Archive for Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Former ambassador talks foreign relations at Fort Leavenworth

April 29, 2009

Strategic patience and understanding was 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 U.S. needs to show its international partners that it is not working by the mentality, “here today, gone tomorrow.” Crocker said the U.S. needs to build trust by proving the country 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. In a recent speech, Crocker recalled that Obama said force levels would go down, but it would be done in a responsible manner that took into account the situation on ground level.

“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 differently by outsiders. How a country views its own history is important, Crocker said, to understanding how it goes about its strategy in the modern world.

For example, Crocker said that the forces in the Middle East know that they can not face the modern Western armies in head-to-head combat. They’ve learned to let their adversaries come in to their country and then inflict pain. Crocker said that those countries know that eventually their adversaries will just go away. The surge ordered by President George 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 great strides had been made. At the moment, he said, the greatest strategic enemy in the complex region that is the Middle East is still al-Qaida. He said the group remains a deadly and determined adversary.

“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 new Iraq.”

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