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A look at Iraqi Elections

Aired January 29, 2005 - 13:00   ET


SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN ANCHOR, IN THE MONEY: Welcome to IN THE MONEY. I'm Susan Lisovicz, sitting in for Jack Cafferty.
Coming up one today's program, the long good-bye. The vote in Iraq is just one step toward getting the country on its feet. See what has to happen before the U.S. can pull out.

Plus, it's not just an adventure, it's a job. Find out what's behind the Pentagon's recruiting crisis and whether money alone can fix it.

And monkey business. Whenever people try to make a buck, you'll find somebody doing it badly. We'll look at some of the dumbest business moves ever.

Joining me today, a couple of IN THE MONEY veterans, "Fortune" Magazine Editor At Large Andy Serwer and LOU DOBBS TONIGHT Correspondent Christine Romans.

In less than 24 hours, a momentous event in Iraq and both the candidates in Iraq and the people will be risking their lives for this most important election.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CORRESPONDENT, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: It really is an important election, an important day. And earlier this week I spoke with the Iraqi ambassador to the U.N. and he wanted to make it very clear that this is really a milestone but it's also a station on a very long road. He said the real work begins after the election, something to keep in mind as we watch what happens this weekend.

ANDY SERWER, EDITOR AT LARGE, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: So many unknowns. How much violence will occur? Will the turnout by 10 percent, 25 percent, 50 percent? We know the Kurds are going to vote. We know the Shia (ph) will vote, to some extent. What about the Sunnis? Will they turn out at all? It's going to be a momentous day.

LISOVICZ: Yes, right. And I saw that in "The Wall Street Journal" 250 plus election sites, 7,000 candidates. So it is really a broad-based election. In the United States, only 60 percent of the population who is eligible to vote did and that was a record that we hadn't seen for several decades.

SERWER: Well that's a good point because we start pointing fingers, they have 40 percent turnout given the risk they have, we're not doing a whole lot better and we're perfectly safe.


ROMANS: A huge risk. So you have to admire anybody who can make it out to vote. You also have to understand, people who don't go out to vote and why.

LISOVICZ: Democracy by its very nature is fluid, it is imperfect and this is a first step one can only hope for Iraq.

This weekend's elections are supposed to be a big step toward helping the new Iraq take off its training wheels, that's assuming the vote succeeds. But it will take more than just picking a new government to set the country up for a U.S. pullout.

For a look at what's needed, we're joined from Washington by Bathsheba Crocker. She's a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and co-director of the center's Post Conflict Reconstruction Project.



LISOVICZ: You say that it's very hard to develop an exit strategy when there was never a mission in Iraq that was defined in the first place. Explain.

CROCKER: Well, I think that is part of the problem. It's been very difficult to know all along what the U.S. strategy in Iraq really is, other than what's been painted in broad brush. Things like we're there to bring freedom to Iraq or to establish democracy there. And those are, obviously, long-term concepts. I think it's difficult to think about defining an exit strategy though just on the basis of those longer term concepts. And we need to have a little bit more of a strategic vision going forward so we can start to really define what a U.S. exit strategy might look like.

ROMANS: A lot of the Iraqi people that I've talked to as we're getting ready for this election, they tell me, when I say, what happens if after this election the United States pulls out or if the new government says we want the U.S. to pull out and it moves quickly. They all say we fear civil war. That pulling out too quickly is absolutely not an option and putting together some kind of strategy has to be addressed immediately. Do you think that both sides realize that an exit strategy needs to be very well thought out and that civil war could be the outcome if it isn't?

CROCKER: I think it's clear that both sides do recognize that. I mean we've seen President Bush in recent days reiterating that the United States does not intent to pull out immediately, although saying that if an Iraq government asked us to, we would. And at the same time we've seen Iraqi political leaders pulling back somewhat from the idea that they will immediately start asking for a U.S. withdrawal. So I think both sides are approaching this in a really pragmatic way in terms of the real dangers that we might face in Iraq with a precipitous U.S. pullout. SERWER: Bathsheba, you've suggested, I believe, that there be a referendum in Iraq and let the Iraqis decide whether or not U.S. troops stay, or at least what sort of timetable they would follow in terms of pulling out, haven't you? Can you talk about that a little bit?

CROCKER: Well, we did write a piece, I, with some colleagues at CSIS, wrote a piece suggesting that the Iraqis should hold a referendum on U.S. troop pullout. And one of the basic ideas there is really that we need to get to a point where the Iraqi people themselves start taking some responsibility for the security situation in their country and feeling that they really have a stake in that security situation. And I think up until now, we haven't really seen that on the ground and the result is that the United States is really blamed for everything that happens in Iraq still.

LISOVICZ: Bathsheba, but let's just say that there is continuing violence after the election. It's not unreasonable to think that. Do you think that a referendum is still important? There are plenty of people who think that the U.S. will be there for years, just as a security force. Is it more as a cosmetic gesture, in a way, to have a referendum? To say, yes, the U.S. will be leaving at a later date?

