John Kerry’s posted parts of a speech he’s making tomorrow on his website. He still hasn’t learned to communicate to actual humans, but contrast his plan to the sound bites we get from the present administration. Sigh.
Here it is:
Excerpts of remarks as prepared for delivery
The Kerry Plan: The Path Forward
This difficult road traveled demands the unvarnished truth about the road ahead.
To those who suggest we should withdraw all troops immediately – I say No. A precipitous withdrawal would invite civil and regional chaos and endanger our own security. But to those who rely on the overly simplistic phrase “we will stay as long as it takes,” who pretend this is primarily a war against Al Qaeda, and who offer halting, sporadic, diplomatic engagement, I also say – No, that will only lead us into a quagmire.
The way forward in Iraq is not to pull out precipitously or merely promise to stay “as long as it takes.” To undermine the insurgency, we must instead simultaneously pursue both a political settlement and the withdrawal of American combat forces linked to specific, responsible benchmarks. At the first benchmark, the completion of the December elections, we can start the process of reducing our forces by withdrawing 20,000 troops over the course of the holidays.
The Administration must immediately give Congress and the American people a detailed plan for the transfer of military and police responsibilities on a sector by sector basis to Iraqis so the majority of our combat forces can be withdrawn. No more shell games, no more false reports of progress, but specific and measurable goals.
It is true that our soldiers increasingly fight side by side with Iraqis willing to put their lives on the line for a better future. But history shows that guns alone do not end an insurgency. The real struggle in Iraq – Sunni versus Shiia – will only be settled by a political solution, and no political solution can be achieved when the antagonists can rely on the indefinite large scale presence of occupying American combat troops.
In fact, because we failed to take advantage of the momentum of our military victory, because we failed to deliver services and let Iraqis choose their leaders early on, our military presence in vast and visible numbers has become part of the problem, not the solution.
The Military Agrees:
And our generals understand this. General George Casey, our top military commander in Iraq, recently told Congress that our large military presence “feeds the notion of occupation” and “extends the amount of time that it will take for Iraqi security forces to become self-reliant.” And Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, breaking a thirty year silence, writes, ”Our presence is what feeds the insurgency, and our gradual withdrawal would feed the confidence and the ability of average Iraqis to stand up to the insurgency.” No wonder the Sovereignty Committee of the Iraqi Parliament is already asking for a timetable for withdrawal of our troops; without this, Iraqis believe Iraq will never be its own country.
We must move aggressively to reduce popular support for the insurgency fed by the perception of American occupation. An open-ended declaration to stay ‘as long as it takes’ lets Iraqi factions maneuver for their own political advantage by making us stay as long as they want, and it becomes an excuse for billions of American tax dollars to be sent to Iraq and siphoned off into the coffers of cronyism and corruption.
It will be hard for this Administration, but it is essential to acknowledge that the insurgency will not be defeated unless our troop levels are drawn down, starting immediately after successful elections in December. The draw down of troops should be tied not to an arbitrary timetable, but to a specific timetable for transfer of political and security responsibility to Iraqis and realignment of our troop deployment. That timetable must be real and strict. The goal should be to withdraw the bulk of American combat forces by the end of next year. If the Administration does its work correctly, that is achievable.
We Need A Political Solution:
Our strategy must achieve a political solution that deprives the Sunni-dominated insurgency of support by giving the Sunnis a stake in the future of their country. The Constitution, opposed by more than two thirds of Sunnis, has postponed and even exacerbated the fundamental crisis of Iraq. The Sunnis want a strong secular national government that fairly distributes oil revenues. Shiites want to control their own region and resources in a loosely united Islamic state. And Kurds simply want to be left alone. Until sufficient compromise is hammered out, a Sunni base can not be created that isolates the hard core Baathists and jihaadists and defuses the insurgency.
We Need a Regional Security Agreement:
The Administration must bring to the table the full weight of all of Iraq’s Sunni neighbors. They also have a large stake in a stable Iraq. Instead of just telling us that Iraq is falling apart, as the Saudi foreign minister did recently, they must do their part to put it back together. We’ve proven ourselves to be a strong ally to many nations in the region. Now it’s their turn to do their part.
The administration must immediately call a conference of Iraq’s neighbors, Britain, Turkey and other key NATO allies, and Russia. All of these countries have influence and ties to various parties in Iraq. Together, we must implement a collective strategy to bring the parties in Iraq to a sustainable political compromise. This must include obtaining mutual security guarantees among Iraqis themselves. Shiite and Kurdish leaders need to make a commitment not to perpetrate a bloodbath against Sunnis in the post-election period. In turn, Sunni leaders must end support for the insurgents, including those who are targeting Shiites. And the Kurds must explicitly commit themselves not to declare independence.
To enlist the support of Iraq’s Sunni neighbors, we should commit to a new regional security structure that strengthens the security of the countries in the region and the wider community of nations. This requires a phased process including improved security assistance programs, joint exercises, and participation by countries both outside and within the Middle East.
Simultaneously, the President needs to put the training of Iraqi security forces on a six month wartime footing and ensure that the Iraqi government has the budget to deploy them. The Administration must stop using the requirement that troops be trained in-country as an excuse for refusing offers made by Egypt, Jordan, France and Germany to do more.
Win the Real War on Terror:
We will never be as safe as we should be if Iraq continues to distract us from the most important war we must win – the war on Osama Bin Laden, Al Queda, and the terrorists that are resurfacing even in Afghanistan. These are the make or break months for Iraq. The President must take a new course, and hold Iraqis accountable. If the President still refuses, Congress must insist on a change in policy. If we do take these steps, there is no reason this difficult process can not be completed in 12-15 months. There is no reason Iraq cannot be sufficiently stable, no reason the majority of our combat troops can’t soon be on their way home, and no reason we can’t take on a new role in Iraq, as an ally not an occupier, training Iraqis to defend themselves. Only then will we have provided leadership equal to our soldiers’ sacrifice – and that is what they deserve.”