February 15, 2009

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Tom Ricks, hagiographer to generals and much-lauded fellow of the Obama administration's "counterinsurgency HQ" at the Center for a New American Security, finally comes out and says it: the US has accepted the White Man's Burden from previous colonial empires and will be meddling in the Middle East for centuries, "following in the footsteps of Alexander the Great, the Romans and the British".

For thousands of years, it has been the fate of the West's great powers to become involved in the region's politics. [as if they had no choice - C] Since the Suez Crisis of 1956, when British and French influence suffered a major reduction, it has been the United States' turn to take the lead there. And sitting on that wall, it struck me that the more we talk about getting out of the Middle East, the more deeply we seem to become engaged in it.

President Obama campaigned on withdrawing from Iraq, but even he has talked about a post-occupation force. The widespread expectation inside the U.S. military is that we will have tens of thousands of troops there for years to come. Indeed, in his last interview with me last November, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told me that he would like to see about 30,000 troops still there in 2014 or 2015.

...So, to address the perceptive question that Petraeus posed during the invasion: How does this end?

Probably the best answer came from Charlie Miller, who did the first draft of policy development and presidential reporting for Petraeus. "I don't think it does end," he replied. "There will be some U.S. presence, and some relationship with the Iraqis, for decades. . . . We're thinking in terms of Reconstruction after the Civil War."

He goes on to explain that, no matter when the US eventually leaves, there'll be a civil war in Iraq.

Toby Dodge, a British defense expert who was an occasional adviser to Petraeus, "the current Iraqi government is full of Iranian clients. You'll almost certainly end up with a rough and ready dictatorship . . . that will be in hock to Iran."

...Maj. Matt Whitney, who spent 2006 advising Iraqi generals, predicted that once U.S. forces were out of the way, Iraqi commanders would relapse to the brutal ways of earlier days: "Saddam Hussein taught them how to [suppress urban populations] and we've just reinforced that lesson for four years," he said. "They're ready to kill people -- a lot of people -- in order to get stability in Iraq."

..."When you got to know them and they'd be honest with you, every single one of them thought that the whole notion of democracy and representative government in Iraq was absolutely ludicrous," said Maj. Chad Quayle, who advised an Iraqi battalion in south Baghdad during the surge.

So can someone explain to me how squandering "blood, treasure, prestige and credibility" for decades to simply delay the inevitable is better than getting out now? And if that explanation is forthcoming from military-enamoured liberal COIN hawks, maybe while they're at it they can explain why, in extolling the virtues of their new and improved war-fighting and nation-building formula, they keep neglecting to be specific about the generations-long colonialism it entails.

Crossposted from Newshoggers

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