As United States action in Iraq moves into its next stage, many Yale professors say reconstruction will take longer than the war that preceded it.
Professors overwhelmingly agreed that rooting out resistance and restoring order is the United States’ next main priority. Most said the United States will become involved with countries such as Iran and Syria, though leaders will use diplomacy rather than military force. The professors also had varying opinions on the extent to which world opinion of the war has changed since the fall of Baghdad.
“The immediate next stage is just trying to root out whatever resistance there may be,” history professor John Gaddis said. “General [Tommy] Franks has been careful not to declare that the mission has been completed yet.”
Once remnants of the regime are captured and Iraq’s infrastructure is restored, the next task will be to establish an Iraqi civil authority operating under American supervision, Gaddis said.
Diplomat-in-residence Charles Hill said the United States’ goal should now be to provide a stable framework in which the Iraqi people can select a government. He said he believes the Bush administration’s plan is a good one, but problems of violence between factions could arise.
Gaddis and Hill said the process of establishing an Iraqi government could take a year or more.
History professor Andrew Preston called establishing a new government an “ambitious project,” and said he was unsure how successful it will be.
“There’s no real tradition of democracy in Iraq,” Preston said. “That doesn’t mean you can’t have democracy in a place where it hasn’t flourished before. You’ve got to be careful; it’s difficult to go in as an invading force no matter how good your intentions and sort of transplant a democracy.”
Despite recent focus on possible threats from Syria and other neighboring countries, professors said they do not expect another military conflict.
Though he believes diplomacy will solve problems with Syria, Hill said the country will face “severe consequences” if it does not reform its system of government and take action against terrorism.
History professor Ted Bromund said the threat of military action has made diplomacy a more likely solution in Syria.
“I think what we did in Iraq has increased our credibility,” Bromund said.
Preston said the war with Iraq could also affect U.S. relations with North Korea. He said the war has made other countries “think twice,” a result which the administration sees as a beneficial effect.
North Korea and Syria aside, Gaddis said the U.S. has plenty of work to do now in stabilizing Iraq. He said there is no rush to invade any other countries.
While there have been worldwide protests against the current war, some professors said international opinion of the war has changed since many Iraqis demonstrated happiness at the arrival of U.S. troops in Baghdad.
Preston said many people still see the war as a mistake, but said more are accepting the action and the changes it has created. Depending on the success of reconstruction, he said, opinion could continue to shift.
Gaddis said many people may change their views depending on how much restraint the United States shows in using its power.
“The discovery of weapons of mass destruction, which still seems somewhat likely, would further change world opinion,” Gaddis said.
Bromund disagreed, saying many factions still oppose the war for financial reasons and Europeans in particular disapprove of using war for any political objective. He said rather than directly lessening opposition to the war, reconstruction will create a different kind of shift in international attitudes.
“I think we’ll see a lot of people hop on board the reconstruct-Iraq-bandwagon for financial reasons, and to prove that they’re morally superior,” he said.