An Iraq Program

Bushp06 I sat through the president’s address on Iraq last night as well as the commentary that both followed and preceded it.  The commentary was of surprisingly high quality with Christopher Matthews making a reasoned appeal to the public to see that Petraeus believes his role as commander in Iraq to be that of executor of national policy, not the originator of national policy.  This is a realistic view of the proper role of the military.  People who want Petraeus to demand change in national policy should think that over carefully.  Keith Olberman seemed unhappy with such reasoning.  His commentary lately has degenerated into demagoguery.  He is more and more like O’Reilly, the man who made him rich and who he professes to despise.

After listening to the president I think that those in Congress and among the presidential candidates who oppose the Jacobin neocon view of America’s destiny in the Middle East should adopt something like the following program:

– There should be no treaty, agreement, SOFA or any other instrument that commits the United States to the defense of Iraq.  The Congress should insist on its prerogative in such matters.  Agreements of that kind would preclude a complete American withdrawal from Iraq.

– There should be no permanent American bases of any kind in Iraq.  The president’s obduracy in insisting on what can only be seen as a commitment to a permanent American presence makes the public adoption of a policy of "no bases" inevitable.  Permanent bases in Iraq will mean conventional or counterinsurgency war involving the US so long as the bases are there.

– Congress should insist that the "surge" force be completely withdrawn on the basis that Petraeus recommended and that the March, 2008 review should produce a schedule of withdrawal that will remove all US combat forces from Iraq by the mid-term election of 2010 with the following exception.

– Congress and the candidates should have in mind  that if there remains any relationship to an Iraqi state after 2010, that relationship may require an ongoing training commitment to the forces of that government. Such a force of trainers will inevitably have to be fed, housed, transported, provided medical support and protected.  A commitment of that kind would require a continuing presence for a few years, but the end point should be fixed.  For the length of its existence such a presence might well consist of 30,000 people.  On the other hand, if there is no continuing relationship, than all forces should be withdrawn by November, 2010.

– None of this should be seen as precluding a continuing effort at counter-terrorist operations or support of friendly elements in Iraq from outside Iraq.

– This program of withdrawal should be matched with a determined, aggressive diplomatic effort intended to reduce the "temperature" in the Middle East.  (See my article "Toward a Concert of the Middle East."

There wil be tose who will say that having such a program is futile because of Bus.Cheney.  I disagree.  Without a program you have no unified goal and path.

Those who submit comments which are merely anti-Ameican or naively pacifist will have them deleted.  pl

Download a_concert_of_the_greater_middle_east.pdf

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68 Responses to An Iraq Program

  1. Buzz says:

    “of surprisingly high quality with Christopher Matthews making a reasoned appeal to the public to see that Petraeus believes his role as commander in Iraq to be that of executor of national policy, not the originator of national policy. This is a realistic view of the proper role of the military. People who want Petraeus to demand change in national policy should think that over carefully. ”
    And of course the reason some people have this mistaken impression of Petreus’ role is that throughout the war Bush and his Fox helpers have intentionally created the false impression that “the commanders on the ground” were running the show.
    That’s why this is called “The Petreus Plan ” not “The AEI/Fred Kagen” plan.

  2. bstr says:

    Col. Lang
    Your statements makes sense. That is the problem. Earlier comments from others, which point toward the multiple levels of oppositional forces at play in the world, are correct. We have all gotten ourselves into an incredible knot. Ignorance and not intelligence is likely to be the engine of the whatever outcome stands outside the door. Even the nutcase special theory that somehow BushCo. will remain at the helm after the elections appears possible. However, as the Senate Committee said to the generals, “Thank you for your service” it will take people like yourself to pick up the pieces later.

  3. lina says:

    You make a good point about Keith O.
    Re an aggressive diplomatic effort under Bush-Cheney, how can that work when the actors needed to make it work no longer take seriously the Bush-Cheney-Rice regime? How do you adequately commence negotiations from a position of weakness? Taking the eye off the ball in Afghanistan and bringing anarchy and chaos to Iraq has made the U.S. weak and ineffectual in the eyes of everyone but Sean Hannity. The whole world is marking the calendar for the exit of these people.

  4. Peter says:

    The subject of U.S. contractors in Iraq was ignored by questions of both houses of Congress during this last weeks dog and pony show. When do those forces begin reduction? Or will there be an increase in private shooters to offset the Big Army drawdown? What about all the support folks behind the wire, when and how do they depart?

  5. Ronald says:

    Col. Lang,
    What do we need to do to protect those Iraqis who helped us? One legitimate concern raised by many is that the moment we announce an intention to leave, our help will dry up and those who helped us will be at great risk.
    1. Do you think that is true?
    2. Is there anything we can do about it, if it is true?
    Personally, I agree that we have to begin ending the war now, with step one being promising not to stay permanently (promising the US and promising the Iraqis). But I am concerned about what happens as the end approaches. Thanks.

  6. Matthew says:

    Please re-link to your article “Toward a Concert of the Middle East.”

  7. Leigh says:

    Forgive me, Colonel, but I fail to see the point, reiterated over and over again, of our training Iraq troops. They fought Iran to a standstill.
    What is happening in Iraq appears to be a) an insurgency or b) civil war.
    In either event, it would not appear that our own soldiers are doing all that well. (Before someone says I don’t support the troops, I should like to point out that a member of my immediate family served in Iraq which is more than can be said for 99.9% of those in Washington who supposedly “support the troops.”) So, to my mind, the argument that we need to stay in Iraq to train troops simply does not hold water.

  8. Plymouth Rock says:

    How about comments that are naively militaristic? Seems to me those are the real source of our problems these days.

