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August 21, 2007

Experts: Surge, War on Terror Failing


by Eli Clifton

Washington's policymakers are growing dissatisfied with the Bush administration's troop surge in Iraq and a majority agrees that the world is becoming more dangerous for the United States, according to a poll released Monday.

The nonpartisan poll, called "The Terrorism Index" and released by the Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy magazine, surveys more than a hundred foreign policy experts, including former secretaries of state, top commanders in the U.S. military, senior intelligence professionals, and academics, to assess the effectiveness of how the United States is fighting the "war on terror."

In this year's results, 91 percent of participants said the world is becoming more dangerous for the United States, while only 2 percent said it was safer and 84 percent of poll participants disagreed that the U.S. is winning the war on terror.

The ongoing war in Iraq appeared to be the cause of the experts' pessimism, with 92 percent of them saying the war was negatively affecting U.S. national security, up 5 percent from a year ago.

Opposition to the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq was most noticeable in the 53 percent of respondents who now say that the surge of about 165,000 troops is having a negative impact, up 22 percent from six months ago.

"What I take away from that is that the last six months may have been the most defining months in the war on terror," Foreign Policy's senior editor Michael Boyer told IPS.

How to withdraw troops from Iraq brought mixed reactions from the bipartisan group of experts, with a majority – 68-percent – supporting a redeployment of troops from Iraq in the next 18 months while most of the experts opposed an immediate withdrawal.

Perhaps surprisingly, slightly more conservatives – 25 percent of conservative respondents – called for an immediate withdrawal than liberals or moderates.

"It's rare to see foreign policy experts in this sort of agreement on such a politicized issue. The sentiment on the surge is shared across party lines," said Boyer.

Despite claims from Bush administration officials and presidential candidates that a withdrawal from Iraq will lead to further terrorist attacks in the United States, 88 percent of experts polled agreed that a troop withdrawal from Iraq would have no correlation or was unlikely to lead to future terrorist attacks within the U.S.

"We have an administration that says we need a victory in Iraq or [we'll] suffer consequences at home, but experts say that's just not so," said Boyer. "Foreign policy experts really don't see a correlation between being in Iraq or leaving and terrorist attacks at home."

As well as contradicting the Bush administration's justification for continued troop deployments in Iraq, the experts expressed concern with the lasting legacy of the administration's Middle East policy.

Fifty-eight percent of poll respondents said that in 10 years' time, Sunni-Shi'ite tensions will have increased; 35 percent believe that Arab dictators will have been discouraged from reforming; 5 percent believe that al-Qaeda will be weaker; and only 3 percent believe Iraq will be a "beacon of democracy" in the Middle East.

More than half of the experts surveyed believe that the current U.S. policy of providing aid to Pakistan – which has dramatically increased since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan – is having a negative impact on national security.

Furthermore, 35 percent of those polled thought that Pakistan is most likely to become the next al-Qaeda stronghold, and 74 percent believed that Pakistan is the country most likely to transfer nuclear technology to terrorists in the next three to five years.

Only 22 percent of respondents, however, found Pakistan to be Washington's least useful ally, while 34 percent of those polled picked Russia as the ally that least serves U.S. interests – presumably a response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's increasing role as a strongman.

"In terms of national security, the war in Iraq and the war on terror, the foreign policy communities agree that all three are on the wrong track," said Boyer.

(Inter Press Service)


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Eli Clifton is a reporter for IPS.

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