Strategic Drift in Iraq

Executive Summary

With little more than a year left in the Bush presidency, the United States risks slipping into what can best be described as strategic drift in Iraq. The United States cannot continue to muddle through in Iraq hoping that things will somehow get better. Drifting along has severe consequences for America’s security.

Strategic drift moves us further away from the goal of a unified and stable Iraq. President Bush claims that the current strategy is having some success, but toward what end? The president argued that the surge would give the political breathing space needed to achieve a unified, peaceful Iraq. But this success, which Bush claims comes from a reduction of casualties in certain areas of Iraq, has been accompanied by massive sectarian cleansing. The surge has not achieved progress; it has impeded progress toward the stated strategic objective of national reconciliation.

The other argument offered for an enduring and open-ended commitment of U.S. troops to Iraq is based on the possible negative consequences of withdrawing U.S. troops. The case rests on the false premise that any other option would fuel terrorism, regional conflict, and humanitarian disaster. But strategic drift forestalls the actual hard work needed to avoid these potential dangers and actually does little or nothing to prevent them. It promotes fear over reason and inertia over strategic clarity, keeping America paralyzed on a dangerous course.

Strategic drift weakens our security. Strategic drift poses the greatest threat to American national security. An open-ended commitment of U.S. troops in Iraq is weakening America’s security in four key ways:

  • It undermines the fight against global terrorists.
  • It continues to weaken U.S. military readiness.
  • It risks getting U.S. troops caught in the crossfire of Iraq’s civil wars.
  • It spends billions more on a strategy whose tactics do not add up to a realistic endgame.

Bush allies are abetting strategic drift. Bush’s allies have an incentive to let fear drive our foreign policy. While some have offered muted criticisms of the strategy or sought to divert attention to other challenges, conservatives believe that they fare well politically when they play to fear rather than reason.

Progressives are at risk of enabling strategic drift. Leading foreign policy voices and security institutes—some of the same ones who were wrong about going to war in Iraq in the first place and wrong about how to deal with the war’s first four years—have helped build a case that aids and abets the country’s slide toward strategic drift.

Progressives are frustrated because the president and his allies in Congress have obstructed their oversight of the administration’s Iraq policy. But they now risk drifting themselves into offering only a vague and muddled vision. Progressives must provide a clear alternative to counter the Bush policy of strategic drift—one that takes back control of America’s security interests.

A clear alternative: Focus on key U.S. national security interests. Progressives should start with a firm statement that America will undertake a strategic phased redeployment of its troops in a defined period of time. America’s interests, not Iraqi’s divided political leaders, will determine America’s timetable for redeployment.

This new approach should put key U.S. interests at the forefront—preserving Iraq’s unity as a functioning state that is not threatening to or threatened by its neighbors and does not have terrorist safe havens. Three steps are necessary to safeguard key U.S. interests in Iraq:

  • Suspend training and arming forces in a deadly civil war. To guard against the threat of an even larger civil war, the United States should suspend efforts to train, arm, and support Iraqi forces—the tribal forces and citizens groups, as well as the Iraqi police and army units that do not demonstrate allegiance to Iraq’s national government. Continuing these efforts in the absence of some degree of national accommodation risks an even deadlier conflict.
  • Broker a political settlement to Iraq’s conflict. As it redeploys troops, the United States should call for an inclusive emergency constitutional convention under the auspices of the United Nations to broker a national compact among Iraq’s competing factions. The goal of this constitutional convention would be to resolve the narrow set of core issues that prevent a stable Iraq from forming: delineating the lines of authority between the federal, regional, provincial, and local governments; striking an agreement on oil development; and settling differences over revenue sharing.
  • Buffer Iraq’s neighbors from the effects of the conflict. As it redeploys, the United States should work with countries in the region on how to address the growing refugee crisis and how to contain Iraq’s conflict within its borders.

