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29 April 2007

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Peter Eggenberger

It may be stupid, but surely the Administration is more likely to choose an incomplete over a complete withdrawal-- and to blame any ensuing disaster on its opposition ("stab in the back", etc)

Ronald

Col. Lang,

You write, "The announcement of the beginning of our withdrawal will merely signal to all concerned that the "real" fight has begun."

I agree, I would also say that the "real fight" will only begin when we leave - whther that is in 1 week, one year, or twenty years. Can any government set up by us, at the end of our barrels, be considered legitimate by enough Iraqis? Isn't it always the case the people will look around with scores to settle whenever it is that we pull out?

In that context, the right question is not "How do we 'win'" (against whom, exactly?) or "Have we 'lost'?" but "when do we leave?" If someone can propose a reasonable strategy that will minimize the turmoil that will follow our eventual departure, then I will be for it. However, we cannot surge the whole country, and I see no evidence of the vaunted political solution progressing at all now. Not one iota.

Col. Lang, is there any reasonable and feasible strategy that could lessen the catastrophe that will follow our departure? If not, does delaying the inevitable departure while we accomplish nothing to that important endpoint make sense? After all, like Col. Kilgore said, "Someday, this war's gonna end."

Regards,
Ronald

b

One certainly could take the "surge" brigades back a bit without too much trouble.

But taking away all combat brigades would be suicide for the rest. So it's largly either none or all troops leave. None is not sustainable.

"You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else." said Churchill.

Today they tried counterinsurgency by artillery (btw - is that in Gen. Betray-us' new manual?) That will fail too.

So what will be the next step. My guess:

Bringing in Allawi again with a selected "unity governement."

That will give Bush some time to run out the clock ...

Cold War Zoomie

My crystal ball doesn't show a partial withdrawal with any Americans staying behind since we've only been given two extreme choices. Bush has equated leaving with losing, so he isn't going to change course before leaving office regardless of what happens on the ground. The anti-war crowd has countered Bush's extreme position with their own extreme proposal for total withdrawal starting ASAP, regardless of the consequences in Iraq.

We live in a constitutional republic. If the vast majority of Americans want to pull out our troops, then who is to say "no?" That vast majority is gaining ground. Bush can say “no” but my gut says the next president will get into office by saying “yes.”

And who is going to step forward as a leader and propose a solution that straddles the two extreme choices we have now?

Nobody. I don't see a leader in any of the presidential contenders at this stage. And the anti-war proposal will just keep gaining traction by the time November 2008 arrives.

My prediction is that we'll pull Vietnam Skedaddle Redux in late 2009, pulling out everyone, because we the people demand it.

arbogast

I have to say that I have seen plenty of dead humans. And many, many more horribly injured humans, mostly younger people.

I grew very, very tired and weary of it. It is horribly hard on the human spirit.

I read the transcript of the debate between the Democratic candidates.

Hillary Clinton was the only one who did not grandstand and sounded like she was interested in solving problems.

I don't particularly want to have dinner with Hillary, and I have no desire whatsoever to have dinner with her husband, but she is the best of the bunch. She will get my vote.

And it is an inescapable fact that if Bill Clinton ran next year, he would win going away.

So, where do death and Hillary leave me?

They leave me not wanting a single young American killed by people who enjoy killing us.

If there is to be war in the Middle East, let it be a Gotterdamerung. Let us throw the whole shooting match against the Arab world.

Absent that, diplomacy and reining in the crazies from AIPAC.

zanzibar

Since the Decider equates any withdrawal with failure and loss that's not going to happen on his watch. He's going to leave it to the next President to deal with. It would mean then we have few years to figure out our exit. There's no doubt in my mind that we cannot withdraw combat forces unless and until there's a deal or we withdraw the entire American presence in Iraq with combat troops being the last. The question is even if there is a deal can we trust the actors to not attack Americans? Removing the entire American presence would be acknowledgement of total defeat for the Iraqi project. Is there a middle ground?

Maybe the sleight of hand trick will be used where we replace combat troops with private combat forces. After all Blackwater, et al are ready and willing for the multi-billion dollar contracts.

