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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: Saving Iraq

Council on Foreign Relations

August 21, 2006
Prepared by: Lionel Beehner

The numbers out of Iraq paint an unpleasant picture. In July alone, 3,438 Iraqis were killed, a 9 percent increase over June's death toll (Brookings Iraq Index). American soldiers are dying less, but, because of the proliferation of roadside bombs, more are getting wounded, according to a study by the U.S. military made available to the New York Times. Mixed neighborhoods in Baghdad are growing less mixed, due to sectarian violence by Shiite-run death squads and Sunni-led insurgents. Analysts Daniel L. Byman and Kenneth M. Pollack assert that "by any definition, Iraq is in a state of civil war" (WashPost). All the while, the cost of the Iraq campaign to U.S. taxpayers—some $318 billion—is climbing (CDI).

What went wrong? The most common refrain among many experts is there were too few troops to secure such a big place. "NATO put over 100,000 troops into Bosnia and Kosovo, societies that in combination are around a fifth of the size of Iraq's," writes James Dobbins of the RAND Corporation in this Foreign Affairs roundtable. Others, as this Stanford University report indicates, claim the U.S. military, regardless of its size on the ground, cannot stop a civil war and should therefore either pull out or take a side "to expedite its conclusion."

As the violence escalates, a number of U.S. commentators are clamoring for the Bush administration to provide a "Plan B" option. This new Backgrounder examines the various "Plan B" scenarios and their proponents. Even early supporters of the war, like Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, have changed course and now claim "we can't throw more good lives after good lives."

Read the rest of this article on the cfr.org website.

Copyright 2006 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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