August 19, 2005

OUT? MAYBE IN 20 YEARS: Our Military Bases in Iraq Are Essential


One closely guarded objective in securing a free Iraq is to establish a forward-deployed presence in the Middle East -- a presence that would certainly include personnel but whose primary component would be massive military-equipment depots that could be tapped for future rapid-deployment military operations in the region. This forward-base objective is critical, given that it will ensure our military presence in the heart of Jihadistan, and an ability to project force in the region quickly without having to ramp up via sea and airlift. This alone will pay rich dividends by way of maintaining peace through preparedness.

AMERICAN DIGEST, First published on September 22, 2004
WHY WE ARE IN IRAQ : Military Bases Are A Requirement, Democracy is Merely an Elective.

Resolved: To safeguard the personal and economic wellbeing of the civilized world in the 21st century, it is essential for the United States to control Iraq for strategic and tactical military purposes alone.

Let's take a step back from our always entertaining electoral circus to cast a cold eye on what needs to be done in Iraq beyond November and far beyond 2005. Don't watch the hand waving the magic wand around, watch the hand held behind the back. It holds what is going to be pulled out of the hat.

Instead of spending untold hours listening to this or that speech from the two sides of the American coin, it's more instructive to take down an atlas, turn to a spread displaying the middle-east and meditate on what needs to be done to control that section of the world.

And while you're at it here's a couple of things you can forget about:

That answer turns on the general approach to fighting the war. That current strategy and tactics employed in Iraq are being driven by political needs in the United States is an obvious statement. Our current restrained approach will not, nor is it designed to, continue long past November 2 of this year. If you would have fewer casualties, the best way to achieve this is to reduce your enemy's soldiers wholesale.

This is not to say that the current politically-determined military actions in Iraq are wrong. Just the opposite. Too much is at stake in Iraq to be undone by the victory of a faction of the American political class that has shown it cannot be trusted with the strategic needs of the nation in the coming decades. To defeat the dedicated enemies of the United States abroad, it is also necessary to defeat a mistaken political culture at home.

Many things are said during an election, but the truth seldom on the list. That's axiomatic. The goal is to win and the prize is power. Victory and power are two elements that readily combine into molecules of falsity and misdirection in electoral politics.

Of late, the largest dust cloud of lies cast into what passes for "public discourse" concerns two different ways of hinting towards the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. Even when we know in our bones that we are in a long war, Americans of all political leanings still like to hear that it is going to be a short one. And both parties are happy to oblige our needs.

If we listen to the subtext of John Kerry we assume, from his statements, semaphores and metaphors, that the troops will be coming home "soon" after his election; i.e. within the year.

If we listen to the subtext being generated by the same mechanisms within President's camp, we might think that the troops are coming home "later," but certainly after just one more year.

In the first instance, we are being led to believe that our troops will be out of Iraq in 2005. In the second, we probably think they will be out in 2006, probably on the early side.

Both these signals are pure noise.

American forces will be in Iraq five years from now, more likely ten, probably 20, depending on how that part of the world shakes out and what sort of attacks it will be able to mount outside its core at targets in the Western nations. We will not remain in Iraq for "democracy" (Although we will spend treasure and lives to try and create one.), nor will we be there for the "benefit" of the Iraqi people (Although overall they will reap benefits in terms of treasure and improved lives.). We will remain in Iraq for one concrete reason alone: We need to have military bases there.

In this increasing conflict between Islamic fundamentalism and the civilized world, it is an absolute military necessity that America have a robust network of bases located at the center of mass of the Islamic world. If you clear you mind of either wishing for a lasting peace or hoping for an early victory, and simply look at the map of the Middle East you will know the road ahead is long, brutal and filled with hard choices.

If you can assume a military cast of mind, ask yourself, "What must we do to prevail in a war that is global but centered in the Middle East, and can possibly last for 20 years?" One of the most immediate answers is that you need to control significant amounts of real estate at the core of the struggle.Given the nature of the war, nothing else will answer across a long struggle. It is close to a certainty that this answer first appeared in the minds of professional military men around noon on September 11, 2001.

