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Archive for Thursday, April 23, 2009

Former U.S. ambassador to Iraq says conditions when he left were better than expected

April 23, 2009, 12:19 p.m. Updated April 23, 2009, 2:52 p.m.

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— Strategic patience and understanding were at the forefront of retired U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker’s speech Thursday to students of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth.

Crocker stressed that the United States needs to show its international partners that it is not working by the “here today, gone tomorrow” mentality. He said the United States needs to build trust by proving it is dedicated to the international community.

“We must have strategic patience,” he said. “It’s not something the U.S. is good at, but nothing is going to be fixed fast.”

Crocker said he was pleased that the new administration of President Barack Obama seems to have that patience. Crocker recalled that Obama has said force levels would go down, but it would be done in a responsible manner that took into account the situation on the ground.

“This isn’t all about the U.S. and Iraq,” Crocker said. “This is about all international communities and Iraq. I think that we have got to make a commitment that we are going to stay the course.”

In addition to building a consistent and trusting relationship, Crocker said the key to understanding the international environment was to learn about another country’s history and how it is viewed by outsiders.

For example, Crocker said that enemy forces in the Middle East know that they cannot face the modern Western armies in head-to-head combat. They’re determined to inflict pain on those who come into their country with the view that eventually their adversaries will just go away. The surge ordered by President George W. Bush in 2006 proved otherwise, Crocker said.

“Instead of stepping back when the pain became intense and things were not good,” Crocker said, “we stepped forward.”

Crocker said that it’s going to be a long war but that strides had been made. At the moment, he said, the strongest enemy in the Middle East is al-Qaida.

“We have to be as determined as our adversary,” he said. “When you look at the U.S and Iraq, we are six years into this and we are at the very beginning of the story of a new Iraq.”

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