Monday, July 02, 2007

Permanent Bases

Once again, the Democrats are looking to ban pursuit of permanent military bases in Iraq. Good luck to them, they'll need plenty of it.

John Kerry and other Democratic war critics have been calling for the Bush administration to deny any ambitions for permanent bases for years, and for years, the Bush administration has refused to make any such denials. Why do you suppose that is?

You can choose to believe this or not, but the paper trail of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century clearly indicates that the aims of the Iraq invasion were to establish a military base of operations in the center of the Middle East from which the U.S. could control the flow of oil and protect its friends in the region. And, as Thomas Donnelly, a defense specialist with the American Enterprise Institute stated in late 2004, "The operational advantages of US bases in Iraq should be obvious for other power-projection missions in the region."

From a purely military point of view, establishing a large base of operations in Iraq makes perfect strategic sense, and at this point in the Mesopotamia experiment, giving up on establishing that base makes little sense at all, at least if you're one of the strategists who originally came up with the idea.

The administration and its supporters can't come right out and tell us what they're really up to. That would goon the whole deal. That's why they continually remind us of the theoretical "dire" consequences of a complete withdrawal from Iraq--mass genocide, regional war, terrorists get control of the oil, etc. The truth be told, however, to the movers and shakers behind the Iraq policy, the most dire consequence of not keeping permanent bases in Iraq is not having permanent bases in Iraq.

Thus it is that the Bush strategy in Iraq has morphed into a series of stall tactics designed to keep American militarily engaged in that country until the next administration comes along and sees that it has no choice but to stay the course. The "surge" strategy, designed and sold by neocon luminary Frederick Kagan, appears to have come up bust by most estimates, but it actually served its purpose. It bought eight months or more of commitment and funding for Iraq operations as well as time to come up with the next "plan." That plan, which the Pentagon once labeled "go long," is now described by Defense Secretary Robert Gates as the "Korean model."

The Korean model, in essence, describes a troop presence of tens of thousands or more for multiple decades. Where else are those troops going to base out of than permanent bases? And if the point of maintaining troops in Iraq is "further power-projection missions in the region," those bases will have to be big enough and numerous enough to support a whole bunch more troops the next time we need to call for a surge.

There's More Where That Came From

If we're going to maintain a 30,000 something troop presence in Iraq for the indefinite future, we'll need a much larger Army, especially if we continue to keep our enclaves in Europe and Asia at their present levels. If we want to maintain the ability to do further power projection missions in the Middle East, and do them with any frequency, we'll probably need a draft.

Many, including many on the left of the political spectrum, are in favor of a "universal national service draft," one that will not only provide the number of military personnel we need but that will shore up other public service organizations. I'm against that for several reasons, some of which have to do with constitutionality. A universal conscription would amount to making national service a condition of citizenship, and I can't see how that jibes with the 14th Ammendment, which grants citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the U.S.

More importantly, though, a "national service" draft would mainly be a "military" draft. The military would get first choice of the nation's 18 year olds, and the draft wouldn't be any fairer than any other military draft we've had. Rifle humpers would come from the same demographic they've always come from. The likes of the Bush twins will "fight" aids in Africa or serve cocktails onboard Texas Air National Guard logistics flights.

But draft or no draft, or whatever the nature of that draft, do we really want to commit our nation to a long-term course of action designed to control oil flow? Do we really want to invest more American blood and treasure to ensure that Dick Cheney's big oil pals have a say in what happens to Iraqi oil revenues?

This is the elephant in the middle of the room nobody wants to talk about, but it's the crux of what this is all about, folks. Mr. Bush exhorted us recently that we must make energy independence a top strategic priority, and yet he continues to push on a strategic path designed to ensure we have access to a resource we claim to not want to need?


  1. Anonymous1:41 AM

    One of the best articles by a military man.

  2. John Shreffler8:46 AM


    The Korean model soon to be on offer is the runaway scrape back to Pusan in August 1950. The current one-star talking parrot in Baghdad (who just showed up last month in-theater after a long, happy tour as a White House NSC official) has effectively announced a pretext for bombing Iran, with the noise about al-Quds and Hizbullah having masterminded the Karbala snatch-and-snuff back last January. Those bases have the life expectancy of Alexander the Great's outpost line on the Indus River.

