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Tuesday, April 8

Winning peace may prove harder than winning war, lawmaker says

By Mike Madden | GNS

WASHINGTON - The fighting appears to be nearly over, but a key House Republican on foreign policy issues said keeping peace in Iraq could prove much harder than winning battlefield victories.

Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa, a senior House International Relations Committee member, angered the White House last fall when he voted against giving President Bush authority to wage war on Saddam Hussein. He was one of six House Republicans to oppose the use-of-force resolution.

On Tuesday, with Iraqi resistance to U.S. and British forces seemingly extinguished, Leach praised Bush for the way the war has been waged so far. But Leach warned that how the United States treats Iraq once the shooting stops could be even more important than the military campaign.

"If it looks to the world that we're a conquering country and if it looks to the world as if we are ruling Iraq, the reaction, the resentment, will be very large - not simply in Iraq, but around the world,'' Leach said.

Leach, a former foreign service officer, opposed the war because he thought preemptive strikes on Iraq could set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the world and that containment was a safer option. Last fall, Leach faced a tough re-election race in a new district, including Iowa City, where constituents heavily opposed war.

U.S. officials should move quickly to turn Iraq's postwar government over to Iraqis, Leach said. But even over the next few months, the administration will have to work hard to persuade people in other Middle Eastern nations and in Europe that colonizing Iraq was not the goal of the war, he added.

"From the American ... perspective, in our eyes, there appears to be an awful lot that's justified in this intervention, but from the Muslim eyes, there looks to be an awful lot that's not justified,'' he said.

The Bush administration has indicated that the United Nations will not play a leading role in rebuilding Iraq, though U.N. organizations will be involved. Leach said it would be a mistake to give international institutions too little control over the postwar situation, but that turning the entire project over to the United Nations. could also be a mistake.

"You've got to have kind of an in-between approach,'' he said.

The Iowan said he was alarmed at the anger the war has provoked in much of the world, but hoped no permanent damage would be done to the United States' image abroad.

"Hopefully if things stabilize in Iraq, and if a new government can be created that is legitimized and at least contains a semblance of democracy and respect for human rights, some of that anger might be dissipated,'' Leach said. "The hot war in some ways is the most manageable task. Winning the peace is going to be the most challenging task - and that might take years to assess.''