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Turns Out We’re Not Leaving Iraq After All

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gates, are you trying to tell us something?

gates, are you trying to tell us something?

It was a reminder of the bad old days.  But it was today in Baghdad. Big suicide bomb, coordinated attacks on rescuers, dozens dead and wounded, and the customary “bears all the hallmarks of an Al Qaeda operation designed to ferment sectarian strife”.  It’s doubtful whether it had any effect on the tone of Robert Gates‘ interview on NPR this evening, but I’m sure the bombing was on the Secretary’s mind.

We’re not sure whether his boss is on board with this, although it seems likely, but Gates might have given us a little glimpse of reality during the interview. In response to a question about differences between him and the President on a final departure date for our troops from Iraq, Gates was less than convincing about the finality of that. From the NPR report. (My italics)

With regard to Iraq, Gates noted that under the Status of Forces agreement, all U.S. troops will be out by the end of 2011. Gates says he’s on the same page as Obama with the withdrawal and, barring a new agreement with the Iraqis, there will be zero troops in Iraq by that time. But he also speculates that the Iraqis could ask for logistical and intelligence support.

“The president’s statement is absolutely clear and it conforms to our current commitments, that is, according to the agreements we have signed, we will have everyone out of Iraq by the end of 2011,” Gates said. “And unless something changes, that is exactly what will happen. …[A change] would have to be at the Iraqis’ initiative. And the president will have to determine whether or not he wants to do that.”

“Logistical and Intelligence” support might well be a good cover-phrase for something a little more, shall we say, effective. In other words a new agreement ‘at the Iraqis initiative’ to guarantee some “we need your firepower because we’re getting our asses kicked” type support. Obama suspects that Al Qaeda is just waiting for us to shut the door after us before going all out again, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the President could make a judgment that keeping a few brigades on base for selective “logistical and intelligence support” might just be the insurance policy we need.

There’s been an awful lot of talk about the President’s philosophy. Nobody seems to know what it is. The reason is simple. His philosophy is the absence of a philosophy. Pragmatism.

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Written by coolrebel

March 10, 2009 at 9:53 pm

Can you Spell Power Vacuum? The US Can’t leave Iraq.

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iraq. should we stay or should we go?

iraq. should we stay or should we go?

Obama’s speech at Camp LeJeune today made official what we’ve known for a while, that the combat mission in Iraq is over. Perhaps that explains why the response to what should have been a historical announcement seemed strangely muted. There are many other possible explanations too, ranging from the little matter of a massive economic crisis, to the existing de facto end of hostilities in Iraq, to the fact that just maybe, there’s a sense out there that it’s a mistake to go.

Obama’s decision to bring our major combat brigades home by the end of August 2010, and the remainder of the training and counter-insurgency force by 2011 is not a cause for celebration, even among those vehement in their opposition to the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. The reason is simple. If, as the President has pledged, all US forces are withdrawn from Iraq in 2011 we’ll be leaving an unpredictable power vacuum that we will have no ability to deal with – if as is possible, a new sectarian crisis breaks out. I’m certain that Obama’s National Security Team did their due diligence and got as much intelligence to support the case for continued stability in Iraq as possible, but forecasts are just another word for hopes. And in the Middle East, banking on hope is a very bad idea. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by coolrebel

February 27, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Nobody Fights in Afghanistan and Wins.

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do we look like we're joking?

do we look like we're joking?

From a superficial perspective, the idea of diverting US forces to Afghanistan as we draw down troops in Iraq seems like a good idea. But Afghanistan is a deeply inhospitable, corrupt, backward, and highly unstable failed state with an almost feudal social structure. It’s been resisting modernity and foreign control for millenia.

Before we do anything we need to make a strategic decision about our goals. It’s clear that the Taliban must go, but forget democracy, stability is just fine. It’s equally clear that increasing US ground forces by a few combat brigades will not do the job. The war would slog on for many years at great cost in lives and treasure. The Kush would be a graveyard for our grunts. There has to be another way. And there is.

There are two connected ways to beat the Taliban. We need both to win. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by coolrebel

January 27, 2009 at 2:14 pm

If the Shoe Fits – Throw It at the Occupier

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george missed the point, as usual

george missed the point, as usual

In 2003 the press made a big hoo hah about the fact that it was a deep insult in Iraq to toss ones shoes at the object of derision. It was around the time the mission was “accomplished” and a toppled statue of Saddam was being dragged around being pelted with shoes by the incensed (and relieved) citizenry. Five and a half years later, at the other end of that war, and flying shoes have once again hit the headlines in Iraq. With Saddam long gone, the proud recipient of the double shoe-toss was the man responsible for ousting aforesaid dictator. President Bush.

Shouted the size-ten shoe-tosser in Arabic, identified as Muntadar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo, “This is a farewell kiss, you dog!”

That’s gratitude for ya. Read the rest of this entry »

The Mumbai Massacre – An Opportunity For Clarity

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800px-taj_mahal_palace_hotel_at_night

peace will once again come to the taj

“Rogue Elements” is a big word du jour right now. The idea that within an organization there’s often a fifth column conjures up all sorts of conspiracy theories about CIA spooks with their own twisted agendas. Usually, this stuff is confined to fiction or the far reachs of the blogosphere. But what happens when the lunatics truly have taken over the asylum?

The strong suspicion that Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group of jihadists once nurtured by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, ISI, is behind the horrific massacre in Mumbai a few days ago has turned the simmering distrust between India and Pakistan into a potential supernova. Read the rest of this entry »

Obama and Iraq – Now Comes The Hard Part.

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04/24/95_15.58_SAIGONViet Nam

saigon 1975. will it be different when we leave Iraq?

Ivan Watson, NPR’s Baghdad Correspondent was the target of an assassination attempt today when he and his team were nearly killed by a car bomb. And in recent weeks there has clearly been a spike in violence in Iraq. Let nobody say that the situation that war-torn country is anything close to peaceful.

And yet the next President is going to withdraw our troops. Not in victory, or in defeat, but ‘believing’ and ‘hoping’ that peace will break out when we’re gone. That’s a bet many wouldn’t make.

Obama staked his early rise to prominence on a speedy withdrawal from Iraq, and superficially, facts on the ground seem to bear him out. He’s committed to a “safe and responsible” withdrawal of US troops around sixteen months from taking office. He has the support of the Maliki government, and the vast majority of the Iraqi people want us gone. The Status of Forces agreement which mandates our withdrawal by the end of 2001 also provides us with some political cover too.

So what’s the problem? Simple. When we leave, there is simply no way we won’t be leaving a power vacuum in Iraq. Read the rest of this entry »

Redefining The War On Terror

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President Bush created the amorphous concept of the War On Terror partly as a semantic device for domestic consumption (them v us is a great seller in the heartland) and partly as a doctrinal approach to foreign affairs. But while neoconservatism is clearly discredited, there is one element of the broad sweep approach to Middle Eastern affairs that might be worth preserving – at least in military terms. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by coolrebel

November 7, 2008 at 3:38 pm