Wednesday, September 07, 2011

military resistance

over the past few weeks i've been reading about how american military commanders are trying to convince iraqi politicians to allow the u.s. to keep 14,000 to 18,000 soldiers in iraq after the year's end. under the status of forces agreement, the u.s. must remove all u.s. forces by the end of 2011, unless the iraqi government gives them permission to stay longer. the punditocracy seems to assume that iraqis really secretly want the u.s. to stay, but are too disorganized to give the americans a straight answer. a more likely answer as far as i am concerned is that an american military presence is politically unpopular in iraq, and the iraqi politicians don't want to okay it but they are under pressure from the americans to let them stay.

the part that i am puzzled by is why the u.s. generals always seem to be the ones pressing both iraqis and the political leadership in washington to keep u.s. forces in iraq. why do they want to stay? iraq is a huge drain on military resources, both to maintain day to day operations and also the long term medical costs of caring for veterans wounded in the conflict. with military budget cuts being publicly discussed for the first time in recent memory, you would think that the military brass would welcome the possibility of an exit from that 8 year old/seemingly endless conflict.

so what is the deal? is it just cultural? is it difficult for career military people to walk away from a war? on the other hand, iraq is no longer a traditional war. isn't it the kind of nation building we were told in the 1990s the military hated? or maybe it is budgetary. maybe the brass is afraid budget cutting will be easier without an expensive iraq war to justify their budget?