Friday, December 12, 2008

When the reality of war catches up to the rhetoric of politics....

... it usually ain't pretty.

Make no mistake: our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan are the result of decisions made by Dubya's administration.

But it is now becoming equally clear that President-elect Barack Obama's campaign rhetoric about a withdrawal from Iraq, and about winning the war in Afghanistan will have fallen to the grim realities on the ground even before Inauguration Day.

Here's what senior Iraqi officials are now saying, that the US needs a military presence there for at least a decade:

Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman for the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said some U.S. forces could be needed for 10 years but told reporters that the terms of any extended presence would be negotiated between the next Iraqi and U.S. governments.

Washington and Baghdad recently negotiated a status of forces agreement, or SOFA, that calls for U.S. forces to leave Iraq's cities by mid-2009 and withdraw from the country by the end of 2011. The pact takes effect on Jan. 1, when the current U.N. mandate governing U.S. forces in Iraq expires.

"We do understand that the Iraqi military is not going to get built out in the three years. We do need many more years. It might be 10 years," Dabbagh said at a Pentagon press briefing.

As for Afghanistan, current and future Secretary of Defense Gates is on tour, and what he's saying is equally grim:

Standing outside the military's headquarters for southern Afghanistan, Gates was surrounded by evidence of the coming buildup. Everywhere he turned, swaths of land within the compound were crowded with construction equipment, and skeletons of partially erected buildings stood nearby.

"This is a long fight, and I think we're in it until we are successful along with the Afghan people," Gates said, adding: "I do believe there will be a requirement for sustained commitment here for some protracted period of time. How many years that is, and how many troops that is, I think nobody knows at this point."

McKiernan added that it will be at least three or four years before the Afghan troops can begin to build up the Afghan army and police enough so that they can operate more independently.

The logic of empire and the defense/industrial complex is ruthlessly simple: once you're in, you have to continue to throw good money (and American lives) after bad, because you convince yourself that you can't quit what you never should have started, or things will get worse.

All of which means that there will be no defense dividend during the first two years of an Obama administration, because you can't continue to occupy Iraq, fight a war in Afghanistan, maintain a deterrent posture in Asia, and rebuild the military while engaging in cuts to the defense budget.

I really was hoping for a statesman, but I think we got another politician.


Brian Shields said...

In three years it will be ten.

Zafo Jones said...

If you want to make an omelet you have to break some eggs. But what's an omelet but just a fried mess on a plate, prettied up with some cheese a sprig of parsley?