  9. Robert Clark says:

    Sounds reasonable enough to me, but in all seriousness, do you think this program would continue to be viable if the administration carries through on its threatened bombing of Iran?

  10. JohnH says:

    I think the argument needs to be bumped up one level to the following fundamental question: Should the United States own and occupy Iraq for the foreseeable future or not? If so, then no exit strategy is needed, and we stay the course whatever the cost. If not, then your proposal makes eminent good sense.
    I expect that the American people, when presented with such a clear choice, would respond by saying, “Why on earth would we ever want to own Iraq?” The President, to justify his course, would have to finally explain why he seems to think that owning Iraq is such a good idea.

  11. Sam says:

    I’d suggest that there is too much emphasis on “combat forces”. We also do not want to leave the “logistics tail” in Iraq even if it is under the control of contractors. When I last looked, we have over 90,000 tons of war material including armaments and ammunition in Iraq. That’s too much to jeaprodize by a hasty withdrawal. We should either evacuate it or blow it in place. I’d hate to see such a waste of taxpayer funds but those are my thoughts.

  12. psd says:

    While your plan seems reasonable, I’m wondering what happens if
    1) Iraq erupts into a larger civil war as we withdraw troops?
    2) The central government in fact becomes less and less vital, and there is de facto partitioning of Iraq?
    These are two distinct possibilities, aren’t they, Col.?

  13. ked says:

    many commentators (pros & amateurs alike) have become increasingly strident (non-linear) due to close observation of / proximity to the profound damage the Bush regime (& the absence of coherent opposition) is doing to the country. no, it isn’t good, people should not get crazy, but it is understandable – it has been a long, depressing nightmate, and it is not yet over.
    Col Lang, your platform is sound. it should be linked to an Iran Policy that forestalls an attack (w/o explicit Cong. action). all points to the obvious – the need for “The Concert of the ME”. I think we are more likely to get a Beatles reunion tour.
    your argument that futility ought not condemn the attempt at achieving sound policy is a point very well taken. group therapy is one way we may keep our heads until the next Inaguration.

  14. China hand says:

    I was an early fan of Olberman, back when he was making his demonstrations to a largely sidelined audience. Lately, however, he has become shrill, and more preoccupied with his place on the stage than his audience. I am in agreement, Col. Lang, that he has gotten full of himself; a few months ago I thought about sending him an e-mail to that effect, but didn’t think it worth my time. Ho-hum.
    Yet despite Matthews’ plea for understanding on Petraeus’ behalf, I would remind everyone that this is also the same commentator who has uncritically raised a number of 80’s era ‘legal transgressors’ to great heights of Magnitude and Heroism. More to the point: so far as I could see from this side of the Pacific, Matthews enthusiastically joined the pro-invasion furor, even as the lies of this administration became painfully obtrusive.
    It is nice to see him lately coming around; unfortunately, it is at least a nation too late.
    I may be in the minority, here, but it seems to me that after only a single year of a 6 figure salary it’d be an easy thing to risk one’s career for the truth.
    Perhaps it is guilt that now forces some sincerity; regardless, these are fortuitous stars for Petraeus. Once again: I am thankful for this blog, and respectful of the Colonel’s insight into the public play. Without it, I would be a much more distraught person.
    Col. Lang: I completely agree with every one of your points; moreover, I also think the majority of the american People — as well as the peoples of the globe (certainly most of East Asia) — would wholeheartedly agree.
    Unfortunately, there is the problem of AIPAC.
    Your points 1, 2 and 3 are in direct contradiction to (what appears to be) their aims (does anyone really know?). Point 4 is irrelevant; point 5 — as I suspect you envision it — is likely contrary to the objectives and methods they would prefer; and point 6 is — so long as our politicians take so much of their money and direction from this bunch — simply foolhardy.
    There are already two Presidential candidates who have clearly outlined similar goals as an American strategy. The MSM has curtly dismissed their aspirations as ludicrous.
    Meanwhile, “serious” people are expected to expect 100+ thousand troops in Iraq for at least 10 years.
    I hope to god i am wrong, but these points as you list them seem only pipe-dreams.

  15. wsam says:

    How about naively, anti-pacifist?
    Your suggestions appear reasonable, as they have for years. And importantly, they don’t strike me as very revolutionary — being mainly concerned with how to preserve American power and prestige.
    If recent polls are to belived, the American public would respond well to such centrist policies.
    The question is: Why does their adoption appear so impossible.
    There has to be more to it than Cheney’s lunacy, Bushite incompetence or a timid Democratic Party?
    It’s a question relevant for democracies everywhere.

  16. Arun says:

    How about the roughly 150,000 US contractors/guards/mercenaries, hired based on contracts given to private parties by the US government?
    Will the neo-colonial edict that exempted these from Iraqi law be withdrawn?

  17. W. Patrick Lang says:

    A truly sovereign Iraq can do what pleases about foreign businesses,
    The idea in the “concert” paper of keeping some troops in Kurdisan has been superceded by events.
    I think we should get it out. we can’t afford to waste money like that.
    This is not the army that fought Iran. We got rid of that army. Actually, they did better than that. They defeated Iran.
    Since I am not a Calvinist, I believe in the possibility of redemption. pl

  18. Anon says:

    From another blog:
    Supporters of the war and opponents both know that the multiple conflicts in Iraq have no military solution. Soon to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Michael Mullen, is unequivocal on this: “Security is critical to providing the government of Iraq the breathing space it needs to work toward political national reconciliation and economic growth.… Barring that, no amount of troops in no amount of time will make much of a difference” (emphasis added). If U.S. forces cannot make a difference, improved Iraqi forces certainly cannot.
    Seems to question the value of a training mission.

