Monday, December 19, 2011

yes, i think it is really over

for a while i was spilling more electrons here about the iraq war than anything else. so i guess it's worth noting the end.

meanwhile, i have seen a lot of people say this really isn't the end; that because u.s. contractors remain in the country, "the iraq war", or at least american involvement in it, really isn't over.

and there is something to that. for a war that has been declared over several times already, it makes sense to take these announcements with a grain of salt. for a war that involved an unprecedented reliance on "private contractors" to do tasks that formerly were done by soldiers in the u.s. military, including the fighting itself, the presence of contractors in the country does raise questions about whether the pullout is real.

on the other hand, the state department employs private contractors for a variety of services, including security, all over the world, including a ton of countries that no one thinks the u.s. is currently involved in a war in. the mere presence of contractors doesn't prove that the american withdrawal is fake. and yet, presence alone seems to be the entire argument of those who claim the pullout isn't real.

maybe it is also the sheer number of contractors. the u.s. is employing a lot more contractors in iraq than it is anywhere else, including a lot of security contractors. but that large number can be explained by the following three things: (1) iraq is still pretty dangerous, (2) the state department and USAID have a lot of development projects in iraq, and (3) the u.s. is not willing to shut down those projects for security reasons. if any other country in the world got as dangerous as iraq, the u.s. would probably scale down its operations in the country, suspend its various projects for security reasons and evacuate all non-essential personnel from the embassy and consulates. but the u.s. didn't wreck other countries the way that it wrecked iraq. for political reasons, the u.s. is not willing to stop its development projects because that would mean the u.s. is leaving behind a mess rather than a work-in-progress. as long as iraq remains a fixer-upper, we can all sleep more soundly secure in our belief that we didn't completely trash what was already pretty messed up place.

that's why there are so many contractors in the country. and that is why i do not think their presence means the war is not really over. of course, if contractors start raiding houses, or going on the offense against militants, i would change my mind. so far, at least, there doesn't seem to be any indication that is what they are doing.