Action in Iraq. Progressive leaders do not need to wait until January 2009 to prevent strategic drift. They can start now by

  1. Limiting the 2008 supplemental funding request
  2. Continuing to emphasize measures to restore U.S. military readiness
  3. Continuing to advocate a diplomatic surge to stabilize the Middle East
  4. Working to update the United Nations mandate that expires at the end of the year to develop an integrated U.N. framework for brokering a political settlement among Iraq’s leaders and organizing international support for Iraq
  5. Enforcing the Leahy amendment barring aid to known human rights abusers
  6. Enacting laws that restrict and hold private military contractors accountable for crimes and abuses
  7. Addressing the growing Iraqi refugee crisis

America’s Current Debate on Iraq

The United States’ current Iraq debate has three key dynamics: a lame duck president looking to hand Iraq off to his successor, a conservative movement promoting fear over reason for perceived political gain, and a progressive movement frustrated by a lack of change in Iraq policy and vague positions about what to do.

1. President Bush: Running out the Clock

At the end of 2006, President Bush had a real opportunity to fundamentally change the Iraq strategy. In the wake of the conservatives’ defeat in the 2006 midterm elections, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group offered a credible alternative based on the same pillars of the Iraq redeployment strategy presented by progressives—intensified diplomatic efforts combined with a phased drawdown of U.S. troops. President Bush ignored this alternative and doubled down on a risky surge. Just as they did in 2005 and 2006, Iraq war proponents now claim progress without offering strong evidence that the Bush administration’s Iraq policy is resolving the core issues of Iraq’s conflicts.

Too much of the Iraq debate during the past month has focused on whether additional U.S. troops and a different set of military tactics have stabilized certain parts of Iraq. This ignores the fundamental goal of President Bush’s surge—to give Iraq’s leaders the breathing space they need to make the fundamental political compromises necessary to stabilize the country. On this core objective, the surge has been a strategic failure. In fact, some of the military tactics, such as supporting forces linked to Sunni tribes, may very well be undermining national unity and setting back efforts to create cohesive Iraqi institutions.

While the administration has touted these partnerships as a form of “bottom up reconciliation,” it has not presented a plan for how to connect short-term gains made in some Sunni tribal areas with the national-level political process. The tactics being implemented on the ground do not support the stated goals of Bush’s Iraq strategy. The result is strategic drift in America’s Iraq policy—one that leaves fundamental questions in Iraq unresolved while continuing to undermine U.S. military readiness and drain precious resources away from other key fronts like Afghanistan.

2. Bush’s Conservative Allies: Replay 2002 and 2004

Conservatives have aligned themselves with the Bush Iraq strategy, just as they have done for the past four years. Some conservatives have offered muted criticisms of the Bush administration’s implementation and handling of the Iraq war, but they rarely question the main Bush strategy. At times some have sought to divert attention from Iraq to other challenges such as Iran and the fight against global terror groups—hinting at expanded military conflict. Conservative drumbeats on Iran—as well as the “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” earlier this month—demonstrate that some conservatives believe they will fare well politically if they play the fear card and paint their opponents as weak on security.

3. Progressives: Lacking Clarity

After driving the Iraq debate for the past two years, progressives risk slipping away from offering the clear strategic choice on Iraq. In 2005, progressives moved beyond criticisms of the Bush Iraq policy and offered a policy alternative centered on a phased strategic redeployment of U.S. troops combined with intensified diplomatic efforts to resolve Iraq’s internal conflicts and stabilize the Middle East.

Although the 110th Congress has exercised more oversight on Iraq policy than its conservative-led predecessor, President Bush and his conservative allies have obstructed the real change that most Americans want on Iraq. Progressives introduced measures aimed at holding the Bush administration accountable for delivering the stated goals of its Iraq policy. They mandated benchmarks aimed at measuring progress in Iraq and introduced measures that sought to restore military readiness by giving U.S. troops the rest they deserve.

Most conservatives fought these measures tooth and nail—they even opposed the effort to restore U.S. military readiness. Conservatives’ obstinate refusal to change the Iraq strategy exemplified by their use of Senate rules that make it difficult to pass anything without 60 votes, and some tactical security improvements in certain areas of Iraq led conservatives to conclude that they should remain closely tied to Bush’s strategy.

Progressives have drifted away from clear calls for redeployment and toward academic proposals and vague positions about what to do.

Last month’s Senate vote on a resolution suggesting a “soft partition” model of Iraq is yet another sign of muddle and drift. The “soft partition” plan envisions a decentralized Iraq built on three autonomous regions. It has been rejected by a majority of Iraqi leaders, opposed by a strong majority of the Iraqi people, and strongly criticized by powers neighboring Iraq because it is both impractical and academic and cannot be implemented without the support of Iraq’s leaders.