To the question of which nation a military mind would choose to conquer in the Middle East, Iraq is the only one that answers. Following the capture of Afghanistan, the map together with tactical realities dictates that Iraq be conquered by, and remain under the control of, the United States into the indefinite future for five core reasons:

Given these five reasons derived from the facts on the ground in late 2004, it would be suicidal for the United States to withdraw militarily from Iraq for at least ten years and probably 20. The level of forces needed to maintain control can fluctuate as the situation dictates, but the presence of significant forces is a necessity.

This is not to say that the United States will not withdraw, but only to underscore the price of such foolishness. The United States has, through bad politics, misdirection and clouded thinking, made monstrous errors of judgment in the past and is certainly capable of doing so in the future. It is only to say that should we, through a posturing for mere political power at home, cede military control of Iraq and hence the Middle East before the matter of Islamic fundamentalism is settled, and the Islamic cultures fully assimilated into the 21st century, departure early would only require our subsequent return. And that return will be far more bloody and necessary than anything seen to date in what is still a brush-fire war.

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Posted by Vanderleun at August 19, 2005 10:10 AM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Gerard: please e-mail when your next segment on the sacrifice and the reckoning comes out..

good blog


Posted by: kirk at August 19, 2005 2:48 PM

I give you points for honesty. This is the reason Bush can't ever credibly answer Cindy Sheehan's question. Her son died for the noble cause of pure naked power and self interest.

Posted by: Juan Gewanfri at August 19, 2005 11:12 PM

Iraq may be crucial as a base, but hardly due to water.

The Euphrates runs through Syria for some 300 miles, then enters Iraq.
Both the Euphrates and Tigris have their sources in Turkey.

The main water sources of Iran derive from rainfall in the Zagros and Elburz mountains. Most water flows between Iraq and Iran are from Iran (esp. rivers Zab and Diyala).
The only (small)part of Iran dependent on Iraq derived water is the Abadan/Khorromshahr area.

The main water sources of Saudi are artesian basins and rainfall in the Hejaz uplands along the Red Sea side of the country.
AFAIA there are no water flows from Iraq to Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: John F at August 20, 2005 5:22 AM

Gerard, I think your five core reasons are accurate and well-articulated. I didn't support the invasion of Iraq; if your five reasons had been given as the reasons for the invasion I would have. However, I suspect that relatively fewer Americans would have gone along with the plan. We're a naive and idealistic people and those realities would have taken a much longer sell than the many reasons for the invasion that were given (and, no, it wasn't just WMD but WMD, democracy deficit, plight of the Iraqi people, Saddam was unacceptable, etc.)

I'm not merely dissatisfied with the planning for the occupation (as most are). I'm dissatisfied with the handling of the domestic politics. The Administration should have been more frank. The Administration should have built more political support at home and abroad. The Administration should have been willing to place the home front on a wartime footing.

I'm concerned that these omissions may cost us the victory.

Juan Gewanfri, that's claptrap. Either you're not an American or you don't get out much. Or both. I know my countrymen and we don't go in for “pure naked power and self interest”. You don't have to take my word for it. Read nearly any milblogger posting from Iraq or Afghanistan. There's not a pint of naked power or self interest in a bushel of it.

The situation in the Middle East was completely unacceptable, an American President finally acknowledged it, and we had only a small number of alternatives: what we're doing (by far the most admirable and honorable course), build a wall (the Israeli solution), suicide, or genocide.

Posted by: Dave Schuler at August 20, 2005 7:07 AM

"we don't go in for pure naked power" which is why the president chose to lie to us.
If you think we went to Iraq to spread freedom and democracy or to find WMD's that it is you who need to get out more and get a clue.
Your last sentence, Dave, is just pure unadulterated horseshit.

