Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hard realities


U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of Multinational Corps with Iraqi Minister of Defense Abdul Qadir Mohammed Jasim. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Curt Cashour

Today the New York Times tells us:

The Iraqi defense minister said Monday that his nation would not be able to take full responsibility for its internal security until 2012, nor be able on its own to defend Iraq’s borders from external threat until at least 2018. ...

Given Mr. Qadir’s assessment of Iraq’s military capabilities on Monday, such a withdrawal appeared to be quite distant, and further away than any American officials have previously stated in public.

This has set off hand wringing in some quarters.

Now we've got a lot to worry about, but a member of the current Iraqi government asking for "enduring" bases shouldn't be a major cause of concern. Why?
  • The Iraqi "government" is a largely a fiction, a squabbling mess of sectarian politicians grabbing for spoils. Doubt this? Read Inside Iraq for several well-placed Iraqis' on-going reports.
  • There is no reason to believe that whatever temporary diminution of violence "the surge" has achieved will continue. U.S. troop levels will be drawn down in 2008 both because the Pentagon has no more bodies to throw into the maul and because domestic U.S. politics will require it.
  • Meanwhile, there is no reason to believe the "insurgents" have really been wiped out and aren't just waiting for the heat to subside. After all, Iraq is their country. From the get-go, the invaders have assumed the Iraqis would let the U.S. decide their fate. We forgot we were crashing into one of the "cradles of civilization." They've seen a lot of invaders come -- and go.
  • And then there's that other little military entanglement -- the war the U.S. is rapidly losing in Afghanistan.
The peace movement has a lot of work ahead. This year, so far as possible, we have to show our politicians that killing our troops for empire will cost them their jobs. Over time we have to turn the country away from oil and world domination. But we should remember, in all this, reality is overwhelmingly on our side.

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