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Tilting at Windmills

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July 3, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

PLANNING FOR 2009....The Iraqis are pushing back on the idea of a long-term American presence:

Declaring that there will not be "another colonization of Iraq," Iraq's foreign minister raised the possibility on Wednesday that a full security agreement with the United States might not be reached this year, and that if one was, it would be a short-term pact.

....At a news conference in Baghdad, the foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, told reporters that some headway had been made, but that negotiators were deadlocked over issues like the extent of Iraqi control over American military operations and the right of American soldiers to detain suspects without the approval of Iraqi authorities.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military is feeling stressed:

The U.S. military's top officer warned Wednesday that an Israeli airstrike against Iran would make the Middle East more unstable and could add to the stress on overworked American forces in the region.

...."Opening up a third front right now would be extremely stressful for us," [Adm. Mike Mullen] said, referring to the prospect of a direct clash with Iran while fighting continues in Iraq and Afghanistan. "This is a very unstable part of the world, and I don't need it to be more unstable."

And of course Mullen has already said that Afghanistan is going sideways and there's not too much he can do about it because all his troops are in Iraq. Call me naive, but this all points in one direction: start drawing down our presence in Iraq, stay calm on the Iran front, and put more effort into stabilizing Afghanistan and wiping out the remaining remnants of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Who's with me?

Kevin Drum 2:36 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (49)

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Comments

Not John McCain. Iraq 4evah!

Posted by: John Sully on July 3, 2008 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

I'll vote for that. But then I've voted for that all along and it hasn't made a damn bit of difference. If I was the paranoid type, I'd say the GOP is doing all it can to ruin this country and what little security we have left.

Posted by: Mistamatic on July 3, 2008 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Colonizing Iraq? Oh, is that why we're there? Funny I thought there were other reasons. Must have got my intel mixed up. D'oh

Posted by: optical weenie on July 3, 2008 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

The "remaining remnants of al-Qaeda and the Taliban" are mostly in Pakistan, not Afghanistan.

Posted by: Jack on July 3, 2008 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Wipe out the remaining remnants of the Taliban?
I say you are delusional, and no, I am not with you.

Posted by: Dick Durata on July 3, 2008 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with you ! Let's do that Farmers Market hang this summer !

Posted by: Tim (The Other One) on July 3, 2008 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

How long before Mullen is out?

Posted by: RollaMO on July 3, 2008 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

weenie: Funny I thought there were other reasons.

Of course we are. We are spreading democracy and freedom. And like when you spread manure, something will grow. If it smells bad in the meantime, that's just nature taking its course.

Posted by: thersites on July 3, 2008 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Call me naive, but this all points in one direction: fire Mullen!

Posted by: owenz on July 3, 2008 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Ah Kevin. Dont you know that there is no oil in Af-Talistan?

Posted by: keith g on July 3, 2008 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "... this all points in one direction: start drawing down our presence in Iraq, stay calm on the Iran front, and put more effort into stabilizing Afghanistan and wiping out the remaining remnants of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Who's with me?"

That falls far short of what I want to see happen with US foreign policy, but in reality, something along those lines is probably about the best we can hope for -- IF Obama becomes president and IF Obama turns out not to have been cynically pandering to the anti-war majority of Americans in order to win the nomination.

I don't by any means feel assured of either one of those outcomes.

It will be a close election, probably close enough for the Republicans to steal it; and Obama is increasingly looking like he would be a "business as usual" president -- the usual business being to deploy the US military as a mercenary army in the interest of corporate profits. And there are a lot more corporate profits at stake in Iraq than in Afghanistan.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 3, 2008 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Sure, it is OK if we stay in Iraq for a long time as long as it is safe like Germany or Japan.

What do you think would happen if an American serviceman killed a citizen of Germany or Japan or Iraq?

The people invovled would probably be turned over to the home government for trial and put in jail for a long time.

Except Iraq. The worst thing that happens is that the military tries them in the US. Or Blackwater sends them home without a bonus.

In Japan, we are being forced to give up a huge chunk of Okinawa because we can't control the servicemen there.

Right now, Bush and McCain would never allow Iraq to be like Germany or Japan.

