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477 June 10, 2003

After Victory
Toward a New Military Posture
in the Persian Gulf
by Christopher Preble

Executive Summary

Donald Rumsfeld’s announcement that U.S. the United States can draw on the military’s
troops will be removed from Saudi Arabia repre- capacity for projecting force over great distances.
sents a significant and welcome change in U.S. The American troop presence is not merely
policy toward the Persian Gulf. This wise deci- unnecessary; it is also costly, both in dollars and
sion to shift U.S. forces out of the kingdom in the hardships it imposes on the all-volunteer
should be only the first of several steps to sub- force. The presence of U.S. troops may have sta-
stantially reduce the American military presence bilized the Persian Gulf, but, as the recent terror-
in the region. In addition to the removal of ist incident in Saudi Arabia demonstrated, the
troops from Saudi Arabia, U.S. forces should be troops have also been, and remain, a source of
withdrawn from other Gulf states, including tension and instability.
Qatar, Kuwait, and Iraq, and the U.S. Navy In keeping with the goal of minimizing the
should terminate its long-standing policy of costs and risks of a continued military presence,
deploying a carrier battle group in the Persian American efforts in Iraq should be limited,
Gulf. focusing solely on the swift transitioning to an
The United States need not have troops sta- Iraqi interim government empowered to move
tioned in the Persian Gulf in order to remain toward self-government. Beyond that, the United
engaged in the region. The Gulf’s energy States must be willing to accept the wishes of the
resources are important to the global economy, Iraqi people and should not assume that a
but goods and services flow on the world market friendly government can or should be imposed
absent explicit “protection” by military forces. at the barrel of a gun. Likewise, policymakers
Further, the United States will continue to exert should not presume that an Iraqi government
a stabilizing influence from a distance by draw- that does not possess all of the attributes of a lib-
ing on its economic assets and its political stand- eral democracy would be hostile to the United
ing. In the highly unlikely event that regional States, much less threatening to U.S. vital securi-
conditions threaten vital U.S. security interests, ty interests.

Christopher Preble is director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. A commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy
from 1989 to 1993, Preble served over three years onboard the USS Ticonderoga and deployed to both the
Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf.
The collapse of They are costly. And their presence makes us
Saddam Hussein’s Introduction less, not more, secure because they have
become a lightning rod, used by the most
decrepit regime The American military’s swift victory over extremist, anti-American individuals and
provides a golden the Baathist regime in Iraq seems in retrospect groups to mobilize a disheartened popula-
to have been a nearly textbook case of the tion frustrated by a lack of political freedom
opportunity for a vaunted “shock and awe” strategy made and economic opportunity.
fundamental famous in the weeks leading up to the war. On The United States will retain an enor-
change in U.S. the morning of March 20, 2003, the U.S. mili- mous influence in the region by virtue of our
tary launched a lightning “decapitation strike” extensive economic ties, but we need not sta-
policy in the against Saddam Hussein’s government. A mere tion our troops in foreign lands in order to
Persian Gulf. 21 days later, Americans were treated to tele- remain engaged. Absent the threat allegedly
vised images of Iraqis celebrating in the streets posed by Saddam Hussein, the United States
of Baghdad, tearing down statues of Hussein, can return to its rightful role as a balancer of
and banging the soles of their shoes (an espe- last resort, intervening only in the highly
cially insulting gesture in Arab culture) on his unlikely event that a crisis in the region
nearly ubiquitous image.1 threatens to harm vital American interests.
The overwhelming military victory set the
stage for a shift in U.S. military deployments
in the region. On April 29, less than three The More Things Change,
weeks after the fall of Baghdad, Defense the More They Stay
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced that
U.S. troops would be removed from Saudi
the Same
Arabia, where they had been stationed since Some observers have asserted that U.S.
late 1990. “It is now a safer region because of troops must remain in the region, even after
the change of regime in Iraq,” the secretary Saddam’s fall. Tom Donnelly of the
said.2 Drawing on the early lessons learned American Enterprise Institute argued that
from the just-concluded war, Rumsfeld’s the American interest in Iraq had actually
announcement represented a significant increased following Hussein’s ouster. “The
change in U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf, and liberation of Iraq adds to the substantial list
it was entirely appropriate given the nature of of U.S. interests in the region,” wrote
the threats in the region. Indeed, it was long Donnelly in the Weekly Standard, and he
overdue. called for a “quasi-permanent American gar-
Although withdrawal from Saudi Arabia rison in Iraq” to protect those interests.3
is both appropriate and welcome, that action Donnelly elaborated in an interview with the
should be only the first of several steps lead- Washington Post, saying “we’re now not just
ing to a wholesale reduction in the American interested in the gas and oil from the region
military’s “footprint” in the entire region. but we have a political commitment and a
Rather than tinkering on the margins, the huge amount of chips bet on whether politi-
collapse of Saddam Hussein’s decrepit cal reconstruction in Iraq is going to work.”
regime provides a golden opportunity for a Anthony Cordesman of the Center for
fundamental change in U.S. policy in the Strategic and International Studies agreed,
Persian Gulf. In addition to the removal of arguing the United States needs “to have
troops from Saudi Arabia, U.S. forces should strong regional allies, good basing options
be withdrawn from the other Gulf states, and some degree of pre-positioning” of U.S.
including Qatar, Kuwait, and Iraq, and the forces for years to come.4 When Rumsfeld
U.S. Navy should terminate its longstanding asserted that the Pentagon was not planning
policy of deploying a carrier battle group in to keep permanent bases in Iraq, avowed
the Persian Gulf. The troops are unnecessary. imperialist Max Boot of the Council on

