Gen. Wesley Clark: Iraqis ‘Not Better Off’ After Troop Surge
October 31, 2008 - 3:24 PMViolence is down in Iraq because of actions taken by Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the U.S. military, but the Iraqi people "are not better off than they were before," said retired Gen. Wesley Clark in an interview with CNSNews.com following his speech at the U.S.-Arab Policymakers Annual Conference on Thursday.
Below is a transcript of the interview:
CNSNews.com: “How would you assess the surge of troops strategy in Iraq? Who do you think deserves credit? Do you think General Petraeus deserves the credit for executing the surge of troops strategy in Iraq?”
Gen. Wesley Clark: “I think a lot of people deserve credit. But I think we have to first ask what’s happened in Iraq before we start giving out too much credit. I mean, the violence is down for three reasons basically: First, because the Sunni tribes, especially the Sunni tribes in Anwar, were encouraged not just by our Marine Corps but also by the Saudis and others to stop fighting the Americans – and that was a common sense defensive measure on their part because if they had drawn all the fire from the Americans, they would have been vulnerable should the Iranians or the Shi’ites come after them. So that was part of it.
“I think, on the other side, the Iranians realized that the violence had gotten to such an extent and their assistance was so public, that they were in danger of being attacked by the United States. They don’t want to be attacked by the United States. So they turned the violence down – and then on top of that we put a few more troops in.
“The measures in Baghdad of dispersing the troops, building walls and so forth did prevent a surge in violence there or dampen down the violence in Baghdad and eventually things began to change around the country. So I think a lot of people get credit.
“I think our Saudi friends get a lot of credit for this. I think the military certainly gets a lot of credit for executing it, but I think we have to understand we are not out of the woods there yet. This is a very difficult circumstance we are in. The politics have not come together. The diplomacy in the region has not come together, and the people of Iraq are not better off than they were before. So before we start passing out too much credit, what we need is a success strategy for Iraq. We don’t have one yet.”
CNSNews.com: “Do you think the reports that have come out, saying the surge of troops strategy was successful, were correct? Do you agree that overall it was a successful strategy?”
Gen. Wesley Clark: “Well, successful in what respect?”
CNSNews.com: “With respect that the violence has gone down.”
Gen. Wesley Clark: “There were other factors that enabled the appearance of this to succeed. From Americans’ standpoint, all we saw were the troops going in, but lots of other things were happening in the region. I don’t want to take anything away from the troops, but I do want to point out that what we’ve said all along has been that in order to succeed in Iraq you must have diplomatic, political, and economic strategies that converge and come together. We haven’t had successful strategies in that area. The troop piece of it is part of it, but you cannot win this war with the military. You cannot win it by killing people, and you cannot win it even by guaranteeing security.”
CNSNews.com: “Senator Obama is saying, even though he was against, initially, the surge of troops strategy in Iraq, now he wants a surge of troops in Afghanistan – moving them from Iraq, putting them in Afghanistan. Do you think that is a good strategy?”
Gen. Wesley Clark: “I don’t think that’s a strategy. I think that’s part of it, providing part of the kind of security you need to build a larger strategy in Afghanistan. I think that’s what you’ll see from a President Obama.”
CNSNews.com: “Would you take a position as secretary of Defense or secretary of State in an Obama administration?”
Gen. Wesley Clark: “Well, I think that’s just a premature question. Senator Obama’s going to pick the people he needs. There’s a lot of talent in the Democratic Party. I’d have to give serious consideration to anything like that. But, on the other hand, I mean, there’s so many wonderful, talented people out there. This is about getting new ideas for the country.”