Posted by: Juan Gewanfri at August 20, 2005 11:03 AM

Juan Gewanri, I note that while you swear at me you've presented no credible alternatives of your own. There's no intellectual content in that.

Posted by: Dave Schuler at August 20, 2005 11:33 AM

To John F:Your hydrologic essay was for nothing.USA
is going to build in that area TERESTRIAL CARRIERS.
To Juan Gewanfri:GWB is only continuing in this day conditions fighting stopped for while under
Vienna,Austria around 1600+-AD and started 1300+- years ago./without irony:you should start to study history before you open your talking apparatus/
I apologise to JG if he did not understand what I said in both cases.

Posted by: Al.Dr. at August 20, 2005 12:48 PM


Posted by: Al.Dr. at August 20, 2005 12:50 PM

Reading almost every word of all those posts you created I have to say:you gentlemen see only what is happening in last two or three years.It is like according to from hour 14.30 to 17.00 on Sunday well knowing what happened at court of Pipin the Short
trying to deduce history of all century of time of reign of PtS.

Posted by: Al.Dr. at August 20, 2005 1:01 PM

To Al.Dr - If you were to write a coherant sentence, perhaps someone would be able to understand what the hell you were talking about.

To Dave - I thought the stupidity of your point was self-evident but if you want some exposition than O.K I'll humor you.
You say we had only four options 1)The noble and honorable unprovoked war based on false premises.
2)Build a wall around Iraq? You can't mean this literally. Perhaps you mean isolate and keep Iraq weak which is what we had been doing for ten years.
3) Suicide!! You have convinced me with the strength of your intellectual argument. If Bush hadn't gone to war, Iraq would have invaded and occupied the U.S. using its large stockpile of non-existant WMD's and we would all now have the choice of either being dead or a card carrying member of the Baath party.
4) Genocide!!!!????

Given that this war has turned out pretty much as I and millions of others pedicted it would before it was started and given that most everything your president has said about this war has turned out to be false and given that only the most boot-lickingest of sycophants still believe that we are winning or can win if winning is defined as something other than Civil War or Fascism or an Islamic State or some combination of the three. Do you still think it was good idea? Would you believe that all out civil war or a pro-Iran islamic government in power in Iraq was a victory solely because the result was caused by your infallible Supreme Leader president george?

Posted by: Juan Gewanfri at August 20, 2005 4:52 PM

Clarification: The last paragraph of above rant was directed to every person who still thinks the Iraq war was a good idea and not necessarily to you Dave.

Posted by: Juan Gewanfri at August 20, 2005 5:20 PM

200 million plus Americans take note of your well-aimed jibe.

Posted by: Gerard Van Der Leun at August 20, 2005 5:41 PM

More like 100 million Gerry. Can't you get anything right.

Posted by: Juan Gewanfri at August 20, 2005 8:34 PM

Population of the US is knocking on 300 million, Juan.

CIA - The World Factbook -- Rank Order - Population -- 295,734,134 as of last month.

Your notion of population and percentage is very much behind the times, Juan. Can't you get anything Right right?

Posted by: Gerard Van Der Leun at August 20, 2005 8:44 PM

Current polls show about 40% for war.
Population about 300,000,000.
I deducted 50,000,000 for children and other indifferent persons.
Therefore, about 100,000,000 still support the war and about 150,000,000 with hindsight or forsight think it was a mistake.

Did you still think support for the war was over 60% Jerry? Read an FN newspaper!

Posted by: Juan Gewanfri at August 20, 2005 9:35 PM

"You just keep thinking, Butch. That's what you're good at."

Posted by: Gerard Van Der Leun at August 20, 2005 10:16 PM

Why wasn't this posted in early 2003 so we would all understand that ties to Al Qaeda, WMD, elections, and democracy didn't really matter?