Foreign Relations exclaimed, “If they’re not, most successful infantry operations com-
they should be.” Indeed, Boot called on USA bined vertical envelopment—inserting troops
Today readers to “get used to U.S. troops into combat zones from the air—with ground
being deployed [in Iraq] for years, possibly assault by tanks and armored vehicles. While
decades, to come.”5 a handful of talking heads and media pun-
In truth, policymakers and analysts were dits wrung their hands over the alleged inad-
planning for the eventuality of a long-term equacy of the American invasion forces, the
U.S. presence even before Saddam Hussein Pentagon deployed more than enough
disappeared. Writing in early 2003, before the troops to cover hundreds of miles in less than
outbreak of the war with Iraq, Richard D. three weeks, and to efficiently defeat Iraqi
Sokolsky of the Institute for National forces. 8
Strategic Studies at the National Defense A change away from forward deployment
University predicted: “Regardless of the out- toward an expeditionary force, based largely
come of the Iraqi scenario, the United States in the United States, is made possible because
will need to maintain forces in the region.”6 the Pentagon has now twice demonstrated its
These assertions largely ignore the costs ability to conduct expeditionary military
and risks associated with leaving a large U.S. operations, first in Afghanistan and then in
force in the region. They similarly ignore Iraq. Those campaigns were launched from Our troops need
some of the most important lessons from the temporary bases, constructed over the course not sit for
last war. Even casual observers have noted of just a few months. In the future, our months or years
that the Saudi bases were completely super- troops need not sit for months or years in the
fluous. The Saudis, sensitive to domestic midst of a hostile landscape preparing for in the midst of a
opinion, officially barred U.S. aircraft based offensive operations against presumed hostile landscape
in the kingdom from conducting strikes on threats yet to materialize. With the removal
Iraq. No matter. Hundreds of sorties were of Saddam’s regime, no sensible person is preparing for
flown by aircraft launched from bases locat- contemplating another ground invasion of offensive opera-
ed thousands of miles away from the target any country in the region. tions against
area. We know of aircraft launching from the
United Kingdom and tiny Diego Garcia in presumed threats.
the Indian Ocean. Even more incredible: a The Specious Oil Argument
number of bombing missions were conduct-
ed by aircraft flying round-trip from the Many of those who called for an end to
United States.7 Clearly, the American mili- the American presence in Saudi Arabia argue
tary’s capacity for projecting power knows that the United States military must remain
few limits. in the region indefinitely for one reason: oil.9
Meanwhile, the U.S. Army, which risked To those who are focused on the Gulf’s ener-
being rendered nearly irrelevant in the 1990s, gy resources and who argue that U.S. troops
borrowed a page from the Marines, becom- must remain in the region, the euphemism
ing lighter and more capable of conducting most frequently used is “engagement,” as in,
operations from temporary bases. NATO ally the presence of U.S. troops ensures that the
Turkey’s decision to block an invasion United States is “engaged.” By this logic,
launched from Turkish soil into Northern engagement comes only at the barrel of a
Iraq certainly complicated war planning, and gun. But why can we not assume that indi-
the U.S. Fourth Infantry Division spent vidual initiative, private enterprise, and cul-
much of the war in ships, first waiting to tural exchange are also forms of engage-
debark into Turkey, and then transiting the ment? Do people only travel to places where
Suez Canal, the Red Sea, and the Straits of U.S. troops are stationed? Can commerce
Hormuz into the Persian Gulf. But, in the only take place in the presence of American
end, the 4th I.D. wasn’t needed. Many of the troops? Of course not.

The American military presence is not can—and has—disrupted oil flows, with detri-
essential to ensure access to Persian Gulf oil. mental consequences for the United States.
Nonetheless, oil seems to govern much of Of course, markets respond negatively to
what the United States does in Iraq, as it has inefficiencies, and the greatest of these are
done throughout the region for decades. For conflict and lawlessness. But just as embar-
example, critics note that U.S. troops protect- goes can cause temporary disruptions that
ed the files at the Iraqi Oil Ministry while affect the price of oil in the United States,
looters ransacked hospitals and made off world markets likewise adjusts to disruptions
with priceless treasures from Iraq’s National caused by violence. If a military conflict
Museum of Antiquities.10 threatens to slow or halt the flow of oil, the
The strategic and economic significance market draws on an increased supply of
of Persian Gulf oil should not be overstated. products from other regions.
Saudi Arabia is the leading source of foreign To be sure, political leaders try to mini-
crude oil imported into the United States, mize these economic effects. Governments
but the Persian Gulf region as a whole assume responsibility for enforcing the rule
accounts for less than 15 percent of U.S. oil of law in order to protect citizens from harm;
needs.11 Meanwhile, the United States buys from a strictly economic standpoint, these
the vast majority of its oil from the Western same enforcement mechanisms provide secu-
Hemisphere. In addition to domestic pro- rity for market actors—consumers willing to
duction, which provides over 50 percent of travel to their local store to buy products,
our energy needs, an additional 20 percent and merchants willing to open their doors,
comes from Mexico, Canada, and Venezuela. freed from the fear that their goods will be
If one includes both crude and refined petro- stolen rather than sold.
leum, the share is slightly larger.12 But while this analogy makes sense on the
Those favoring a continued American local level, and the U.S. government does
troop presence in the Middle East presume have a responsibility for protecting American
that this military pressure will prevent hostile citizens in the United States, the U.S. govern-
governments from refusing to sell oil to the ment does not have a responsibility to pro-
United States. Many Americans still shudder tect merchants and consumers of other
at the memories of the Arab oil embargoes of countries. That obligation falls to the coun-
the 1970s. But research shows that the eco- tries themselves. Collectively, all Gulf states
nomic effects of these embargoes were have an incentive to ensure that regional con-
extremely limited.13 Embargoes increase trans- flicts do not threaten the flow of oil; over the
U.S. policy in the action and transportation costs—adding one past two decades, however, policymakers in
or more middlemen willing to sell to the Washington have effectively absolved those
Persian Gulf embargoed end-user and forcing embargoed regional players of the responsibility for
should not be products to take a roundabout route to their policing their own markets by providing a
based on the final destination—but short of a naval block- military force for the Gulf. In this sense, the
ade of an enemy’s ports, governments cannot U.S. military serves as a sort of insurance pol-
assumption that prevent products from eventually making icy, with the Gulf states—and their autocratic
the region’s ener- their way into particular countries.14 governments—as the beneficiaries, and the
Others may contend that the presence of U.S. taxpayers paying the premiums.15
gy resources will the United States military in all corners of U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf should not
not make it to the globe ensures “stability” in various be based on the assumption that the region’s
market without regions, and that this stability is a precondi- energy resources will not make it to market
tion for the proper functioning of economic without the presence of U.S. troops. Iraqi oil
the presence of markets. Stability in the Middle East is par- will begin to flow in earnest now that puni-
U.S. troops. ticularly crucial given the history of volatility tive economic sanctions have been lifted, and
in the region and given that military conflict will accelerate as Iraq’s oil damaged and

