Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The End of the "Combat Mission" in Iraq

It is telling that, with the end of the combat "mission", the U.S. will continue to have about 50,000 troops in Iraq backed up by over 100,000 contractors. Sure, we're told, the "combat mission" is over but, should the need arise, it's pretty clear that the U.S. is maintaining the capacity to engage in fierce ground combat - at least for now, whatever's necessary to sustain the interim government and to prevent the resumption of civil war.

it's telling that while Republicans like John Boehner are crowing that "the surge succeeded", a claim that is true only to the extent that we ignore the fact that it failed to produce the results G.W. Bush described as the measure of its success. To the extent that the surge helped build a sustainable period of relative calm, assuming it actually proves to be sustainable, let's give its planners the credit their due. But back to Gates:
The uneasy peace of Baghdad, Mr. Gates said, had come at great cost, with 4,427 U.S. service members killed and another 34,265 wounded. And the mission, he said, was incomplete. Iraq is still without a coalition government months after its election and political compromise remains elusive.

"Sectarian tensions remain a fact of life, al Qaeda in Iraq is beaten, but not gone," Mr. Gates said. "This is not a time for premature victory parades or self-congratulations."
If the "project" in Iraq is to end with a bang or a whimper, both of the political parties are desperately hoping for a whimper. While attempting to avoid any "Mission Accomplished" moments, we're effectively declaring victory while maintaining huge numbers of combat forces in Iraq, ostensibly only until the end of 2012, such that we can quickly suppress any coup, civil war or popular uprising. It's telling that while Boehner wants to claim victory on behalf of his party, he's not willing to take the stance that the withdrawal is premature, a charade that leaves us ready to resume combat at a moment's notice, pulling the "you're letting enemies of the state know when we'll be gone" card (as Republicans are apt to do with Afghanistan) or (as might somebody at the extreme of his party) the treacherous act of a closet Muslim President. He's also not pointing out that the date set as the target for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops comes conveniently after the next Presidential election, convenient timing for any incumbent.

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