MEPC Conference Ponders "Imperial Dreams"

By Bevan, Brock L. | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, December 2003 | Go to article overview

MEPC Conference Ponders "Imperial Dreams"


Bevan, Brock L., Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


The Middle East Policy Council (MEPC) on Oct. 3 held the 34th event of its Capitol Hill Conference Series on U.S. Middle East policy. With the ambitious title of "Imperial Dreams: Can the Middle East be Transformed?" the conference attempted to explain America's current Iraq morass. With the Rayburn House Office Building as its venue, the conference drew a full audience peppered with diplomats, army personnel, professors and congressional aides.

MEPC president Chas. W. Freeman, Jr. moderated the panel and offered incisive commentary throughout the event-observing, for example, that although tasked with the reconstruction of Iraq, "Bechtel remains at the Kuwait Sheraton" and that the "U.M. fled to Jordan."

Conference speakers included Kenneth Pollack, author of The Threatening Storm: The case for Invading Iraq and director of research at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center; W. Patrick Lang, president of Global Resources Group; Amy Hawthorne, associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and Philip C. Wilcox, Jr., president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace.

Pollack argued that, until the average Iraqi feels safe in his home at night, we can't speak of there being real security in Iraq. Discrediting the reports by some U.S. Army generals that they have the right strategy but the wrong intelligence, Pollack opined that this is equivalent to a "magic bullet" theory. Stating that intelligence has "actually [been] very good," he went on to blame much of the current instability on a "weird combination of micromanagement and no management."

With a non-representative governing council and little international support, Pollack predicted that the current crisis will result in one of three outcomes: 1) a stable and prosperous Iraq that takes 10 to 15 years to develop; 2) a breakdown of the Iraqi society and state similar to what occurred in Lebanon in the 1970s and '80s; or 3) an Iraq "mostly on life support" provided by the United States. The implications, according to Pollack, include possibly the "first Arab democracy," or "chaos [that] would spread to all of the countries" bordering Iraq.

So far, noted Lang, the U.S. has shown that it can occupy Iraq. Its ability to pacify Iraq, however, is still "up in the air," he said. Contrary to many suggestions heard in the media, the invasion, occupation, and ongoing pacification of Iraq is not a "unique artifact of history," argued Lang.

Uttering such banalities as "we've been there before" and "it is possible to win those things [resistance and insurgency against foreign occupation]," Lang baldly stated that statistics do not matter. …

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