Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute acknowledged on Thursday that the surge has achieved "mixed results" and that "it might be useful" to have defined consequences in place if the Iraqis fail to make progress on the political front.
Speaking in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing to become assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan, Lute responded to an inquiry from Chairman Carl Levin regarding his January 2006 comments on Charlie Rose warning of engendering a situation of "dependency syndrome" in the Iraqis.
The other thing, though, Charlie, is that we have learned in post-conflict scenarios--like Iraq, but elsewhere, the Balkans and so forth--that if you're not careful to avoid what we call the dependency syndrome, that American soldiers will do it all. They'll do all that they can and then some--this is the sort of person we recruit into the armed forces today. And as they do it, those who we really want to do it--the Iraqi security forces--will be content to stand by and watch.
Lute pointed out to Levin that circumstances on the ground had changed since his original comments--the bombing of the Golden Mosque at Samarra occurred one month later--but concurred that the "perception of occupation and the dependency syndrome...are two things that needs to be taken into consideration as we...plot the way forward."
The Iraqis understand "we're giving them a golden opportunity they must seize to make progress on the political front," Lute said, though he admitted the Iraqis hadn't been meeting expectations.
When asked what kind of leverage could be used to urge more aggressive work on national reconciliation measures, Lute admitted that there was little the US could do to compel Iraqi action. Very reluctantly, and somewhat stumbling over his carefully chosen words, Lute said he accepts the idea that imposing consequences on the Iraqis could increase US leverage, and that considering such measures could be a useful policy option. "I agree that it should be considered," he said, adding that, "It might be useful."
Lute's comments show what could represent a key point of tension between President Bush and his newest key adviser. In recent political negotiations with Congress over the defense supplemental spending bill, Bush favored the insertion of key benchmarks, but refused to accept requiring Iraq meet the goals in order to justify continued US involvement.
As is clear from the above, however, the President's new adviser has made his philosophical position on the danger for encouraging Iraqi dependency well-known, also saying back in 2005 that, "We believe at some point, in order to break this dependence on the . . . coalition, you simply have to back off and let the Iraqis step forward."
Later in the hearing, Lute said that Iraqi leaders watch US policy deliberations closely, and that recent wrangling between the White House and the Democratic Congress has communicated the right message: "That the US commitment to Iraq is not open-ended."
The discussion of US policy debates followed mention of recent Iraqi parliamentary motions that aim to establish a date for withdrawal of US troops. Lute acknowledged the efforts and the process of the Iraqi government, and said "The expressions of the Parliamentarians of Iraq will be heard."
In Lute's response to advance questions by the committee, he gave an accounting of his responsibilities, authority, qualifications, as well as other background information. Lute_APQs_06_07_08.pdf
See here for Lute's formal opening statement at the confirmation hearing. Lute_06_07_08.pdf