WASHINGTON, March 16 (UPI) -- One of America's most respected elder national security statesmen called for a full pull-out from Iraq Thursday.
Delivering the keynote address at the Center for American Progress' "Iraq; Next Steps for U.S. Policy," Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former National Security advisor for President Jimmy Carter, said that "within a year we should be able to complete a course of disengagement" and withdraw from Iraq.
Brzezinski cited several reasons for withdrawal, among them the "prohibitively expensive" cost of the war and the fact that American leadership and legitimacy has been severely undermined by the insurgency and damaged credibility.
"We have to make a really cold judgement," said Brzezinski. "Would the consequence of civil war be more devastating than the consequences of staying the course?"
Iraqi Shiites and Kurds might prevail in a civil war, Brzezinski said.
"The U.S. umbrella that is designed to prevent these wars is so porous it ends up feeding them," he said.
It would take a U.S. commitment of half a million troops to make a significant difference in fighting the Iraqi insurgency, Brzezinski said. But, "We are not in a position to do this," he said.
Brzezinski also called for a new U.S. nuclear dialogue with Iran. A precedent for one already existed in the Bush administration's multi-lateral talks with North Korea on nuclear proliferation, he said.
"Surely it cannot be our deliberate intention to fuse Iranian nationalism with Iranian fundamentalism?" he said.
Brzezinski said that however long the U.S. military occupation of Iraq lasted, it was doomed to failure.
"In a war of attrition," he said, "a foreign occupier is always at a disadvantage. This is a failed occupation."
Brzezinski said Iraq had not yet collapsed into a full-scale civil war. Far from preventing such a war from breaking out, he said, the continued U.S. military occupation made one far more likely.
"This is not yet a civil war, in the sense that it is not yet a comprehensive, nation-wide collision between Shiites and Sunnis but we are unintentionally feeding it," he said.
Brzezinski suggested that the United States "ask Iraqi leaders to ask us to leave" and suggested that those Iraqi politicians who have expressed a desire for American forces to continue the occupation are exercising poor leadership.
"We are acting as though the Iraqis are our colonial wards," he said. "We are teaching them about democracy by arresting them, bombing them, by humiliating them and also helping them. It is an ambivalent course in democracy."
Brzezinski also said the president had failed to provide any serious national leadership to back up his commitment to the Iraq war and had failed to call the American people to the spirit of duty and sacrifice needed to win any real war.
"What bothers me is the packaging," Brzezinski said. He said that if the United States were truly engaged in war, then there would need to for a national mobilization involving a tax on the rich, an overall war tax and a draft. "These actions," he said, "are the basic consequences of serious engagement."
Brzezinski also hit out at President George W. Bush's newly released National Security Strategy. He called it "an erroneous version of reality."
Brzezinski urged Bush to widen his circle of advisors. "Words have consequences," he said. "The deliberate misuse of words can be dangerous and a fundamentally altered version of reality can lead to a fear-driven nation."
Other speakers at the CAP meeting called the bombing of a Shiite mosque in Samara "a turning point for Iraq" and recommended a shift in U.S. priorities from institution-building to a peace process similar to the Dayton accords which sought a resolution for the Bosnia conflict in the nineteen-nineties.
Jonathan Morrow, a lawyer who worked to rebuild legal institutions in the country after the U.S. invasion said "Iraq was dealt with as a post-conflict crisis, which is quite ironic actually because the conflict was just beginning."
"The Iraqi Constitution -- for all its flaws -- is an authentic version of what Iraqis want," he said. "Iraq looks like a lot less of a disaster if you accept that there will be a loosely central government and if you focus on peace-building rather than nation-building or institution-building."
"The model is not difficult," Morrow said, "to bring all the players to the table, to build a consensus version of what peace should look like in Iraq. One of the key questions is to find someone who authentically speaks for the Sunni Arabs."
Jonathan Finer, Baghdad Correspondent for the Washington Post, said the influence of Iran in Iraq was hard to overstate, particularly in the case of Iranian Shiite clerics whose voice he called "a significant force" in Iraqi politics.
Morrow said, "We cannot expect to succeed in Iraq without involving the regional players - and that means involving Iran. You cannot pursue conflicting policies. But there do have to be priorities and that doesn't necessarily mean sacrificing security interests."