decrepit equipment and infrastructure are defend other countries from imagined future The Middle East
returned to operability.16 Oil revenue will be threats is a reflection of the persistence of need not be
the key to Iraq’s rebuilding effort. It is in the Cold War–era thinking, 12 years after the end
interest of Iraq’s government, even a govern- of the Cold War. stabilized by an
ment not necessarily committed to principles The argument that the U.S. military must overwhelming
of western-style democracy, to ensure that its protect and defend Iraqi democracy forgets
oil reaches global markets. Likewise, all Gulf or ignores that the primary justification for
states, including those countries governed by taking action was the removal of Saddam military presence.
nondemocratic regimes, will continue to sell Hussein from power and the elimination of
oil on the world market because it is in their Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Our ser-
economic interest to do so. vicemen and women fulfilled their mission
On a broader level, the Middle East need by separating Saddam Hussein from the
not be stabilized by an overwhelming instruments of power. Hussein may have
American military presence. U.S. troops pro- been the primary impediment to effective
vide a greater level of security than what governance in Iraq, but the removal of this
regional actors might choose to provide. To impediment is merely a useful byproduct of
the extent that American troops have become the American military victory. The United
a lightning rod for anti-American extremists, States cannot ensure that the Iraqis will elect
however, U.S. troops have been a notably liberal democrats to represent them. The
destabilizing influence. In short, there is a tasks of governing must be left to the Iraqi
middle ground between U.S. hegemony and people.
total chaos wherein stability can exist with- President Bush argued before a group of
out the presence of thousands of American Iraqi-Americans in Dearborn, Michigan, in
troops and without generating an anti- April that freedom “is the universal hope of
American, anti-democratic backlash. human beings in every culture.”18 People
with fresh memories of political and eco-
nomic repression are unlikely to willingly
Other Objections to a Swift choose anti-democratic rulers who would
Withdrawal replace a secular autocracy under Hussein
with a religious autocracy under the mullahs.
Some observers have argued that the However, it is possible, that the Iraqi people
United States must remain in Iraq long would choose to be governed by religious
enough to ensure that a pro-Western, multi- leaders who systematically trample individ-
ethnic, liberal democratic government is ual rights. A slightly more plausible scenario
elected and remains in power. AEI’s Donnelly involves voters unwittingly electing leaders
declared “the protection of the embryonic who then transformed the government into
Iraqi democracy” to be a “duty that will like- an undemocratic regime through the process
ly extend for decades” similar to the defense of one man, one vote, one time.19
of “Western Europe from the Soviet Union Faced with either scenario, there appear to
after World War II.”17 But there is no global be two strands of thinking with respect to
hegemon threatening to seize control of the democracy in Iraq. Before the start of the war,
entire Middle East, as the Soviets were poised President Bush declared, “The form and lead-
to do to Europe in the early days of the Cold ership of that government is for the Iraqi
War. The collapse of Europe to Communist people to choose. Anything they choose will
rule would have posed a direct threat to U.S. be better than the misery and torture and
vital security interests, but no comparable sit- murder they have known under Saddam
uation exists in the Middle East (or anywhere Hussein.”20 He repeated that argument in
else in the world, for that matter). The pre- Ohio, less than three weeks after the war’s
sumption that the American military must end: “One thing is certain,” the president

declared at the Lima Army Tank Plant: “We der further hostility and suspicion. As a
will not impose a government on Iraq. We recent study by the Washington Institute for
will help that nation build a government of, Near East Peace warned, “America’s endeavor
by, and for the Iraqi people.”21 On the other in Iraq will ultimately fail if the United States
hand, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld attempts to remake Iraq in its own image.”28
declared that the United States would not
tolerate the creation of an Islamic regime in
Iraq. When asked how the United States The High Costs of a
would respond if an Iranian-style theocracy Permanent U.S. Military
were elected to power, Rumsfeld replied
“That isn’t going to happen.”22 Based on
those and other comments, many observers For decades, and especially since the end
expect that the United States will play an of World War II and the beginning of the
active role in promoting a certain type of gov- Cold War, the United States has maintained
ernment in Iraq. Those comments also sug- military garrisons in foreign lands, a practice
gest that the United States will prohibit cer- known as “forward deployment” in Pentagon
tain individuals from holding office and jargon. The majority of these troops are sta-
The United States overrule election results deemed unfavorable tioned in Europe and East Asia, but since the
can best encour- to U.S. interests. 23 end of the first Gulf War the United States
age the emergence But U.S. policymakers should not be has maintained both a land-based troop
unduly fearful that a democratically elected presence in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and a
of a democratic government—even a government not com- sea-based presence as the Navy has rotated at
government in mitted to principles of liberal democracy— least one aircraft carrier battle group in the
would be hostile to Americans and American region. More than 20,000 Americans were
Iraq by fostering interests.24 It is appropriate and natural that stationed in or near the Persian Gulf region
an environment we should “hope,” as Rumsfeld said last at the end of 2001, before the buildup for
of economic month, that the Iraqis will choose “a system Operation Iraqi Freedom.29
that will be democratic and have free speech Our military forces exist to serve one
engagement and free press and freedom of religion,” but essential purpose: defend vital U.S. security
among private the Bush administration should require only interests. When forces sent abroad do not
that the new government not pose a threat to contribute to this mission they are, at best, a
enterprises. the United States.25 Rumsfeld delineated waste of money.
some of those conditions as well, including And the costs are substantial. Deputy
the removal of the Baath Party from power Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz esti-
and a prohibition on the possession of mates that operations against Iraq in the 12
weapons of mass destruction.26 One should years since the end of the first Gulf War cost
add to that list the requirement that the new $30 billion; but that figure focused on Iraq
government have no ties to Al Qaeda or other only (in particular the policing of the north-
anti-U.S. terrorist organizations. ern and southern no-fly zones) and therefore
Beyond those prudent demands on the underestimated the total cost of all forces in
new Iraqi government, the United States can the region. More complete estimates place
best encourage the emergence of a democrat- the costs of U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf at
ic government in Iraq by fostering an envi- at least 10 times that amount. In 1997,
ronment of economic engagement among Graham Fuller and Ian Lesser of the RAND
private enterprises. The president’s recent Corporation estimated that the U.S. presence
proposal to encourage trade in the region is a cost taxpayers between $30 billion and $60
helpful measure in this regard.27 On the billion annually. Separately Earl Ravenal,
other hand, a heavy-handed attempt to engi- professor emeritus at the Georgetown
neer results of Iraqi elections will only engen- University School of Foreign Service, estimat-

