Don’t Try to Stay in Iraq.

Imperialism_2 Because of the greatly improved situation in the counterinsurgency war in Iraq there will be a terrible temptation to think that Iraqis have now accepted a long term American military presence in their country.  That would be a mistake. 

The improved military situation has largely been the result of Iraqi revolt against takfiri jihadi oppression and the emergence of a coalition military leadership philosophy that welcomed that revolt and which provided fnancial, materiel and operational support to the rebels against Al-Qa’ida in Mesopotamia and its freinds.   The urge to attribute the success in the last year and a half to the increased presence of American combat forces must be strong, but, in fact, that presence has been helpful but not decisive. 

Many problems remain in Iraq.  The central government remains the monstrous engine of ethno-religious factional politics that the Coalition Provisional Authority created.  It is dominated by returned exiles and politicians who "played the game" with Saddam for their own benefit.  Such men are not inclined to abnegation in the "national" interest.  The Kurdish/Turkish conflict is reaching crisis proportion in the north and the swirling cockpit of Shia militia competition is now becoming more visible in the south.

These problems can only be resolved through the kind of determined diplomacy throughout the region that I have often advocated.

At present the US has accepted as temporary allies many of those who fought against us before the "Anbar Awakening."   That is as it should be.  We should continue that policy in other parts of the country.

What we should not think is that our former enemies have become reconciled to a permanent US military garrison in their country.  To think that would be a terrible mistake.

If we want to have a reasonable relationship wth whatever Iraq there will be, then we should understand that the basis for resistance to us was rejection of the idea of foreign military occupation.

Bottom Line?  Those who fight beside us now will fight us again if we decide to occupy their country permanantly.  pl

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30 Responses to Don’t Try to Stay in Iraq.

  1. Andy says:

    Agreed, assuming Iraq remains a single state.

  2. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Despite current “good news” from Iraq, we are not in a static situation and the dynamics in the region appear to be running against us. Pogo theory explains this.
    IMO, it is therefore urgent for the US to get our diplomacy turned around in order to fully support the phased draw down suggested by Col. Lang in his realistic and prudent plan. Unfortunately, the Decider and Tinkerbelle, and the sycophants around them, do not appear up to this task.
    Phil Giraldi gives a realistic sitrep which reinforces Col. Lang’s warnings:
    “Over the past six years the Bush administration, aided and abetted by Congress, has trashed what used to be described as American foreign policy. Foreign policy once was shaped around the U.S. national interest, but no longer. Vulnerable key allies such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt are now struggling to deal with the consequences of a U.S.-inspired rush to democracy that has advanced a flawed, ideologically driven agenda. Russia was nearly a friend and is now again an enemy. Afghanistan is a corrupt narco-state where the Taliban is making a comeback and President Hamid Karzai is referred to as the King of Kabul because his writ runs no farther. The less said about Iraq the better. But amid all of the missteps and poor policy choices, the loss of Turkey stands apart because Turkey was a close friend and loyal ally of the United States when 9/11 took place.”
    Meanwhile, I am packing ample tungsten matrix goose and duck loads with my ancient and honorable Parker 12 and heading to the MD. Eastern Shore for some of the Holidays.

  3. meletius says:

    Well, as far as I can tell, we HAVE decided to occupy Iraq permanently, with each leading Repub prez candidate trying to outdo himself in “resolve” to stay there 50 years if “necessary”.
    Withdrawal timelines or even beginning negotiations over them? Cuttin’ n’ Runnin’! Defeatocrats!
    As many have figured out, “Leaving is Losing” to Bushco and its neocons, and that mantra seems to have rapidly become the official Repub position—the surge was a great success! Don’t “throw away” the surge! Allow our troops to “win”! (i.e. stay indefinitely.)
    Repubs see their successful opposition to withdrawal timelines as their greatest political victory of the year. They have staked everything on their “strength” in indefinitely continuing the occupation.
    I certainly can’t see that your sensible, informed advice has become the conventional wisdom, not by a long shot—indeed, the opposite seems to be occurring.