Other progressives have slipped toward advocating proposals that focus on tactical measures such as training Iraq’s security forces or addressing the spillover effects of Iraq’s internal conflicts on the region. None of these proposals cut to the heart of the national security threats posed by strategic drift—that the open-ended commitment of U.S. troops to Iraq is making Americans less safe and not resolving Iraq’s internal conflicts.

Pledging to continue training Iraq’s security forces without questioning whether our actions amount to essentially arming up different sides in Iraq’s internal conflicts risks further inflaming an already unstable Middle East. Talking vaguely about a political solution or accommodation among Iraq’s leaders without fully committing to a new strategy that helps Iraq’s leaders resolve their power-sharing disputes imperils tactical gains made in 2007.

The Dangers of Strategic Drift

Strategic drift in Iraq threatens U.S. security by undermining the fight against global terrorists, weakening U.S. military readiness, risking U.S. troops getting caught in the crossfire, and escalating financial costs.

Undermining the Fight Against Global Terrorists

With the bulk of America’s ground forces tied down in Iraq for the foreseeable future, the United States has less and less capability to respond to other contingencies around the world. Moreover, the war in Afghanistan—the central front in the war on terror—continues to suffer from a lack of focus of resources and attention, both of which have been committed to Iraq. Losing the war in Afghanistan would represent a major blow in the efforts to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban and it would also undermine the credibility of the NATO alliance.

Weakening U.S. Military Readiness

The U.S. military—particularly the Army—is stretched to the breaking point. The drawdown in forces that President Bush recently announced would begin next spring is based not on conditions on the ground, but on the reality that the Army cannot continue to sustain such deployments.

Despite lowering its standards, the Army has been forced to offer an enlistment bonus of up to $45,000 to entice recruits, and the Army is losing captains and majors at a rate not seen since Vietnam. Meanwhile, the Marine Corps is floating proposals to redeploy from Iraq to take over the critical fight in Afghanistan—leaving the Army the burden of fighting an unpopular war under unprecedented strain. The National Guard has been forced to become an operational reserve, leaving the homeland vulnerable.

Strategic drift further weakens our military—both now and in the future—as unqualified people are taken into the military and future leaders leave the services.

Risking U.S. Troops Getting Caught in the Crossfire

As long as our troops remain in Iraq, there remains the potential for them to be caught in the crossfire of a more violent civil war or cross-border incursions. Iraq’s sectarian conflict could reignite at any time. American troops should not be put in such situations simply due to the inability of their leaders to formulate appropriate policies. Unfortunately, strategic drift makes such scenarios more likely. So long as U.S. troops remain in Iraq, some violent element will target them. Even with a reduced presence, Americans will continue to be killed in Iraq for an undefined strategic purpose. Our political leadership owes it to our men and women in uniform to clearly define the goals and purposes of their sacrifices, not drift along with ill-defined policies.

Escalating Financial Costs

The longer American troops stay in Iraq, the more it will cost American taxpayers. Money spent in Iraq is money that cannot be spent on other national security priorities, much less domestic ones. Including President Bush’s fiscal year 2008 supplemental funding requests, the war will cost nearly $610 billion—an average of over $100 billion a year and $100 billion more than Vietnam in real dollars. Continuing the war for another four fiscal years with 60,000 troops will cost close to $190 billion. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that the Iraq war, along with Afghanistan, could end up costing well over $2.4 trillion.

Abetting the Slide Into Strategic Drift in Iraq

Several leading foreign policy thinkers and security institutes—some of the same ones who were wrong about going to war in Iraq in the first place and wrong about how to deal with the war’s first four years—have helped build the case that aided the country’s slide into strategic drift. Instead of offering plans that clarify the current drift, they have perpetuated it by triangulating against supposedly “irresponsible” withdrawal plans. Just as conservatives in Congress have done, they have failed to question the flawed premises at the heart of the administration’s Iraq strategy.

Some progressive candidates have defaulted to policies of strategic drift because of legitimate fears about what might happen in Iraq, focused on three main concerns: terrorist sanctuaries, regional war, and humanitarian catastrophe. Yet ironically, strategic drift forestalls the actual hard work needed to avoid these potential dangers and does little or nothing to prevent them. Keeping tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq until the end of the next presidential term not only serves to prolong these problems but also creates new ones.