ed that the United States spent $50 billion a pation of Iraq.35 In an era of burdensome
year to maintain forces in the region.30 government spending, stifling taxation, and
The cost of maintaining this force certain- expanding deficits, Washington should be
ly increased in 2002 and early 2003, as the looking for ways to economize. Limiting the
U.S. military presence ballooned from 24,000 size and scope of our military would be a
to over 225,000 in preparation for war. Some good place to start.
rough estimates of the costs of the war may
be derived from the Bush administration’s Operational Tempo, Troop Retention,
supplemental defense appropriation submit- and the All-Volunteer Force
ted in March 2003, which totaled $74.7 bil- The Bush administration should consider
lion. That figure included $62.6 billion ways to reduce not just the size of the U.S.
specifically earmarked for military opera- military, but also the number of missions
tions.31 The true costs of U.S. military action that this small force is expected to complete.
abroad, however, must be derived from the Military planners are always mindful of the
overall defense budget. The Bush administra- pace at which military operations are con-
tion requested $400.5 billion for the Defense ducted, and the frequency with which our
Department for FY 2004, a staggering figure troops are shifted from mission to mission
that seems all the more imposing consider- and place to place. Ending the permanent
ing that that amount does not include the deployment of American military personnel
cost of military operations in Iraq.32 to the Persian Gulf would go a long way
One must also take account of occupa- toward reducing the operational tempo (or
tion costs that will be spread among several op tempo, for short) for our forces, who were
government agencies. Steven Kosiak of the stretched to the breaking point even before
Center for Strategic and Budgetary the latest action against Iraq. Relieving the
Assessments estimated that the military op tempo burdens will reduce the unseen
occupation of Iraq could cost between $10 and immeasurable hardships for our troops,
billion and $35 billion per year. Absent a clear including family separation, and will likely
commitment to limit the length of the occu- contribute to better retention.
pation, the enterprise could last for many There are already signs that a demand to
years. Separately, Kosiak and Gordon Adams do more with less is straining the force.
estimated nonmilitary costs related to the President Bush chose to declare the end of
war on Iraq, including humanitarian assis- “major combat operations” in Iraq on the
tance and aid to allies, to be as much as $135 deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham
billion.33 A report by the Council of Foreign Lincoln, and the Lincoln’s recent experience The Bush admin-
Relations and the James A. Baker III Institute is indicative of the challenges facing all of the
for Public Policy predicted that the costs of services. When the nearly 5,500 troops on the istration should
Iraqi reconstruction could climb to more enormous vessel learned in December that consider ways to
than $100 billion, with the United States their scheduled six-month deployment reduce not just
being held responsible for many of those would be extended indefinitely, the Lincoln
costs.34 Battle Group’s commander had an appropri- the size of the
The Bush administration has so far evad- ate—if gruff—message for the troops: “Get U.S. military, but
ed questions about costs—of the buildup to over it.” Adm. John M. Kelly’s message made
war, the war itself, and the occupation; the its way onto T-shirts in time for the Lincoln’s
also the number
bill will soon come due, however. And eventual homecoming in May 2003, nearly of missions that
although the war itself was thankfully short, 10 months after it had left its home port of this small force is
and casualty figures and operational costs Everett, Washington.36
were quite low, the president’s claim that the And in fairness, the vast majority of our expected to
“price of doing nothing exceeds the price of soldiers and sailors do just “get over it” every complete.
taking action” will be tested during the occu- day. The Lincoln Battle Group was only one

The Iraq war (and of four naval task forces deployed to the exceptionally well-trained. They conducted
postwar occupa- Middle East in support of the Iraq War. U.S. themselves with the utmost professionalism.
forces in the region, including Naval and Unlike the Iraqi army, which served solely out
tion), combined Marine Corps personnel on those ships, of fear, and which fled the scene of battle the
with ongoing totaled more than 225,000. That number moment Saddam’s regime no longer threat-
included some of the over 200,000 reservists ened their lives, our military depends on tal-
operations in and National Guard personnel called to ented young men and women who willingly
Afghanistan and active duty, but many reservists have been choose to serve their country. The nation’s
Kosovo, has assigned to far-flung corners of the world in ability to encourage such behavior will be
the service of the ever-expanding American impaired if our forces are spread too thin, if
placed a serious Empire. Retired Rear Adm. Thomas Hall, they are called upon to spend many months
strain on our assistant secretary of defense for reserve away from their families, and if the mission
affairs, told Congress that reserve personnel being pursued is not vital to U.S. national
military. “provide the majority of force protection to security.
military installations worldwide. . . . It is now
routine for the Army Guard to plan and exe- American Troops and Terrorism
cute Bosnia missions. They are scheduled to There are still other costs to an extended
relieve the active Army in Kosovo.”37 Many U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf
soldiers remain on active duty for over a year, region, beyond the financial strain on tax-
even though official policy limits call-ups to payers and the personal strain on our men
no more than 12 months’ duration. All of and women in uniform: terrorists have seized
those individuals are away from civilian jobs, upon the U.S. presence as a twisted justifica-
and therefore unable to contribute to the tion for their acts of violence. The latest
recovery of the domestic economy.38 attacks in Saudi Arabia are another chilling
As volunteers in the strongest military reminder of this very real threat.
force in the world, our men and women in Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz admitted in
uniform know the risks and rewards of their late February 2003, before the commence-
service long before they are sent in harm’s ment of Operation Iraqi Freedom, that the
way. We should be thankful that more than price paid to keep forces in the region had
1.4 million men and women choose to wear been “far more than money.” Anger at
the uniform; we should also, however, be American pressure on Iraq and resentment
aware of the risk that an unsustainable oper- over the stationing of U.S. forces in Saudi
ational tempo poses to our all-volunteer Arabia, Wolfowitz conceded, had “been
force. The Iraq war (and postwar occupa- Osama bin Laden’s principal recruiting
tion), combined with ongoing operations in device.” Looking ahead to the post-Hussein
Afghanistan and Kosovo, has placed a seri- period, Wolfowitz implied that the removal
ous strain on our military. “I just worry about of Hussein would enable the United States to
our ability to keep going,” Maj. Fred Wheeler, withdraw troops from the region. “I can’t
the senior enlisted marine attached to the air- imagine anyone here wanting to . . . be there
craft carrier USS Harry S Truman, told the for another 12 years to continue helping
Washington Post. No doubt mindful of those recruit terrorists.”40
types of concerns, the Post reported that the The American military presence in the
Pentagon fears that “a possible lengthy occu- Middle East has engendered widespread ani-
pation of Iraq could deplete the ranks of the mosity throughout the Muslim world. In
all-volunteer active duty force.”39 1996, former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi
The benefits of the all-volunteer force Arabia Richard Murphy called the “great”
were dramatically displayed for all to see in probability of terrorism to be “an inescapable
the recent conflict. American men and consequence” of our decision to keep troops
women in uniform are highly motivated and in the region.41 But Murphy’s statement pre-

