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Tilting at Windmills

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June 24, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

PERMANENT BASES....Matt Yglesias:

I'm continually baffled, however, as to why Democrats don't seem to want to make a bigger deal out of the permanent bases question. That, I would think, is an issue the party could be fairly unified on.

Sadly, the most likely answer is that the party is not, in fact unified on this question.

Alternatively, if you choose to be more optimistic about the whole thing, nobody's bothering to rouse some rabble over this because nobody thinks the American public cares much about it. Which might very well be true. It's not as if the American public cares very much about our vast complex of permanent bases everywhere else in the world, after all.

Kevin Drum 12:38 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (48)

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Ask Joe Lieberman what he thinks about permanent bases.

Posted by: bebimbob on June 24, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

You know if we build all these permanent bases and then leave we'll have left some beautiful infrastructure there for whoever might feel a need for it.

Posted by: cld on June 24, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Alternatively, if you choose to be more optimistic about the whole thing, nobody's bothering to rouse some rabble over this because nobody thinks the American public cares much about it.

Actually the reason why Democrats aren't willing to bring this issue up is because they know the American people support keeping permanent bases in Iraq. Polls have shown the American people support keeping troops in Iraq until the job is done and if that means keeping them there for the next fifty years to protect freedom and democracy in Iraq, then the American people would support it. Right now we have permanent bases in Germany and Japan to ensure freedom and democracy so why not in Iraq also? It's hyprocritical for you to support them in Germany and Japan but not in Iraq.

Posted by: Al on June 24, 2006 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

We could consider our building the Iraqis all those permanent base facilities as a kind of rent, since the CPA spent its whole tenure camped out in Saddam's palaces.

Posted by: jimBOB on June 24, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, Al, polls clearly shopw that the US public thinks "we should get the job done" -- meaning, die in large numbers until we slink away quietly. Remember a little thing called Vietnam?

What planet do you live on? On this one, Germany and Japan are allies, by the way.

Posted by: Kenji on June 24, 2006 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Where do we have permanent bases? For the most part, we have bases in countries of two types:
a) countries who lost a war to us (Germany, Japan, Cuba+Phillipines)
b) countries that invited us in (South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait)

Iraq is a bit of a different nut because we invaded the country. The closest analogues are the bases in territories Spain lost after the Spanish-American war. But even those are different, because the war was nominally against Spain, not Cuba or the Phillipines.

The biggest problem I have with the "permanent bases" idea is that it is a central part of the Bush foreign policy m.o., which is namely to do whatever the hell he wants and constantly lie about it to the public. Does he want permanent bases? He claims not to want permanent bases. But his actions say otherwise.

It's kind of hard to debate the wisdom of having permanent bases in Iraq, and this is a debate that needs to be had, when the person instituting the policy refuses to admit that this is what he's doing!

Posted by: RickD on June 24, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Mmmm, I don't think we have bases in Japan and Germany in order to insure freedom and democracy, especially since both countries do not seem to be gravitating toward the fascist state such as the Connecticut Cowboy and his regime espouses. I don't remember the last (or any) time that either the Germans or the Japanese public threatened American troops with either snipers or IEDs. The occupation of these countries was diametrically opposed to what we have accomplished in Iraq. There is still a woeful lack of electricity and fuel in a country which is inordinately hot as well as rich in oil reserves. You certainly cannot tout our success in improving basic services as well as improving (or maintaining) any oil production!

The Iraq fiasco is going to be proven to be devastating for America for decades to come and I'm afraid there will be no honorable extrication.

Quagmire is the only word which comes to mind!

Posted by: fred on June 24, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

I'd love someone to define what it means to "get the job done". It is a euphemism for "we stay forever".

Funny how bush thinks we have 10 billion a month for his folly, but no money for Social Security.

Bushies base sees SSI as an expense to them, whereas Iraq is a cash cow.

Posted by: busdrivermike on June 24, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

It isn't the permanent bases in themselves that we should be screaming about.