  4. Wayne White says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Pat on this issue, and would like to take the case for not staying one step further.
    Most all the elements now members of the so-called Concerned Local Citizens (CLC’s) have been bitterly opposed to the largely Shi’a central government, and the government has been equally suspicious of them. Direct contact between largely Shi’a government security forces and CLC units has resulted in clashes.
    As we thin out in predominantly Sunni Arab areas “stabilized” by CLC’s, more and more of them will come into direct contact with government forces.
    The latest news is that the government–doubtless under great US pressure–has agreed to pay CLC’s. However, there could be considerable opposition at the local level to this (where the central government’s writ is very iffy in most areas) or the government could renege once U.S. overwatch is much-reduced.
    The bottom line is that if we overstay our welcome, we could find ourselves in the middle of a civil war-like situation even worse than the strife witnessed in 2006-early 2007. Why would it be potentially worse? Because now Shi’a (and Kurdish) dominated government security forces and Shi’a militias with their death squads (yes, the latter will likely return to the greater Baghdad area as the surge winds down) will now run into well-armed and well-organized CLC elements that even Maliki branded “Sunni militias” fairly recently.
    Best regards. Wayne.

  5. lina says:

    I just heard Gov. Huckabee’s campaign manager say we’re in a theological war with Islam. So I assume lengthy occupations are part of the plan. How long were the Crusaders in Outremer?

  6. I’m curious whether you’ve heard of Dennis Kucinich’s plan for an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and whether you think it is sound. In case you don’t know the details, he basically proposes to have all U.S. troops out of the region within 3 months of taking office, with U.N peacekeeping forces (or forces from neighboring Arab states, if that will be more palatable for the Iraqis) moving in to replace them as they leave. Apparently he has spoken to several high-level U.N. officials and Arab heads of state about it and they are amenable. Your thoughts?

  7. Curious says:

    Unfortunately we will stay in Iraq in the foreseeable future. Domestic political dynamic supports such situation. And there is no movement from inside Pentagon to start advising to pull out of Iraq. (The only place really, that can stop the war)
    The majors excuses will not go away and simply be trotted out in all arguments (1. Oil. 2 Protecting geopolitical interest/Israel 3. terrorism.) All those are easy political soundbite.
    The result of course is the opposite. 1. energy price will become unstable each time something happens in Iraq and nearby countries. 2. we will be drawn into Israel vs. Iran/Syria/Hezbollah/Palestinian conflict 3. Iraq drives terrorism all over the world.
    If I have to predict in the coming decade while we stay:
    1. Iraq will produce organization similar to hezbollah within a decade. And this will be fueled by a) us training dubious group of people b)dynamic of middle east political movement c)Our rival such as China and Russia using Iraq as proxy.
    2. we will in the end have a war with Iran. A million things can go wrong quickly and only a few reasons not to start a war. Iran’s oil, location and political background simply means they have to do military build up, which increases the chance of clash.
    3. Through our diplomatic incompetence we will get tangled in all sorts of middle east politics. Syria/Iran/Lebanon/Hezbollah, Egypt, North africa, Saudi, etc. One thing can quickly lead to cascade of complication. (eg. Egypt leadership succession, Saudi Kings demise, Palestinian and Israel conflict, Iran relationship with russia/china, etc. etc..) Nevermind freak accidents such as bombing in Lebanon or some group start kidnapping tourists, etc.
    4. Global economy. energy price, investment pattern, etc. The war creates massive inflation since it’s pumping $70-80B cash into global system each year. Something is going to give sooner or later.
    5. The Iraq war will create massive domestic rift and soul searching when Iraqis finally decide to fight for their independence. We will in the end have to shoot a lot of people to maintain the occupation, specially when maliki regime can’t do it.
    6. Like any other occupation, it will erode civil liberty and rule of law. Corruption, weapons trade, rape/torture, etc.
    All these highly predictable general trends will happen.

  8. Andy says:

    Col. Lang and others have noted that a quick pull-out on the order of three months is not really practicable for a variety of reasons but mostly logistical. Maybe someone here can find a link from the archives as I seem unable to do atm.
    One other thing I wanted to mention is that I believe the manner in which we stay in Iraq is almost as important as the question of when we leave.

