Permanent Bases? – A Bad Idea

Image: Swimming pool at Balad air base

This is the base swimming pool at Balad Air Base north of Baghdad.  The MSNBC article cited here suggests that this pool and the permanent buildings in the background are "evidence" of an intent to maintain permanent basing in Iraq.  I sure do hope that the US government does not have such an intention.  There is a long history in the ME of the local peoples fiercely resisting what they see as the re-colonizing of their countries.  Permanent basing in Iraq would be a certain and inevitable cause for un-ending armed resistance to our presence.

Having said that, it is nevertheless true that this pool proves nothing.  Balad was the site of the Iraqi Air Force Academy and that is the academy’s swimming pool.  The buildings are the academy’s buildings.  They were there before 2003.                                                                                                  

Image: U.S. soldiers

This "Burger King" at Asad base in the west is another supposed "evidence" of permanence.  I don’t "buy" this argument.  The US  military is a volunteer force recruited from a population that expects a certain standard of living.  The military has to retain highly trained and motivated people.  They know that protracted hardship in living conditions will aggravate retention problems.  US bases everywhere, including in the US, have fast food restaurants all over them.  It is a sign of the times, a sign of the present state of our culture.  Ever since WW2 we have fed and supplied our armed forces with a lavishness that is astonishing.  This is nothing new.  It is just the way we do things.  Big American bases in VN were just as lavish as this.

The truth is that there is a lot of money available and commanders are making their people as comfortable as they can.  The USAF brigadier general in this article who says that the ultimate intention of the US Government will govern their disposition has it exactly right.  The military do not make such decisions, and they should not.

Pat Lang

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21 Responses to Permanent Bases? – A Bad Idea

  1. kky says:

    In reading the MSNBC article, the exsisting pool and new Burger King were not a surprise.Should the amount of runway construction be expected for the present public plans?

  2. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Balad is the hub of US air operations in Iraq. The previous runways and aprons were inadequate to our present needs. Much the same thing is true on other bases.
    I don’t think this proves anything about ultimate intentions.
    At the same time, there is no doubt that these bases would be used if an air campaign were conducted against Iran. You use what you have. pl

  3. taters says:

    Thank you, Col. Any comforts we can provide our brave men and women in uniform are well deserved.

  4. Charlie Green says:

    Again, our media finally catches with the blogosphere. This rumor has been around for years. There are 14 bases being built up to “permanent” status. Like in VN, intensive air support and supply needs require a certain level of infrastructure and secure area. These 14 are they.
    shows the location of all the military facilities they know of.
    But in 2003, the Pentagon acknowledged that they wanted four bases to actually be permanently under US control: international airport in Baghdad, Tallil airfield near An Nasariyah in the south, Bashur air field in northern Iraq and the H-1 airstrip in the western desert, near the border with Jordan. They were kinda vague on the details but felt these would be needed for the future security of our new democratic ally, Iraq. It doesn’t seem to be working out that way.
    Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy chief of operations for the coalition in Iraq, said last March:
    “[But] the engineering vision is well ahead of the policy vision. What the engineers are saying now is: Let’s not be behind the policy decision. Let’s make this place ready so we can address policy options.”
    So Pat’s analysis is correct; that the military, flush with cash, is insuring all options are available. And ultimately someone will get most or all these facilities for future use. If Iraq splinters, every region will have their own military facility. Seems only fair that we don’t show partiality.
    (Be advised: some of the above remarks were sarcasm.)

  5. kevin says:

    LSA- “Shamaconda”
    You missed the double decker air conditioned movie theater w/ ice cream stand and subway concession. LMAO!

  6. kevin says:

    Oh…BIAP has a pizza hut, a burger king, a cinnabun, a subway, a popeyes, a green been coffee house, a hardees, and a KFC….and the PX(one of seven!) sells flat screen TVs.
    Taji has a taco bell…lmao

  7. ali says:

    Building elaborate bases is probably as much about keeping Halliburton well larded as anything and the US military sensibly feathers its bed everywhere it goes. There seems to have been some reluctance from the Pentagon to fort up; I heard American soldiers were living almost as poorly as British squadies in the early part of the occupation.
    But I wonder here a bit about strategic flexibility. If we really were going to “stay the course” another decade amongst the sand flies would not be unlikely. So if you were deluded enough to think that the next President will sit out two terms in Iraq a few solid bases are a logical provision.
    What happens if Iraq fractures and the region slides into chaos? It’s not like DC is ever going to walk away from the Persian Gulf under those conditions. Some remote basing along the lillypad model would seem to make sense and the Kurds for instance would probably welcome it.
    “There is nothing so permanent as the temporary.”

  8. country boy says:

    According to Bush in his press conference today, future presidents will be making decisions on when to withdraw from Iraq. I think it’s safe to say the bases are permanent.

  9. ked says:

    when we open a Class 6 store you’ll know we’re in for the long haul.

  10. Peter vE says:

    That BK “installation” is a couple of couple of modules stuck together. It’s built the same way as a construction office at a large construction site, and about as permanent: after 5 years it will be garbage.
    It’s no wonder there’s inadequate power in Iraq: the amount of electricity needed to run the AC to make those modules tolerable is probably equal to a whole neighborhood of more appropriate buildings.

  11. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I don’t know but it is likely that the US military have their own power generation. pl

  12. W. Patrick Lang says:

    country boy
    Seems like, especially because himself wouldn’t answer a question abou it. pl

  13. jonst says:

    Whatever himself meant (and I love the “himself”)it is logical to assume, is it not,that many, many, in the ME ,and other places, will assume that is what he meant. And draw their respective conclusions, and calculations, some deadly some not, but almost all hostile, from said assumption.