Posted by: neil wilson on July 3, 2008 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

It's a shame that you won't have grandchildren and greatgrandchildren to carry on writing about Iraq(Our future "Jewel in the Crown"????)Are THEY losing YOU after only 5+ years.Stand fast and take heart! Don't you want to be in your deathbed and say "How goes the Empire"?

Posted by: R.L. on July 3, 2008 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

The remaining remnants of al-Qaeda and the Taliban pose no national security threat to the US. They have no armies, air forces or navies to wage war against the US. If John Walker Lindh Drum wants to volunteer to serve with which ever Afghan forces he prefers to fight with for control of Afghanistan, that would be his personal choice, but the people of the US have no reason to put their soldiers and treasure in harm's way for that purpose.

Posted by: Brojo on July 3, 2008 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

The Tale of the Cheating Husband

Coming home one day from work, the dutiful wife (liberal/progressive voter) returns to find her husband (read: Obama) in bed with another woman (picture Ann Coulter).

"I can't believe this, you cheating scumbag, you," the wife proclaims.

"Well, all things considered, it seemed like the right thing to do", the husband says.

"Yeah, and he loves me more anyway," says the other woman.

"But I loved you, supported you, trusted you. You said such wonderful things . . . I can't believe my own eyes."

"But a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do," the husband states.

"Well, then out with you, I want a divorce!"

"But what about the kids?" asks the husband. "Surely this is a minor thing, you wouldn't want to break up the family over a minor thing like this."

"But you're cheating on me!" the wife exclaims.

"Yeah, and it won't be the last time, grow up," the other woman states.

"What?" asks the wife, "you'll cheat on me again?"

"Of course, I only said nice things and was loyal to get you to marry me. We're married now, so I can go off and do what I want -- you're stuck," says the husband.

"No way, I want a divorce," yells the wife.

"But what about the kids?" says the husband. "You can't let a little thing like the fact I don't love you and will sleep with other woman change anything."

And so the wife, forced to choose between saving her family and being married to a cheating, lying husband chose to stay with her man.

In the end, the other woman got her man the husband played boths sides, and the wife was miserable.

Welcome to being a Democrat.

Posted by: Dicksknee on July 3, 2008 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

We can't put too many soldiers in Afghanistan because they might step or fall on and crush some poppy plants.We can't goof-up the drug trade because that would hurt the income of a lot of pols,intel and military.Gotta have that drug money to buy those islands in Dubai.

Posted by: R.L. on July 3, 2008 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

"Call me naive, but this all points in one direction: start drawing down our presence in Iraq, stay calm on the Iran front, and put more effort into stabilizing Afghanistan and wiping out the remaining remnants of al-Qaeda and the Taliban."

Orrrrrr....Fire McMullen for insubordination, continue to sabre rattle, and accuse anyone who wants to act calmly as having a "Pre 911 Mindset".

Which do you think is more likely to happen?

Posted by: JF Philly on July 3, 2008 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, why do you hate America?

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on July 3, 2008 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

Welcome to being a Democrat.

I would imagine that far-Right Republicans, especially the socially conservative religiously-motivated ones, feel the same way about being a Republican.

It's just a really sad implication of the two-party system, but no one wants to propose the kind of change that would really make a difference because such change will never happen anyway.

Posted by: Equal Opportunity Cynic on July 3, 2008 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with you, Kevin. Eminently sensible. Therefore guaranteed to be opposed by the Republicans.

Posted by: DNS on July 3, 2008 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not with you at all, Kevin. How about dismantling the military-industrial complex in the United States, treating terrorism as an international crime issue (not a military issue) and reaching out a hand of peace to our Muslim brothers and sisters?

The billions we save from cutting the military by 75% would provide universal, single-payer, cradle-to-grave health coverage for all Americans, a crash program to develop solar, wind, geothermal, tidal and other clean energy sources and have money left over to upgrade our K-12 educational system to match the rest of the world. Those are the things that would be in a true progressive agenda...

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on July 3, 2008 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

The troops had better just suck it up! If Israel wants to start Armageddon, I say bring it on! We'll nuke the whole region! We'll nuke our own allies - hell, we'll nuke ourselves - to show 'em they can't push us around!