  9. robt willmann says:

    The basis of this tragedy is the permanent presence of the U.S., Britain, and Israel in Iraq.
    Can you imagine what has happened to Iraq over the last 16 years? That is Sixteen: from the massive bombing of Iraq the 1991 war, through 12 years of debilitating and criminal sanctions, to the 2003 invasion and ongoing occupation with its continuing destruction of the infrastructure and social fabric of the country, as well as creating in excess of 4 million internal and external refugees. Sixteen years is almost a generation.
    Since the “news” media, like the Iraqi government, hardly reaches outside of the Green Zone, I think we really have no idea of what has been going on in that country for the last four and a half years. Compounding the problem is that the large news organizations are actively promoting the war and policies of the Bush jr administration.
    So we the people are in the dark about what has been happening there. We don’t know what kind of assassination and “liquidation” programs the U.S. has been running. We hear stories of earthen berms being built around entire towns and cities, and then massive cordon and search operations within them. After the troop escalation earlier this year, under the propaganda word “surge”, the religious and ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods has increased that did not happen when Saddam Hussein was there. Stories also exist of huge concrete barriers being erected in Baghdad, and I assume elsewhere, which chop up the areas so that they can be “controlled”, along with the use of biometric identification cards, and so forth. Reports continue of assassinations of college professors, physicians, and other educated persons.
    We in the U.S. don’t begin to know what is occurring there, but the Iraqi people do.
    In some respects, especially regarding the oppressive population control techniques being used, Iraq is starting to look like the West Bank and Gaza Strip in Palestine.
    Sadly, the evidence that we are not leaving is overwhelming. In a comment recently to the “Open String on Iraq Strategery”, I tried to make the point, but my web browser mangled the formatting and it posted as one big blob, for which I apologize.
    Congress approved at least $70 billion dollars today, December 19, 2007, for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which a report estimated would keep the wars (plural) going through June of next year, or possibly later. Is the compromised and cowardly Congress going to reduce or block funding for the wars in the middle of the 2008 election?
    Since the Democratic party has more than 41 votes in the Senate, they can filibuster anything. But of course they did not and will not.
    Over in the House of Representatives, where “impeachment is off the table”, we read in a Reuters article of today that–
    “House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat, sounded resigned to at least another year of funding the war in Iraq, against his wishes. He said the only option to changing direction in Iraq was to ‘elect more progressive voices to the United States Senate’ and to ‘elect a president with a different set of priorities’.”
    Mr. Obey, the chairman of the House Appropriations commmittee, said what? That he is “resigned” to another year of war funding “against his wishes”? I will not use a crude street expression, but doesn’t Mr. Obey realize what the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee is? And perhaps he was not taught arithmetic as a young boy, since he doesn’t seem to know that a Democratic majority means that his party has the most votes in the House.
    As I have mentioned, Charles Schumer and Rahm Emanuel, from the Senate and House Democratic campaign committees, respectively, are recruiting candidates to run in the 2008 election who are pro-war and otherwise on board with the gangster foreign–and now domestic–policies.
    This leaves us with who the president will be, and we the people. The Republican Ron Paul, who set another record three days ago for fundraising in a single day, would not stay in Iraq. I have started to think in the last day or two that John Edwards, although he mainly bows down to the gangster foreign policy, might, if elected, dismantle the permanent U.S. presence in Iraq.
    That is the other part of the evidence that “we” are staying: the large, permanent-style military bases being built, and the monstrous “embassy”. And now Congress has given the executive branch the taxpayer money to continue to do it, or, I should say, the debt created to fund the war that the taxpayers are to pay back later.
    However, I for one do not despair or throw in the towel. The promoters of these wars for the U.S., Britain, and Israel are indeed diabolical and vicious. Yet, war is like opening the door to a dark room.
    A lot can happen in 13 months.
    We should be neither silent nor idle.