It's that "permanent bases" means more of the same.

Josh Marshall is absolutely right on this one, and I can't tell you how depressing it is to me that professional politicians don't have the wits to see that they have to take the initiative by defining what the administration is doing.

What the administration is telling us is "more of the effing same." That's exactly what the public doesn't want. That's exactly what professional politicians who are Democrats need to say if they want to win.

Posted by: Altoid on June 24, 2006 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

Other than the sheer deliberately-under-the-radar quality of the 'enduring bases,' I can't see a reason to get that excited about them. They'll be IN Iraq, yes, but they really won't in any meaningful way be a PART of Iraq. In the Bushie/neocon nomenclature, they'll be 'lily pads.'

And they'll be an invaluable part of our exit strategy, whenever our leaders finally wise up to needing one. They can have our military in Iraq retreat to the bases, while still pretending to be 'in country.' That'll technically be true, but not in any meaningful sense. But our air power at those bases will guard against foreign invasion while the various Iraqi factions fight it out amongst themselves.

Posted by: RT on June 24, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

I thought that when all the smoke of reasons to invade Iraq cleared away, there were only 2 reasons left.

  1. Establish Permanent Bases
  2. Protect Israel
(Note that the second helps the first.)

With these goals, things like promoting chaos in Iraq (say by not guarding Saddam's munition dumps so lots of people can make IEDs) actually increase the rational for permanent bases.

Posted by: MonkeyBoy on June 24, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

The American occupying force in Iraq is a giant ingrown toenail. Until we leave, the inflammation is never going to subside.

What the Republicans and many of their Democratic enablers don't seem to understand is that America doesn't have enough wealth and power to maintain an unnatural situation permanently. These guys seem to be stuck in a time warp. They imagine that the U.S. is still a rising power, but 2006 isn't 1945.

Posted by: Jim Harrison on June 24, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Hell, Bush could tell everyone to stay indoors for a few weeks, mail them all free iodine tablets and then commence to nuke the entire planet. As long as the public was assured American Idol would be televised as scheduled they'd shrug, pop open a beer and wait for the all clear. Americans don't give a shit about any other nation. They've had it pounded into them since childhood this nation is ordained by God as superior by any measure to all other nations and all other peoples. Therefore other peoples are nearly subhuman, rating no more respect than the cattle we slaughter for our double cheeseburgers. Permanent bases? Hell, put one on every corner in every country, the public could not care less.

Posted by: steve duncan on June 24, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Where did this idea that the majority of Democrats in Congress oppose the Iraq occupation get started, anyway?

Posted by: dr sardonicus on June 24, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

What Steve Duncan wrote. This is the end result of *shudder* American exceptionalism *shudder*

Posted by: Henry Holland on June 24, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

The average American probably does not now where the current permanent bases are located. Above posters are exempted from this assumption.
The administration has been pretty cagey on the issue so we can't totally fault Mr. and Mrs. America for failing to consider it. It implies we are there permanently which nobody wants to admit is the reality.
At this piont the only way I see out of the war is a draft. I hate to think of any more kids going there although since the army just upped its age for enlistment we could just draft middle aged pundits and have a sizable group.

Posted by: Paula Langley on June 24, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe the DEMs know that Rove has some idiotic slogan ready if they go after permanent bases.

"perm or squirm"

"perm and firm - they squirm and turn"

Posted by: Robert on June 24, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

This is the new "16 words" in the SOTU issue -- if you can produce three people in the world who would change their opinion on the war based on the answer to this profound question, then I'd agree it was an important topic to address.

Posted by: minion of rove on June 24, 2006 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

cld >"You know if we build all these permanent bases and then leave we'll have left some beautiful infrastructure there..."

Hmmmm, sounds just like Vietnam to me

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." - Sinclair Lewis

Posted by: daCascadian on June 24, 2006 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

There isn't a writer or speaker around who can make us really feel the pangs of sacrifice that soldiers and their families are suffering because of this oil-securing exercise in Iraq. We'll easily forget the wars as we drive to the stores and shores.