sumed that the United States had no choice others in the administration have said that
but to leave American forces in the region. In they will not allow an Islamic government
fact, given the threat from terrorism and the similar to that in Iran to come to power.
limited utility of the forces in the region, a Florida senator and Democratic presidential
change in our military deployment policy was hopeful Bob Graham noted the contradic-
warranted long before September 11, 2001.42 tions of the Bush administration’s state-
Despite the known risks, however, three ments. Graham told viewers on ABC’s This
successive presidential administrations, both Week, “If you talk about democracy, which
Republican and Democratic, chose to keep means that people vote and select the politi-
American troops in the region. The president cal leadership that they desire, then you can’t
of the United States should never submit say, ‘But there are certain segments of the
American foreign policy goals to the vagaries population that are off-limits.’”43
of international public opinion. But when the Every day that the United States remains in
troops serve no useful purpose, their presence Iraq in the pursuit of a particular system of
is known to contribute to anti-American sen- government, the moderates will grow weaker
timent, and those who wish us ill capitalize on and the extremists will become emboldened.44
anti-Americanism to encourage disgruntled This is the classic Catch-22 of nation-building
psychopaths to fly airplanes into buildings, it efforts. The harder an occupying government Every day that
is clear that our forces in the Persian Gulf tries to build a nation, the higher the likeli- the United States
make America less, not more, secure. hood that the citizens of the nation being remains in Iraq
“built” will grow to resent the efforts of well-
meaning foreigners. in the pursuit of
Policy Recommendations To ensure that American troops are not a particular sys-
viewed as an occupying force imposing an
The Bush administration opted for a pol- unpopular government on a resentful popu- tem of govern-
icy of preventive war against Iraq, arguing lace, the United States must provide an envi- ment, the moder-
that the risks of inaction outweighed the ronment for democratization. Having removed ates will grow
risks of action. That policy was based on a Saddam Hussein from power, the United States
presumption of a swift victory and inherent- may rightly demand that the new government weaker and the
ly dismissed warnings, raised prior to the war, in Iraq not adopt a foreign policy that is hostile extremists will
that the removal of Hussein’s regime might to the United States. In this vein, Washington
ultimately prove contrary to U.S. interests by may require that Iraqis disavow the possession
destabilizing the region, fomenting ethnic of weapons of mass destruction and refuse to emboldened.
conflict, and fanning the flames of Muslim provide aid and comfort to Al Qaeda and other
resentment. Now that the United States has terrorist groups intent on harming Americans.
won a sweeping military victory, the follow- But beyond deterring clear and direct threats to
ing measures should be taken to ensure that Americans and American vital interests, Ameri-
the we do not remain needlessly entangled in can policymakers in Washington and Iraq
the region in the pursuit of dubious foreign should direct all military and diplomatic efforts
policy objectives. toward turning Iraq over to the Iraqi people
promptly and should studiously avoid placing
Allow the Iraqi People to Create Their preconditions on the Iraqis that will slow
Own System of Governance progress toward self-government. Washington
As discussed above, members of the Bush should take the following steps:
administration seem to be trapped by their
own rhetoric. On the one hand, the president • Ensure the widest possible representation for
has repeatedly declared his commitment to Iraq’s many ethnic and religious groups.
democracy and to allowing the Iraqi people The transitional government should
to govern themselves. On the other hand, include representatives from the three

main religious and ethnic groups in press conference, President Bush spoke
Iraq (Shia, Sunni, and Kurd) and possi- hopefully of a federation uniting Shias,
bly the Turkomen. To the extent possi- Sunnis, and Kurds. That may be the
ble, leaders should be chosen by the best solution, but the United States
Iraqi people, not by the U.S. Depart- should not mandate a particular form
ment of Defense or State, and should of government; nor should Washing-
be granted authority to make decisions ton demand that Iraq remain a single
for moving to self-government. The nation. In the interest of promoting
focus should not be on the character of regional stability, the United States
the government, per se; rather, policy- should work with the Iraqis to reassure
makers must be concerned with Iraq’s neighbors that a devolution of
whether or not that new government power away from Baghdad is not nec-
poses a threat to the United States and essarily a security threat; and, along
U.S. vital interests. those lines, the international commu-
• The interim authority established by the nity may demand that Iraqis renounce
United States should be focused entirely on territorial claims outside the former
the creation of a new system of government. boundaries of Iraq. Ultimately, howev-
The creation of a new government er, if the Iraqis choose to discard the
should take priority over the rebuild- borders that were drawn for them by
ing of Iraqi infrastructure. Beyond the old imperial powers at the end of
urgent humanitarian needs such as World War I, and, for example, divide
electricity and water, which will be pro- the nation formerly known as Iraq into
vided by American occupation forces two or more states, Americans should
in conjunction with the members of not stand in their way.
Iraq’s civil service, private industry will • De-Baathification should be limited and
be primarily responsible for rebuilding directed at those individuals implicated in the
Iraq’s infrastructure. Those efforts will abuses of Hussein’s regime. It is appropri-
certainly gain momentum once the ate to outlaw the Baath Party as an
permanent elected Iraqi government is unwelcome remnant of Hussein’s
in place and once private firms have oppressive government. And the crimi-
assurances that their investments are nals responsible for the terror and
likely to be profitable over the long repression conducted over the past 30
term. years should and must be held
Policymakers’ • Do not insist on a strong central government accountable for their actions. But we
based in Baghdad. Before the war began, should not paint with too broad a
primary concern American leaders pledged themselves brush. Former Baath Party members
must be whether to maintain the “territorial integrity” are likely to be the most knowledgeable
or not that new of Iraq. But the borders of Iraq were and able administrators in the country.
imposed by the British and French fol- Individuals who joined the Baath Party
government poses lowing the collapse of the Ottoman merely because party membership was
a threat to the Empire, and they do not necessarily a prerequisite to employment in the
reflect the wishes of the people of Iraq. government should not be held
United States and Rather than insist upon a strong cen- responsible for all acts of violence con-
U.S. vital tral government based in Baghdad that ducted in the name of the party.45 And
interests. largely mirrors that of Hussein’s they should not be prevented from
regime, the United States should not holding positions in the new govern-
object, for example, to a degree of ment.
autonomy for Kurds in the North, or • Encourage international organizations to
Shiites in the South. In his March 6 monitor elections and certify election results.

