George Will

WASHINGTON -- It is sad yet stirring to say. With a realist's melancholy sense of the human cost of things, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz is saying it:

Part of the good news out of Iraq -- good news obscured by recent bad news, and sometimes mistaken for unalloyed bad news -- is that the deaths, including 62 Americans, caused by hostile action in Iraq since major combat operations ended include the deaths of almost 50 Iraqis. They died, Wolfowitz says, as exemplary pioneers of Iraq's progress up from tyranny, while working with coalition forces to secure public order and create civil society.

Wolfowitz says such casualties are plain, and stirring, evidence of -- and an unavoidable consequence of -- a desirable development; the slowly growing willingness and capacity of Iraqis to take responsibility for their nation's recovery. The capture last week of ``Chemical Ali,'' Saddam Hussein's cousin, suggests that U.S. commanders in Iraq are receiving intelligence from Iraqis willing to take risky initiatives for a better tomorrow.

All this is pertinent to the boiling debate in Washington -- Wolfowitz insists that it is much more a debate here than in Baghdad -- about whether the United States needs more troops in Iraq. He says the real need is for more Iraqi-staffed instruments of social control -- troops and police. Hence plans to send 28,000 Iraqis to Hungary for police training.

When some persons in or close to the administration argue that U.S. forces in Iraq are sufficient, they really seem to be arguing that existing forces should have been sufficient. They mean the forces there now would be sufficient, if ...

If in the run-up to war the CIA and State Department had been less opposed to the war, and less hostile to what they called ``externals,'' meaning Iraqi exiles. This hostility expressed a perverse premise: Those who remained in Iraq under Saddam were somehow morally superior to those who went into exile to work for liberation. Absent hostility toward ``externals,'' more Iraqis competent to work on public safety and civil administration would have arrived immediately behind coalition troops.

If the CIA had more accurately anticipated the continued opposition of Baathist remnants and had been less optimistic about the postwar performance of the Iraqi police, the problems faced now might have been substantially reduced.

If Saddam Hussein's army had stood and fought instead of melting away, more of the bitter-end resisters of the occupation would have been killed.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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