  3. I believe the sabre-rattling in Iran's direction is only to change the subject off Iraq. I just don't see Cheney figuring on reaping any big benefit out of actually attacking Iran; their main purpose is to be the Boogeyman.

    The draft, in some form or other, will probably come back. My kids are 9, 7, 5, and 1. They can have 'em when they pry my cold dead fingers off the barrel, unless things in this country change a whole helluva lot between now and 2016...!

  4. Jeff: I enjoy your blog. Two comments on today's blog. I disagree with you about the need for a draft. If we had a draft today, there would be no war in Iraq. It is only because that war affects so few people directly that it can go on and on without any large protests. If all the soccer moms felt their kids were at risk a they would be with the draft, the streets would have been overflowing with protests. The draft was done away with so that we could fight wars on the sly.
    I also disagree with you as to the identity of the big elephant in the room. It is not oil. It is Israel. The neo-cons first and foremost objective is the protection of Israel. For them, the Iraq invasion has been a great success because Iraq was perceived as a threat to Israel (Saddam giving money to suicide bombers) and no matter what happens from now on with Iraq it won't threaten Israel for decades.
    The only threat now left is Iran. The only glitch in the crippling of Iraq is that parts of it are being influenced by Iran. Their goal now is to bring Iran down a notch or two and again getting breathing room for Israel. The neo-cons have no problem sacrificing American lives and money to protect Israel.
    Read the recent article by Norman Podhoretz on the Case for Bombing Iran. He ends by stating: "It now remains to be seen whether this President, . . . will find it possible to take the only action that can stop Iran from following through on its evil intentions both toward us and toward Israel. See also,

  5. yet he continues to push on a strategic path designed to ensure we have access to a resource we claim to not want to need?

    Technology change over doesn't happen instantly -- even if a viable new technology is available today at reasonable cost.

  6. Bases are a matter of some psychological importance to many an ardent OIF supporter. Over the years, as the prospect of succeeding in Iraq has waned, those bases have come to occupy a special place in the imagination. Call it the Being There theory of war, after the Peter Sellers movie about a mentally retarded gardener, withdrawn from and blithely uncomprehending of the world beyond his carefully tended patch of earth.

    Thing is, if you can't succeed, or even swing a decent armistice, you can't establish that much-desired long-term presence. Absent outright success or a decent armistice, there is no Korea-model to be had in Iraq. There is simply...more tar baby.

    Shame on Gates for positively acknowledging the perfectly inane, and for providing yet more proof that his belligerent and stupid predecessor was canned for reasons purely political - not, ahem, strategical.

  7. Funny, though, that the armchair Shermans and rec-room Pattons should find a wholesale retreat and good long stay behind the wire, in the midst of a failed endeavor, so enticing.

    As someone I can't remember put it, "Cognitive dissonance: It's not just a river in Egypt."

  8. european5:52 PM

    Doesn't it ever occur to you lot to think of anyone's interests only your own? Don't Iraqis have as much right to freedom independence and self-determination as you have? What makes you think you can talk about the Middle East as if you already own it? How can the US defend upgrading its nuclear arsenal while insisting that Iran has no right to a bomb? Who told you you run the world?
    Not us -- the other 95% of the population of this planet.
    Your arrogance is beyond belief.

  9. Point taken, european.


  10. Anonymous6:00 PM

    Commander Jeff, it seems to me that just 4 days ago, we celebrated the 231st anniversary of our OWN insurgency. HOW SOON WE FORGET!!

  11. Hello.

    I certainly agree that the draft could never be "fair" and thus it is unworkable.

    Would you be willing to spread the word about It's a site dedicated to shattering the myths surrounding the selective slavery system and building mass civil disobedience to stop the draft before it starts.

    Our banner on a website, printing and posting the anti-draft flyer or just telling friends would help.


    Scott Kohlhaas

    PS. When it comes to conscription, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

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