Setting Realistic Goals In Iraq

The Bush Administration has never been clear about the ultimate objectives of its Iraq policy. At various times it has cited the goals of eliminating weapons of mass destruction, toppling a dangerous dictator, and restoring a functioning government. At other moments, President George W. Bush and others have laid out the much broader objective of bringing Western-style democracy to Iraq. In his Apr. 13 press conference, Bush said that the U.S. would "finish the work" in Iraq -- but only some of his goals are clear.

The President needs to enunciate clearly what the U.S. is trying to achieve from here on and then give the military the resources necessary to accomplish that mission. Choosing a more limited set of objectives -- which involves handing over power on June 30, holding elections in 2005, and setting up a basic representative government -- may require a modest addition of troops and funding. By contrast, trying to build a genuine Western-style democracy that protects such things as women's rights in the heart of the Middle East is a far more ambitious goal that will require a more extended stay, a much bigger commitment of troops and money, and a multinational effort.

Forthrightness is a lot to ask of any Administration, especially during a Presidential election campaign. But knowing what we are aiming for is crucial to ensure that we will get there.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.