Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Politics, War on Terror — Rick Moran @ 6:51 am

The idea is seductive to the left. Bring the troops home from Iraq in dignified retreat, patting ourselves on the back that we did the best we could while that country explodes in sectarian conflict. Bravely, we take the blame before the world, say three our fathers, three hail Mary’s, and go about the business of turning America into a bastion of democratic socialism.

The only problem is, it isn’t even remotely possible:

These are unpleasant realities for a nation that prefers all of its solutions to be simple and short. The reality is, however, that even if the US does withdraw from Iraq, it cannot disengage from it. The US will have to be deeply involved in trying to influence events in Iraq indefinitely into the future, regardless of whether it does so from the inside or the outside. It will face major risks and military problems regardless of the approach it takes, and it will face continuing strategic, political, and moral challenges.

Anthony Cordesman went to Iraq recently. His travelling companions were none other than Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack - the Brookings Boys whose Op-Ed in the New York Times entitled “We Maybe Could Be, Just Might Possibly, Conceivably, Perchance Win This Thing (Depending On The Breaks)” was touted as “proof” that not only was the surge working (a fact confirmed by even some of the most jaundiced observers of Iraq who have come back from there recently) but that its success could lead to “sustainable stability” in Iraq and a sort of “victory.”

Now there’s a rallying cry for you; “Remember Sustainable Stability!” Or perhaps “Onward to Sustainable Stability!”

At any rate, Cordesman is one of those hard eyed military men who works for think tanks as kind of the “Warmonger in Residence.” He doesn’t have quite the take on the Iraqi situation that O’Hanlon and Pollack brought back. In fact, it is quite a bit more pessimistic (which is bringing huge sighs of relief to some on the left this morning)

From my perspective, the US now has only uncertain, high risk options in Iraq. It cannot dictate Iraq’s future, only influence it, and this presents serious problems at a time when the Iraqi political process has failed to move forward in reaching either a new consensus or some form of peaceful coexistence. It is Iraqis that will shape Iraq’s ability or inability to rise above its current sectarian and ethnic conflicts, to redefine Iraq’s politics and methods of governance, establish some level of stability and security, and move towards a path of economic recovery and development. So far, Iraq’s national government has failed to act at the rate necessary to move the country forward or give American military action political meaning.

Gee…where have I heard that before?

If I were an anti-war lefty, I’d hold off on embracing this report too vigorously. Yes, it may offer some counterpoints to the O’Hanlon-Pollack piece. But you’re not going to like this:

The US has some 160,000 military personnel in Iraq and a matching or greater number of civilians and contractors. It has between 140,000 and 200,000 metric tons of valuable equipment and supplies, and some 15,000-20,000 military vehicles and major weapons. It is dispersed in many of Iraqi’s cities and now in many forward operating bases.

This does not mean that the US cannot leave quickly. It can rush out quickly by destroying or abandoning much of its supplies and equipment, and simply removing its personnel and contractors (and some unknown amount of Iraqis who bet their lives and families on a continued US effort). The more equipment and facilities (and Iraqis) it destroys or abandons, the quicker it can move. Under these conditions, the US could rush out in as little as a few weeks and no more than a few months.

A secure withdrawal that removed all US stocks and equipment and phased out US bases, however, would take some 9-12 months or longer [estimates of this vary but if it was 10,000 military plus 10,000 civilians and all equipment each month in Kuwait, that would likely take 16 months minimum; 2 years is what many military experts think would be a rapid, but deliberate pace].

So if, as many of you propose, we leave Iraq in 90 days, it would be Saigon, 1975 times ten. Not only military stocks but what becomes of the $20 billion in aid projects? Or the new US embassy being built there?

And for many of the rest of you liberals, what does this information do to your carefully thought out and “practical” redeployment of troops under the Democratic plan in Congress? You know, the one where we’re out by March, 2008?