Posted by: gar on June 24, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

as long as we're at it, we might as well go ahead and start building some settlements for US civilians to move into.

the plan is for permanent occupation, a la Israel in the West Bank. the "sovereign govt" is only a front for rule by our militart and embassy staff.

Posted by: somepeoplesay on June 24, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK


I don't think congressional Democrats are divided at all about the idiocy of building/maintaining permanent bases in Iraq, leaving Lieberman and those few red state Democrats aside.

You may remember that in both the House and the Senate, Democrats managed to get an amendment to the Defense budget passed unanamously that forbade any monies from being used for the construction of permanent bases. It was at the point that Republicans were beginning to panic about the impact of Iraq on their own election come November.

A couple of Fridays ago, under cover of darkness, the House Republicans removed the amendment from the package; David Obey tried to object, to no avail. Since Biden supplied the wording for the Senate version of the same amendment, I'm assuming that even he thinks this is a terrible idea.

I talk about what happened here, if anyone is interested.

Remember also, that one of the key provisions of Kerry's policy speech on Iraq in 2004 was the immediate halt to any building of permanent bases in Iraq, as one step to be taken to reassure the Iraqis that we don't have plans to annex them as our surrogate in the Middle East.

Dr. Sardonicus, I love ya, but not fair, my friend, not fair.

Steve Duncan, I understand the sentiment, and the heavens know that American exceptionalism helped Bush dig the hole in Iraq this country now find itself in; on the other hand, I think the majority of Americans who are questioning this war mean it much more than the press has cottoned onto yet.

Did you see that interview with the Tucker family? Tucker was one of the two who were abducted and then murdered, and possibly tortured. The father refused to rage against the killers or their families; his response wasn't a fully formed political one, not yet, but even while the immense pain the entire family was feeling was clear, they were refusing to say their pain mattered more than anyone elses.

The SCLM has declared the Republicans the winners in this week's debates, as, without doubt, we will see illustrated by this Sunday's exercises in gasbaggery, but I think they are going to be proven wrong on that one.

God knows, Democrats need to do a better job of opposing Bush than they did this week; I think they can and they will, with our help. My worry, even when they do, how do they penetrate that invisible, seemingly impermiable shield of the SCLM.

Posted by: Leah A on June 24, 2006 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

"because nobody thinks the American public cares much about it."

I'm pretty sure the American public doesn't know that we are building a bloc of permanent bases in Iraq. It's not like that aspect of the Irag occupation gets alot of play in the major media.

And your second question is equally obtuse, because most of those bases were built as a result of wars that happened before the majority of Americans were born. We grew up with them as a fact of life, and didn't have a say in whether they were a good idea or not.

Posted by: brewmn on June 24, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Why are permanent bases such a bad thing?

Depending on what they are used for, they can be good.

The bad thing is an occupied Iraq with no 'strategy'. Be it one for victory, or one for withdrawal.

Consider what permanent bases by themselves really mean. Not much. A presence in country. If the Armed Forces are not patrolling the citys, and are just sitting back in the permanent base, for the immediate future, its not worth a political fight. In fact, the 'permanent' base could be the first step in any withdrawal. Assuming the withdrawal takes a number of years.

We had permanent bases in many countries that we no longer occupy.

Back to work.

Posted by: mjc on June 24, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

I haven't followed the debate, but it depends on what a permanent base is. They can be anything from a few thousand square feet to many square miles. They can be loaded with troops or just loaded with supplies.

Posted by: Matt on June 24, 2006 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Nail on the head. Americans don't think this is an issue.

The problem for Democrats is that when American voters perceive an external threat, they will not look for candidates who tell them things they agree with. They will look instead for candidates whose judgment they trust to look after subjects they know are important but don't know enough to have opinions about.

To regain public confidence in their ability to defend American security and manage our foreign affairs, prominent Democrats have to spend time on issues that don't resonate with voters. They have to have strong views on them; they have to fight battles over them even if they know they will lose.

