Today, the Senate passed their version of the Iraq spending bill that the House passed last week. The Senate legislation includes some hopeful signs that Congress is changing its focus on America's Iraq policy, including a $130 million allocation for Iraq’s refugees and internally displaced persons and an appropriation of $500 million above and beyond the President’s request in economic assistance to foster development and job creation.
No question that these are hopeful signs. Their inclusion in the spending bill means that the Senate listened to what many, including America's top general in Iraq, have been saying: the US cannot and will not bring stability to Iraq simply by flexing its military muscle; economic and diplomatic work must be done along side military operations. By sending money to bolster humanitarian efforts and development projects in Iraq, the Senate has brought important and too-often underfunded peace building tactics into America's Iraq strategy.
Hopeful signs are starting to come from the administration as well. Just this week Secretary of State Rice travelled to the Middle East to help thaw the currently frozen Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which the Iraq Study Group correctly assessed as a destabilizing force throughout the Middle East. Any diplomatic efforts that seek to find solutions to the crisis in Iraq must also address the half-century long animosities between Palestine and Israel, said the Study Group. Another good sign on the diplomatic front is America's willingness to engage in talks with Syria and Iran about stabilizing Iraq. You should keep an eye out for further collaboration, because UNHCR will be hosting a conference next month on Iraq's humanitarian and refugee crises.
These positive changes don't happen spontaneously. They are the product of hard work by people like Dr. Lisa Schirch, interviewed by EPIC for our Ground Truth Project series, who helps our leaders to broaden their conceptions of how to achieve national security. Her organization--dubbed the "3D Security Initiative" for the three "d's" of defense, diplomacy, and development--seeks to promote the encorporation of all three of these tools into American foreign policy, not only to stabilize Iraq, but to also to reinforce US domestic security.