The United States does not want to American policy must be directed toward The surest way to
become involved in the process of certify- ensuring that this resentment does not snatch defeat
ing candidates or parties for election to spread. A sizable portion of the Iraqi citizen-
public office, as has been done in Bosnia ry will allow the coalition forces to carry for- from the jaws of
and Kosovo.46 In post-war Iraq, the elec- ward an interim plan for stabilizing the Iraqi an overwhelming
tion process will be the ultimate test of government and turning that government
the United States’ commitment to over to the Iraqi people. But this group is
military victory
democracy. It would be far better if an competing with fanatical elements opposed would be to over-
international body, possibly the United to an American occupation at all costs, who stay our welcome
Nations, or the Organization for Security demand the immediate withdrawal of U.S.
and Cooperation in Europe, certified the troops. in Iraq.
election results, lest the United States be
solely blamed for thwarting the wishes ofFollow the Withdrawal from Iraq with a
the Iraqi people by those who wind up on Military Withdrawal from the Region
the losing end of the democratic process. The Bush administration’s wise decision
But the leaders of the reconstruction to shift U.S. forces out of the kingdom of
effort must demand that international Saudi Arabia should be only the first of sev-
involvement in elections not become a eral steps to substantially reduce the U.S.
pretext for needlessly extending the peri-
presence throughout the region.
od of occupation. The Americans and the Americans rightly marvel at the proficien-
Iraqis must agree to the timeline for elec-
cy of our armed forces, and American taxpay-
tions with an eye toward facilitating a ers have funded the military’s transforma-
prompt U.S. withdrawal; election moni- tion. The Pentagon should reorient policy in
tors should be invited to participate only
a way that takes advantage of our technolog-
if they agree to the timeline.47 ical superiority and capitalizes on our ability
to project power from a distance, by elimi-
Follow the Creation of a New nating our expensive and unnecessary policy
Government with a Swift Exit from Iraq of forward deployment throughout the
The United States should follow up its region. The troops are unnecessary. They are
military victory and the establishment of a costly. And they do little to make the United
new Iraqi government with swift troop with- States safer and more secure.
drawal from Iraq. President Bush declared The Bush administration should clearly
before the commencement of hostilities that articulate its plans for removing troops from
American forces would remain in the country the region. It should follow up the Saudi
“as long as is necessary, and not a day announcement with changes to U.S. Navy
more.”48 A permanent American military pres- deployment cycles, which have included a
ence in Iraq is simply unnecessary. The Iraqi regular presence in the Persian Gulf since
people are exceptionally skilled as adminis- before the first Gulf War. It should make a
trators, and they are therefore eminently clear statement about planned troop with-
capable of governing themselves. Iraq is drawals from Iraq. The United States should
blessed with enormous oil and natural gas also reconsider pre-positioning of forces and
resources that will provide a solid financial material in Turkey. The forces in Turkey were
foundation for a new government. used primarily to police the northern no-fly
The surest way to snatch defeat from the zone over Iraq, protecting especially the eth-
jaws of an overwhelming military victory nic Kurds living in the region. The no-fly
would be to overstay our welcome in Iraq.49 zone operations, also known as Northern
Pockets of open resistance to the American Watch, successfully protected the Kurds
and British forces have been quashed, but from Hussein’s brutal repression, but are no
resentment lingers below the surface. longer needed now that Hussein is gone.

For a discussion of critics who complained of too
few troops in the invasion force, see Harry Levins,
Conclusion “Critics Call for More ‘Boots on the Ground,’”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 28, 2003, p. A1.
Before launching the military operation
that ultimately resulted in the removal of 2. Eric Schmitt, “Aftereffects: The Pullout; U.S. to
Withdraw All Combat Units from Saudi Arabia,” New
Saddam Hussein from power, the Bush York Times, April 30, 2003, p. A1. See also, Rowan
administration argued that this would set in Scarborough, “U.S. to Pull Forces from Saudi Arabia,”
motion a chain of events that would eventu- Washington Times, April 30, 2003, p. A1; and Vernon
ally democratize the entire region. That may Loeb, “U.S. Military Will Leave Saudi Arabia This
Year,” Washington Post, April 30, 2003, p. A1.
happen, but U.S. policy should not be direct-
ed toward that end. Our overriding goal 3. Tom Donnelly, “There’s No Place Like Iraq . . . ,”
should be the protection of vital U.S. inter- Weekly Standard, May 5, 2003, p. 10.
ests, and the mitigation or elimination of
4. Tom Donnelly and Anthony Cordesman, as
threats to the United States and its citizens. quoted in Will Dunham, “US Mulls Smaller
Given the United States’ low standing in the Military Presence in Middle East,” Reuters, April
region, skeptics are likely to question U.S. 23, 2003.
motives, inherently weakening would-be
There were alter- reformers. Rather than take a direct, active
5. Max Boot, “American Imperialism? No Need to
Run Away from that Label,” USA Today, May 6,
natives to a role in the creation of new governments in 2003, p. 15A.
lengthy U.S. pres- the region, the United States can foster an
atmosphere for reform in the Middle East, 6. The United States and the Persian Gulf: Reshaping
ence in the region including the expansion of liberal democrat-
Security Strategy for the Post-Containment Era, ed.
Richard D. Sokolsky (Washington: National
throughout the ic principles, and free market economics and Defense University, 2003), p. 8.
entrepreneurship, by adopting a largely
1990s. There are hands-off approach. 7. Loeb, “U.S. Military Will Leave Saudi Arabia
even more alter- U.S. policymakers should do so with a
This Year.”

