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Professors weigh in on Iraq efforts

Duke professors are weighing in with a variety of explanations and potential solutions to the struggling peacekeeping effort in Iraq, but all agree on one aspect: the situation is bleak and does not appear to be improving.

 The unilateralism and poor planning of the Bush administration contributed to the peacekeeping difficulties, several professors said.

 "The planning for the post-war phase was not nearly as creative, effective or reliable as was the planning for the combat phase," said Peter Feaver, professor of political science.

 Legitimacy--or a lack thereof--was also seen by some as a central problem for the United States, which invaded Iraq last spring and deposed Saddam Hussein as dictator.

 Despite a general consensus on the reasons for the United States' travails, there is significant disagreement from professors on how to proceed. Several advised adding more U.S. troops, some suggested transferring power to a United Nations international peacekeeping force, and others said the only way to achieve success was for the United States to get out of the country as soon as possible.

 Christopher Gelpi, associate professor of political science, said he believes more troops are necessary to provide a minimum level of security for the country. "One hundred and sixty thousand troops simply can't control a space that large if people want to resist," he said.

 "It doesn't take a lot of resources to run the kind of campaign that we see the al-Qaeda and Ba'athist loyalists taking up right now." Sanford Institute of Public Policy Director Bruce Jentleson, however, said sending more troops is "not a solution" because it is not sustainable and does not address the crucial question of U.S. illegitimacy. He said a U.N. Security Council resolution establishing the basis of a partnership for peacekeeping in Iraq would be highly advisable, and, in fact, such a resolution now appears to be in the works.

 Others disputed that involving the U.N. would increase the peacekeeping effort's legitimacy within Iraq itself.

 "Here's the problem: a U.N.-run mission might have greater external legitimacy, meaning Europeans might like it more... [but] the world will still blame the U.S. for everything that's wrong in Iraq and won't blame the U.N. if the U.N. botches the mission," Feaver said. "The bomb that destroyed the U.N. headquarters [in August] exposed the myth that the U.N. would provide meaningful internal legitimacy in larger doses than the U.S. is able to provide. Those who are opposing U.S. efforts to rebuild Iraq will oppose others' efforts."

 To "win" the peace, many professors said it would be necessary to develop a functioning Iraqi government with stable institutions for law and order. Ebrahim Moosa, associate research professor of religion and co-director of the Center for Study of Muslim Networks, said the United States is failing so far with its underfunded and weak provisional government.

 "There's no substantive power in the hands of Iraqis," he said, speculating that the American civil administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, was frustrated with the lack of funding from Washington and was near resignation. Bremer could not be reached for comment.

 Most professors said it was too early to call Iraq a "quagmire," the term frequently used in the 1960s and 1970s to refer to the drawn-out American war in Vietnam. Political Science Professor Robert Keohane, however, said he thought the situation had already deteriorated to that point. "[The Bush administration] didn't understand the lessons of Vietnam," he said.

 Keohane and others said the effort was ill-advised from the beginning.

 "They're not supposed to be there in the first place," Moosa said of coalition forces. "Occupying anybody else's country is not going to be a cakewalk. You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to predict this."

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