Posted by: Ultra Rightie on July 3, 2008 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

As Randy Newman would say, let's drop the big one and see what happens...

Posted by: Vincent on July 3, 2008 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

"put more effort into stabilizing Afghanistan and wiping out the remaining remnants of al-Qaeda and the Taliban."

Well, that's great, if you take the naive view that both of these groups are James Bond SPECTRE-style organizations. In reality, they are much more akin to Fission Chips's imaginary BUGGER from the Illuminatus! trilogy.

Al Qaeda is two guys with a large bank account. "The Taliban", on the other hand, is a loose confederation of tribal warlords that compromises basically half of Afghanistan.

Good luck with either one.

Posted by: scarshapedstar on July 3, 2008 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Al-Dawa and the SCIRI have been fighting to transform Iraq into a fundamentalist Islamic republic which has close ties to extremists in Iran for well over two decades and you are saying they are "pushing back" ???

Jesus Christ!!


What exactly do you think the complete absence of US-friendly leglislation and business deals, the non-participation at Annapolis, etc was??

The Iraqis have been saying fuc& you to the US since 2003, i.e., when they elected the very same Iraqis who have been fighting to transform Iraq into a fundamentalist Islamic republic which has close ties to extremists in Iran for well over two decades.

Americans can be so dismissive of easy to access history!!!

It it no wonder the US is stuck in the toilet and swirling around the bowl!!!

Posted by: Homer on July 3, 2008 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Americans can be so dismissive of the popular will of other nations' peoples.

Posted by: Brojo on July 3, 2008 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone wants to leave Iraq quickly, but leave it stable, and without American humiliation. That's just not going to happen. It was never going to happen, which is the inevitable consequence of invasion, as are the deterioration in Afghanistan and a more powerful Iran. We not only dug a hole, we filled in behind us.

Posted by: alibubba on July 3, 2008 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

Ironically, Obama is now reported to be backing away on setting firm timelines for Iraq withdrawal:

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0708/11517.html

Given the Media's interest in malframing Obama, I'm not sure what to make of this, but it's worth keeping an eye on.

Posted by: Neil B on July 3, 2008 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

I agree with drawing down in Iraq and, as soon as possible, altogether; and staying calm on Iran. I do not agree that we can actually "clean up" Al Qaeda or the Taliban. At least not as relations with Pan-Arabia stand now.

There are many forces contributing to the development of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and other similar groups like Hezbollah. The people forming these groups have very legitimate grievances with us. As long as we act like we're unquestionably right and they are wrong, we will get nowhere.

I could see having a highly-trained, multilingual, INTERNATIONAL group of Special Forces, including people from the various Arab countries and Iran, which would be used to target various small groups of trouble-makers. If it were international, it wouldn't be perceived as one country bullying another, which is how we are currently perceived, and rightly so. In order for this to really work, we would have to be willing to let this Special Force work against our own troublemakers as well. Good luck on that.

But an attempt to "clean up" Al Qaeda and the Taliban, given our current mindset and approach to the middle eastern countries, would be an exercise in futility, as the underlying problems wouldn't begin to be addressed. Even if we succeeded in getting rid of those two groups, others would rise up to take their place.

Posted by: Wolfdaughter on July 3, 2008 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

All three countries present frustrating problems, for which any action might not work. My opinions are:

Iraq - Thanks to luck and to the skill of Gen. Petraeus and our marvelous military, we're in a position where a stable, democratic Iraq is a realistic possibility. We should give the military all the troops they need to close out the deal.

Afghanistan - It's hopeless to reach stability as things stand now, because our enemy has a staging area in the tribal areas of Pakistan next door. We should encourage our European allies to send more troops. We should try to get Pakistan's permission to attack the tribal areas. I understand that both of these things are long shots.

Iran - We have a choice of unthinkable policies. Attacking Iran would mean involvment in an ongoing war that might be bigger and bloodier than the one in Iraq. The impact on Iran's oil supply would devastate the world's economy. OTOH allowing Iran to go nuclear might lead to a nuclear war, at worst. At best, it would mean that Iran would become far more powerful within the Middle East with diplomatic results that could also be economically and geo-politically devastating.

