The Dog Ate My Exit Timeline

Those poor Iraqi kids. Who’s going to keep them supplied with new soccer balls after we leave? Will the poor things have to go back to eating Iraqi food after all the Hershey bars run out? (Cue Sally Struthers). And what will happen to all those adorable puppies American G.I.s adopted as pets that get left behind? (Cue Sarah McLachlan.)

The entire planet knows Obama’s “fulfilled promise” to end the U.S. combat mission was an exercise in sleight-of-tongue Neo-speak, and all signs indicate that the December 2011 status of forces agreement (SOFA) deadline by which all U.S. troops are supposed to leave Iraq has already gone the way of the pay phone.

The desensitizing phase of the propaganda offensive designed to turn the citizenry apathetic to the warmongery’s next escapade has been in effect for some time. It was clear back in February 2009, long after the SOFA exit deadline had been established, that Ray “Desert Ox” Odierno announced, via David Petraeus hagiographer Tom Ricks, his desire to see 30,000 to 35,000 troops remain in Iraq until 2014 or 2015. More recently, Odie has suggested that the U.N. establish a new Iraq occupation mandate once the SOFA expires, one that will be supported by the same personnel that supported the old U.N. occupation mandate, i.e., U.S. troops. Odie didn’t mention the part about the U.S. having to provide the troops. It must have slipped his mind.

Lapdog-of-war Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, has been yodeling onto the echo chamber of late about why we need to prolong our stay in Iraq and why we can. In a recent New York Times “news analysis” piece, Crocker told emerging star of the Long War steno pool Tim Arango that even as the SOFA deadline was negotiated, plans were in place to renegotiate it.

“For a very long period of time we’re going to be on the ground, even if it’s solely in support of its U.S. weapons systems,” Crocker told Arango. That way talks Crocker apparently all the time – a reflecting of it is how convoluted the pretzel logic he for his Pentarch* pals makes about why more war need we.

The weapons systems Crocker refers to aren’t required to keep militants, insurgents, and the local al-Qaeda trademark violators under control. According to a Pentagon press release reproduced by Liz Sly in the Los Angeles Times, “commanders” say “they are reasonably confident in the Iraqi security forces’ ability to keep order while facing insurgents or other internal threats.” But when it comes to Iraq’s capacity to protect itself against attacks from other nations, Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, commander of the U.S. military training program in Iraq, says it is “inconceivable” that the Iraqi army will be able to stand alone by the end of 2011.

The “defend Iraq from its neighbors” argument is as specious as the rest of the “buy our war” hucksterism we’ve heard since Shock and Awe blew back in our national face. It’s inconceivable that any country, after having watched the best-trained, best-equipped, best-paid, best-fed, best-publicized, best-entertained armed force in the history of humanity get its turrets blown off for seven years, would be in any rush to embark on a comparable escapade.

If a war wonk like the hideous Max Boot tells you things will work out differently when a Muslim country invades Iraq, he’s trying to get his mitts on something you keep in your pants. No matter which of its neighbors might invade it, Iraq possesses at least one major religious and/or ethnic faction that will hate the new occupiers as much as they hated us, and thanks to “King David” Petraeus, every faction is armed to the canines because he bribed them all not to shoot each other by giving them all guns.

So if any of Iraq’s Sunni neighbors decide to invade them, they’ll be up to their ammo belts in Mahdi Army and Badr Brigade. If the Persian Shi’ite Iranians invade, they’ll be swarmed by more Sons of Iraq, Sahwas, Concerned Local Citizens, Very Worried Iraqis, Awakening Movers, and other Sunni militiamen than you can sheikh a stick at. If the Turks decide to attack the Kurds in northern Iraq, then… Oh, wait; they’ve already done that. In fact the Kurds in Iraq (specifically the Kurdish Workers Party) and the Turks have been in an open war with each other since 1984. We’ve barely noticed that conflict, despite having been involved in at least three (depending how you count them) Iraq wars in that time frame, one on Iraq’s side (the Iran-Iraq War) and the others – Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Desert Sword, Desert Saber, Granby, Daquet, Locust, Friction, Southern Watch, Northern Watch, Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, Infinite Justice, New Dawn, Telec, Falconer, and the rest – against Iraq.

Even if one of Iraq’s neighbors were crazy enough to want to prove it’s as crazy as we are, it couldn’t. The nations in that region simply don’t possess the kind of operational reach or strategic depth it takes to move into and occupy a country as large as Iraq for any length of time. Our Mesopotamian Mistake has nearly broken us in half economically. Imagine what a similar shenanigan would to a pismire like Syria.

That’s where arguments that the absence of U.S. military power in West Asia will lead to a widespread regional war break down. The powers in that region, to use the term “powers” generously, can’t support a war that big, no matter how many killer gizmos we sell them. Sure, there might be a temporary uptick in border skirmishing if we vacate the subcontinent, but that sort of fighting has been going on in the Muslim world since Lawrence of Arabia created the camel cavalry back in World War I.

Liz Sly tells us, “The gravest concern may be Iraq’s inability to defend its airspace.” Fortunately for Iraq, we’ve agreed to sell them 18 shiny new F-16 fighter jets for that purpose. Alas, the poor dumb Iraqi pilots won’t be able to fly the pretty things by themselves for a time so long we’re not sure just how long a time it will be. “I would say we’re five years into a 10-15 year program,” says Brig. Gen. Scott Hanson, who heads the U.S. mission in charge of training the Iraqi air force. “We’re on a glide path, but we’re not in the final stages of approach,” Brigadier Scotty adds.

What a steaming pile of wild-blue balderdash.

Conventional combat air power, specifically aerial bombing, seldom rises in significance above the tactical level of war. It is merely, to borrow from Clausewitz, a continuation of terrorism by vertical means. Once we move into the nuclear arena, post-Clausewitzian paradigms and other art-of-war mumbo jumbo kicks in and air power becomes a predominant strategic factor.

But arcane nuclear warfare theories lose relevance when you consider that only one country in the region we’re talking about is capable of delivering a nuclear air strike, and I’d just love to see Charles Krauthammer go on Fox News and explain that we need a permanent military presence in the Middle East to protect all the Muslim countries from Israel.

*Pentarchs are the oligarchs of the Pentarchy, that cabal of sandbox generals, bathtub admirals, beltway bandits, AIPAC rats, Warlord Fauntleroys, New American Centurions, Long War legislators, Dr. Strangeloves, G.I. Joe Six-Packs, Pavlov’s dogs of war, and other patriotic psychopaths whose narrow self interests and well-funded efforts have made the long dreamed-of permanent American security state a reality.

Author: Jeff Huber

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (retired), was a naval flight officer who commanded an aircraft squadron and was operations officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the carrier that fought the Kosovo War. Jeff earned a master of arts degree in post-modern imperialism at the U.S. Naval War College. His weekly satires on U.S. foreign policy high jinks are archived at his blog, Pen and Sword. Jeff's critically applauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon of America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Jeff lives with dogs in a house by the beach on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, and in the summer he has a nice tan.