  19. Paul says:

    One man’s “anti-American” or “naively pacifist” comment might be another’s cogent observation.

  20. China hand says:

    With all due respect,Colonel
    Didn’t you say (latest Lebanese-Israeli war) that the victor of a war is the one who holds the ground?
    Then why do you say that the former-Iraqi-army “defeated” Iran?
    I don’t understand. It would seem to me — by that measure — that Iraq lost, and badly.

  21. Walrus says:

    Your ideas make sense to me Col. Lang. In fact, I think it is the only logical way forward, however Bush is not logical, and cannot act in the way you propose.
    When I heard Bush’s speech on the radio yesterday, my first thought was “This man is trying to create an American Empire” – because that was the substance of what he said.
    We invaded – installed a Government – are now “pacifying” the country – will negotiate a treaty with ourselves – and build permanent bases – and we will stay forever.
    There was no “endpoint” at all in Bush’s “commitment” to Iraq whatsoever.
    The trite meaningless phrases were rolled out: “troops will return as we succeed” is meaningless, what if we don’t “succeed” whatever that means? Do the troops then have to stay forever?
    The only absolutely sure outcome of this fiasco is that a wave of Iraqi refugees will eventually come to America and displace the Vietnamese from the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder if you get my drift, as happened to the Irish, Italians, Eastern Europeans and so on in the past. I guess we will then get to eat in Iraqi restaurants – whats the food like?
    Maybe you should stand for President, what do other people think?

  22. The key to success with this or any withdrawal plan is the commitment that there will be no permanent U.S. presence in Iraq. Without that pledge, the drawdown will be much more difficult and dangerous. I share b’s skepticism about the proposed training mission in part because I think it appears to contradict the pledge to set up no permanent bases in Iraq. Logically it doesn’t, especially since you specify that it have a stated end point; but politically it will need skilful handling. I can, though, see why a continued training program is part of the proposal. Equally important would be a commitment to help train a civil police force, which, according to the recent report to Congress by Gen. Jones, is in worse shape than the army.
    This proposal doesn’t address the problem of refugees. I assume this was a deliberate omission—a plan can’t deal with every problem—but Iraqi refugees are growing in number, both people who have fled internally and those who went to Jordan, Syria, etc. Their stories are heart-wrenching, and they are our moral responsibility. Our long-term commitment to Iraq has to include helping refugees to resettle (if they want to).

  23. Will says:

    I’m not used to having “Chris” Matthews called Christopher. He is a hero of mine.
    I also watch his half hour syndicated show outside of MSNBC. I don’t think he ever drank the Kool-Aid on Irak. He has spoken of Cheney’s guilt of waging “aggresive war.”
    Me and the wife get a kick out of how fast he talks and how he sometimes answers his own questions before the guests have a chance. Signs of an Expressive preference in the Expressive/Reserved Keirsey typology axis.
    I’m also partial to one of his frequent guests, Pat Buchanan. Pat often makes the same point the Col. makes. The Dems have to be careful not to be tarred with the blame of defeat.
    Pat was bitterly anti-war from a conservative perspective.

  24. ISL says:

    Perhaps the training could take place elsewhere, such as Jordan or perhaps Oman or one of the emirates where we have a base.

  25. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I would be curious to know what the two ribbons are that Lt. Bush is wearing. Surely those are not the DFC and MSM?
    Ronald & RS
    We need to start thinking about admitting refugees to the US, not the big guys, they can go live in the Italian lake country or the Riviera. I mean the little people. Those who have worked for us who are left will suffer terribly.
    I said “merely anti-Anti-American.” Contributory anti-American comments will be considered.
    China Hand
    Your grasp of history is defective and probably influenced by Iranian and Israeli joint political warfare and propaganda.
    I was in charge of this issue during that war and spent a lot of time in the country then, some of it visiting Iraqi units at the front.
    At the time that the IRANIANS asked the UN for a cease fire, the Iranian forces had been utterly destroyed as coherent fighting organizations in th series of Iraqi offensives that led up to that point. In addition, the Iraqi forces were everywhere well inside Iranian territory (up to 50 miles)with the possible exception of the far north in Kurdistan. I don’t remembe what the situation was up there becasue it was not very important to the outcome.
    After the war the Iraqis held an exhibition for the diplomatic corps and foreign media of the equipment they had captured from Iran in the last months of the war. there were thouands of tanks, APCs, artillery pieces, etc.
    Iran asked for a cease fire becasue she had no other choice.
    “Tonypandy.” Look it up pl

  26. Mark Gaughan says:

    Now you’re talking pl.

  27. I agree we have to think about admitting Iraqi refugees to the U.S. We need to do more than think about it, but odds are against any serious program or policy making under the current Administration. Their need to make the war appear a success is just too great.
    As to Iraqi food, I’m a foodie in another part of my life, but have no familiarity with Iraqi cuisine. I’ll look it up now out of curiousity even though it’s not really on point and will report anything that is relevant—I promise to avoid reporting for reporting’s sake. For the record, Vietnamese food is a great contribution to a diverse American culture. It’s wonderful.

  28. searp says:

    PL – I assume your proposed timetable has to do with troop sustainment/rotation/safe withdrawal.
    Consider it politically: It won’t go anywhere in this Administration unless a bipartisan Congress threatens funding cuts, which in my opinion won’t happen. Most of Congress is so compromised by the record on Iraq that they will put it all on Bush; taking the lead in formulating real policy only exposes them.
    Real changes in policy have to wait for a new President, full stop.
    Assuming the new President wants to withdraw, and is willing to risk a future re-write of history by dead-ender imperialists, is two years enough time?
    I use the word imperialist deliberately; it seems a fairly apt description, perhaps less modern than neo-con, but rich in connotation.