And for all my conservative friends who talk blithely of “victory” as if there is any strategy or tactics we can employ that will change the perception out there in the world that Iraq is nothing short of a defeat for the US, Cordesman has this:

It is important to note in this regard that while Americans are still concerned with finding ways to define “victory” in Iraq, virtually the entire world already perceives the US as having decisively lost. Every international opinion poll that measures international popular reactions to the US performance in the war – Oxford Analytica, Pew, ABC/BBC/ARD/USA Today, Gallup, etc. – sees the US as responsible for a war it cannot justify and which has caused immense Iraqi suffering. Virtually every internal poll of Iraqi opinion with any credibility — Oxford Analytica, ABC/BBC/ARD/USA Today, ORB, etc. – has produced similar results.

The US probably cannot entirely reverse these attitudes in Iraq, the region, allied states, and increasingly in America. It may well, however, be able to greatly ameliorate them over time. It seems likely that the US will ultimately be judged far more by how it leaves Iraq, and what it leaves behind, than how it entered Iraq. The global political image of the US – and its ability to use both “hard” and “soft” power in other areas in the future, depends on what the US does now even more than on what it has done in the past.

What you are advocating - even though noble and desired by all patriots - is simply not possible.

Time to rethink Iraq - for BOTH sides.

The situation cries out for a bi-partisan solution between Congress and the White House. In order for that to happen BOTH sides have to recognize that neither of them can achieve their goals. The Democratic left is not going to be able to cut and run from Iraq. The Republican right is not going to be able to stay indefinitely, endlessly engaged in a struggle against ghosts.

(Parenthetically, Middle East and military expert Doug Hanson, speaking on my radio show yesterday, put the number of insurgents and potential insurgents in Iraq at “several hundred thousand.” These are former Saddam loyalists who were placed where they are and given instructions just for this kind of scenario happening in Iraq today. What is blood boiling about this number is US intelligence has known since 2005 that we are facing hundreds of thousands of fighters and potential fighters while Rumsfeld was assuring Congress there weren’t more than 20,-25,000.

We can’t kill them all.)

We can’t leave precipitously and we can’t stay forever. What’s the solution? The situation doesn’t lend itself to the easy talking points of either side which is why both my right and left leaning readers and commenters will not be pleased. Believe me, I’d love to write a post on Iraq just once where only one side gave me hell. But the times and situation in Iraq demand a little bit more out of all of us.

The only way out of Iraq that least harms our national security interests (interests made very plain and spelled out in English by Cordesman in his report) and that would leave Iraq with a chance at peace is together. And after we leave, the hard part begins. Staying engaged also would demand a bi-partisan consensus with the acknowledgement by both sides that there may be certain circumstances where we would have to send troops back into Iraq to save it from external threats or other disasters.

Cordesman’s report forms the basis for a long term commitment to Iraq and its people. Do we have the political will to make it happen?

I can dream, can’t I?


  1. I reluctantly agree that leaving quickly wouldn’t be what’s best here.
    I do think the Democrats would be able to placate their left wing if Bush would at least acknowledge that we are going to leave.
    Publically renouncing the idea of permanent bases in Iraq would be a good start IMO.

    Comment by gregdn — 8/8/2007 @ 8:20 am

  2. @ Rick:

    “The Republican right is not going to be able to stay indefinitely, endlessly engaged in a struggle against ghosts.”

    IMO, the problem is that the Administration isn’t looking to stay indefinitely — just until January 2009. Then, they can blame all failures after that on the next Admin.

    Granted, the original plan was to make Iraq a permanent base in the Mideast (despite the Admin assuring us they would never do such a thing, then building permanent bases). I think they know thats impossible, so the new stragety is to stall and pass the buck.

    Unfortunately, the Dems don’t want the turd pile, so they’re gonna (try to, if they would grow a damn spine) force a withdrawl before then. You are exactly right — our race out will be a disaster.

    If there is a Hell, I hope there’s a special seat reserved for these people.

    Comment by busboy33 — 8/8/2007 @ 9:53 am

  3. Cordsman makes a good point regarding the staggering amount of equipment we have in Iraq.

    But the fact is we’d be idiots to try to salvage a lot of it. The thousands of portable buildings housing everything from troops to internet cafes to gedunks aren’t worth the cost of bringing them home or even sending them elsewhere in the world.