Personally I don't think the "permanent bases" problem is a major part of the Bush administration's problem with its Iraq policy. But this isn't about permanent bases in Iraq; it's about building public confidence that Democrats know and care about national security policy. I do think there are Democrats who are starting to understand that, but the most vocal ones seem convinced that just telling Americans that no one could be worse than George W. Bush will be enough. Just like it was enough in 2004.

Posted by: Zathras on June 24, 2006 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Leah, considering that I read your article when you originally posted it at Corrente, I should have indeed been more fair to the Democrats on this one (and believe me, being fair to Joe Biden ain't easy). I plead the excuse of posting hastily while taking quick breaks from the yardwork, and a well-conditioned cheap shot reflex stemming from years of frustration in hoping that the Democrats will one day behave more like a true opposition party.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on June 24, 2006 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

This is a lousy issue to "make a bigger deal of" (which I read to mean "campaign on" or "yell about on the talking head shows").

I think this most of the public is uninformed on this, and if asked would say they prefer to leave the decision in the hands of the Pentagon, Congress and the president. If forced to an answer, I'd bet most of them would say they're in favor of permanent bases. Just a guess.

I personally think the idea is a bad one, just lower on the bad scale than many of the decisions this administration has made.

Posted by: zeeeej on June 24, 2006 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe they could find out more about authors like Chalmers Johnson who wrote ' Blowback' in the 1990's from political animals?
I suspect they are so dim because they are so ill-served by political dipshits like Kevin Drum but thats just a theory at this stage.

Posted by: professor rat on June 24, 2006 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Boy is that a leap...because American's have no problem with bases in Germany and South Korea, they are a-ok with building a permanent foothold in Iraq just for kicks...

And by the way...how nice of you once again to only consider American's feeling on the question..as opposed to Iraqi citizens, who happen to be in the midst of a civil war. How about giving them a vote? Whose country is it anyway?

Ok, I apologize, that is a tough question...

Posted by: justmy2 on June 24, 2006 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Matt and Kevin are both, let's say, under-informed on the issue of Congress and permanent bases in Iraq. Both the House and Senate cast voice votes against permanent bases during passage of the "supplemental" funding for the war; then those amendments were stripped from the bill by Republicans in conference. Against the rules, but par for the course.

But just this past week (via an email from After Downing Street}:

On Tuesday [20 June] in the House, Democrats (plus Bernie Sanders) took a stand against permanent bases in Iraq, voting 196-3 against them. The vote split the Republican party, which voted 180-47 with the Democrats. ... They may try the same dirty trick again, but they now know we are watching, and there are Republicans on record in opposition. Rep. Bill Young (R., Fla.) said on the floor Tuesday about permanent bases:

"It sends the wrong message. Not only to the people of Iraq, not only to the people of America, but to the people of other Muslim nations who might say, hey, are we next? Are we going to be occupied? Are we going to have
American troops in our streets?"

Kerry renounced permanent bases in the debates in October 2004; other Democratic presidential candidates have also made this a basic part of their approach to the issue (Feingold, Clark, and possibly others that I haven't followed as closely).

So I think it's b.s. that Americans support permanent bases in Iraq, or are even indifferent. The only meaningful way to end an occupation is to commit to leave completely, and then follow through. Voters know that, and politicians are beginning to respond.

Posted by: Nell on June 24, 2006 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

I guess I'm not terribly concerned about this because I don't see what good it will do us to have permanent bases in a war-torn hellhole. I also don't think they would end up being all that permanent in such a violent place.

Posted by: C.I. Dreyfus on June 24, 2006 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

Permanent bases are permanent targets. I don't think that's a hard message to get across. And I think enough Americans are already tired of U.S. troops being stuck in harm's way that the prospect of having them there *permanently* will seem pretty nightmarish.

Posted by: Chris on June 24, 2006 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

chris, they are permanenet targets, but, the type of killings that currently going on in downtown bagdad will be harder to execute on base.