  29. Bobo says:

    Reference the ribbons in question.
    His ANG-22 #24 (Decorations, Citations etc) states he was awarded the TAFMS and the TAFCS.

  30. Montag says:

    The Colonel is no doubt waiting for the Whig Party to reconstitute itself before he decides on throwing his hat into the ring. No party, no hat.
    Whenever I hear about permanent military bases in Iraq I’m reminded of Hadrian’s Wall–can’t think why.
    Obermann has fallen afoul of the old adage that, “He who hunts dragons too long will become one.” He reminds me of Howard Beal in the movie “Network.” At first Beal’s Jeremiads (“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”) are refreshing, but they get old very quickly because Beal can’t offer his audience any real solutions. So the TV network he works for has him killed on camera to boost ratings.

  31. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Just my opinion, but I believe all analysis re: Iraq should be based upon the assumption that Bush and Cheney intend to launch a pre-emptive attack on Iran. Odds are low of a diplomatic approach. No evidence exists that the USG, at this time, will adopt the “greater concert” approach. And based on this assumption, the possibility that anti US forces will disrupt the Basra-Baghdad supply line increases exponentially. Therefore, safeguarding the supply line should be given the highest priority for all military planning, both strategically and tactically. In other words, safeguarding the supply line is the path and goal.

  32. Wendell says:

    Would existing bases in Kuwait, Qatar etc. sufficiently contain Iran from making any southward moves?
    George Friedman has suggested bases in Iraq, south of the Euphrates, along the Saudi border, largely empty territory.
    Just asking–not advocating. Geo-strategic concerns leading to particular base sitings is WAY outside of my competence.

  33. zanzibar says:

    I have always been partial to the “Concert”. I believe something like that has to be the central thrust for dampening violence and bringing together a regional settlement that recognizes the interests and strengths of the parties. Until and unless the actors in the region decide to use their influence in “concert” the threat of continued violence spiraling into regional conflict is real. The only way such a diplomatic offensive succeeds is for the US to declare it has no interests but a stable ME and it has no designs on territory or how the people in the region run their affairs.
    For those demanding immediate withdrawal I suggest that it is not feasible. We have to negotiate a withdrawal as part of a “Concert in the ME” so that it is deliberate and with the consent of all the regional actors. In any case our military cannot sustain indefinite deployment at “surge” levels – so a draw down will occur. However, IMO, it is imperative that an extended draw down take place in the context of a regional settlement.
    Finally, I would suggest to all the Presidential hopefuls as well as all representatives of the people in Congress to make it absolutely clear in no uncertain terms that we – the USA – want a regional settlement that includes Iran, Syria and HA and that they would oppose with every fiber of their being an unprovoked attack on Iran, Syria or another country in the ME. The world needs stability not more violence and destabilization. A climate where extremism is ostracized not rewarded.

  34. Mad Dogs says:

    Pat, the following statements of yours seem to be the linchpin for the “possibility” of any positive outcome:
    “- This program of withdrawal should be matched with a determined, aggressive diplomatic effort intended to reduce the “temperature” in the Middle East. (See my article “Toward a Concert of the Middle East.”
    There wil be those who will say that having such a program is futile because of Bus.Cheney. I disagree. Without a program you have no unified goal and path.”

    (My Bold)
    Given all of the past and present “players” that have been in the driver’s seat of this Administration’s ME policies and practices as it headed full tilt over the cliff, just where to you find a kernel of optimism that there is someone in our government able, willing, and more importantly, allowed to undertake this grand ME conclave?
    By even the most kind observer, these folks, with a rare, rare exception, have been entirely dysfunctional in the actual practice of foreign policy, and have so little credibility left that no one would offer them even a sub-prime loan.
    Where then do you find the “voices of reason” in power necessary to accomplish your conclave of the Greater Middle East?

  35. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I am not willing to give up. You can’t fight something with nothing. pl

  36. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    Why were the Iraqis so successful at the late months of the Iran-Iraq War? What were the causes of their succes? Do you know?

  37. KT says:

    Colonel Lang,
    At this point, is it unthinkable or even impossible for the powers that be in Iraq and in the US to somehow broker a simple nation wide cease fire resolution in Iraq?

  38. Mad Dogs says:

    “I am not willing to give up. You can’t fight something with nothing. pl”
    Tis indeed worth fighting for!
    Or as I’ve been known to say:
    “I’ll stop fighting when they pry these thoughts from my cold, dead mind.”

  39. kim says:

    welcome to the team, that’s 2 voices, and perhaps montag would join us.
    lang in ’08!
    re diplomatic credibility, is it possible that rice might allow the professionals in her department to do the work she still hasn’t learned to do? and that she (and they) might have enough power, or balls, or whatever’s required, to hold off the crazies?

  40. Walrus says:

    Lang for President!

  41. LarryM says:

    Well for reasons neither anti-American or naively pacifist, I’d like to see us all the way out much sooner.
    But your plan is much better than what we have now, much further than the Dems are currently willing to go, and more realistically achievable. Too bad even the Dems aren’t willing to go so far.

