The New Iraq Strategy

Stephen DeAngelis

January 11, 2007

“Tonight in Iraq, the Armed Forces of the United States are engaged in a struggle that will determine the direction of the global war on terror ­ and our safety here at home. The new strategy I outline tonight will change America’s course in Iraq, and help us succeed in the fight against terror. … It is clear that we need to change our strategy in Iraq.”

With those words, President Bush began his long awaited speech about a new course for the war in Iraq. Although most pundits, and certainly the Democrat-controlled Congress, will focus on the fact that he is surging more than 20,000 troops, we are much more intrigued by the non-military strategy the President outlined — the non-kinetics that will go along with the implied kinetic ability (i.e., use of weapons) of all those extra boots on the ground. Because this new non-traditional approach aligns closely with an approach we have been advocating as Development-in-a-Box™, we (Stephen DeAngelis and Tom Barnett) decided to co-author a blog and post it simultaneously on our blog sites.

We are not certain that 20,000 new troops will be sufficient to secure the necessary stability to give the non-military strategy a chance to succeed, but we are heartened that the value of the non-military strategy we have been advocating — very much in line also with the new counter-insurgency (COIN) doctrine published jointly by the Marines and Army — is finally being recognized. We hope that it doesn’t come too late. The President stated:

“A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities. So America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced. … To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend 10 billion dollars of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs. … We will give our commanders and civilians greater flexibility to spend funds for economic assistance. We will double the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams. These teams bring together military and civilian experts to help local Iraqi communities pursue reconciliation, strengthen moderates, and speed the transition to Iraqi self reliance. And Secretary Rice will soon appoint a reconstruction coordinator in Baghdad to ensure better results for economic assistance being spent in Iraq.”

The White House posted an outline of this new strategy and highlighted some of its key points. Among the actions that the coalition will take are these:

  • Support political moderates so they can take on the extremists.
  • Build and sustain strategic partnerships with moderate Shi’a, Sunnis, and Kurds.
  • Support the national compact and key elements of reconciliation with Iraqis in the lead.
  • Diversify U.S. efforts to foster political accommodation outside Baghdad (more flexibility for local commanders and civilian leaders).
  • Expand and increase the flexibility of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) footprint.
  • Focus U.S. political, security, and economic resources at local level to open space for moderates, with initial priority to Baghdad and Anbar.

To achieve some of these objectives, the President announced, “We also need to examine ways to mobilize talented American civilians to deploy overseas ­ where they can help build democratic institutions in communities and nations recovering from war and tyranny.” Enterra Solutions is committed to supporting these reconstruction efforts, whether it is helping the military Provincial Reconstruction Teams or other, purely civilian, efforts to help rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure.

The President and Congress agree that Iraqis must assume responsibility for security within the country. That is a tall order. But rebuilding infrastructure must be accomplished simultaneously with achieving security. We believe that our Development-in-a-Box approach, which embraces best practices and standards, local flexibility, capacity building, and broad-based communities of practice, offers a way forward. We look forward to working with others who also embrace this approach.