Bases are safer. Do wonder what their mission would be.

Posted by: mjc on June 24, 2006 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

Over the very long term, say after about 5-6 years, the only possible rationale for permanent bases is to maintain about 10-40,000 troops, probably in the west and north-west, whose primary mission will be to occupy the oilfields when ordered, preferably before anyone has a chance to blow them up. Their secondary mission would be to cover Israel's eastern front and pressure the
Syrians and Jordanians from their eastern fronts. The neo-cons might want one or two small ones near the Iranian border to send provocateurs there.

These bases can't happen without an Iraqi government that dances to Uncle Sam's tune. Everybody in Iraq knows that. So no Iraqi government can survive if it agrees to them. And no Iraqi government can survive if they're there, even if it doesn't agree to them. Iraqi governments will have to be anti-American in order to establish their legitimacy, starting very soon.

That's why disavowing permanent bases is good for Iraq and good for the US.

But I don't expect this administration to understand that, or if they do, to actually disavow them. They actually want the US to be directly involved in the middle east, as far as the eye can see.

For most voters, I think "more of the same" is a good shorthand for this.

Posted by: Altoid on June 24, 2006 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

A quick addition: isn't it Murtha who's been saying for quite a while that we could carry out that primary mission from somewhere else nearby much more safely and much less provocatively? He's been calling it "over the horizon," I think.

Maybe that's a good reason why permanent bases should be a talking point. We can do the same thing without being a permanent stick in the eye to Iraqis.

Posted by: Altoid on June 24, 2006 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

"I'm continually baffled, however, as to why Democrats don't seem to want to make a bigger deal out of the permanent bases question. That, I would think, is an issue the party could be fairly unified on."

Because Democrats are just the other party of empire, who want American dominance to have the imprimatur of the UN and the permission of France and bureaucrats in Brussels, but say and do nothing about the more than 700 American bases around the world, 24/7 patrols of the world's seas and skies, and multiple occupations of foreign countries (except Iraq, and then only kinda-sorta) because they don't fundamentally object to the American Empire. They've reconciled themselves to the spread of laissez faire capitalism, and even favor the spread of bourgeois cultural liberalism, despite its nasty side effects - the decline of the family, rising crime, the growth of the police and prison state, the people who get left behind (the incorrigible poor and incarcerated). Liberalism today doesn't give a damn about the most vulnerable and hated in this society. Why should it object to an emerging worldwide American civilization that doesn't give a damn about the most vulnerable and hated around the world?

Posted by: Linus on June 24, 2006 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

The issue of permanent bases and the issue of a "Broad Based Time-table For Exit" are directly related because their resolution depends upon the underlying objectives the Bush crowd had for our attack on Iraq. To accept their framing of our purpose in being there as being the development of a free, democratic Iraq is both silly and self-defeating since it causes all discussion to miss the central issue.

We attacked Irag, primarily, to carry out the PNAC/NEOCON dream of world empire, starting with the Middle East, and we did so in order to estabilsh an imperialistic presence there and to begin the process of gaining control of OPEC oil, starting with Iraq's which is believed to be the second largest estimated reserves in the world. The original plan called for Iran to be next and then probably Venezuela. Our presence there would assure our continued influence over the largest and the additional second largest reserves in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. That is why you have seen the unending demonization of both Iran, with the manufactured nuclear emergency, and Chavez of Venezuela, with the claim of Communism.

Not withstanding the mess they have made in Iraq, I believe they still see success being the establishment of a client government and the privatization of the oil and its sale to US international corporations. Also, not withstanding all of the warnings of dire consequences to be expected, if we attack Iran, I believe to do so is still their intention and all the talk about nuclear programs will have nothing to do with that decision. It is all about oil and direct control of the world's oil heartland. He who has it, not only will be able to keep their own economy going when all others fail, but they will also have a death grip on the throat of everyone else.