  42. Cold War Zoomie says:

    As a layperson, these recommendations seem perfectly reasonable. My only concern is with the “permanent” bases. The Executive Branch can find loopholes and circumvent the spirit of any law while adhering to the letter. Our bases in Honduras are a good example.
    Honduras is a signatory of a central american treaty that forbids the permanent use and occupation of foreign troops in any central american country. So, how has Soto Cano airbase and many of our other small military installations been allowed to stay there for 20 years? Because they aren’t permament since they are not constructed of durable materials such as brick and concrete, and supposedly support intermittent joint US-Honduras exercises. There are durable metal tactical vans and shelters that are transported by Chinook, but they are considered “temporary.”
    All of our buildings at Soto Cano airbase and the small installations I worked at were constructed mostly of wood in the traditional “hooch” motif for this reason.
    Joint Task Force Bravo

  43. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “I have two comments on your Iraq Plan:
    1. George W was a real looker.
    2. The US should in my view keep the option to have bases in Iraq: no commitment but circumstances permitting. You may need a base near Nasiriyya and Basra to prevent Iran from taking the oil and threatening Baghdad by cutting off the road to Kuwait. You may need a base toward the Jordanian border, maybe al-Rutbah, to guarantee for the Anbaris that they are not on their own and to protect Jordan. (Although you can do that from within Jordan, this may prove politically difficult for the Hasimites). You may wish to keep say two battalions, an intelligence electronic gathering thing and a small airbase in Kurdistan-Iraq to monitor Kurdish-Turkish relations and check what is going on in Iran. A Kurdish mountain top near the Iranian border will prove useful in addition to satellites etc.
    All this obviously with the Iraqi gvnmt invitation and as long as you have no or very few casualties. If you will need to pay, say, in Basra a casualties price like the Brits are paying today there, then I am inclined to agree with you that you need to leave the area completely.
    Amatzia Baram”

  44. meletius says:

    Walrus stole my line! D*mmit!
    With the proviso that any remaining 30,000 man force have the “approval” of whatever form of government exists in Iraq, and that the “force” can somehow be presented “positively” in the muslim world.

  45. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Here is my opinion:
    USG is taking sides in the Iraq’s civil war against the Shia to combat the Iranian influence and re-assure her Sunni friends – the same said friends whose populations celebrated the 9/11/01 attacks on US. USG wants to bring back some sort of a Ba’ath government with a kind of Saddam-Lite in charge.
    To wit, US will maintain an aggressive posture to prevent Iranian help to reach the Shia-Kurdish Government of Iraq and various Shia militias and groups. On the other hand, Iran is the only source of help available and they (the Iranians) both for religious and strategic reasons will help; regardless of the possibility of military confrontation with US.
    It is in this manner that you will have to understand the recent news of a US base near the Iranian border.
    If I am correct, I would expect US and Iran to be engaged in border skirmishes in the next few months as the Iraqi government will look for assistance in combating the newly armed Sunnis.
    I personally believe that this strategy has scant chance of success – 2 million Sunnis have already left Iraq and there are hundreds of thousands of internal refugees. As result of this, the Shia and Sunni areas have become more clearly demarcated and thus more easily defensible. And then there is the issue of Najaf: it only takes one fatwa from Mr. Sistani for US to become a religious and legal enemy of the Shia Muslims.
    I hope that I am wrong in my surmises. For this approach will only prolong the agony of Iraq and will cause more death and more destruction without having any chance of success. It will have no chance of success since the Shia and the Kurds will fight tooth and nail. And Iran will do its best to prevent it as well.
    This is truly a case of playing with fire while throwing good money after bad money and I hope to God that USG is not pursuing such a foolish policy which at the end of the day will involve her inevitably in a war with Iran as well as in Iraq with no resolution in sight and absolutely no chance of success.
    [Reminds me of the Woody Allen movie:
    Soldier: Sarge who are we fighting?
    Sarge: This time the CIA is not taking any chances; half of us are fighting for them and half of us are fighting against them.]

  46. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Some historical context:
    The Cabinet debate in the UK circa WWI per Mesopotamia, which I have been reviewing lately, has a familiar ring..flatheaddish:
    “Our position in Mesopotamia if judged by pre-war standards is sound. Our armed forces are quite able to hold the ground. Our relations with the surrounding tibes are quite friendly….
    If Britishers are to run Mesopotamia we must find up to date reasons for their doing so and up to date Formulae for them to work the country on. We shall have to convince our own Democracy that Britishers ought to do the work and the Democracies of the world as well….
    The Mesopotamian peoples cannot develop the country themselves, there is no possibility of evolving an immediate government out of four or five hen like municipal oligarchies, a collection of riparian brigands and a fringe of Patriachal nomads…
    we should–
    investigate the possibility of getting the United States of America to propose that we should, provided the people of Mesopotamia desire it, assume on behalf of the nations of the Entente reponsibility for establishing a provisional regime in Mesopotamia for a period of twenty-five years…our tutelage….” etc.
    Sir Mark Sykes, 1918 in his memo “Our Position in Mesopotamia in relation to the Spirit of the Age”…

  47. For PL! As former intelligence operative what organization generally provides the most accurate and honest insight into the Islamic World, the Middle-EAST, South Asia, and the actual situation in Iraq?
    Please forgive me but I am automatically excluding the national press but if you can argue otherwise please enlighten me. I am looking for open source info and apologize for my ignorance. Since 9/11 I have read close to 50 books on middle-eastarn history and background from Justinians Flea to all of Bernard Lewis’ books and would be interested in what might be your current top 10 for analysis. I put Ghost Wars up there and perhaps a recent british historians work “The Classical World-From Homer to Hadrian.” No time frame for this response but since you taught at West Point would be interested in the reading list for your courses there. Of all the TV analysts I found you the most coherent and least posturing or didactic since 9/11. Thanks for your insights.