Posted by: David on July 3, 2008 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

"All three countries present frustrating problems, for which any action might not work. My opinions are:"

(boilerplate neocon nonsense)

Doug Feith, is that you?

Posted by: scarshapedstar on July 3, 2008 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

Americans can be so dismissive of the popular will of other nations' peoples. -Brojo

It is not a special attribute of Americans. All imperial nations believe they are doing good to the conquered and dominated peoples living in darkness. By definition they are not conquered or dominated- they are liberated. The Spanish brought salvation and the French brought civilization. For English-speakers the chief blessings of liberation are economic and social liberalization. This has more to do with their own cultural values than with universal human aspirations.

Liberal imperialists are genuinely surprised when their liberation project is rejected, often violently, by the locals. At this point they tend to side with the authoritarian imperialists and agree to put down the resistance movement with quite illiberal oppression. The brutality the liberals agree to overseas would be against the law in their own country. For Americans the anti-parliamentary nature of colonialism (which is essentially an economic idea) has come home to undermine the republican order.

In the Middle East Islam functions as an anti-colonial nationalism. Catholicism in Ireland had a similar function through the long struggle against the brutal English empire.

American forces in the Middle East have never had the same level of control as the former European powers. No doubt the Americans will try to pull back to their fortresses and reduce troop exposure at the same time they try to manipulate the various governments into creating the desired economic outcomes. If Iraq, or Afghanistan, try to nationalize their oil infrastructure the US will no doubt decide to intervene.

Liberal imperialists always seem to agree that in the end the natives cannot be trusted to manage their resources.

Posted by: bellumregio on July 3, 2008 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

VOTE DIGBY FOR PRESIDENT---VOTE THE INTERNET---TWO NAMES YOU CAN TRUST.

Posted by: Mike Meyer on July 3, 2008 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

The troops are coming home again,
hurrah hurrah
The troops are coming home again
until we go waring again
hurrah, hurah

Posted by: Matt on July 3, 2008 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

It's too late to do away with the Taliban. They are too much integrated into the Pushtun fabric. There is no conceivable way that we will get to a point where we can say we win, they are defeated, we can go home. As distasteful as it may be, we have to negotiate with them.

Posted by: William on July 3, 2008 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

Al Qaeda, maybe, but ss Dick Durata said above, wiping out the Taliban is not likely to happen. Unlike Al Qaeda, the Taliban is not a modern invention with a hierarchy. It is the current incarnation of a native-grown, thousand-year-old fundamentalist religious movement; it is integrated into their society. We are just the latest ones who have pissed them off. To literally wipe them out would be religious genocide.

Posted by: anandine on July 3, 2008 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

Attacking Iran would be the final part of the "poison pill" they are leaving behind for the next administration.

Then, they can come back 4 years from now and say, "See what a craptastic mess you've had with the Dems in charge?"

It's a helluva plan!

Posted by: Ranger Jay on July 3, 2008 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

Afghanistan - It's hopeless to reach stability as things stand now, because our enemy has a staging area in the tribal areas of Pakistan next door. We should encourage our European allies to send more troops. We should try to get Pakistan's permission to attack the tribal areas. I understand that both of these things are long shots. Posted by: David

Is it that you haven't read any history, haven't been paying attention for the last seven years or are you just really stupid? Furthermore, it's Afghanistan we're talking about, not the liberation of France in 1944.

Like Iraq, Afghanistan it's really a nation. It's an area between the ME and S Asia occupied by a variety of backward Islamic tribes that have, historically, never gotten along all that well. I figure that if they want to join at least the late 20th Century, they can work it out amongst themselves, and then come to the UN looking for alms. Otherwise . . .

Posted by: Jeff II on July 3, 2008 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on July 3, 2008 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK

In response to mhr's comments @ 7:45 PM -
2001 WTC/Washington DC attacks: 3500 deaths (approx).
Madrid attack: 200 deaths.
London attack: 60 deaths.
2003-08 (and counting) Iraq: 4000+ US deaths/250,000 (minimum) Iraqi deaths.
2003-08 (and counting) Afghanistan: 10-25,000 US/Afghani deaths.
We'd be better off if we just sat back and let those radicalIslamofascistterrorists attack us. We'd suffer fewer casualties even not counting the Iraqi and Afghan dead, and we'd be saving a couple of trillion dollars.