If you question why we would need to gain control of all of this oil, I suggest you become knowledgeable about the imminence and the predictable impact of "Peak Oil" in the world. You can be assured that Cheney and those oil CEOs with whom he worked on that secret Energy Commission were only too aware of the economic catastrophy that is approaching us.

Some have suggested that we do not need to attack Iraq for their oil since we can purchase all we need on the open market. In a world where there is enough oil for all needs, such a view would be reasonable, but that is not the world we will soon be living in.

Experts have suggested that as little as a 10% shortfall between oil supply and oil demand would collapse the US economy. Now consider that when "Peak Oil" occures (And it might well already have occured, but not been recognized yet.) there will be an inevitable 3% to 5% decline per year in the amount of oil that will be available. Even if today's demand held steady, and it won't, that will mean a 10% short fall between our need and our supply in as little as two years.

Make no mistake about it, oil is what almost all of our recent foreign affairs decisions and actions have been about. That includes the Caspian Sea area, the proposed oil pipeline through Afghanistan, the attack on Iraq, the threatened attack on Iran and the demonization of Chavez with the possibility of either his assassination or an attack by us on Venezuela. We are not yet demonizing or threatening to attack our other major supplier of oil, Canada, I guess, because the Bush cabal probably cannot come up with a way to sell it to the American people.

There is another critical issue that is driving the movement towards an attack on Iran and that is the need to prevent the establishment and effective operation of an Iranian oil Bourse that would sell Iranian oil based upon EUROs and not dollars. If such a Bourse become operational and if the Russians, the oil producers of the Caspian area and the Venezuelans all succeed in following suit, the status of the dollar as the standard of exchange for the world would be destroyed and that too would be a catastrophy for the US economy, particularly in view of our humongous foreign debt.

What this all means is that the Bush gang has no intention to leave Iraq , or even to not attack Iran at this point. Those large permenent bases are being built to house the US military force, that will essentially function as the private militia that will remain in Iraq in order to protect the private property of those Bush friendly oil corporations. Because they have no intention to leave, they will continue to reject any and all calls for a time table for withdrawal, no matter how reasonable they might be. They will also reject any proposed negotiated solution to the nuclear emergency they have manufactured with respect to Iran.

I submit that until we force the Bush cabal to acknowledge their real plans and objectives, and so long as we continue to discuss and debate these issues based upon their framing, we will accomplish virtually nothing.

Posted by: tbaum on June 24, 2006 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

On the oil dimension, and implicitly the permanent bases question, there's an interesting interview with Michael Klare on the Mother Jones site. If the major powers are soon going to be at each other's throats over energy resources, then permanent bases must look absolutely necessary to our oil-patch government. The only alternative is to get our economy off the oil teat, and they aren't even thinking about that -- W's State of the Union remarks notwithstanding.


Posted by: SqueakyRat on June 24, 2006 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

"They've reconciled themselves to the spread of laissez faire capitalism, and even favor the spread of bourgeois cultural liberalism"

Nice sound bites.. who did you steal those from?

Posted by: mjc on June 24, 2006 at 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

If dems are adamant that they need "an Iraq plan", then I recommend they convince Iraqi's that they should ask us to stay in quasi permanant bases in the south.

Posted by: aaron on June 25, 2006 at 4:17 AM | PERMALINK

quasi permanent bases which most of our troops can be redeployed to.

Posted by: aaron on June 25, 2006 at 4:18 AM | PERMALINK

Permanent bases are not an issue with the American people NOW because they haven't heard of them; the SCLM has published precious little about them, and yet we've sunk many billions into their construction.

I can't see them becoming much of an issue with the American people if they knew, though. Compared with all the other news from the past year - Katrina, Plame, NSA wiretapping, civil war in Iraq, and that's just the high points - this one would be down in the white noise.

Hell, last week we found out that the Bushies deliberately fired a rocket into the al-Jazeera offices in Kabul, an action on a par with if Nixon's henchmen had firebombed Brookings. But even the blogs are quiet about that; only mention I saw was in Froomkin. That's how overloaded we are at this point.

