We're In Iraq To Stay

With this week’s reports to Congress by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, the Bush Administration appears to have bought itself some more time in Iraq. As a result, the withdrawal - if there is to be one - will almost certainly happen under the next president. There will be some token redeployments next year, but these will at best return the U.S. presence to its pre-surge levels.

We were told this week that violence in parts of Iraq has fallen as a result of the increased U.S. military presence. This is wonderful news. However, what reason do we have to think the prior trends will not resume once the Americans leave? Violence will most certainly return unless the Iraqis decide in mass to become religiously tolerant, politically diverse, and economically altruistic. That hardly seems likely, at least not in the near future.

The latest American strategy of empowering local leaders, which was turned to in frustration after the central government proved dysfunctional, will probably create problems of a different kind. By installing multiple power centers with varying self-interests, there will now be a kind of feudal system of independent city-states with little incentive to cooperate for the common good.

Victory is still possible in Iraq, we are told. But exactly what is "victory?" No one can answer that question. The furious debates about the various statistics and benchmarks ought to tell you something: no one knows whether we are winning or losing this war. And if no one knows, then it will likely never end.

"Trust General Petraeus," the White House says. Fine, except that the same White House wants us to ignore General Pace, General Casey, Admiral Fallon, Secretary Gates, the GAO, former Secretary Baker and the entire Iraq Study Commission - all of whom offered radically different recommendations to the President.

Why is it we are supposed to trust this one expert while ignoring all others? Simple: the President has already made up his mind that there will be no troop reductions. The fact that the Joint Chiefs of Staff are, by law, supposed to be the president's primary military advisors is conveniently forgotten because the JCS will not offer the advice the president wants to hear. General Petraeus is, apparently, willing to be a scapegoat for Bush, so it is his opinion that we are told is most important. Everything else is just political maneuvering.

Bottom line: the U.S. is in Iraq to stay. There is no exit strategy. The Democrats are unable to force a policy change on Bush, so the train will keep on going. Where the tracks will take us, no one knows, but we're all aboard for the ride. The troops shovel coal into the engines while the rest of us relax in the lounge. Nonetheless, we are all going the same place.

A little advice: fasten your seat belt.

1 comment:

repsac3 said...

A very cogent post, sir.

If we can't define victory in a meaningful, concrete way--consistent with high-minded ideals like freedom & democracy, but grounded in practical words & deeds, & benchmarks that we don't have to discover in hindsight--we cannot achieve it. I'm not a big fan of war under any circumstances--defense agaInst attack is one thing, but the further from that we get, the less comfortable I am, philosophically--but if we're going to engage in it, we need to be able to define short-term goals & final victory, or there's no point in beginning to fight.