Military expert doesn’t see ‘good options’ left in Iraq

By Ryan Lasley

When former defense official Lawrence Korb shared his pessimistic view of the U.S. military’s Iraq strategy in a speech Friday, UK faculty and others resoundingly echoed his dissatisfaction with the war.

In deciding current Iraq strategies, the United States needs to address the question, “What is the least bad option that will do the least amount of damage?” said Korb, who served as assistant secretary of defense for manpower, reserve affairs, installations and logistics from 1981 to 1985.

He is currently a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, and a senior adviser at the Center for Defense Information.

At this point, there are “no good options” to improve military strategy and do minimal damage, Korb said. Attendees at the “Options in Iraq” talk, hosted by UK’s Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, voiced their own critiques.

“We cannot afford to be there in the size we’re there today,” Cpt. Mike Rush said.

Rush, who teaches at UK’s Army ROTC, served two 11-month tours in Iraq as an army aviator. He said he did not expect the war to be long-lasting, but cautioned that a total withdrawal would not eliminate the insurgent threats.

“The real tragedy is for the Iraqi people,” Rush said. “They’d like to see that their sons and daughters are safe.”

A more effective strategy for troop removal, Rush said, would be a gradual one to reduce numbers within U.S. ranks while maintaining enough to compete against the insurgents. Strategy for the United States, he said, should include setting a deadline for withdrawal over a year’s time and organizing a meeting of countries in the Middle East to discuss diplomacy.

“If you (the U.S. troops) don’t leave Iraq, you won’t win the war on terror,” Korb said.

Iraqis are not upset with American culture, Korb said, but rather with the unclear motivations for the invasion. Gaining control over oil, finding weapons of mass destruction, implementing democracy and ousting Saddam Hussein have all been listed as reasons by U.S. officials or the press, but Korb said Iraqis haven’t definitively accepted any of those.

“It’s our policies they don’t like,” Korb said.

Rush described the Iraqi people as a group accustomed to the oppressive Hussein-led regime rather than a democratically run government.

“This is a culture that works hard but doesn’t see government as a priority,” Rush said.

Rush’s tours overseas landed him in the Al Anbar and Tal Afar provinces, which both provided him insight as to how violent relations can be between U.S. forces and Middle Eastern groups, including Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

“When it’s not attacking U.S. troops, it’s fighting amongst each other,” Rush said.