March 24, 2013

David Rohde: The unaddressed legacies of Iraq

We have an ailing press and an 'invade or nothing' foreign policy.

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American soldiers cover the face of Baghdad’s Saddam Hussein statue with a U.S. flag. Last week’s 10th anniversary of the war in Iraq sparked a torrent of coverage and commentary.

The Associated Press

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Fire erupts after a missile impacts a government building during heavy bombardments in Baghdad on March 21, 2003.

The Associated Press

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Landay, a former colleague and longtime friend who now reports for McClatchy, said the news media and American intelligence agencies failed. "The mainstream news media was as egregious in its failure to do its job," he said, "as the U.S. intelligence community was in its failure to produce accurate intelligence on Iraq's non-existent WMD."

Today, fears of "another Iraq" dominate American foreign policy. The choice for policymakers is binary. The United States can respond to a foreign policy threat by launching a risky invasion or doing nothing at all. Non-military means of exerting influence -- from diplomacy to economic investment -- are given short shrift.

The United States, of course, should not launch another ground invasion in the Middle East. But there are other ways to interact with a region whose oil reserves remain vital to the world economy. The Arab Spring showed that young people in the Middle East want self-determination, jobs and modernity. Washington has an interest in helping them achieve those goals, but little inclination -- and few non-military tools -- to do so.

A decade after Iraq, the State Department remains the Pentagon's Mini Me. The news media is one-third the size of the public-relations industry. And we continue to view the U.S. military as our principal means of addressing foreign policy challenges.

There are times when military force must be used but our foreign policy debate has devolved into a false "invade or not invade" dichotomy. Far more options are available. Every country is not Iraq.

David Rohde is a columnist for Reuters, a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and a former reporter for The New York Times and Christian Science Monitor.


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President Bush reviews the progress of the war with members of the War Council on April 2, 2003.

The Associated Press


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