    The same goes for lots of other equipment and some rolling stock. Additionally, are we planning on giving the Iraqi Army any armor?

    But the idea that we have to stay in Iraq indefinately because we sunk a lot of money into our embassy.

    Regardless of whether or not withdrawal is the right plan, not withdrawing because it will take too long (I guesstimate six months or so) seems foolhardy.

    Thanks for bringing Cordsman’s story to my attention Rick. And I agree with your conclusion paragraph. We “may” have to go back in the future. And we should be prepared to do so. But not in these numbers, and not without a reasonable plan and goal.

    Comment by Davebo — 8/8/2007 @ 11:57 am

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    Comment by David M — 8/8/2007 @ 12:06 pm

  5. Rick:
    I don’t agree with your conclusions about whether or not we can “win” in Iraq. However, I do agree that any type of bipartisan solution is a dream. The Left isn’t getting more open-minded to what is going on with the war. The Democrats are being moved constantly by the nutroots further and further to the left. Witness the worship at the altar by candidates at Kos’s little gathering.

    Comment by mikeyslaw — 8/8/2007 @ 12:36 pm

  6. davebo brings up a good point: if we really intend to leave and stand up Iraq as a nation why haven’t we given them any armor or credible air force?

    Comment by gregdn — 8/8/2007 @ 12:46 pm

  7. gregdn

    I think the answer is obvious. We don’t trust them with that type of weaponry.

    But once we begin redeploying, I think we’ll have to provide at a minimum some artillery and tanks.

    Comment by Davebo — 8/8/2007 @ 2:45 pm

  8. Davebo: You’re probably right about us not trusting them. I was thinking just after my last post that the Israelis might just have something to say about arming a Muslim nation they’ve fought before too.
    But- how can the Iraqis adequately provide for their own security with not air force?

    Comment by gregdn — 8/8/2007 @ 2:57 pm

  9. They have a fledgling air force, a few helicopters, with more to come. Let them get their infantry working, and logistics up and running, and then they’ll move up to armor. Walk before you run, don’t you know.

    We can stay as long as we think there’s something in it for the nation. That will be at least until after the 2008 elections, and probably longer, because no matter who wins the election, the facts on the ground will remain unchanged; it is in the nation’s interest that we don’t let al Qaeda be seen as driving us out. The new leaders will absorb this fact, and then act on it.

    Comment by Chris — 8/8/2007 @ 7:30 pm

  10. I’ll ask my buddies in Baghdad how the surge is going. As soon as the power comes back on.

    Comment by tHePeOPle — 8/8/2007 @ 7:53 pm

  11. The Kurds got tired of waiting for a national oil sharing law, so they passed THEIR OWN oil law! They’ll invite foreign investors in, and promised to share their oil revenues with the rest of Iraq, call me crazy but if the Kurds decide to keep all the revenues, who’s to stop them?I’m not for a quick pullout of Iraq but lets let the Kurds do their thing and maybe think about partitioning Iraq.Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot the Turks want to invade northern Kurdistan to destroy the PKK. The Kurds have told the Turks they would defend their territory and the Pkk( who by the way are listed as terrorists by the US). Your right Rick, Iraq is a cluster_uck. Eventually we will have to leave and my best bet is Iraq will be mainly a Shia Theocracy with low-grade civil war with the Sunnis and an independent Kurdistan.

    Comment by Joe Helgerson — 8/8/2007 @ 8:33 pm

  12. My bet is still that we will not withdraw from Iraq, except for some symbolic rotations home. We are caught fast in the struggle to create a new government that has the power to survive, to ensure that there will not be a genocidal conflict after we leave, and to hold off the Iranians and Syrians. Morally, to leave with these threats to the Iraqi people quite evident and real for all to see would be devastating. There would be no forgiveness for such an act anywhere in the world, except in leftist circles that desire our demise anyway.

