Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Iraq Plan

The plan has come down, 100,000 troops and combat operations to cease by 2011. 35,000-50,000 to stay in "support" roles.

I would imagine that many people on both sides feel some disappointment. But here is the deal as I see it. Basically, the war is pretty much over. Al Qaeda in Iraq seems to be defeated, the people of Iraq do not seem to want to become an Iranian style Shia theocracy and just want to get on with their lives. On most nights, it seems to be safer to be a US soldier in Baghdad than walking around certain parts of Chicago (and listening to my former mayor, there seem to be fewer "assault weapons" in Tikrit than there are on the South Side).

So those who supported the invasion (which I did), look -- it was never supposed to be about conquering the country, or so I thought. The Iraqis have to be given the opportunity to run their own affairs. If they really do not want a return to brutal military strong men or to go down the road of Shia or Wahhabist theocracy, they won't. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq is a more modern, educated country -- having climbed out of the abyss, I doubt they will want to go back there. And if they do, well, at this point it is their problem.

And in any event, what President Obama is proposing is pretty much what George Bush was heading for and what John McCain said he wanted -- basically, the combat would end and US troops, if they remained, would be in bases like US troops in Germany or Japan. (That was the real meaning of McCain's "100 year" remark -- that if there were no US troops dying, few Americans would care about keeping US bases there. We have had troops "occupying" parts of the UK since 1942, Italy since 1943, Germany and Japan since 1945, South Korea since 1950 -- no one really thinks much about it because no US troops are dying there).

As for those who feel disappointed by the fact that it will take longer than promised or that substantial US forces will remain for a period, two things. First, what was said (or what you THOUGHT was said) by a dark horse candidate two years ago has to be adjusted by the realities of office and power TODAY. Second, frankly, what the President is doing now is pretty much what he said he was going to do. I have no desire to look for the news articles, but President Obama always suggested a US military role in Iraq after combat troops were pulled out. At one point, I think, he referred to an "over the horizon" presence whereby we would pull out but stay in the neighborhood, and move in as necessary. That probably (hopefully) is not needed now. I assume the remaining troops will be there for training and support of the Iraqi Army (and not combat itself).

One thing I find interesting is the 35-50,000 number. In 2005, the last year I can find figures for, there were about 66,000 US forces in Germany (defending Germany from the threat of Serbia I guess). So basically, using the upper number, President Obama foresees a US presence similar to that of the US presence in Germany. Not sure what I make of it.


Rodak said...

the combat would end and US troops, if they remained, would be in bases like US troops in Germany or Japan.

But that, in the case of the Middle East, is totally unrealistic. It ain't gonna happen. Or, more accurately, it ain't gonna happen unless the remaining U.S. troops are there to protect another "brutal military dictator" who can keep an iron hand on the many elements who hate the U.S. (not without reason, at this point) and maintain virtual martial law in the street.
We already had that once: Saddam Hussein.
We had it in Iran once: the Shah.
We have it in Egypt now: Mubarak.
We're hoping to hold onto it in Pakistan.
The Saudis kicked our bases out to save their monarchy from certain civil war and insurgency.
You get the picture, right?
All of that said, Obama is starting to piss me off, big time.
The time to start bringing the troops out is--today. And that includes Afghanistan. My God, read some history! What has happened to every invader of that region, without exception, regardless of its military power?
Does nobody realize that it was Afghanistan--not Ronald Reagan--that bankrupted the Soviet Union?

Anthony said...

Rodak -- You have no reason to be disappointed. This is pretty much exactly what he said he was going to do.

My big concerns are (i) that Obama will escalate the war in the Afghan/Pakistan border regions (this will have repurcussions in Pakistan) and (ii) that he will do something military against Iran.

Rodak said...

What he promised to do in the MIddle East from the stump were promises that I was ready and willing to forgive for breaking, once he was in office.

Anthony said...


As I said, what someone says when a dark horse is not necessarily how they will govern. I find little to complain about in the Iraq plan.

But so far, except for the appointments of Susan Rice and Charles Freeman, I see little to complain about on foriegn policy. But I am worried that we will see saber rattling on Pakistan and Iran.

My policy on Pakistan and Afghanistan basiocally will be that we draw a line and tell the Taliban and Pakistani extremeists that they can do what they want inside the line, but if they venture outside lots of stuff will blow up inside the line.

As for Iran, my policy would be based on the policy announced by Don Corleone during the "peace conference" in Godfather I.

Rodak said...

But I am worried that we will see saber rattling on Pakistan and Iran.

So am I. Moreso Pakistan, because of the border situation with Afghanistan, than Iran.
The Taliban is not an international organization. It is no threat to anybody--except for being willing to harbor al-Qaeda types. That said, push come to shove, the Pakistanis aren't much better in terms of being a safe harbor for bad guys, but may also pose a threat beyond their borders.