Posted by: Doug on July 3, 2008 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

Ah yes, the pipedreams of empire:

"wiping out the remaining remnants of al-Qaeda and the Taliban!!??

Put your whole army in Afghanistan if you must but it won't make much of a difference. It will only make the alien landscape more replete with targets because it isn't only remnants of this or that faction, its the poppy farmers and the smugglers, angry bombed-out villagers, reluctant Aghans impressed into "the army" or forced by penury into going through the motions for money.

Nobody likes to have their country occupied by foreigners with attitude and Oakleys. Afghans have a long history coping with this problem and have figured out how deal with it. They seem rather good at it in fact. They contrive to act as if the event was a giant theatrical performance in which everyone dresses up and gets paid as an extra to watch the money being burned off. Of course, sooner or later all the foreigners depart leaving their rusty armor cluttering the countryside. This time the failure is comprehensive. OBL and his buddies were allowed to get away and guess who wears the goat horns on that bonehead move? It sure isn't the puppet Karzai.

Posted by: on July 3, 2008 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

We're all with you, Kevin. But the big question is Can Dick Cheney be restrained? A lot of people in the administration seem to be risking their metaphorical necks in the hope of heading him off. I hope they prevail.

Posted by: Lynn Lightfoot on July 3, 2008 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

>"forgotten that 19 individual terrorists visited some pretty serious damage on New York "

Well, at least you got one part right.
Correct: 9-11 was the work of a couple dozen members of a radical splinter group... likewise the bombing in Spain.

So, MHR do you really believe that blowing 1 or 2 trillion dollars, killing a half million people and creating an entire new generation of pissed-off muslims was an effective response to dealing with a couple tiny splinter groups?

Great plan, that.


Posted by: Buford on July 3, 2008 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

Once you understand that this has never been about oil, but that Iran and North Korea have always been the target, reason being that they have no central bank, you will see that all of this nonsense is distraction from the real agenda of the NWO: To divide the planet up into four trade zones, reduce the world population and enslave the remainder of us as low or no paid laborers, functioning in an authoritarian police state, not dissimilar to China. Understand this is the reason that without exception now, every country has enacted broad surveillience statutes and have broadened police powers.

Politicians are merely front men who are helpless to stop the plantationization of the planet by banking interests/ Obama, McSame, Clinton, Bush, regardless of the name, the interests that forced the Federal Reserve act through congress in the first place and later attempted to displace the Democratically governed Republic with a fascist state not unlike Nazi Germany (if Americans were better educated about their own history they would recognize what is going on now as a return to the antebellum south; familiarity with world history would spark instant recognition of the re-casting of the USA in the role of Nazi Germany (Italy is apparently reprieving its role))... regardless of who is elected in November, assuming the coming economic collapse and subsequent chaos is not used to justify imposition of martial law, that individual will be helpless to stem the tide of the NWO. The destruction of the United States of America is and has long been part of their plan.

Due to a thoroughly corrupt congress and criminal administration, that plan is about to come to fruition.

My advice? Get out if you can. Eat while there's food. Look after yourselves and remember, poor people who have nothing manage to find happiness. God willing, the American people will too.

Bless us all and woe betide our oppressors.

Posted by: getaclue on July 3, 2008 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
--Gandhi

Posted by: Quotation Man on July 3, 2008 at 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

Everything bellumregio said.

Posted by: snicker-snack on July 3, 2008 at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

"Everything bellumregio said."

Way to add nothing, dip-shit.

Posted by: Myrmidon on July 4, 2008 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

thanks for subtracting from the contributions...Myrmidon

Posted by: mr. irony on July 5, 2008 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

I have a feeling that without a Green Zone and American occupation, the puppet government would soon lose their heads.

Our choices are probably a return to anarchy and creative chaos (Obama), or stabilizing the country (McCain, 100 more years).

Posted by: Luther on July 7, 2008 at 2:20 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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