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?