Monday, November 19, 2007

the realm of fantasy

a bunch of bloggers have posted about abu aardvark's report of steven biddle's recent talk at george washington university. biddle is one of general petraeus' military strategists. as the aardvark reports:
Overall, he presented a rosier portrait than I would have, based on his recent ten day visit to Iraq, but he's a serious guy so I take him seriously - though I noticed that he concentrated almost exclusively on the local level progress and hardly mentioned Maliki or the national political level at all. Without getting in to his arguments or my reservations, I just wanted to lay out Biddle's best case scenario as he presented it: if everything goes right and if the US continues to "hit the lottery" with the spread of local ceasefires and none of a dozen different spoilers happens, then a patchwork of local ceasefires between heavily armed, mistrustful communities could possibly hold if and only if the US keeps 80,000-100,000 troops in Iraq for the next twenty to thirty years. And that's the best case scenario of one of the current strategy's smartest supporters. Man.
it's become pretty clear that the purpose of the american military presence in iraq is having an american military presence in iraq. there doesn't seem to be any consistent goal other than that any more. which is why these days there's so much talk about staying and less talk about what staying is supposed to accomplish. staying is the accomplishment; it's the end, not the means.

i also think that a twenty to thirty year presence in iraq is simply not realistic. at least you have to be completely blind to political reality if you believe that u.s. troops will be there that long. i not enough of an optimist to believe the troops will come home anytime soon, but the bottom line is that the war in iraq is extremely unpopular with the american people and it's unlikely to change so long as u.s. forces are still there. while these basic facts have not completely sunk in with the folks in washington, the american people will continue to punish their pro-war representatives at the polls until they get the message. it looks like the message wasn't heard in 2006, so there will be another beating in 2008. if they don't get the message then, expect another beating in 2010. and so on.

making plans about iraq that assume a 20+ year commitment is simply deluding themselves. the shrinking band of iraq war supporters can stretch things out, indeed they already have, but ultimately their position is untenable.