  10. sglover says:

    I suspect that whichever Dem wins will immediately start ginning up reasons why we can’t leave Iraq just yet. They’ll fall right into the same cynical game as Bush — pass it on to the next sucker. I guess it’s still preferable to what the “On to Tehran” GOP nutcase ward would do, but not much.
    I think Bush has won the biggest victory of his worthless life: He will succeed in shifting the responsibility for his biggest fuck-up ever to somebody else. He’ll be like the Napoleon or the Michelangelo of losers. It’s really astonishing.

  11. JohnH says:

    Once again Israel serves as a model. As long as things are peaceful, the Likud/ neoconderthals go about the business of occupation undisturbed. When things are not peaceful, they take the opportunity to scare voters about terrorism, increase military budgets, and abscond with more Arab resources (land, water, oil) to punish terrorists for their behavior.
    Heads they win, tails we lose.

  12. @Andy: Thanks for response! Actually, I was wrong about the plan. Kucinich claims it would take at least three months to end the occupation and replace U.S. troops with an international peacekeeping mission. I would be most appreciative if Col. Lang (or others with a similar level of military expertise who read this) reviewed the Kucinich plan (outlined here) and commented on its merits/problems.
    @robt & sglover: I’m quite confident that if either Gravel or Kucinich were elected president we would leave Iraq. Both of them have acted in a way that is entirely consistent with that expectation (Gravel showed he was willing to face political flak when he filibustered to block the renewal of the draft while he was in the senate, and he faced arrest when he published the Pentagon Papers; Kucinich has demonstrated his own commitment to end the use of war as an instrument of policy by voting against the initial war resolution as well as every funding bill since the beginning of the war, plus he stood up to the mafia and big banks when he was mayor of Cleveland).

  13. Btw, Kucinich introduced this plan before the House in HR 1234 in February.
    (Sorry for the Kucinich spamming, but if you think the U.S. should be out of Iraq you really should be voting for this guy!)

  14. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    <"I just heard Gov. Huckabee's campaign manager say we're in a theological war with Islam.">
    Lina, thanks for this head’s up on Rev. Huckabee’s Iowa campaign leader. The video is at:
    Some data on Bob Vander Plaats, a former gubernatorial candidate in Iowas, at:
    Here is a piece on a Rev. Gerrit Vander Plaats, apparently the father of “Bob”:
    So this is the Holland, Michigan Calvinist network. Chuck Colson has been an important cutout between the Holland, Michigan Calvinists and the Pat Robertson “Christian Right” forces.
    Some background on the theocratic “Dominionist” influence on the Christian Right emphasized by Kevin Phillips in his book “American Theocracy” here:
    In this context, I have mentioned on other threads the late nineteenth and early 20th century Dutch NeoCalvinist political party that took power for a while in the Netherlands. The US NeoCalvinist movement is linked to it theologically. Abraham Kuyper was the founder of the Dutch theological and political movement. Kuyper is an icon for important Christian Right circles in the US. See,
    I suppose Rev. President Huckabee will replant the Rose Garden with tulips….

  15. sglover says:

    “@robt & sglover: I’m quite confident that if either Gravel or Kucinich were elected president we would leave Iraq. ”
    Surely. You could say the same about Ron Paul. Hell, I’ll be voting for Kucinich in the primary — much to my own amazement. But we all know that none of these three has a chance at what they’re shooting for. Worse, none of what they’re saying even registers with our “leaders”.

  16. Matthew says:

    January 1, 2010: The baby boomer retirements begin in earnest.
    We will leave Iraq when we run out of money….and we reconcile ourselves to it like every other retreating Imperial Power.

  17. ISL says:

    Agree completely with the colonel that we should leave, and 2 won’t leave.
    From what I have read, Iraq has no airforce, no navy, no (or virtually none) heavy armor, and I am guessing (no anti-aircraft) – after all they might accidentally use it on their beloved liberators. So in their neighborhood, they are set up as defenseless babes.
    The irony as I see it, is that they could do just fine w/out the US if they allowed Iran to take over their defenses. Somehow, I am guessing that is not the original script (enduring bases for fifty years).

