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The U.S. Debate on Fixing Iraq

What are the challenges the United States is facing in the built-up of Iraq?

May 12, 2003

What are the challenges the United States is facing in the built-up of Iraq?

The dust has settled over the Iraqi desert and bombed buildings in the cities. While most Iraqis are happy about Saddam's removal, they are less enthusiastic about the presence of foreign troops. Still, the United States now finds itself faced with classic nation-building tasks. Our Read My Lips examines the U.S. perspective on the challenges.

Will Iraq's reconstruction be easy?

“All we need to get suffering Iraqis on the road to recovery is to lift the embargo — and let them sell their oil.”

(Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post columnist, April 2003)

How will the global economy benefit from a free Iraq?

“The greatest thing to come of this for the world economy would be a $20 a barrel for oil. That’s bigger than any tax cut in any country.”

(Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp., April 2003)

What about the U.S. strategy for dealing with Islam and Iraq?

“We don’t want to allow Persian fundamentalists to gain any foothold. We want to find more moderate clerics — and move them into position of influence.”

(Senior U.S. administration official, April 2003)

How does the U.S. military look at Iraq's reconstruction?

“This is a 25-year project.”

(U.S. general, April 2003)

But what about that famous U.S. optimism?

“I don’t think it has to be expensive, and I don’t think it has to be lengthy. Americans do everything fairly quickly.”

(Senior Bush Administration official, April 2003)

Did the swift victory have any effects on U.S. perceptions of the UN?

“We’ve begun to think of ourselves as a more trustworthy universal arbiter than the UN itself.”

(William Kristol, author of The War Over Iraq, April 2003)

How does Dracula fit into all this?

“With the vanishing of Saddam Hussein, the Iraq saga was suddenly bereft of its villain — and a saga without a villain is like a vampire movie without a Dracula.”

(Alan Abelson, Barron’s columnist, April 2003)

Does that bode well for a new democratic Iraq?

“Iraq is now run not by a local mass murderer — but by an American president.”

(Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, April 2003)

What is the European perspective?

“Opponents of the war now see the creation of a democratic, stable and prosperous Iraq as an American project. They even have an almost subconscious stake in American failure.”

(Philip H. Gordon, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, April 2003)

Why does the United States be careful of how it conducts itself in the aftermath of the war?

“America’s ability to lead effectively in the future will depend a lot in how this war is understood and remembered by the world.”

(Robert Kagan, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, April)

What will be a challenge for Americans on the spot?

“Uncle Sam is not suddenly going to become as popular as Ronald McDonald.”

(Max Boot, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Affairs, April 2003)

What did the fall of Baghdad mean for al Qaeda?

“Far less credence will now be placed in the preachments of Osama bin Laden regarding America’s weakness.”

(James Schlesinger, former CIA director, April 2003)

Will there be a windfall for President?

“President Bush toppled the Iraqi dictatorship in 21 days. Getting his domestic agenda through the U.S. Congress won’t be quite so easy.”

(Dana Milbank, Washington Post staff writer, April 2003)

And finally, Mr. President, why are you optimistic about Iraq's future?

“It’s a cynical world which condemns Iraq to failure. We refuse to accept that.”

(U.S. President George W. Bush, April 2003)