This was a difficult morning for me. Besides being followed in the Capitol Hill area, which is actually sort of humorous, I had to contain myself while a man I personally despise spoke in a Senate Hearing. My brother, closest in age to me of all my brothers, was severely injured in Vietnam in 1968. The topic of war crimes in Vietnam and Cambodia are very personal matters to me. I’m not going to go into detail, but I had a hard time not beaming intense wishes for ill health at the back of his head.
Biden opened the hearing with statements about “effective diplomacy” and “best strategic minds” and the three points of agreement thus far in these hearings.
- Troops cannot stop sectarian violence.
- Need for intensive regional diplomacy.
- Focus on actual terrorists.
He continued that we cannot build a strong central government in Iraq. Local and regional focus is needed. An article in the NYT used the term “soft partitions” for sections within Iraq. In any case he said heavy lifting would be needed and that we should always have alternate plans.
Lugar then spoke about the U.S. organizing regional players, the U.S. as a source of stability, and the need to recalibrate our reference points. He also spoke of “oil assets and how the current tactic is to have a narrow focus on certain “key terrain” which holds only 7% of the Iraqi people. But coming back to reality he did say we had an unsustainable Iraqi Policy.
Kissinger opened with a statement about the fundamental issue of the long term role of the U.S. and wars, events, and such we’d been involved in there at least seven times in the last 50 years. The vital nature of the region can be seen through the vital nature several presidents have given it.
He then discussed the weakening role of the state in the region due to the “artiicial borders.) [Aren’t all borders artificial? ] Anyway he went on to say that there are now units that have the character of states and that the upheaval extends across the whole region. He characterized the 50 year role of the U.S. as attempts for progress and peace.
Aside: Lugar was exuding absolute adoration while Kissinger spoke.
The conflicts between Shia, Kurd, and Sunni regions in Iran, Tukey, and Syria are all merging conflicts. He continued that the U.S. must move into a position to defend regional security.
Some the the actions/approaches he then mentioned favorably were:
Our separating from the civil & sectarian fighting.
strategies that include other gegions
left to politics not military
establish penalties and rewards
work with separate Syrian and Iranian issues
get the security council to involve other troops
contant readiness to negotiate
accept Iran as a major player but not as a dominating force.
U.S. must remain in region.
Biden then said that this would create an explosion and nontraditional state and that we will end up with Iraq as a Federation or a dominant power.
Lugar iterated the need for benhmarks, oil agreements and that we cannot withdraw from the region.
Then he stated that this is predicated on a belief that the minimum can become the maximum for the region.
A military veteran with pink accessories held up an Out of Iraq banner and was escorted from the room. A security officer/ capital police approached the pink person sitting next the seat where the banner carrier had been seated. She was told that if she did anything she would immediately be cuffed and this was the only warning she was going to get. Considering that she hadn’t done anything…..that seemed a bit harsh.
Anyway the hearing continued. Feingold asked about redeployment from Iraq, and how we can prepare.
K said: Develop an international committee per the political future of Iraq.
F: How do we engage neighbors?
K: Discussion of proliferation of nuclear weapons by Iran.
F: What will happen in Somalia and Afghanistan?
K: we have to “balance” presens in Iraq.
Senator Coleman mentiioned: “End” only after exhaustion, that we will be in Iraq for a LONG time, also mentioned tools for protecting Shia militia — and asked do we have to see balance before withdrawal.
K: May have to settle for a Mandala-like solution — acceptable but not desired. We are maneuvering within extremes.
Then the what can we do now questions began coming.
K: I don’t believe in withdrawal. Need for a regional conference about Iran.
Boxer agreed that a regional conference is needed…. but….. THE PEOPLE VOTED FOR ENDING THE WAR and they got a surge. What about the Biden proposal for semiautonomous regions?
K: That may be the outcome….
Cannot support that.
Boxer: The diplomats seem to have gotten stuck. We must break free from the diplomatic stagnation. If just one diplomat would come forward. Quote per Kissingers supposed call for end and humiliation of radical Islam.
Kissinger denied this “alleged quotation.” Says he did not say that despite the reporters insistance that he did. Iterated need for international control.
Senator B. Concern that there will be an adverse reaction to the surge if there is no positive outcome.
K: We should keep in mind a move to move to concensus strategy.
Don’t believe we can withdraw.
Need content of strategy to have direction. Can’t go on as it is.
Cannot include a time table.
Biden: Must keep the “audience in mind” and note the difference between what is now felt and what may be felt in two or three years.
Discussion that everty alternative has grave risks. Each alternative for success has more to do with what others do than with what we do.
B: Can’t do this by ourselves. Aren’t we involved in sectarian violence. Isn’t that taking sides?
K: Of course…. to some extent.
K: Must make attempt to break the back of militias.
B. What about withdrawal from Iraq, from the region? Phased withdrawal? How to get regional partners?
K: Mentioned withdrawal from Iraq could mean withdrawal from region.
B: How do we get leaders to act?
K: International Conference.
Senator ?: suck up comments….. best paper….
Questions about the Presidential job success in explaining strategy. How to speak to international community? When do we engage partners in the region.
K: Now. Protect the oil industry there. Presidents since Rooseveldt have. We have permanent interests there. We can’t act impulsively.
Obama: The only expression has been maintain or increase troop level.
What is the new Iran policy?
Is that strategy articulated anywhere?
I’m saying that if we don’t do this…
K: would not object to a statement.
Obama: What you say versus what administration says.
Sunni Shia have been warring for 1400 years. Has been bloody and brutal.
There is a limit to what the American people will accept.
We base our assessment on what we cannot prove.
Cannot continue at this level.
Will go on for several administrations.
Need to deal with militias. In the context of a grand strategy.
Obama: The American people are saying, “I’m disappointed.” They feel less safe. They have been asked to make an enormous investment. The outcome is worse than before. The surge isn’t salient. IS there a strategy?
There has been such division between the President and the Congress. No action on Baker Hamilton.
Biden: Bush and Rice rej
Isaacon: Went in to Iraq to: UN 1441.
Free elections and a constitution
Train iraqi military.
Admit our failure at yr. 3. Relate power to diplomacy. Maneuvering room for major strategy.
Will it create enough resolution to create peace?
Objective is compatible with what the president is to do.
Mistakes were made.
I am convinced we will move 2 or 3 … toward concensus.
K: Last two years of office cannot be spent in a civil ware between the executive and legislative branches. His plea.
“We are there because diplomacy failed.”
Spent time waiting for an invitation …..
strategy has not come forward.
What is the strategy?
Overtures flatly rejected.
We should have had a Camp David with congress leaders and Bush. But no desire by Pres to do that.
The surge is a tactic masquerading as strategy that will not accomplish the mission.”
Of course these are notes not quotes ,and are just put up for flavor of what was happening in the session.