Thursday, July 28, 2005

القاعدة في العراق

sam graham-felsen has an interesting story on alternet about the issue of whether the u.s. is building permanent military bases in iraq. it seems pretty evident to me that the bush administration probably wants a permanent military presence in the country. after all, the u.s. ended it's 12 year military presence in saudi arabia two years ago, and i don't think we're all that welcome to come back. it's also fairly evident that if we try to build a permanent base in iraq, we will probably lose the iraq war. maybe that's why no one in the bush administration says that much about the issue.

almost six months ago, larry diamond, former advisor to paul bremer when he was the head of the coalition provisional authority, said the following in a speech at UCLA:
One of the things that is necessary to wind down the insurgency and create a much more hopeful, enabling environment for the development of democracy and even political stability in Iraq is for Iraqis, and particularly those Iraqis who are involved with or sympathizing with the insurgency, to become convinced that we really are going to leave. That the American military occupation of Iraq is going to end and that they are going to get their country back.


[W]e could declare, and I urged the administration to declare when I left Iraq in April of 2004, that we have no permanent military designs on Iraq and we will not seek permanent military bases in Iraq. This one statement would do an enormous amount to undermine the suspicion that we have permanent imperial intentions in Iraq. We aren't going to do that. And the reason we're not going to do that is because we are building permanent military basis in Iraq.
when diamond gave his speech last february bits of the blogisphere buzzed about it (including a post by needlenose that i recommend), but the conversation never quite reached the outside world. at least not very loudly.

which is strange because it really is an important question. the argument over whether or not the u.s. government should set a timetable for withdrawal of u.s. troops from iraq presupposes that the ultimate goal is withdrawal. whether u.s. forces will leave should really be settled before we start debating when they should go.

permanent bases also run counter to the notion that the new iraq is sovereign or democratic. if the country really were sovereign, whether u.s. forces stay there permanently is really not our government's decision to make. and if iraq became a fully democratic country, i think it's clear that an iraqi government that reflected the views of its people would not tolerate a long-term foreign military presence. (though it looks like no one has polled it, so i my impression that foreign troops are deeply unpopular in iraq is purely anecdotal)

the permanent base question goes right to the heart of the basic policy questions about iraq: what exactly are we trying to accomplish there? and when are we done? if the goal is to establish a permanent presence in iraq then the answer to the second question is "never." but at least we'll be able to find al qaeda in iraq.