Are the permanent bases targets? Possibly, but they're not easy targets. They're big (15-20 square miles, IIRC), and they're mostly well outside of cities and towns. They're not there for local missions, and they don't interact with the locals. Iraqis aren't being hired to do the scutwork on base; workers are imported from places like Bangladesh for that.

The bases are designed to be Cheney's 'lily pads' to assert power in the region. They are ginormous fortified air bases, designed to be supplied by air, to be completely independent of their local environment. Their mission is basically to be available for whatever expression of military might an imperial American government might want to do in the region.

Are they an issue with the Iraqis? They surely will be, if they aren't already. Like numerous posters have already said, no Iraqi government that doesn't want us out will be regarded by Iraqis as anything more than a U.S. puppet, with the obvious consequences to its popular legitimacy.

If we leave these completed bases behind, will that benefit the Iraqis? I can't see it. They're out in the middle of nowhere, so they'll be pretty useless as civilian infrastructure, and it's going to be a long while before the Iraqi military will need airbases like that.

If the current attempt at a peace deal (see Kevin's post here) falls through, I see the 'permanent bases' as the first step in our retreat from Iraq. Pulling all our troops back to those bases would get them out of the crossfire, but enable us to ward off foreign invasions - something the Iraqi security forces aren't exactly prepared to do. Then someday when Iraq has a real governmentt again, or when assorted pieces of Iraq have real governments again, they can show us the door.

But if this peace deal succeeds, they'll be showing us the door pretty soon, in which case we ought to have enough sense to get while the getting's good.

Posted by: RT on June 25, 2006 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK


Posted by: j_ny on June 25, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK
Sadly, the most likely answer is that the party is not, in fact unified on this question.

If so, that's incredibly ideiotic. Democrats in office ought not only want to make issues of things that the Democratic Party is united in approach too -- that is so transparently tactical and shows such a profound lack of principle that it is guaranteed to backfire, even as a cynical political strategy.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 25, 2006 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

One thing you can count on : any "dialogue" will be based on emotion, lying, innuendo, strawmen and all the other lovelies that can be dug up. Debate on the facts and plans that are the real world ? The last and least of possibilities.
Everything is going to be defense from mudslinging about the Dems being soft on terror and not having the resolution necessary to success in Iraq.

Posted by: opit on June 25, 2006 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

Expecting a "unified" policy is absurd. All you need is a policy that can be implemented. Getting everyone on board isn't going to happen.

Posted by: aaron on June 26, 2006 at 1:01 AM | PERMALINK

The problem here is that people are using "permanent bases" as a proxy for other issues.

For some, permanent bases implies a permanent occupation on Iraq and the debate is really about whether or not we intend to give control to the Iraqis. As Germany, Japan, South Korea, and other places we have "permanent bases" make perfectly clear, we can maintain a military presence in a country and it can still be fully independent.

For others, the issue is about the military presence in Iraq and some secret plan Bush has to somehow control oil by keeping troops there. Many of these folks however say we should pull our troops to Kuwait or Qatar or even back into Saudi. It is unclear to me why keeping forces in any of these places would change what these people are charging Bush with secretly planning. After all, one could just as easily dominate oil from Kuwait if one buys into this premise.

So maybe the issue is about military intervention in the Middle East at all. But even Murtha talks about keeping troops over the horizon - variously meaning Kuwait, afloat in the Indian Ocean, and (most famously)in Okinawa. But even this argument is premised on the notion that should we feel the need we could send in our military forces to act in the region.

The point is, "permanent bases" is an each catch phrase that sounds like it means something significant but really doesn't, on its own, tell us much.

Are the critics here saying that we should not accept Iraq following the Germany, Japan, or South Korea examples of developing into liberal democracies in part due to the stabilizing presence of US troops there? Are they really claiming that there is a difference between troops in Kuwait and troops in Iraq? In other words, we need more than "no permanent bases" to debate the issues at hand.

Posted by: Hacksaw on June 26, 2006 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK



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