice President at the Lexington Institute
Daniel J. Gallington Senior Policy and Program Adviser at the George C. Marshall Institute