Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Perpetual War for Perpetual War

Get ready for a “lasting military presence” in Iraq By Jeff Huber U.S. Army Col. Timothy R. Reese says it’s time for the U.S. to “declare victory” in Iraq and “go home.” It was time to declare victory and go home in January 2007, when the Bush administration decided to ignore the recommendations of the […]

Get ready for a “lasting military presence” in Iraq

By Jeff Huber

U.S. Army Col. Timothy R. Reese says it’s time for the U.S. to “declare victory” in Iraq and “go home.” It was time to declare victory and go home in January 2007, when the Bush administration decided to ignore the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group and charged off on its cockamamie “surge” strategy.

The original stated objective of the surge was political reconciliation in Iraq. By September 2007, when it was clear that the political objective was not in sight, Gen. David Petraeus pulled a bait-and-switch and announced that the military objectives of the surge were being met. Petraeus hagiographer Thomas E. Ricks slipped Freudian in February 2009 when he confessed that Petraeus’s goal was never to end the Iraq conflict but to trick Congress and the American public into extending it indefinitely by achieving short-term results though bribing Iraq’s militias.

According to Colonel Reese, chief of the Baghdad Operations Command Advisory Team, the surge’s real objectives still haven’t been met and never will be. In a recent memorandum, Reese asserts that “the ineffectiveness and corruption” of Iraq’s government ministries is “the stuff of legend.” The government is “failing to take rational steps to improve its electrical infrastructure and to improve their oil exploration, production and exports.” There is “no progress towards resolving the Kirkuk situation,” transition the Sons of Iraq into the Iraqi Security Forces “is not happening” and “the Kurdish situation continues to fester.” Violent political intimidation is “rampant.” Iraq’s security forces are a disaster. The officer corps is corrupt. Enlisted men are neglected and mistreated. Cronyism and nepotism are rampant. Laziness, lack of initiative, and absence of basic military discipline are endemic. Iraq’s military leadership is incapable of leading; it can’t plan ahead, it can’t stand up to the Shiite political parties, it can’t stick to its agreements.

The U.S. military in Iraq has accomplished “all that can be expected,” Reese says.

Gen. Ray Odierno’s propaganda officer, Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberlem, told the New York Times that Reese’s memo “does not reflect the official stance of the U.S. military.” The memo “Reflects one person’s personal view at the time we were first implementing the Security Agreement post-30 June,” Abaelem said. “Since that time many of the initial issues have been resolved and our partnerships with Iraqi Security Forces and [government of Iraq] partners now are even stronger than before 30 June.”

Right. We shaved our monkey in Iraq for six years and change, but since June 30 everything’s gone hunky dory.

Oddly enough, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on July 29 that the relatively low levels of violence in Iraq might allow commanders to “moderately accelerate” troops reductions. He added, though, that Odierno would have to recommend speeding up the withdrawal before any decision is made. That pretty much tells you how things work in the Department of Defense. Gates isn’t in charge of his four-stars; they’re in charge of him.

Odie is on record as wanting to keep 35,000 U.S. troops in Iraq through 2015, so, predictably enough, on August 4 he rejected the idea of an accelerated pullout, saying that the surge hasn’t reached its goals yet and we need to “stay the course.” (Yes, he really used that moronic Bush-era mantra.) The Desert Ox doesn’t seem particularly concerned about the Status of Forces Agreement that requires all U.S. troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2011. Iraqi President Nuri al-Maliki doesn’t appear to be overly committed to the agreement either. In a July 23 appearance at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, Maliki opened the door for indefinite U.S. presence in his country, saying, “If Iraqi forces need more training and support, we will reexamine the agreement at that time, based on our own national needs.”

Even Reese isn’t all that committed about U.S. forces leaving Iraq. In his memo, he says that during the withdrawal period the U.S. and Iraqi governments “should develop a new strategic framework agreement that would include some lasting military presence at 1-3 large training bases, airbases, or key headquarters locations.”

Lasting military presence. That’s been the objective of the neoconservatives all along. In their September 2009 manifesto Rebuilding America’s Defenses Cheney’s pals at the infamous Project for the New American Century argued, “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.” The neocons’ Pax Americana vision has translated into the Pentagon’s “long war,” a strategy that does not seek to win wars but rather to create a sequel to the Cold War in which Islamofacism substitutes for communism and puny Iran, whose defense budget is less than one percent of ours, replaces the Soviet juggernaut.

That might be justified if military applications overseas were making us safer from terrorism, but they are not. In 2008 the highly respected national security analysts at Rand Corporation released a report titled How Terrorist Groups End. The study involved a comprehensive analysis of terror organizations that existed worldwide between 1968 and 2006. 83 percent of the groups ended as a result of policing and political action. Military force accounted for a mere 7 percent of success against terrorists. Rand analysts recommend that the best course of counterterrorism actions should involve “a light U.S. military footprint or none at all.” We’re almost certainly, as Donald Rumsfeld suspected in 2004, making multiple new terrorists for every one we capture or kill. We have discovered a new style of warfare: reverse attrition. The more enemy we attrite the more enemy we have.

All the talk about withdrawing from Iraq is an Orwellian card trick. Reese says our “lasting military presence” should not “include the presence of any combat forces save those for force protection needs or the occasional exercise.” Why would we need to leave noncombat forces behind? So they can cook and clean for the combat forces that provide them force protection? The exercises we might do with the Iraqis would involve practicing for the invasions of Iran and Syria, which is the real reason the warmongery wants to keep an enduring base of operations in Iraq. There’s no need to conduct defensive exercises. None of Iraq’s neighbors is capable of invading and occupying it or crazy enough to try.

President Obama’s promise to remove all U.S combat troops from Iraq by August 2010 was also a see-through canard. As Gareth Porter revealed in March, the “advisory and assistance brigades” that will remain after that date will in fact be combat brigades augmented by a handful of advisers and assistants. The Cold War justified defense spending for a half-century. Now, the Pentagon is trying to validate its existence with another long war in the Middle East.

Sun Tzu famously said, “No nation ever profited from a long war.” The 27- year Peloponnesian War ended Athens’ reign as a superpower. The Thirty Years’ War Balkanized the Holy Roman Empire, dividing German power among multiple smaller states. The 46-year Cold War forced the Soviet Union to change its name back to Russia.

Don’t expect us to withdraw from Iraq or the Bananastans any time soon. The American warmongery, a confluence of Big War, Big Energy, Big Jesus, Big Israel, Big Brainwash, and Big Brother, is trying to entangle us in a state of constant armed conflict that will carry on into the next American century. There’s no need for anyone to challenge our hegemony; all they have to do is sit back and watch us collapse under the weight of our own stupidity.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff’s novel Bathtub Admirals(Kunati Books), a lampoon on America’s rise to global dominance, is on sale now.