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US in Iraq: How to get the endgame right

If the US wants to ensure success in Iraq, it must support cultural exchange programs such as the Iraqi Women’s Fellowship Foundation.

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With nearly a trillion dollars spent, more than 4,000 US troops and 100,000 Iraqis killed, and long-term success far from assured, getting the endgame right in Iraq will probably define American foreign policy for many years to come.

That’s why, despite the success of Iraq’s recent elections and the imminent drawdown of US forces there, the United States needs to reflect on its dismal record in similar endgames, from Vietnam in 1975, to Afghanistan in 1989, and Iraq in 1991 – and then consider the role of women.

In its purest form, the war on terror is a war over ideas and values. Education is one of its most important and effective frontline weapons. Unfortunately, millions of Iraqis, including an entire generation of youth, know nothing of American ideas and values; their limited encounters are with heavily armed US troops in armored vehicles.

During the cold war, Fulbright programs, international visitor exchanges, and similar public and private educational and cultural programs created four decades of friends for the US.

Thousands of those friends rose to senior government and private-sector positions in their own countries. Even then, such funding paled in comparison with US war funding.

Now such educational exchange programs seem to be almost nonexistent compared with the level of US military funding. This is a huge mistake.

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