Scowcroft and Brzezinski Skeptical on Iraq Vote
Scowcroft Skeptical on Iraq Vote (Ron Brownstein, LAT)
The election scheduled this month in Iraq could further inflame the country’s conflict and increase the risk of civil war, Brent Scowcroft, national security advisor to President Bush’s father, said at a forum Thursday. Rather than leading to stability, Scowcroft said, he feared that the election would further alienate Iraq’s Sunni Muslim population and that it had “a great potential for deepening the conflict.” “Indeed, we may be seeing an incipient civil war [in Iraq] at the present time.”
In one sense, the comments from Scowcroft, a retired Air Force lieutenant general, were not surprising: He has long been a critic of the Iraq war. But his stark warning about potential civil war marked one of the most ominous assessments about the implications of the upcoming election from a high-ranking former official.
Scowcroft made his comments at a luncheon sponsored by the New America Foundation, a centrist, nonpartisan Washington think tank. At the forum, Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s national security advisor, also offered a grim prognosis for Iraq. Brzezinski said the United States should meet its goals of producing a reasonably stable Iraqi government “if we are willing to put in 500,000 troops, spend $200 billion a year, probably have the draft and have some kind of wartime taxation.”
I’ve already outlined my views on the civil war prognosis and don’t see any reason to change my mind at this stage. I respect Scowcroft’s judgment, but think he overstates the Sunni problem. That a minority that once reigned will not like being ruled by the majority with the onset of democracy is a given. It has never proven dispositive, however. The South Africa case is one example of a succesful transition. Latin America provides dozens of others. A power sharing arrangement can be put into place, along with a certain degree of regional autonomy.
While Brzezinski is a brilliant student of world affairs, his credentials as a military man are minimal. Other countries, most of them far poorer than Iraq, seem to manage to govern themselves without an occupation force the size of our Desert Storm deployment and a budget that exceeds the GDP of most countries.