natives today. clear eye on the lessons of recent history. 8. Levins, “Critics Call for More ‘Boots on the
Many scholars warned of the dangers long Ground.’”
before the events of September 11. There
9. See, for example, Joseph McMillan, “U.S.
were alternatives to a lengthy U.S. presence in Interests and Objectives,” in The United States and
the region throughout the 1990s, a presence the Persion Gulf, ed. Sokolsky, pp. 15, 18.
that most people realized posed grave risks
for American military personnel, and 10. This seems to be a particular concern for for-
eign media outlets. See, for example, Ben Russell,
American interests. There are even more “Iraq: The Aftermath: Rumsfeld’s Soundbites
alternatives today. A decision by the Bush Take a Back Seat as He Lashes Out at Waiting
administration to substantially reduce the Journalists, The Independent (London), May 3,
number of U.S. military personnel stationed 2003, p. 14.
in the region will be welcomed by the troops, 11. If one counts all petroleum products, includ-
and by the U.S. taxpayers, and could set the ing both crude and refined oil, Canada is
stage for a stable and sustainable relation- America’s leading provider of imported oil.
ship between Americans and the men and
12. Oil figures drawn from the Energy
women living in the Middle East for many Information Administration. Total U.S. oil
years to come. demand extrapolated from the percentage of
domestic consumption, where Total Demand –
Imports = Domestic Consumption. See “Table 5.2
Notes Crude Oil Production and Oil Well Productivity,
1954–2001,” www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/txt/ptb
1. For a useful overview of the campaign, see Rick 0502.html; and “Imports of Crude Oil into the
Atkinson, et al., “Confused Start, Swift Conclusion: United States,” www.eia.doe.gov/neic/rankings/
Invasion Shaped by Miscues, Bold Risks, and crudebycountry.htm. This assumes that all
Unexpected Successes,” Washington Post, p. 1, 34–35. imports are consumed domestically. Thanks to

research assistant Craig Principe for his assistance gov/news/releases/2003/04/20030424-6.html.
in compiling these statistics.
22. Quoted in Tom Bowman, “Rumsfeld Plays
13. See, for example, M. A. Adelman, The Genie out Down Shiite Influence,” Baltimore Sun, April 26,
of the Bottle: World Oil Since 1970 (Cambridge, 2003, p. 9A.
Mass.: The MIT Press, 1996), pp. 109–17; and M.
A. Adelman, “Coping with Supply Insecurity,” in 23. For a discussion on the heavy-handed nature
The Economics of Petroleum Supply (Cambridge, of “nation building” in Bosnia, see Ted Galen
Mass.: The MIT Press, 1993), pp. 510–11. Carpenter, “The Balkans: International Mission Is
Now a Mockery of Democratic Principles,” Los
14. Those costs are not zero, but they are not very Angeles Times, December 31, 2000, p. M2; and
large. Consumers typically respond as though Gary Dempsey, with Roger Fontaine, Fool’s
there were an actual cutoff, engaging in a wave of Errands (Washington: The Cato Institute, 2001),
panic buying to stock up on the embargoed pp. 95–100.
resource. This boost in short-term demand often
sets off a temporary price spike, but market forces 24. For a different view, see Conrad C. Crane and
respond to this by increasing supply, which ulti- W. Andrew Terrill, Reconstructing Iraq: Insights,
mately satisfies demands, causing prices to stabi- Challenges, and Missions for Military Forces in a Post-
lize. I am indebted to Peter VanDoren for his help- Conflict Scenario (Carlisle, Penn.: Strategic Studies
ful comments on this point. Institute, February 2003), p. 25. See also, Patrick
Basham, “A Democratic Iraq? Don’t Hold Your
15. American businesses assume risks when they Breath,” Cato Daily Commentary, March 31,
do business abroad, but these risks are balanced 2003, www.cato.org/dailys/03-31-03.html.
against the presumed benefits—and financial
rewards—of their overseas initiatives. 25. Quoted in Carolyn Lochhead, “Shiite Clerics
Challenge U.S. Goal in Iraq,” San Francisco
16. On the importance of lifting economic sanctions, Chronicle, April 24, 2003, p. A1.
see Christopher Preble, “Sanctions Won’t Sway Bush,”
Foxnews.com, May 13, 2003, www. foxnews.com/ 26. David Westphal, “Hope Amid Struggle for
story/0,2933,86686,00.html; and Bathsheba Crocker Democracy,” Sacramento Bee, April 27, 2003, p. A1.
and Frederick D. Barton, “Winning the Peace in Iraq,”
Washington Quarterly, Spring 2003, pp. 19–20. 27. “President Bush Presses for Peace in the Middle
East,” Remarks by the President in Commencement
17. Donnelly, “There’s No Place Like Iraq…” For a Address at the University of South Carolina, University
discussion of why Japan and Germany are not of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, May 9,
good models for post–war Iraq, see Wesley K. 2003, www. whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/05/
Clark, “Occupation No Model for This One,” 20030509-11.html.
Washington Post, March 23, 2003, p. B2; and John
W. Dower, “A Warning from History: Don’t 28. Winning the Peace in the Middle East: A Bipartisan
Expect Democracy in Iraq,” Boston Review, Blueprint for Postwar U.S. Policy (Washington: The
February/March 2003, http://bostonreview.mit. Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2003),
edu/BR28.1/dower.html p. 9.

