Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb...Iraq?

In the latest formulation in the ongoing argument from the US Military that the occupation of Iraq must never, ever come to an end, Brigadier General Jeffrey Buchanan expressed his deep concern that if America was to actually honor her treaty obligations and withdraw completely from Iraq, it would be bad because then Iraq would be vulnerable to air attacks.  It's interesting.  If you look at the last twenty years of history, the only nation that has shown any interest in attacking Iraq from the air has been the United States.  But General Buchanan doesn't seem to be indicating that in the event of US air strikes against Iraq the US Air Force would be there to prevent them, so it's not at all clear what exactly is the basis for his concern.

Before Iraq under Saddam Hussein ran afoul of the US political leadership, the vaunted Iraqi Army, particularly the Armored Divisions of the Revolutionary Guards, were seen by Washington as a bulwark against Iranian expansion and hegemony in the region.  In order to understand this construct, one must be careful to forget that there never was any actual evidence of Iranian expansionism, and indeed, it was Iraq, along with that other peaceful democracy, Israel, that tended to start wars and squabbles in the mid east.  Iraq did come under air attack from Iran after Saddam invaded Iran to start an eight year marathon of bloodletting in 1980, and of course, after launching ballistic missiles at Israel in 1991, Israel threatened air strikes of their own.  But the lesson here is that first, Iraq is now closely allied with their former enemy Iran and is under no risk of attack from the east, and second, history demonstrates that Iraq is unlikely to come under further air attacks as long as they refrain from starting wars in the first place.

It's also more than a little unclear that the US would even act in the case of a third nation's air strikes on Iraqi territory.  Turkey regularly bombs Iraq with impunity, and the only nation that might realistically develop significant tensions with the new Iraqi leadership, Saudi Arabia, is a major US ally and trade partner, and if events led the Saudis to the conclusion they needed to attack Iraq, it's a little difficult to see the US deciding to intervene militarily.

Honestly, this desperate desire on the part of the US military leadership to keep significant forces deployed in Iraq essentially forever is very difficult to understand.  It might be one thing if by accepting withdrawal the armed forces would lose some amount of funding for personnel or procurement, but the only budgetary reductions they would see from withdrawal are those funds being spent to sustain the forces in the first place.  They can't keep enough troops on the ground in Iraq to represent a powerful presence on the oil fields, and yet they have enough troops still in country to represent a major impact on the operational tempo.  As things have evolved politically and diplomatically in Iraq, the US military would lose nothing by willingly ending their involvement there as quickly as possible, and they would recognize significant gains.

Still, it seems as if much of the military command structure spends much of their time trying to come up with a compelling reason to stay in Iraq beyond the end of next year, despite there being no rational reason for them to do so.  Certainly, one of the things the world has learned about the US since the Bush/Cheney administration is that we don't take international treaties and agreements seriously, and will violate or abrogate them on a whim.  But their real problem, the thing that makes these transparent attempts at some level of permanent occupation appear silly, is that there really IS no good reason for the US to continue to keep military forces in Iraq.  So we get these kind of nonsensical concerns like General Buchanan's newfound desire to protect Iraqis from air attack.  

No comments:

Post a Comment