Into the mix of disorder and deceit– – not to mention profound ignorance- -that define this administration, the motivating factors behind our invasion of Iraq have become increasingly clear. It shouldn’t surprise anyone, therefore, that the “long, hard slog” envisioned by Secretary Rumsfeld has turned into an interminable engagement.
Supporters of the Iraq war and the president often cite examples of how long U.S. troops remained in Europe after WWII or the fact that they are still in South Korea. One of the major problems with such comparisons, however, is that there were clearly defined enemies in those conflicts – – a huge occupying force in the first case and a multi-national United Nations presence in the latter. In neither case was there an ongoing civil war or a national identity crisis. Those wars ended by treaty and diplomatic agreement, and the homogeneous countries involved returned to some semblance of what they had been before. A watchful military stayed on but was not engaged in combat against an indigenous population and determined insurgents.
Does anyone see that happening in Iraq where the population constantly forms and reforms itself into warring factions with territorial- and power-based goals, but with no sense of national unity? In the midst of civil strife our troops have become targets, tasked with defeating an ill-defined enemy and resolving issues for which their training did not prepare them. As for “benchmarks” there is little evidence that the Maliki government has the ability or willingness to establish a centralized authority capable of maintaining order and developing the equitable economic conditions that would foster support among its disparate elements.
So what are we doing there? Contrary to declarations that we are completing a mission to ensure freedom for the Iraqi people or to advance the cause of democracy in the Middle East or even to entice “Islamo-Faschists” into the region where they can be vaporized by our military, it would seem we are just there to be there. Why else would we build an embassy said to be larger than the Vatican or establish numerous bases throughout the country?
The collision course between Congress pressured by a restive electorate to end our presence in Iraq and a White House determined to prolong it is playing out in the death rattle of young men and women, and for those who survive with severe disabilities, a disruption of life and livelihood beyond imagining. The “surge” hasn’t produced any major success to date. Instead there has been greater loss of life among our military and ominous statements from the White House and some military circles that substantial numbers of troops may be needed for decades in order to provide the security Iraq will need to survive as a nation.
How did it come to this, and how long will the American people countenance disingenuous preludes to ‘mission concluded’ that end up being ‘mission continued’ in an endless progression of excuses and promises that are simply further proof that, as McCain would say ‘there is no Plan B’; we must succeed in Iraq however long it takes at whatever cost. Unfortunately there hasn’t been much of a Plan A either. We are just in a terrible mess with a president and his entourage pleading for more time, more troops, and more money, promising only that they can’t make any promises.
In a recent statement Lt. General Odierno tells us he may not be able to provide an accurate assessment of “the surge” in September as promised, especially since the full complement of troops will not deploy until mid-summer. It may be 2008, he adds, before a definitive judgment can be made. After a contentious session that ended with the passage of an ‘emergency’ Iraq war funding bill without timelines for withdrawal, it is hard to imagine that Congress and its constituents will react favorably in September if no substantive evaluation of our current strategy in Iraq is forthcoming.
However, with elections in the not-so-distant future the administration is thrashing around for ways to step back from the current morass in Iraq without appearing to give in – – to stay the course without actually doing it the old-fashioned way. As Tony Snow put it at one press conference, “You provide the so-called over-the-horizon support that is necessary from time to time to come to the assistance of Iraqis but you do not want the U.S. forever in the front” – – which sounds suspiciously like what Democratic Representative Murtha referred to many months ago as, gasp, “redeployment.”
Strangely, despite polls showing that voters have lost confidence in the president and no longer believe the war is worth the cost, most Republican candidates seem to promise more of the same failed policies, use the same language to proclaim their conservative credentials and exhibit the same appalling level of ignorance regarding an increasingly complex world. Fear, religion and tax cuts still play well to the Republican base as emerging candidate Fred Thompson proves with his tax-cut refrain. The trouble is Republicans never clarify who it is that benefits most from their tax cuts, but Joe-Six-Pack mistakenly believes it’s him.
As for a war-weary military, large numbers of our National Guard dispatched to active duty in Iraq, our open borders and under-monitored ports, Republican claims to be the guardians of our national security have begun to ring more than a little hollow. The fear factor that played so well for them in the past may ‘blow back’ in their direction come election time.

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