The Magazine

America's Responsibility

From the September 15, 2003 issue: Should the administration place all its bets on being able to find tens of thousands of foreign forces to fill the dangerous gap in Iraq?

Sep 15, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 01 • By ROBERT KAGAN and WILLIAM KRISTOL
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These efforts to shift responsibility onto others--regardless of whether they are ready, able, or willing--are wrong, and will in any case fail. The United States invaded Iraq, and did so for good reasons. It is the responsibility of the United States to build in Iraq a condition of security and stability, moving toward prosperity and democracy. Nor should we forget for a moment that the whole world is watching--especially Arabs and Muslims. Right now, a scant few months after the war, Washington already seems short of breath. This can only encourage our deadly enemies to escalate the pressure.

It is an illusion to imagine that this mess can be handed off to someone else and we can go on about our business. That option does not exist. The choices are stark: Either the United States does what it takes to succeed in Iraq, or we lose in Iraq. And if we lose, we will leave behind us not blue helmets but radicalism and chaos, a haven for terrorists, and a perception of American weakness and lack of resolve in the Middle East and reckless blundering around the world. That is the abyss we may be staring into if we do not shift course now.

We trust the president knows he cannot cut and run in Iraq. It is heartening that he has decided to send a large budget request for Iraq to Congress, though we fear he may actually have asked for too little in reconstruction funds. What we fear more, however, is that no amount of aid will suffice if Iraq remains insecure. The goal of a secure Iraq requires an unapologetic assertion of U.S. responsibility and a redoubling of U.S. effort--not clinging to illusions.

--Robert Kagan and William Kristol