The arguments for maintaining a large and enduring U.S. troop presence center on fear of what might happen, which is keeping America paralyzed on a dangerous more-of-the-same course. Just as more Americans and their elected officials should have questioned the faulty arguments and intelligence that led the United States into Iraq, they must now challenge the premises that would keep America trapped in Iraq’s quagmire.

Conservative False Premise Number 1: Maintaining an enduring U.S. troop presence in Iraq will make Americans safer from terrorists.

A vicious struggle for power among competing Iraqi militias and factions is the central security challenge in Iraq. Foreign terrorist groups represent only a small portion of the challenge. Iraq is a Shi’a majority country, and the Shi’a and Kurdish leadership strongly opposes the foreign fighters. In addition, Sunni tribal forces, acting well in advance of the surge of U.S. troops, formed local alliances to counter the foreign terrorist threat.

Maintaining a large U.S. troop presence in Iraq is counterproductive to combating global terror groups. The longer American troops remain in Iraq, the stronger the Al Qaeda narrative of America as an occupier of Muslim nations will grow. Al Qaeda in Iraq is on the run from its former tribal and insurgent allies, and the greatest terrorist danger emanating from Iraq is the propaganda victory that a protracted American presence gives to Al Qaeda central.

Moreover, Iraq’s overwhelming consumption of national security resources drains those same resources from fighting Al Qaeda central in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Securely ensconced in the mountainous tribal border regions, Al Qaeda has plotted several terrorist attacks against U.S. allies and military installations in Europe with impunity. As the recent attack against former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto shows, Pakistani militants are growing increasingly bold. The United States will not have the resources to adequately focus on its true enemy—Al Qaeda central—until it ends its strategic drift in Iraq.

Conservative False Premise 2: Maintaining an enduring U.S. troop presence in Iraq will prevent regional conflict.

The presence of U.S. forces largely positioned in the center of the country has not deterred recent Turkish threats to invade northern Iraq—it has been diplomacy that has forestalled a full-blown invasion.

Direct military intervention by most of Iraq’s neighbors is highly unlikely. Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Syria lack the conventional military strength and have numerous internal security challenges—including the presence of many Iraqi refugees in the case of Syria and Jordan—that make the case for direct military involvement weak. America can deter threats from Turkey and Iran by keeping forces in the region and developing a regional security approach that resolves cross-border tensions through intensified diplomacy.

Strategic drift actually increases the odds of regional conflicts. Developments in Iraq affect its neighbors’ interests, and these neighbors are pursuing their interests by military or other non-diplomatic means, even with the presence of more than 150,000 American troops. Turkey, for example, is threatening to pursue its interests in Iraqi Kurdistan militarily, while Iran continues to meddle with its paramilitary forces. In effect, the large American troop presence in Iraq has provided an incentive for neighboring states to pursue increasingly aggressive Iraq policies.

An enduring, long-term presence of tens of thousands of American troops in the absence of diplomatic activity is worse than the current situation: It does nothing to decrease the probability of regional conflict while leaving a vulnerable American force caught in the middle. Without a targeted diplomatic offensive combined with the redeployment of U.S. troops, there is little the United States can do to prevent regional conflict emanating from Iraq.

Conservative False Premise 3: Maintaining an enduring U.S. troop presence in Iraq is the only way to prevent humanitarian disasters and genocide.

Strategic drift has not prevented the current humanitarian disaster from taking place. Indeed, widespread sectarian violence has already taken place with the near-constant presence of over 130,000 American troops. Since the beginning of the surge, the number of Iraqis displaced inside the country has more than doubled—2 million are estimated to be displaced. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 2 million Iraqis have fled the country, and tens of thousands take flight every day, often to squalid camps in Syria and Jordan.

The best way to prevent an even greater humanitarian disaster is to take the one step necessary to resolve Iraq’s conflict—declare that U.S. troops will redeploy by a date certain and use the departure as leverage to advance a political settlement between Iraq’s warring factions.

A Clear Alternative: Focusing on Key Interests as U.S. Troops Redeploy

Progressives should continue to advocate for a phased redeployment. The required strategic shift must start with a firm statement that America will redeploy its troops in a defined period of time. The United States must complete the military mission in Iraq at a time of its choosing, and not when Iraq’s divided leaders decide to take responsibility for their country’s affairs.