CROCKER: Well, I think it's very important for, in the minds of Iraqi people, to get to the idea that the U.S. will be leaving at some point. I actually think that's something that is probably missing from their calculus right now in the sense that they see some signs that maybe the U.S. does intend to stay around for a really long time. And, in fact, the U.S. presence is fairly unpopular in Iraq right now.

At the same time, I think if the Iraqis were really asked the question and individual Iraqis would bear some of the burden for the continuing security situation, they would probably approach that question in a very careful way.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the continuing security situation and the fact that training Iraqi forces seems to have gone more slowly than people had anticipated. What's the problem there? And is that something that can be fixed?

CROCKER: Well, I think it is something that we are in the process of fixing. The training and equipping program has certainly been improved. Although my understanding is that more improvements are needed. I think one problem was that there really wasn't much in the way of a program for about the first year of our presence in Iraq, so we really lost what would have been a very valuable year and we've been trying to catch up from that ever since.

But I think there are several different problems here. Some of them have to do with really a slow U.S. push to get the kind of equipment, for example, out to the Iraqi security forces, some difficulties with contractors in that regard, training programs that are too short, focusing too much on just getting numbers of Iraqis out onto the street and not enough on the capabilities of those Iraqis, or, in fact, their willingness to really fight for their country. But I think this also ties in very neatly to the question of this election on Sunday and what happens going forward because it's also been clear that up until now, many of the Iraqi security forces on the street are just not willing to fight in defense of a government that is not legitimate in the eyes of the Iraqi people. And so although we've seen some units that have been willing to fight and have proved very capable, we've also seen multiple instances where the Iraqis have essentially just deserted posts when faced with real problems.

SERWER: Bathsheba, this past week was a very deadly day for U.S. forces. Over 30 killed in one day. Overall 1,400 U.S. dead. At what point does this become untenable for the U.S. public, do you think?

CROCKER: Well, that's a very interesting question and one that's obviously a little bit difficult to get a good gauge on. It certainly seems as though U.S. public opinion - the public opinion support for continuing presence in Iraq is decreasing somewhat. But I don't think we've yet reached, if you will, a tipping point where the U.S. public is no longer in support of this war. But I think that the Bush administration does have to pay some real attention to the fact that it does seem public support is declining.

And I think, again, this gets back to the idea of defining a strategy, not necessarily in terms of an exit strategy, but just an overall vision. I think it will be very important for the U.S. public going forward to really understand, again in some more explicit terms, what it is that the U.S. is really trying to accomplish in Iraq.

ROMANS: Bathsheba Crocker, thank you so much for joining us today. She's a fellow and co-director of the Post Conflict Reconstruction Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Thank you.

CROCKER: Thank you.

ROMANS: When we come back, patriotism won't pay the rent. Money is one incentive the National Guard may use to boost recruitment. See what it takes to get people to risk a trip to Iraq.

Plus, the story behind the numbers. Find out why women earn less than men and learn how to change that.

And negative feedback. We'll tell you why a lot of eBay sellers are getting cranky about the online auctioneer.


ROMANS: As we wrap up one of the deadliest weeks in Iraq since the war began, military officials here in the U.S. continue to struggle with recruitment. And some divisions, like the National Guard, are pushing for new incentives to reel in recruits and get the already enlisted to re-up.

Joining us with a look at this is John Allen Williams, a political science professor at Loyola University, Chicago. He is chair of the Military Studies Division there.

Welcome to the program, sir.


ROMANS: Let's talk about signing bonuses and more money. Is this the answer to the recruitment problem, in your view?

WILLIAMS: Well, it has to be part of the answer but there's not enough money in the world that would be paid people for what they have to do, to go over there and the sacrifices they make. But they've proposed a $15,000 bonus for regular Army forces who want to go into the National Guard when they get off active duty.

LISOVICZ: Professor, a very simple question. Why would the military be an attractive option right now? We're talking about longer tours of duty. We're coming off the deadliest week ever in Iraq. And it can be said that it is an unpopular war.

WILLIAMS: Well, I'm not so sure the war is that unpopular yet. I think your last guest had it right, that the support may be slipping a bit. But we haven't gone off the cliff yesterday. Don't underestimate the motives of patriotism and service that inspire these young people to go over there and do these things.

SERWER: John, I want to talk to you about the distinction between the National Guard and the Army. They used to be two very, very different kettles of fish. I mean the Army was for someone coming out of high school, joining, you're 18 years old, you go in. National Guard, the weekend warrior-type, someone maybe out of college, someone with a family. Now those distinctions are becoming very much blurred. And what I don't understand is why would anyone join the National Guard? Is there really a difference now between signing up for the National Guard and signing...


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