Posted by: now you tell me at August 21, 2005 12:42 AM

Juan Gewanfri:
Unprovoked? Saddam had been practicing nothing but provocation since the end of Iraq War 1. A pattern that fits in perfectly with Arab/Islamic political psychology: the brave, bold show of defiance, the rhetorical taunt, the dance and chant of challenge inj the street, the portrayal of defeat as unyielding resistance.
Ultimately, no Great Power can tolerate such defiance.
For such provocations and violations of cease-fire agreements alone, especially in the wake of a similarly "defiant" terrorist campaign, Iraq needed to be conquered. And this political psychology is part of the problem which requires solution.

Your other points focus too narrowly upon Iraq alone. If Dave Schuler will forgive me for interpreting him, I believe he was concerned with the Arab/Islamic world in general, rather than Iraq in particular, when he defined our long-term choices as quarantine, submission, or genocide.
Iraq, in and of itself, was a threat, especially as the sancions regime was visibly crumbling, but hardly an existential challenge.

What was, and is, an existential challenge is the linkage of grievance, defiance, superiority complex, neo-Islamist and jihadist ideologies and organisations, the nuclear proliferation networks linking various states, the systemic socio-political failures of the modern Middle East. As "now you tell me" puts it "Al Qaeda, WMD, elections, and democracy" are (though he may not believe it) aspects of the overall strategic equation.

It is this nexus that the Iraq strategy was aimed at. It may not suceed. Its failure, as of now, is not inevitable. Even an Islamic-oriented state and/or civil war and/or authoritarian rule, while sub-optimal, are not necessarily absolute failure in the longer term. Within this strategy military positioning is a significant element (though I would rate it lower in importance than Gerard Van Der Leun does).
Absolute failure remains a possibility, and would be even more probable without intervention.
The longer-term consequences of absolute failure remain as Dave Schuler indicates: the existential choices of quarantine, surrender, total war.

BTW as regards the current US administration, I have no cause to be a partisan on their behalf. And in regard of planning and implementation, there are certainly ample grounds for criticism.
However, I have seen nothing to persuade me that any alternative basic strategy offers any hope whatsoever.

Posted by: John F at August 21, 2005 7:55 AM


I agree with your geo-military analysis, but I think that you underestimate the role of the political. I believe that this administration understands that if we are to be more than just an occupying force, we have to change the political structure of the Arab states. That is why there is so much emphasis on the development of an Iraqi constitution and a popularly elected government. It will make Iraq an ally (as Germany and Japan became after World War 2) and create a pro-democracy movement in the surrounding countries. This will lead to the eventual fall of dictatorships and mullacracies. And the Left will still be spouting hatred at this development since we will be creating “Democracy at the point of a gun.” As if that were a BAD thing.

Posted by: Moneyrunner at August 21, 2005 11:23 AM

When the Left is not accusing Bush of being the Devil himself, invading Iraq for personal gain and turning the US into a Fascist state, they take issue with the strategy and tactics.

I am reminded of a remark Robert E. Lee made after the Civil War. He commented that the reason the South lost was because its generals were not publishing newspapers and its newspaper publishers (who had all the brilliant ideas for how to win battles) had not been made generals.

Today’s critics just remind me that human nature really doesn’t change.

Posted by: Moneyrunner at August 21, 2005 11:31 AM

Juan, your rant suffers from the usual tunnel vision that other Bush hating leftists are given to. Your venomous spew focusing on the 'infallable supreme leader' blinds you to the broader realities alluded to by John F.

Iraq is the keystone state to changing the milieu of a dysfunctional middle east. It was the soft underbelly of an interconnected network of backassward countries which have to be offered a new paradigm, with force as necessary. The cards needed reshuffling so to speak so that we may have a more favorable hand with which to deal with islamofascism.

By the way, I believe 'build a wall' means US isolationism, or build a wall around the US not Iraq a la Israel.