  48. Homer says:

    American War Culture in a nutshell
    Sitting around, war supporter Fred Kagan demands that troops be denied any relief until they win.
    Glenn Greenwald
    Sep. 15, 2007
    Fred Kagan, along with his writing partner Bill Kristol, specializes in planning and advocating more wars, always from afar. His family has a tradition of doing the same. His dad, whose career he has copied, is Donald Kagan, whom The Washington Post described as “a beloved father figure of the ascendant neoconservative movement.” Several years ago, Fred co-wrote a book with his dad arguing that America is too afraid to fight wars and “that it will be in the world’s ultimate interest for the United States to remain militarily strong and unafraid of a fight.” Neither has ever fought anything.
    If troops want more time at home, Kagan says, there is an easy way to achieve that: “win the war we’re fighting.” Of course, that would not even work, because Kagan and his friends at the Weekly Standard and the American Enterprise Institute have many more wars planned beyond Iraq for other families’ sons and daughters to fight. For that reason, Kagan actually had the audacity several months ago to type this:
    The president must issue a personal call for young Americans to volunteer to fight in the decisive conflict of this generation.
    Webb of Problems
    By Frederick W. Kagan
    Posted: Friday, September 14, 2007
    The amendment as offered earlier this summer (when it garnered 56 votes in the Senate) would present a nightmare in execution. It specified not only that a particular unit had to spend basically a day at home for every day it spent deployed, but that every member of the armed forces had to receive such “dwell time,” as the period between deployments is called.
    The problem is that when a unit returns from a deployment, its personnel are often reassigned to other units and other assignments. Brigades don’t stay together forever.
    So this amendment would actually require the Army and Marine Corps staffs to keep track of how long every individual servicemember had spent in either Iraq or Afghanistan, how long they had been at home, how long the unit that they were now in had spent deployed, and how long it had been home, and somehow find units to deploy that had been home for the specified time and all of whose personnel had also been home for the required period.
    Since that would be patently absurd, the alternative would be to pull people out of units that were going to deploy if those individuals did not have enough “dwell time,” breaking up leadership and soldier teams the formation of which is the express purpose of the Army and Marine training system.
    Requiring the president to issue a certification to Congress to waive this requirement for every individual soldier who might be affected is even more absurd.,filter.all/pub_detail.asp
    [keywords: Fred Kagan, Donald Kagan, Kimberly Kagan, Tobert Kagan, Bill Kristol, Weekly Standard, American Enterprise Institute, AEI’s Iraq Planning Group, Marine Corps, US Armed Forces, PTSD, Suicide, Iraq, Iran, Saddam Hussein, al-Maliki, al-Hakim, al-Sadr, al-Dawa, SCIRI, SIIC, Shiite, Sunni, Islamic fundamentalism]

  49. Paul says:

    At the risk of being dismissed by Colonel Laing, the sentiments expressed in my comment are neither anti-American nor naive. I believe this view is perhaps more realistic than the pap served up by our leaders.
    There is a tendency to over-analyze the situation in Iraq. The answer to the Iraq riddle may be a simple proposition: we have already lost the “war”. History instructs that unlawful or immoral oppressors NEVER get the upper hand over an enraged populace. It is not about Al Queda; it the about Iraqi people.
    John McCain states that leaving Iraq will result in defeat. He is only concerned about saving face. Joe Lieberman wants to know if we should attack Iran. What is he, crazy?
    Colonel Laing has conveyed excellent synopses about the culture, character and belief systems of the Arabs and non-Arabs in that part of the world. It is enlightening and well-done but most Americans will not bother to read it – nor do they care – for their only belief is that America is Number 1 in all things. How ignorant! The biggest joke is to hear pundits refer to George Bush as the leader of the free world. While Fox News stands still, the rest of the universe moves on.
    America now plays hind teat to other nations in numerous arenas: national debt, citizen welfare, exporting, strength of the industrial base and national infrastructure. We have allowed Bush & Co to tarnish our freedom, our common cause, our wealth and good name. This could have been prevented by realism. He is a buffoon and should be immediately dismissed by the people.
    We should do the right thing: get out of Iraq now and eat the humble pie we deserve. With time, humility and a different attitude, we might one day rise to our former status. Let the adults of the world have a hand at governing. And, by the way, get the corporations and AIPAC out of politics.

  50. Is there a publically available accounting of how many speakers of FARSI, URDU, ARABIC, HEBREW, PASHTU etc (excuse spelling errors) in all of STATE,DOD, DHS, DOJ (Including FBI), NSA, DIA, CIA currently? Reason for question is quirky idea that language may be basis for understanding. My understanding based on informal sources is altogether those assets are less than 2500. Could this be a Congressional oversight or national media question? How about the same for Congress, Congressional staff, and the National News Media? I really wish I could understand the Arabic version of Al-Jazeera (sic).
    The reason is simple, how do they identify the issues and problems. Not necessarily of course the solutions they offer.
    When Hitler declared war on the US in December 1941, some estimate that at least 5M Americans spoke some German. Japanese of course was less but because of trade it may have been as many as 20,000. What is the production at the State Dept. language school and Monterrey (sic)? Is it correct that the NATO nations will be majority Islam by 2100? I had several friends that once were on the mid-east desk at the CIA. Now deceased or retired. Neither was a linguist. Both were excellent cooks. Both were quite senior. Is this still a path to advancement as opposed to language in the CIA? By the way I sat next to the son of a CIA past director in law school. When I asked him what he was doing for the summer he said working for the CIA. Since I was the son of a civil servant who would never have asked for or wanted to work for my father’s agency I suggested nepotism since the son had no language skills and did not intend to enter service of Uncle Sam at any point. His reaction was interesting. Stated it was the family business. How many sons and daughters worked this summer at the CIA and what were their language skills? How many retired CIA personnel (20 years and out) have brought their language skills to other federal components? Or whatever skills? Remember this is a blog so just musing on the past, but perhaps it does have implications for the future.