18. Quoted in “President Promotes Iraqi 29. Personnel figures from DefenseLink,
Democracy in the Heart of Michigan’s Arab “Military Personnel on Hand by Region and
Community,” Associated Press, April 28, 2003. Country in 12/31/2001,” www.defenselink.mil/
19. Examples of democratically elected govern-
ments becoming autocratic include Nazi 30. Wolfowitz estimate from Karen DeYoung and
Germany and, in more recent times, Algeria. Walter Pincus, “Despite Obstacles to War, White
House Forges Ahead,” Washington Post, March 2,
20. Quoted in “President George Bush Discusses 2003, p. A18; and Graham E. Fuller and Ian O.
Iraq in National Press Conference,” Remarks by Lesser, “Persian Gulf Myths,” Foreign Affairs 76,
the President during his nationally televised press no. 3 (May–June 1997): 43. Ravenal cited in Doug
conference, March 6, 2003, www.whitehouse.gov Bandow, “The U.S. Alliance with Saudi Arabia,”
/news/releases/2003/03/20030306-8.html. Cato Handbook for Congress: Policy Recommendations
for the 108th Congress (Washington: Cato Institute,
21. Quoted in “President Gives Iraq Update to 2003). See also Donald Losman, “Economic
Workers of Tank Plant in Lima, Ohio,” Remarks Security: A National Security Folly?” Cato
by the President at the Lima Army Tank Plant, Institute Policy Analysis no 409, August 1, 2001,
Lima, Ohio, April 24, 2003, www.whitehouse. p. 9.

31. Steven M. Kosiak, “Analysis of the FY 2004 Navy in the Post–Cold War World,” Cato Institute
Defense Budget Request,” Center for Strategic Policy Analysis no. 195, August 2, 1993.
and Budgetary Assessments, April 21, 2003, p. 2;
see also Steven M. Kosiak, “Potential Cost of a 40. Quoted in DeYoung and Pincus, “Despite
War with Iraq and Its Post–War Occupation,” Obstacles to War, White House Forges Ahead,” p. A18.
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments,
February 25, 2003. 41. Richard Murphy, “No Time to Run,” New York
Times, June 27, 1996, p. A22.
32. Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria noted that the
United States spent more on defense ($322 billion 42. Ivan Eland, “Does U.S. Intervention Overseas
in 2001) than the next 11 countries combined Breed Terrorism? The Historical Record,” Cato
and predicted that U.S. spending would soon Foreign Policy Briefing no. 50, December 17,
“equal that of all other countries combined.” 1998, p. 21; Barbara Conry, “America’s Misguided
Fareed Zakaria, “The Arrogant Empire,” Policy of Dual Containment in the Persian Gulf,”
Newsweek, March 24, 2003, p. 26. Cato Institute Foreign Policy Briefing no. 33,
November 10, 1994; and Christopher Layne and
33. Kosiak, “Analysis of the FY 2004 Defense Ted Galen Carpenter, “Arabian Nightmares:
Budget Request,” pp. 1–2. See also, Gordon Washington’s Persian Gulf Entanglement,” Cato
Adams and Steven Kosiak, “The Price We Pay,” Policy Analysis no. 142, November 9, 1990.
New York Times, February 15, 2003, p. A31.
43. Quoted in “President Promotes Iraqi
34. “Guiding Principles for U.S. Post-Conflict Democracy in the Heart of Michigan’s Arab
Policy in Iraq,” Report of an Independent Community.”
Working Group Cosponsored by the Council on
Foreign Relations and the James A. Baker III 44. There have already been a number of incidents
Institute for Public Policy of Rice University, between U.S. troops and anti-American demonstra-
December 2002, p. 12. tors in Iraq. See, for example, Larry Kaplow,
“Rebuilding Iraq: Iraqis Decry Killing of Protesters,”
35. Quoted in “President George Bush Discusses Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 30, 2003, p. 6A.
Iraq in National Press Conference.”
45. Adeed Dawisha and Karen Dawisha, “How to
36. Lyndsey Layton, “The USS Lincoln Is Build a Democratic Iraq,” Foreign Affairs, May/
Homeward Bound,” Washington Post, May 2, 2003, June 2003, pp. 46–47.
p. A25. For the view from the homefront on the
Lincoln’s 10-month deployment, see Blaine 46. See Carpenter, “The Balkans: International
Harden, “Together Again, but Worlds Apart,” Mission Is Now a Mockery of Democratic
Washington Post, May 7, 2003, p. A21. Principles”; and Dempsey, Fool’s Errands, pp. 95–100.

37. Quoted in David S. Broder, “Last Straw for 47. See, for example, Christopher Preble, “The
First Responders,” Washington Post, March 26, U.N.’s Role in Post–War Iraq,” Cato Daily Com-
2003, p. A17. mentary, April 22, 2003, www.cato.org/dailys/04-
22-03.html. For a different view see Ted Galen
38. The Pentagon reported that nearly 217,000 Carpenter, “The U.N. Will Complicate an Iraq
National Guard members and reservists had been Exit Strategy,” Cato Daily Commentary, April 18,
called to active duty as of March 26. Audrey Hudson, 2003, www.cato.org/dailys/04-18-03. html.
“National Guard Deployment Highest Since
Korea,” Washington Times, April 2, 2003, p. A20. On 48. Quoted in “President Discusses the Future of
the economic impact of National Guard and Iraq,” Remarks by the President before the
Reserve mobilization see, Christian Davenport, American Enterprise Institute, Washington
“Called-Up Reservists Take Big Hit in Wallet,” Hilton Hotel, Washington, D.C., February 26,
Washington Post, March 4, 2003, p. A1; Amy Joyce, “Duty 2003, www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/
Calls—Hold That Job,” Washington Post, March 16, 02/20030226-11.html.
2003, p. H6; and John M. Berry, “U.S. Lost 108,000
More Jobs Last Month,” Washington Post, April 6, 2003, 49. There is near unanimity on this vital point.
p. A6. See Crane and Terrill, Reconstructing Iraq, p. vi;
and Michael Eisenstadt, “Conclusion: Lessons for
39. Thomas E. Ricks and Vernon Loeb, “Unrivaled U.S. Policymakers,” in U.S. Policy in Post–Saddam
Military Feels Strains of Unending War,” Iraq: Lessons from the British Experience, eds. Michael
Washington Post, p. A18. On the burden of overseas Eisenstadt and Eric Mathewson (Washington:
deployments and declining troop retention for Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2003),
the Navy, see Christopher Preble, “The Cold War p. 70.

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