Mackie

Col. Lang,
Do you forsee a complete withdrawal, or will we maintain an ongoing presence directed from the permanent bases?

FB Ali

Colonel

Iraq does not exist as an island in the middle of an ocean. It is surrounded by countries that have a stake in what happens inside the country, and have considerable influence on one or other Iraqi player. It is true that these outside powers would like to see their faction win, but by now they all know that such an outcome is not achievable. They also do not want Iraq to descend into chaos.

These realities offer the possibility of a compact among these regional powers under which each of the Iraqi factions can achieve most of its "bottom line". The prerequisite to such an agreement is the removal of US military power from inside Iraq. It is not a question of combat troops or support troops; all of them will need to go.

With three times the combat troops it currently has in Iraq, the US may have been able to pacify the country and impose a solution to its liking. With current troop levels the US is merely prolonging the blood-letting and destruction without moving nearer to any kind of solution. US military power in Iraq is part of the problem, not the makings of a solution.

That is the reality. How long will it take before it sinks in?

searp

I have worried about this for some time. Imagine what would happen if we spread out a la Petraeus and then, due to some development, all factions decide to attack those posts.

Somalia.

Matthew

What is the underlying assmuption behind some of these posts: "Our problem is that we are just too decent to kill enough people to make a difference"? This type of thinking seems wrong for two reasons: (1) mass murder only proves that the people doing it are mass murderers; and (2) international norms, such as prohibitions on killing massive numbers of civilians, stop us from sliding off the moral precipice. Using ever greater violence, particularly, indiscriminate violence, is not going to prevent catastrophic terror. It is going to guarantee it.

anon

I think Cheney wanted to leave lots of troops permanently behind in those new super airbases in Iraq, each one I understand to be about the size of Lichtenstein. I think his plan is to try to stall for the next 20 months, hoping to find some kind of opening that allows the US to make that happen over the long term.

Other than that, I don't think he gives a hang about what happens. But, in that sense, I think at least one faction in the WH had a plan to keep some troops behind from the beginning. Thing is, if the Saddam-light he had in mind to run Iraq could have kept the lid on enough to keep the bases safe and supplied, and most civilian casualties in Iraq a consquence of well-organized governmental security measures, then it all would be out of the news.

VietnamVet

Predictions?

I have no doubt that all US troops will leave Iraq. Americans have turned against the war. The big bases are not sustainable without truck convoys and combat troops.

The Sunnis will attempt to regain control of Iraq but will be stalemated by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Kurdistan will be invaded by Turkey. If there is really oil in Al Anbar province, then the Arab League will defend the Sunni Arabs from the Shiites. After a regional war and collapse of Middle East oil supply for several years, Iraq will partition into three countries with governments approved by Ankara, Riyadh and Tehran.

US troops will dash for the frontiers on March 2009 leaving what can’t be carried behind. Gas lines and the loss of Iraq and Afghanistan will bring out the long knives. We are going to be blamed for the greatest debacle in American History by the 30% true believers. The Culture Wars will turn bloody.

This prediction is so likely, one can only hope that all parties gather together in the Grand Conference before it is too late and hammer out a Middle East Peace Settlement that avoids a regional war and brings American troops home.

TR Stone

Thinking in a strategic manner about the ME, how many troops and for how long will they be required to guard all the oil infrastruture both on land and in the sea lanes?

Perhaps the administration's policies could be sold to the American people if it was explained as "How many people should we have killed or injured (ours and theirs), plus dollars expended that allow you to keep driving that gas guzzler at prices you can afford"!

Cizungu

The quote is Talleyrand, not Voltaire: "c'est pire qu'un crime, c'est une faute."

peterp

It may be possible to keep forces in Kurdistan -- and it may also be necessary, to keep the Turks and the Kurds from squaring off. It might also be possible to keep a base or two in the southern desert, with short, direct supply lines to Kuwait. But, of course, most of the "permanent" facilities the Pentagon has built are in central Iraq, and there we cannot stay, unless we remain in force.

It appears that, sooner or later, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is going to inherent some first-class military infrastructure.