  18. Charles I says:

    sglover, 43’s passing of the FU buck is small beer.
    His singular achievement, albeit mainly wrought by others, was to preside over and sign off on the plundering of the treasury, the stock market, oil and housing bubbles, (soon to be replaced by an opportunity-rich economic meltdown), establishment of a permanent state of war that is not war, but that justifies the shredding soldier and constitution alike, the beggaring of your grandchildren for good measure, topped off with the derisive neutering of the elected opposition.
    Passing the buck – that’s just a fart on 43’s way out of his eight year long fantasy buffet of good-vs-evil camp. If one could undo all the flatheads have wrought, 10 trillion’d be cheap at the price.

  19. Don S. says:

    Col. Lang
    Here is my two cents worth.
    The US economy has been humming along on three major components.
    1) home building/consumer spending.
    2) growth in financial services.
    3) military spending.
    All three are now in difficulty.
    1) So many excess expensive homes have been built, that now there is a years surplus. Housing starts are dropping and consumers are starting to spend less.
    2) The banking system is under stress and the nations two largest banks have had to sell parts of themselves to foreign interests to obtain cash. (City bank, bailed out by the Arabs, Morgen Stanley by the Chinese.)
    3) The American military machine gobbles up money at an extreme rate and yet will still have to be rebuilt at the end of this conflict.
    As a result the US dollar is under stress and is falling.
    This reminds me of the UK after WWII. Over extended, in debit, and uncompetitive in manufacturing.
    Meanwhile the East is building up it’s manufacturing/business/banking assets
    If the US doesn’t want to face the same decline as the UK and the sterling standard, it will have to adjust.
    Continuing to spend billions of dollars in Iraq will not be helpful, and at some stage may not even be an option.
    Farmer Don

  20. arthurdecco says:

    “If one could undo all the flatheads have wrought, 10 trillion’d be cheap at the price.” Posted by: Charles I
    Amen to that, Charles I

  21. Jim Schmidt says:

    “So this is the Holland, Michigan Calvinist network. Chuck Colson has been an important cutout between the Holland, Michigan Calvinists and the Pat Robertson “Christian Right” forces.”
    Clifford Kiracofe
    Couple of stories.
    My folks grew up around Rockford, Michigan and they told a story of how the local Catholic Parish repeatedly tried to purchase land for a new church in the
    Rockford city limits, only to have the “Hollanders” rezone and deny building permits. The church was eventually built over on the northeast side of 131 and 10 mile road. Outside city limits.
    A state senator friend in the Iowa Legislature mentioned to me years ago that his “Hollander” colleagues were known collectively as the VanderFucks for their hard edged opposition to almost anything associated with the modern era.
    What’s this been now, almost 400 years of this nonsense?. Why do we expect Iraq to Hahh..eel overnight?
    In Iowa, everything west of I-35 is home on the range for Vander Plaats and the dark knight Rep. Steve King. The Colson “cutout” is not hard to find.
    Chuck Colson, backed by Vander Plaats and his friends, established and ran a state funded Christian ministry program in Iowa Prisons until a recent court decision halted the program. Accept Jesus and life got lots better versus life in the general prison population. This case is currently in appeal.
    And things are getting crazy with the rumored I-35 superhighway, and the
    “Amero” currency conspiracy. Hot topic in the candidate Q&A sessions:
    But, not crazy enough. Check out Pat’s club and the growing popularity of the Isaiah Chapter 35:8 movement:
    Adds new meaning to fire in the hole.
    Regarding Iraq permanance, another friend mentions how his engineering firm is balls to the wall hiring Egyptian and Indian engineers to design and build seven, large Iraqi bases, with contract completion dates by the end of 2008. Don’t think we are leaving anytime soon.
    May we live in interesting times.

  22. Jim Schmidt says:

    Correction. M44 not 131.
    Also, Huckabee is vanguard of growing “who lost China” sense of betrayal amongst the hucksters.