  51. Babak Makkinejad says:

    William R. Cumming:
    Please be advised that there is no such language called “Farsi”. There is a language called Persian or Court Perisan.
    Using “Farsi” in an English sentence is akin to using “Italiano” to refer to the Italian language or “Dansk” to refer to Danish.
    “Farsi” or “Farsi-ye Dari” is the name of that language in Persian.

  52. b2 says:

    “There should be no treaty, agreement, SOFA or any other instrument that commits the United States to the defense of Iraq.”
    It’s hard to understand this sentence without reference to Orwell.
    What are you talking about?
    The US didnt ‘defend’ Iraq, it *attacked* Iraq, like Hitler attacked Poland. A war of naked aggression for strategic and geopolitical reasons based upon a pretext of transparent lies.
    As a result of aggression and lies such as these, the credibility of the power in question is shot to pieces.
    Back in the day powers would declare war on you for a stunt like this. Obviously this is not advisable but people are understandably not impressed and there will be consequences, such as a de-facto global coalition to effect the collapse of US global hegemonic pretensions.
    “There should be no permanent American bases of any kind in Iraq.”
    There should be no permanent US military bases *anywhere*, including the continental US itself. Ok, on the principle of self defence you can have some military and bases, but really, how about a 90% cut in the US military budget and the closure of all overseas bases? That would be a good start. It would bring you down on par with the Russian/Chinese military budgets.
    Bush & co love to style themselves as Churchill battling Hitler and evil but Hitler is long dead and the japs are beaten too. GI go home, war is over.
    It’s getting hard to see how the US can have any role – military, economic or diplomatic – in the middle east. A nightmare scenario is developing – defeat and expulsion. US hegemony could be replaced by Russian/Iranian/Indian/Chinese influence.
    That’s the ‘worst case’ scenario, it may not happen, but its neither ‘naively pacifist’ nor ‘anti-american.’

  53. Another thought. Suppose Sunni power brokers decide to pickup US contract personnel and assets after US departs! Is that occupation? By the way, what is US-Libyan relationship really about at this point? Does it matter for Iraq?

  54. Cold War Zoomie says:

    b2, I don’t see anything Orwellian about Col Lang’s comments about SOFAs, treaties, or any other instruments commiting us to the defense of Iraq. Basically, any of these would commit us to staying in Iraq much like our 50+ year Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the UK has allowed us to keep bases there since the 1950s. If Bush and his crew are allowed to establish a SOFA with the current Iraqi government, then someone has to go back and break the agreement.
    To me it’s pretty straight forward – don’t have any diplomatic agreements commiting us to stay there and don’t have any bases there. They go hand in hand.
    Concerning Amatzia Baram’s recommendation for keeping small bases in Iraq…that might work only if we are a “tenent” guest on one of Iraq’s bases. But I think we’ve poisoned that well so badly that we shouldn’t even try that. Our new administration will have enough trouble trying to repair our reputation starting in 2009.

  55. Thanks for the “Farsi” correction. Could you spell “Persian” or “Court Persian” in that language for me?

  56. Curious says:

    Interesting proposal, but I think it doesn’t take into consideration Iraq surrounding tension and domestic politics.
    1. There is a definite deadline of Iran having nuclear. If Israel decide to attack Iran, then the dynamics of Iraq occupation changes considerably.
    if not, then thing may stays the same, except with more Israel tension.
    Iraq conflict merging with Syria/Iran vs. Israel is very real. And arguably it will happen before 2010. (calculation of how many cascade Iran might finish.)
    2. domestic politics. Primary, election. Changing President. This might push AIPAC/Israel to initiate attack if they cannot guarantee the next president won’t bomb Iran. (ie. if they start war with Iran now, US will have to enter regardless and finish it with them.)
    So the question now: do we want a war with Syria/Iran or not. If we do, then we can stay in Iraq on our schedule.
    If we don’t, then we have to leave before Israel-Iran war.
    side note: Russia is sabre rattling. I think Russia is hinting something about thermobaric bomb and Iran. I think there is a possibility that Iran might receive the technology soon. Using thermobaric, defending the persian gulf is now fairly impossible without loosing a lot of ships.

  57. Homer says:

    b2: The US didnt ‘defend’ Iraq, it *attacked* Iraq, like Hitler attacked Poland.
    CORRECTION: Bush, didnt ‘defend’ Iraq, Bush *attacked* Iraq, like Hitler attacked Poland.
    CORRECTION: In direct response to the horrific attacks of 9/11, (3000 ghastly murders + tens of billions of dollars in damage) Bush didnt ‘defend’ Iraq, Bush *attacked* Iraq, and then at the cost of uncounted oceans of blood and treasure (at the very least, tens of thousands of people killed and maimed + $500 billion) Bush **inadvertently* fathered a burgeoning Islamic fundamentalist republic which the US military will probably have to encounter due to its long and close ties to its brothers in Iran and Syria once its done training and equipping it.
    Why does what we see in Iraq never get associated with the fact that it is Bush’s direct but inadvertent response to 9/11?

  58. Homer says:

    b2: A nightmare scenario is developing – defeat and expulsion. US hegemony could be replaced by Russian/Iranian/Indian/Chinese influence.
    The US seems to have been fuct as you described since the deposing of Saddam Hussein.
    Once the the beast is drained of its blood and treasure to their satisfaction, the Iraqi government will evoke two UN Security Resolutions and the US will be expulsed.