Richard Whitman

Not enough thought is given to the law of unintended consequences especially in the Middle East. Maybe this time it will work for the US instead of against us. Withdrawal from Iraq by the US may keep Iran so busy over the next generation that they will have little time or energy to promote mischief elsewhere.

Dave of Maryland

It doesn't make any difference what we think. Or what the candidates promise. We are deer in the headlights.

When they are ready the Iraqis will throw us out. As roadkill. And with as much contempt. What they then do or do not do will be beyond our control.

What we will then do to ourselves, as a result, gives me nightmares. That we are so completely unprepared for such an obvious, self-inflicted backlash, is terrifying.

Will

I still think withdrawal is the answer. You can leave enough force protection in Baghdad to protect the Green Zone. (or close the monstrosity down) Pull the rest out.

American troops is the honey that attracts the Jihadist Bees. The tribal Sunnis will make short work of them once the incentive for allies is gone.

The American War in Irak has been basically the American-Sunni War.

What effect on Oil. America has shut down Iraki Oil ever since the Gulf War. It may increase after withdrawl.

I don't see the problem. They are already at civil war. Irakis don't want us there. American troops don't want to be there. The American people don't want the troops there. There's one one segment that wants the G.I.'s there ..... the Jihadis. (And the NeoKons)

I spent a year of my young life in Vietnam combat. Other than the hurt feelings of squandering lives, friends, and assets in a strategic blunder in another useless land war in Asia (I have tried to put it as delicately as I could) once we leave Irak, we will see we had no business there and have lost nothing by leaving. Just like Vietnam.

The Prognosis. Anbar will have strong ties with Jordan and will have an accomodation with the Shia because it is landlocked. Likewise landlocked Kurds have to make accomodations with the Turks, Shia, and Sunnis to get their Oil out and to import their goods.

jonst

Just out of curiosity PeterP, how would the US supply a position in Kurdistan?

DeWitt Grey

It makes you wonder what is really going on inside the Army, the State Department and the CIA -- on what basis do any of them think that there is any short or even medium term prospect of stability in Baghdad, or indeed that such a prospect was in the offing at any time in the last three years?

If it were not for our national obsession with "face" (call it what you will in American), we would be relatively relaxed about a complete withdrawal (for the time being) from Baghdad -- does anyone really think that the Green Zone government, in its current form, will last 90 days beyond our withdrawal? Under such circumstances, there is no particularly compelling need for us to have full diplomatic representation in Baghdad until the Iraqis achieve some degree of stabilization at the centre -- I think most people here would agree that it is not at all clear at the moment what form that stabilization would take, or how long. In the meantime, it is rather "quaint" to worry about maintaining a diplomatic presence, as diplomacy presupposes a legitimate government with which we can interact. Our diplomats and other officials can set up shop in Kuwait and transact any essential business from there. Americans will be hostages to fortune in Iraq until the Iraqis reach a domestic political settlement.

Dave of Maryland

Another way to look at it:

When troops in the field are exposed, but their commanders, instead fighting the enemy, fight amongst themselves, those troops are at risk of being lost.

Leadership, even if wrong, must always be decisive. This is exactly what we do not have.

Mackie

Re: VietnamVet's scenario, the shortest distance would be for Riyadh, Tehran, and Ankara to begin now to start hammering things out. The USA need not apply.

John Howley

Here's how I summarize the choice before us.

We can have a U.S.-friendly regime in Baghdad OR a stable regime in Baghdad.

We cannot have both at the same time.

Andy

Col. Lang,

There's another option. Have you read this Brookings piece yet?

http://www.brook.edu/fp/saban/analysis/jan2007iraq_civilwar.htm

Grumpy

Col. Lang, as a grumpy old vet, I see many things. I look and see we have "allies" in that region. With "allies" like these you really don't need enemies. We need to build a much larger military. In previous wars, there was a sense of sacrifice within this nation. Where is that same sacrifice today? For the record, our military is already making the sacrifice. The big question is what about everybody else? There are people who are actively involved in the security of this great nation. We need to find ways to encourage parents and friends to support the people entering our military. This should be looked at part of the "rite of passage" from childhood to adulthood. This could also include many other tpes of service than just military. There is nothing simple or easy about this process.

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