  23. Shirin says:

    Why is it not clear that all attempts to manipulate the situation to the U.S. advantage are ultimately going to make the situation worse? This is all about trying to use the well-known divide and rule principle to squash Iraqi nationalism. The U.S. will eventually be forced to leave Iraq, one way or another. The longer they stay the worse its condition will be when they finally do leave.
    The U.S. cannot do anything to make things better in Iraq except get out and leave it to Iraqis to sort out the mess.

  24. Mish says:

    And while we’re enumerating the wonders that the Holland, Michigan area has contributed to America, let’s not forget Blackwater.
    Or Amway.

  25. Military expertise is the US base for our comparative advantage given the “Flat Earth” and staying in Iraq only postponses the inevitable readjustment to a world in which the US must compete on a completely different basis. Who will lead the US in that conversion? The concentration of US assets in IRAQ has already led to a deteriorating world position. Continuation only furthers that deterioration while discussion of “Winning or Losing Iraq” dominates a purile political landscape. Let’s face it the world’s greatest nation at long-term strategy no longer can think a day, a week, a month ahead, much less a year. The lobotomization of the civil service by politicization certainly helped. Then add an academic world worried solely about the next contract or grant and you have heaped on a big helping of difficulty. Since 9/11 how many Asian/Islamic centers of academic excellence have been founded and how many are producing trained brain-power and linguistic capability for the future. The military can recruit bodies, and the children of refugees proving their patriotism helps but question whether having brains is a recognized ingredient to long term success of the military and its civiliam leadership. Let’s abandon the academies as four year undergraduate instituitons and convert them to 2 year Master programs admitting scholars in languages, engineering, science,etc. No more political appointments to the academies and purely by merit. Also, no meaningless Congressional approval of officers below flag rank. Congress tends to punish good men and women for doing their jobs and that makes no sense. By the way what lessons learned on civil/military issues are being drawn by the militiary in Iraq. Who is studying the impact of what will be a decades long deployment on military strategic thinking. Perhaps reduction of flag ranks by 1/2 would help to focus the military. A lifetime ban from certain military officials from being employed by contractors they delt with might also be useful. By the way what are the ethics rules for the Iraqi forces we have trained?

  26. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Jim Schmidt:
    Also the fact that it is often the case in North America that Catholics play golf with fellow Catholics and Protestants with other protestants.

  27. Babak Makkinejad says:

    William R. Cumming:
    I think you are not looking at it the right way – US has no shortage of experts in other cultures and languages. I think they are often ignored and their experience and opinions are dismissed by the political classes as “Academic” – a term of denigration in the United States.
    By political classes I mean those men and women who have stood for elections and have won them and those others who have helped them get there. For many such people, loyalty is foremost feature that they look for in a person.

  28. Jim Schmidt says:

    “Also the fact that it is often the case in North America that Catholics play golf with fellow Catholics and Protestants with other protestants.”
    Babak Makkinejad
    “I play golf with friends sometimes, but there are never friendly games.”
    Ben Hogan

  29. James Pratt says:

    There are three factors that may speed the withdrawal of most US forces from Iraq.
    The Kurds may see US protection from the Ba’ath and its Sunni successors as no longer necessary because half of the Iraqi Sunnis are in exile and at least half a million have been killed in the last five years.
    They could regard the US as essentially a Turkish ally and an enemy to their national aspirations.
    The political pressure from domestic and foreign Shi’i on the Iranian leadership to hurry the US out of Iraq will increase with every horror story told by a returning pilgrim from Karbala and Najaf. I know the Iranians worked hard to get the US into Iraq and I believe the present leadership is satisfied with the status quo. After Dick Cheney is out of power the Iranian agenda may change because of political necessity.
    Lastly, I think the US corporate leadership influential in both parties may regard Iraq as a lost cause because it is going to cost them a few of their allies in Congress every election until the electorate is satisfied that the fiasco is over.

  30. JohnS says:

    If the more-or-less expected happens next November, and the Democrats gain control of the executive branch and the 2 houses of Congress, we will HAVE TO leave Iraq. It will be politically impossible for the Dems to insist on anything else.
    However, “leave” can mean many different things, from how Dennis Kucinich/Bill Richardson mean it to how Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama/John Edwards may (or may not) mean it. Therein lies the rub…

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