'Suicide', again the fear is not that Iraq would attack us but that the nexus of a militaristic secular government, that had all intentions of developing WMD, and other players in the ME (AQ, wealthy Saudis, etc) would congeal into a potential threat here. Not an unreasonable assumption, nor one we could afford to overlook, following 9/11. To do nothing would be suicide. If you have some other ideas feel free to discuss them.

'Genocide' would mean to simply ignore the UN, world opinion, your opinion and those of your sympathizers and proceed in a less 'nuanced' less politically correct manner. In short, behave in the same morally bankrupt way our jihadi friends do.

Finally, the mantra that Iraq will simply be bedfellow to Iran is quite simplistic given the mistrust that even Sistani feels for his next door neighbors. Did you forget about the 8 year war Iran and Iraq had? Do you really believe all Shia are cut from the same cloth? Do you believe the Kurds and Sunnis want to be in bed with the Iranians. Furthermore, Sistani, the most influential religious leader in Iraq, has no interest in combining mosque and state. Sadr and his like are a different problem, but they have little power.

I suggest you read more broadly instead of relying on liberal rags like the Wash Post, NY Times and Democratic underground. People may also take you more seriously if you werent so rude.

Posted by: oded greenberg at September 22, 2005 1:17 PM

Reading this was such a relief. I have felt the same as soon as the second war started. We have been in many countries for years and for very good reasons. We need to be a factor in the Middle East and this last war has open the door for us to be there to secure America and also help Iraq to build a community around a civil way to live. No matter how different they are from our culture and belief there is just no way they can ignore the obvious. Saddam is gone and their country is getting things like well run hospitals, schools, heck just running water for many, also no matter how hard it is for their people is accept we live a better way of life they will become spoiled to a civil way of live over time and wont want to let go. They see how we have helped them our men and women even die for them to live a life that does not have to be kill or get killed on your home street. I have prayed many times and will continue on a regular basis for us to stay in Iraq forever just as we have done in so many other countries. We took the role of the leading strongest country in the worlds and that brings on responsibility that we have to meet to stay the leader. I personally do not want to give up being and staying in a country that is the strongest in the world do you? We are such a great nation and have wonderful people that we freed them from a horrible dictator, are helping them to build a safer and better place to live while allowing them to run things there way we are just making that possible not controlling the way they do it. While our men and women give the example everyday to their face how to live and care about all people. Their people cant help but see a new civil way to live. While also seeing how they were livening before we came into their everyday life was so horrible. I pray I live long enough to see them live a everyday life of livening free like we do. Just shop and worried about there children finishing school now that most kids can attend schools with even running water in the restrooms.Their will always be trouble between the different groups of people over their just as we have here but they are learning how to handle it just as we do here. It will take a long time for the country to change that much but isn't it wonderful to see it happening. They didn't even play Bin Ladden's last video tape in the Middle east for more then two minutes on their news. They are sick of the terrorist just as we are. Yes the bombings will still happen but they are getting less and so many of the terrorists have been killed or arrested that eventually their wont be enough to cause as much trouble plus they are going to start to see the better way of life and start to see their people see them in a different light. The more Christians there and the longer they stay will also open many eyes to why their religion is so horrible and made their life awful for centuries. I am seeing many convert and how the Middle east is broadcasting Christian shows so much a week no. Also how some of the other countries are getting advice on how to attract Christians to visit over their. they want that tourist money it brings. They are even asking how to decorate hotels and shops and what merchandise to sell that Christians would like to buy. Isn't it funny countries that are so religious are welling to bring Christians to make money. Also to see the women start to stand up for rights after being afraid to even show their face is absolutely wonderful. So with all I have said I just know we belong there as a military force for as long as it takes. We have in other countries we went to war with and are still there so why not in the Middle east. I just hope one thing we start to use ethanol and other food source for gas because it can grow here in the US and make jobs for us here unless we buy all the corn from China. I hope not it would just make us more independent not to be so in need of oil from the middle east.

Posted by: carole at October 7, 2007 10:04 AM
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