In Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has relearned painful lessons on how to win the peace. Institutionalizing these lessons requires establishing a common national strategic concept for post-conflict operations. Post-conflict operations are among the most difficult to plan and execute, even under the best of circumstances. Expectations that post-conflict activities will be smooth, uncomplicated, frictionless, and nonviolent are unrealistic, as is the assumption that grievous policy errors or strategic misjudgments cause all difficulties. The Administration and Congress must adopt policies that ensure effective interagency operations and unity of effort. Successful post-conflict operations cannot be planned effectively in Foggy Bottom or the Pentagon. Planning and implementation must be done in theater, in concert with the military combatant commands.
The crucial role women can—and should—play in Iraqi reconstruction was the focus of a forum on April 21 and 22, 2003 in Washington D.C. “Winning the Peace: Women’s Role in Post-Conflict Iraq” was hosted by the Conflict Prevention and Middle East Projects of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and Women Waging Peace, a global initiative of Hunt Alternatives Fund. Twentyfive Iraqi women participated in the meeting—some of them expatriates living in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, others living in Iraq. Among the participants were: the first woman to be appointed judge in Iraq, the Minister of Reconstruction and Development of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Northern Iraq, and the President of Iraq’s Assyrian Women’s Union. More than 60 experts from non-governmental organizations and key international and U.S. agencies participated in discussions. Hailing the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime and looking to the future, the Iraqi women, who came from different political, ethnic, and religious groups, cited the notable lack of consideration regarding the participation, concerns, rights, and particular needs of the majority of the country’s population—its women. Discussion focused on the inclusion of women in four vital sectors of Iraqi administration: democracy and governance, economic activity, constitutional law and legislation, and civil society. Over the two-day conference, participants reached conclusions regarding the most important ways to integrate women into reconstruction. On the first day of the conference, the Iraqi women met with sector experts and policymakers in working groups to identify the most pressing needs and the most important potential contributions of women in Iraq.