  59. Arun says:

    Dear Col. Lang: it is not surprising to find Iraqi resistance to the “puppet” government, if US non-military personnel are still exempt from Iraqi law.
    Even a as unperspiscacious observer as Daniel Pipes noted
    “Through two centuries of colonial rule, there may have been no issue more irritating that extraterritoriality such as this, where one finds, according to the Post, “a special legal category, not subject to military justice and beyond the reach of Iraq’s justice system.” In both China and the Middle East the imposition of extraterritoriality led time and again to major problems.”
    — Is there any mistake in Iraq that the US government did not make?

  60. Babak Makkinejad says:

    William R. Cumming:
    per your request:
    فارسى درى

  61. Homer says:

    Arun: “puppet” government
    What legislation has been passed/enacted by the puppet (Iraqi Parliament) which clearly connects it to the puppeteer (US)?
    Al-Dawa and the SCIRI were on the side of Iran in the Iraq-Iran War.
    Between now and then, at which point did Al-Dawa and the SCIRI, which were found in and funded by Iran, stab the Iranians in the back and become pro-US?

  62. Arun says:

    Homer, in this case it is the legislation that the Iraqi Parliament has not passed as far as I know, namely bringing US civilians in Iraq to be governed by Iraqi law. It can hardly be called sovereign then, no matter what other things it does or does not do.
    FYI, what infuriated Arabs and Chinese the most as per Daniel Pipes and what infuriated the Indians under British rule according to me was precisely this kind of impunity.

  63. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    S’more historical context, this time from Josiah Wedgwood, Brit Liberal Imperialist. American flatheads (and Canadian ones like Ignatieff) seem to get inspiration from the old Brit Liberal Imperialists when they are not reading the Jacobin stuff, or Trotsky, or I. Kristol:
    “Those who do settle in Palestine are likely to be of real political and commercial service to the Empire, for Palestine is the Clapham Junction of the Commonwealth. The air routes, as well as the ocean routes, east and wet, and south and north, cross here, where one flank rests on the Suez canal and the other on the port of Haifa, the natural trade base of Mesopotamia. With pipe line and railway debouching at Haifa under Carmel, the British fleet can look after the Near East in comfort and safety.”
    J.C. Wedgwood, The Seventh Dominion (London, 1928) pp. 3.
    I suppose the Hunts figure they will pipe out Kurdish hydrocarbons to Haifa. Nothing new under the sun?

  64. Leigh says:

    I confess to not being that great a student of geography, but how does Hunt plan to get to Haifa without going through Syria or Jordan or Sunni Iraq, for that matter? And wasn’t one of Israel’s earliest suggestions re: Iraq about restoring a pipeline that had long been closed? That idea died a quick death, didn’t it?

  65. Cold War Zoomie says:

    Clapham Junction
    You’re right, some things don’t change.

  66. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    The Haifa pipeline thing was a flathead proposal in the early stages of the Iraq War…Woolsey or someone of that ilk advanced the idea. Hunt could go through Turkey as well, who knows?
    If US policy would work effectively towards something like PL’s Concert concept then in a normalized regional situation Israel would be integrated into the regional economy. Projects like this could make economic sense under the right circumstances, namely peace and stability….as would increased economic integration between Iran and Iraq and Iran and Afghanistan and etc…But there must first be a settlement of the Israeli-Arab Conflict on a comprehensive basis I would think and a change in overall US regional and grand strategy.
    Meanwhile, Greenspan asserts to the world the Iraq War was/is for oil:
    “In the book Mr Greenspan writes: “Whatever their publicised angst over Saddam Hussain’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’, American and British authorities were also concerned about violence in the area that harbours a resource indispensable for the functioning of the world economy. I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”
    Mr Greenspan said it was clear to him that Saddam Hussein had wanted to control the Straits of Hormuz and so control Middle East oil shipments through the vital route out of the Gulf. He said that had Saddam been able to do that it would have been “devastating to the west” as the former Iraqi president could have just shut off 5m barrels a day and brought “the industrial world to its knees”.
    “Asked to explain his remark, he said: “From a rational point of view, I cannot understand why we don’t name what is evident and indeed a wholly defensible pre-emptive position.”,,2170661,00.html
    Seems to me that history indicates states normally want to SELL their oil in the world market. And the market is brisk now with ever increasing Chinese and Indian demands, etc. I don’t see how Greenspan’s doomsday/flathead scenario of Saddam (and weak and disintegrated Iraq) closing off the Straits of Hormuz would have worked in practice.

  67. Homer says:

    Arun: Homer, in this case it is the legislation that the Iraqi Parliament has not passed as far as I know, namely bringing US civilians in Iraq to be governed by Iraqi law.
    Blackwater license being pulled in Iraq
    The Interior Ministry said it would prosecute any foreign contractors found to have used excessive force in the Sunday shooting.
    Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul-Karim Khalaf said eight civilians were killed and 13 were wounded when security contractors believed to be working for Blackwater USA opened fire in a predominantly Sunni neighborhood of western Baghdad.
    Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki late Sunday condemned the shooting by a “foreign security company” and called it a “crime.”
    The question of whether they could face prosecution is a gray legal area. Unlike soldiers, they are not bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Under a special provision secured by American-occupying forces, they are exempt from prosecution by Iraqis for crimes committed there.
    Khalaf, however, denied that the exemption applied to private security companies.

  68. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Clifford Kiracofe:
    I do not comprehend Mr. Greenspan’s comments regarding Iraq closing the Straits of Hormuz – Iraq had no navy and her one usable port could be easily blockaded since it was inside Shat Al Arab waterway.
    Iraq could have created far more damage and more easily by attacking the oil installation of Saud Arabia and Kuwait.
    Is this man truly that ignorant or is he dissimulating?

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