Progressives must understand that President Bush is seeking to hand off Iraq to his successor and that his conservative allies are unlikely to support the redeployment necessary to make Americans safer. With that in mind, progressives need to offer clarity about the choice they offer on Iraq. 

Progressives should provide a clear alternative to counter the Bush policy of strategic drift. This new approach should put key U.S. interests at the forefront—preserving Iraq’s unity as a functioning state that does not have terrorist havens and is not threatened by or threatening to its neighbors. It should also take steps to resolve Iraq’s internal struggles for power by working with the United Nations and other international actors to organize an emergency constitutional convention.

1. Preventing a Deadlier Civil War

The United States must work closely with the United Nations, other global powers, and neighboring countries to address inconsistencies between the competing processes of top-down national reconciliation and the new so-called “bottom up reconciliation” initiatives undertaken in recent months by the Bush administration.

For the first four years of the U.S. presence in Iraq, the Bush administration focused its efforts in Iraq on working to bring Iraq’s different factions together in a national political process. This process included extensive negotiations to bring Iraq’s Sunni community into the national government and achieve consensus on key power-sharing questions, as well as spending billions of dollars to create a unified Iraqi national security force.

President Bush presented the surge as an attempt to jumpstart the deadlocked national reconciliation and advance Iraq’s political transition. When this did not achieve results, the Bush administration shifted tactics, focusing on boosting the power of local groups that have questionable allegiance to the national government. This tactical shift risks making Iraq’s civil war deadlier by offering support to armed groups that question the legitimacy of Iraq’s central government.

Saddam Hussein’s ousting and subsequent Iraqi political developments have drastically altered the relationship between Iraq’s central, provincial, and local governments. The United States is currently facilitating further devolution by empowering Iraqi tribes and other sub-provincial armed groups to take matters of security into their own hands.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration does not seem to have linked the tactically driven devolution of power from a central government to tribal and other groups to a broader conception of a decentralized Iraq. Recognizing the phenomenon of decentralization would allow the United States to formulate policies based on the different conditions in different corners of the country.

The two main obstacles to overcome in integrating irregular Iraqi groups into a decentralized Iraqi polity are governance and security. At the core, the unresolved questions related to money and guns must be answered in order to link “bottom up” efforts to a national-level political solution.

To guard against the threat of an even larger civil war, the United States should suspend these efforts to train, arm, and support Iraqi forces—the tribal forces and citizens groups, as well as the Iraqi police and army units that do not demonstrate allegiance to Iraq’s national government. Continuing these efforts in the absence of some degree of national accommodation risks an even deadlier conflict.

2. Brokering a Political Settlement to Iraq’s Conflict

As it redeploys troops, the United States should call for an inclusive emergency constitutional convention under the auspices of the United Nations to broker a national compact among Iraq’s competing factions. The goal of this constitutional convention would be to resolve the narrow set of core issues that prevent a stable Iraq from forming; delineating the lines of authority between the federal, regional, provincial, and local governments; striking an agreement on oil development; and settling differences over revenue sharing.

The United States should support increasing the role of the United Nations in brokering a political settlement among Iraq’s leaders. The United Nations has played an important role behind the scenes at pivotal moments in Iraq’s political transition, and it has also helped organize international support for Iraq through the International Compact for Iraq. As it redeploys its forces, the United States should work more closely with the United Nations to develop the international support for helping Iraq’s leaders settle their differences.

3. Buffering Iraq’s Neighbors from the Effects of the Conflict

All of Iraq’s neighbors have concrete interests, and will pursue them by military means in the absence of political and diplomatic progress. The goal of U.S. political and diplomatic efforts with Iraq’s neighbors is to ensure they pursue their interests in ways that are productive to stability in Iraq and the region. The absence of such efforts ensures that they will pursue their interests in harmful ways. In the long run, the U.S. military alone cannot reshape the complex political dynamics. Nevertheless, the United States and other global powers can play an important role in mediating these conflicts and tensions.

The United States must recognize the fragmented nature of the neighbors’ interests in Iraq and tailor its diplomacy to address the different conflicts that drive the neighbors’ involvement. Therefore, while an overall regional contact group is necessary, it will be more useful to break up American diplomatic efforts into area-specific working groups.