  14. wtofd says:

    jonst, the many, many in the ME have already drawn the conclusion that we’re staying. Perhaps the word, “crusade” tipped them off.

  15. kevin says:

    “when we open a Class 6 store you’ll know we’re in for the long haul.”
    Despite the cushy airconditioned lifestyle, this is why I-crack blows. I would have given up everything, including the lobstertail, for a godamn beer. FTA- Im out

  16. kevin says:

    “Any comforts we can provide our brave men and women in uniform are well deserved.”
    At the cost of risking the lives of more brave men and women? Imagine the extra logistics and security needed to sustain this type of lifestyle. Instead of isolating ourselves behind tall concrete walls, we should be living amongst the population, sharing their struggles, supporting the local economy, and building trust. This is not how to fight an insurgency- maybe it is because some believe the “comforts” given to shareholders of a certain three letter acronymn are well deserved.

  17. jonst says:

    Personally, I and alot of people, thought we were going in for the long haul from the moment the idea of the invasion was floated. So you are of course correct regarding what people thought , in the ME, three years ago. But it is one thing to say it off hand…as you are implying his use of the word crusade was. Its another to say it in direct response to a specific question; lo these three long years. And frankly…I never put much stock in himself’s use of the word “crusade”. In the context it was being talked about at the time, world wide, it presupposed a passing familiarity with history that was, I suspect, far beyond himself’s knowledge, or recollection of the matters in question. IOW…to give the phrase any meaning he would have to know, and recall, what the Crusades were about in the first place.

  18. Patrick Henry says:

    Col..I agree with your statement that any thought of “Permanent Bases” is a Bad idea..
    I do believe that this administration would like that to happen..LONG TERM Occupation..if possible..
    By Using the sufficient existing facilitys ..any more would send bad signals to the Arab World..
    I think they have..however..intended to “Draw the Line” in iraq..and engage in Local conflicts as long as it takes for reach multiple objectives on all levels..
    The longer there is sectarian Violence..the longer we can justify a military Presence..
    Its all a Gamble..a Fantasy..piad for by the American taxpayer..
    We have Clear examples of the Muslim M/E version of “Democracy”..I/e hammas
    And even in “Liberated” Afghanistan..
    it will always be “Sectarian” Democracy..
    I’m not that sure that we ahould be spending 800 million dollars on a new Embassy in iraq just Yet..
    in fact..I think we should have a Good Plan for a Rapid Withdrawl of all American and Coalition Occupiers ..military..Corporate..etc..etc..
    And Good Military Options far Any and all Events..
    we Face many determined Zealous..Sectarian motivated Enemys..
    We must Not take the Threat lightly..
    Either over there..or here at home..

  19. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I have continued to investigate the possibility that the US intends to mantain bases in Iraq indefinitely.
    It would be a terrible idea but the sheer scale of what is going on gives me pause. pl

  20. taters says:

    Kevin – I strongly believe permanent bases is a bad idea. I was convinced from the beginning that permanent bases in Iraq were a part of the strategy prior to our invading it.
    “Instead of isolating ourselves behind tall concrete walls, we should be living amongst the population, sharing their struggles, supporting the local economy, and building trust.”
    Do you think that it is even possible to execute what you are speaking of in the current climate? IMHO I believe that horse might out of the barn at this point. I agree with your premise but maybe that was a coupla innings ago? I’m with Pat completely on Col HR McMaster in Tall Afar – hearts and minds, a respect for the culture, and a knowlege and appreciation of history of the region pays dividends. I simply do not wish the troops to be denied any more comforts than necessary – I just believe this whole thing is so broken that any comforts such as Burger King, Taco Bell, etc. if available – are great. We, the general populace sure as hell aren’t being asked to sacrifice here in the states. I agree with Truman that profiteering during a time of war is tantamount to treason. I also believe that Ike was dead on it at his farewell speech regarding the Military Industrial Complex. I can only speak as a layperson & civvie – I’ve never had a shot fired at me in anger.
    My old man was career military, he enlisted at the end of WWII, fought in Korea and did a tour in Vietnam. My whole life from infancy to my late teens was spent on bases, all my baseball & football coaches were all servicemen. We really were a family in a way and I see these troops in the same light. Sometimes somebody’s dad didn’t come back. It affected all of us kids…. Hell, I didn’t know we weren’t very well off until I got off base. I thought all schools were quonset huts, lol! I feel very strongly that our troops have been played cheaply at times and that is grievous, simply grievous. When we were stationed at Naha AFB in Oki, ’67 I was fourteen. I befriended a young soldier who was AWOL, he couldn’t have been much more than a coupla years older and he looked even younger. I called my dad and asked if I could have a friend spend the night. The old man said yes, I brought him over, my dad figured out immediately that he was a soldier, despite the civvies he wore and probably AWOL. He & the old man had a chat, my father asked me to leave for a few minutes. Apparently my new friend was getting close to thirty days of AWOL – my old man, God bless his soul, convinced the young GI to turn himself in. He spent the night, the following morning my father fixed us breakfast and took him to his unit. I believe it was Ft Buckner, maybe Sukiran. He didn’t want the soldier to get in trouble for desertion, particularly during a time of war. The young GI told me my old man was beau coup cool or something to that effect. I was never prouder, particularly how my dad did it. He treated him like a son. Col Lang extends a certain hospitality here I’ve found nowhere else – your political persuasion doesn’t matter. You can go in the “study” and read. Check out a film review. Civil War buff? WWII? The humanities? The Middle East – and get reviews for the best places in the ME for shawarma – lol! And if you ask a question, you get an answer. Whew! – I got a bit carried away. Thanks for the comment and my best to you.

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