Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Iraq War: Ten more years! And more!Tony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has been fascinating to read on the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars over the years. He has a hawkish orientation on both. But he does seem to try to maintain realism about the conditions in both countries, rather than hyping things as going great when they aren't.
In Snatching Defeat: Shape and Fund the Future US Posture in Iraq or Lose the War 11/22/2010, he is making a pitch for funding the Pentagon's request for FY2011 for military aid to Iraq. He even slips in a "Friedman unit" (FU), named after columnist Tom Friedman repeated predictions that the next six months will be crucial in the Iraq War. Cordesman's FU: "the most important single national security decision the US must make over the next six months is almost certainly its future civil and military posture in Iraq." (my italics)
But in pitching the urgency of his position, he describes a situation that scarcely seems like the victory from The Surge of 2007 that Iraq War cheerleaders talk about. What he describes sounds a lot like what happened in Vietnam, where the Pentagon built up a South Vietnamese Army that was dependent of high-tech weaponry that the South Vietnamese couldn't use to full effect, massive American aid and supplies, and continuing indefinite air power support from the United States, aka, a continuing American air war:
It also means creating as strong a US military advisory mission as Iraq will accept in order to help Iraq’s government and security forces reach the level of capability needed to provide security and stability on their own. This is a task that is half a decade from being finished and that had been seriously undercut and delayed by Iraq’s budget crisis. It means provide enough initial military aid to put Iraq on a path that can create strong enough conventional forces to defend and deter against threats like Iran – an effort that cannot be completed by 2020. Some form of lasting US presence in Iraq or the Gulf must be prepared to help Iraq until it can rebuild its forces.Yes, that's 2020 he said. And not as an end date, but as a not-even-possible-to-end-by-then date.
It sounds to me like the Pentagon couldn't win this war. And they can't figure out how to get out of it either.
Here Cordesman makes a pitch that doesn't quite make sense:
If the US does not make this effort, it will almost ensure that it "snatches defeat from the jaws of victory." It will throw away all of the sacrifices and investment in Iraq since 2003, and it will create a critical power vacuum in the Gulf that extends through Syria and Lebanon. It will threaten every US friend and ally in the Gulf area and Levant, as well as Israel. It also will greatly increase the risk of a major confrontation or fight with Iran that could affect the flow of world oil exports, the control of much of the world’s oil reserves, the stability of a fragile global economy, US economic recovery, and the security of every job in America.What doesn't make sense is that if Iraq can't even be ready to defend itself against Iran until some undetermined time after 2020, Iraq itself is hardly in a position to be a heavy player in regional power politics or even try to invade Kuwait again. Of course, it's not terribly clear why defending against Iran would be a first-rank worry, since Iraq now has a Shi'a government and Iran is a closer ally to them than the United States is. I think somewhere buried in that statement of Cordesman's is the idea that Iraq will (sometime after 2020) return to its pre-2003 role of being a military balance to Iran. And that doesn't make sense either. We effectively cut off that possibility for the reasonably foreseeable future by invading Iraq in 2003 and overthrowing Saddam's Sunni secular regime.
Remember back in 2003 what Paul Wolfowitz said about Iraqi oil revenues financing the reconstruction? From his March 27, 2003 testimony to Congress, as reported by AmericanProgess.org, Questions for Paul Wolfowitz 04/20/2004:
... Wolfowitz testified on Capitol Hill, "There's a lot of money to pay for this. It doesn't have to be U.S. taxpayer money. We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon." Wolfowitz also told Congress "oil revenues of Iraq could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years... We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon."From Cordesman's 2010 report:
Iraq is scarcely bankrupt, but it can just barely fund its mix of government employees, security services, and state industries. It has been in a budget crisis since early 2009 that has frozen most investment and development and forced Iraq to freeze the manning of much of its security forces and stop funding critical maintenance and military investment.Gosh, Wolfowitz was a little off on that, it looks like.
The Iraq War is just a heckuva war. As Glenn Greenwald puts it, the invasion of Iraq was one of "the world's dealiest and most lawless actions of the last decade." Cooked up by liars, fools and warmongers like Paul Wolfwitz. But by 2016, Iraq could conceivably be able to pay for its current budget needs. And at some undetermined time after 2020, it may be able to stand on its own militarily.
And the Serious People like Little Tommy Friedman, Age 6, who advocated for this are still treated as Serious Thinkers on foreign affairs by our sad excuse for a press corps.
Tags: anthony cordesman, iraq war
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No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."
-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?
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