For instance, the problem of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, would involve the United States, the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Iraqi government, and Turkey—and possibly Iran and Syria, who both have discontented Kurdish populations. A working group on Iraqi refugees would include Syria, Jordan, the United States, and the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees. Dividing up American diplomatic efforts can make the seemingly overwhelming multiple challenges of Iraq and its neighbors more manageable.

The United States needs to determine what its interests in the broader Middle East are and how best to attain them. The Bush administration and current proposals allow the United States to drift from crisis to crisis without any broad vision of how all the pieces fit and work together. The United States needs to fundamentally reconsider its policy in Iraq and the region; it cannot afford another presidential term of drift.

Action Items

Progressive leaders do not need to wait until January 2009 to prevent strategic drift. They can start now with the following actions:

1. Limit the 2008 Supplemental Funding Request

Last week, President Bush requested an additional $46 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other national security programs. This new request brings the cost of these wars to $196.4 billion in fiscal year 2008 alone. Progressives on Capitol Hill should seek to limit this funding by continuing to provide close oversight on the money requested.

During the past four years, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has found that billions have been lost to waste, fraud, and abuse, and a number of independent organizations have cited major problems of corruption in Iraq. Congress should carefully examine the request submitted by the Bush administration for additional funding and trim off the unnecessary expenditures.

One option would be to set a goal to pare back the funding request by half. Two-thirds of Americans support reducing this funding request, including 43 percent who favor sharply reducing it. A key area to cut is excess spending on new weapons procurement such as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator or new EA-18G electronic warfare aircraft. These weapons systems should go through the normal budget process, not an emergency wartime supplemental. The time has come for progressive leaders to re-engage on the Iraq debate by refusing to grant the Bush administration another blank check.

A second limit Congress might pursue is traunching the funding for shorter periods of time—requiring the Bush administration to achieve tangible progress toward resolving Iraq’s internal conflicts and redeploying U.S. troops.

2. Continue Stressing Military Readiness

Congress was unable to gain support from conservatives on measures to enhance troop readiness earlier this year, but progressives should not give up on these efforts to support the troops. As the recent announcement that more National Guard units will be called up for duty in Iraq illustrates, the Army continues to be stretched thin by the war. A Webb-Hagel style amendment governing National Guard and Reserve deployments as well as active-duty forces should be considered.

3. Continue Advocating for a Diplomatic Surge

The main problem with strategic drift is its failure to conceptually integrate Iraq into the broader problems of the region. Congress can force the administration to make an attempt at this by mandating and providing funds for a diplomatic surge in the region. It should also support an expanded role for the United Nations in brokering a political settlement among Iraq’s factions and addressing the growing refugee crisis in the region.

4. Support an Expanded Role for the United Nations

As U.S. troops redeploy from Iraq, the United States should take steps to increase the role and involvement of the United Nations in mediating conflicts between Iraqi factions and organizing international support for Iraq. The United Nations has already played a key role at pivotal moments in Iraq’s political transition, and it was instrumental in organizing the International Compact for Iraq. To help Iraq’s leaders settle their differences, the United States must take steps to disengage from Iraq’s internal politics and get others to mediate. The current U.N. mandate authorizing the presence of U.S.-led coalition forces expires at the end of 2007, and the United States should use this pivotal moment to lead an international dialogue to reorganize and boost support for Iraq.

5. Enforce the Leahy Amendment

Congress should begin efforts to hold U.S. assistance to the Iraqi security forces to the same standard it holds other American security assistance by enforcing the Leahy amendment, which calls for stopping aid to known human rights abusers. An effort along these lines could also identify Iraq units and commanders complicit in atrocities and put them on notice that their misdeeds will not go unpunished.

6. Restrict and Hold Private Military Contractors Accountable

Last month’s incident in which private military contractor Blackwater was involved in killing 17 Iraqis in Baghdad highlights serious problems with how these organizations operate. The Iraqi government has taken steps to restrict their work in Iraq. And Congress should enact legislation that limits the type of work private contractors do, getting them off the battlefield and back into support roles. 

7.  Address the Growing Iraqi Refugee Crisis

The United States has a moral obligation to help Iraqis displaced by the conflict, particularly those who risked their lives working with the U.S. military and diplomatic personnel. The United States should increase its financial assistance to help neighboring countries meet the needs of Iraqi refugees and increase the number of Iraqis allowed in the United States from 7,000 a year to 100,000 a year.