    To talk of 12 months or 18 months before “redeployment’ is ridiculous on the face of it given the work yet to be done in pacification, grassroots consensus-building, government-building, oil production and revenue sharing. Well-constructed bases are essential to the effort as outlined, unless we want our troops in tents and latrine trenches for their stay, and subjected to serious harassing attacks.

    It is simply disgusting to me to see others considering leaving Iraq to the tribes and factions, with no recourse except their Islamic ‘friends’ to the South, East and West. Such a move is cynical and immoral, no matter what the past has been. I am acutely ashamed of those who advocate withdrawal before the job is satisfactorily finished.

    Comment by mannning — 8/8/2007 @ 9:15 pm

  13. Iraq does not exist in a vacuum. Iran is likely to light off a few nukes and then start making demands: US surrender in Iraq, protector of Muslims in Europe, perhaps protector of Muslims in America.

    Pakistan could fall at any moment to the Taliban and Zawahari. Bill Roggio’s reporting makes it clear the Taliban and AQ will even fight the CHINESE to make this happen.

    As such, unless we stay for decades, leaving Iraq to it’s own devices is guaranteed to paste a giant “Nuke Me” sign on our cities. Weakness invites attack: from a nuclear Iran, a Nuclear-armed Taliban/AQ, from AQ around the world.

    We could of course leave Iraq and on our way out hit Iran’s facilities and Pakistan’s nukes. Leaving no doubt about the US ability AND Will to rock and roll.

    But very likely Dems will simply listen to Kos who does indeed run the party and retreat ala Saigon 1975 times 100.

    Comment by Jim Rockford — 8/8/2007 @ 11:54 pm

  14. If liberals are convinced that Iraq is in a civil war, and that the war on terrorism is just a bumper sticker, why are liberals not calling for the UN to rush to the aid of Iraq? The UN wants to rush over to the Sudan and referee that civil war, why not Iraq? Why are liberals not screaming that the UN is failing in it’s duty to Iraq?

    Come on, everyone knows why. Liberals want the US to lose in Iraq, it is pure political yardage for them. They would rather US soldiers die than pressure the UN to assist Bush in winning or at least resolving the conflict.

    If the US pulls out, and vast bloodshed occurs, liberals will not scream for the UN to help then either. They will continue to milk the yardage by blaming the bloodshed on Bush. Thats why liberals are so adamant that Bush pulls out before the end of his term. Otherwise, the tough options, and consequences, might land on a liberal administration…oh my God.

    Clinton and Gore called Saddam the most dangerous threat to peace in the world when they were in office. Doesn’t anyone remember that?

    Comment by Steve — 8/9/2007 @ 11:00 am

  15. I wonder how all the voices that call for staying in Iraq until stability is attained will feel about the institution of a draft, which would be necessary to continue the long fight. Our brave troops are going back for three, four and even five tours. This cannot be sustained, nor is it fair. Are you willing to expose your children, grandchildren, and even yourselves, to the horrors of war? I do think that if everyone between the ages of 18-30 who supports this war would enlist maybe that would be surge enough to get the job done.

    Comment by rene — 8/9/2007 @ 4:19 pm

  16. rene:

    I know it’s a novel idea and it might not have occurred to you, but maybe, just maybe, you might want to, you know, READ THE DAMN POST!

    Cordesman is saying that we have a long term commitment to Iraq whether we have any troops there or not. Agree, disagree, throw up, or fall asleep - I don’t care. But when someone is so eager to blather on with their talking points that they don’t even bother to read what I write, it pisses me off.

    Comment by Rick Moran — 8/9/2007 @ 4:23 pm

  17. One thought that gives me some hope that, in the event of a Democratic victory in 2008, the winners would very likely change their tune dramatically. It is one thing to execute a nasty and ridiculous political war against an Administration, and something entirely different to run the nation during a real conflict. This is completely possible given the two-faced politics practiced by the Left. Thus, if they are faced with the realities in Iraq and the rest of the world, perhaps they will find the will to carry out our obligations and moral commitments to the Iraqi.

    Or, maybe not…history is not kind to the Democrats on this point.

    Comment by mannning — 8/9/2007 @ 8:32 pm

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