How you analyze an issue depends on the starting point.  An recent op-ed in the Washington Post by leading neoconservatives Fred and Kimberly Kagan on the impending US departure from Iraq lays out five current “American core interests” in the region.  They are:  that Iraq should continue to be one unified state; that there should be no al-Qaeda on its soil; that Baghdad abides by its international responsibilities;  that Iraq should contain Iran; and that the al-Maliki government should accept US “commitment” to the region.

Fred is the Director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute while Kimberly heads the nonpartisan Institute for the Study of War.  The two Kagans, enthusiastic cheerleaders for the invasion of Iraq back in 2003, seem to have short memories.  In 2003, Iraq was more unified and stable than it is today; there was no al-Qaeda presence; Saddam abided by a sanctions regime imposed by the UN; and Iraq was the principal Arab state restraining Iran.  Then, as now, the US was clearly “committed” to the region through the presence of its armed forces and I would add parenthetically that Iraq in no way threatened the United States, or anyone else.  It was precisely the US invasion that dismantled the Iraqi nation state, introduced al-Qaeda to the country, wrecked the Iraqi economy, and brought into power a group of Shi’a leaders who are now much closer to Tehran than they are to Washington.  Nice job Kagans and one has to wonder why you are still giving advice.

I have heard that the Kagans have been hired as top advisers to David Petraeus at CIA, so it is apparent that being wrong repeatedly has no effect on one’s employability.  Of course the dynamic duo has made its way to the top by firmly attaching their lips to General Petraeus’ derriere, praising him exorbitantly after his adoption of their plan for the so-called surge in Iraq.  They effused regarding the General and his colleague Ray Odierno, “Great commanders often come in pairs: Eisenhower and Patton, Grant and Sherman, Napoleon and Davout, Marlborough and Eugene, Caesar and Labienus. Generals David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno can now be added to the list.”  Someone should point out to the Kagans that the deceased generals whom they cite won their laurels by fighting against enemies who were as well armed, well equipped, and numerous as their own forces.  They didn’t earn their stars and garters by blasting the crap out of a bunch of Fedayeen using helicopter gunships and airstrikes, and, when that didn’t work, bribing the insurgents to cease and desist.