Sunday, October 25, 2009

All Things Neocon

Despite the public relations campaign that has so many folks convinced the surge in Iraq was a success, the country is still a zoo. It has been almost three years since the surge strategy was announced and David Petraeus was installed as commander in Iraq. As Professor and retired Army officer Andrew Bacevich puts it, Iraq is “now bizarrely trumpeted in some quarters as a ‘success’ and even more bizarrely seen as offering a template for how to turn Afghanistan around.”

Explosions in central Baghdad on Sunday killed at least 25 people and wounded 40. Gen. Ray Odierno now in charge of the war in Iraq, says he may not be able to stick to the withdrawal timeline because of the increasing violence, and he thinks the insurgency may go on in that country for another five, ten or 15 years. Political reconciliation, the objective of the surge, has not taken place. The Iraqis can’t even pass election laws. The government and security forces are corrupt and incompetent. Our $700 million embassy in Baghdad has “considerable construction deficiencies” according to the State Department’s Inspector General’s Office.

Ain’t nothing going on right in Iraq.

As complex as things are in Iraq, they’re simple as pie compared to how things are in Afghanistan. It’s difficult to say what President Obama will decide regarding future troop deployments there. The media blitz underway by Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his allies to pressure Obama into a major escalation may be too much for Obama to stand up to politically. If we double or triple the numbers of troops we have in Afghanistan, we’ll be in a more inextricable situation than the one we have in Iraq.

Stan McChrystal’s flying-circus plan to conduct a “classic” counterinsurgency in Afghanistan will never work. Regardless of the results of the runoff election, Afghanistan’s government will remain more crooked than Iraq’s. The closest thing Afghanistan has to a legitimate government is the Taliban, and we’re not going to defeat them. They live there. They have nowhere else to go. We, on the other hand, do have a place to go: home to the States.

Preserve NATO? Not.

I never dreamt I’d support an idea of Joe Biden’s, but his proposal to adopt for a small-footprint, counter-terror strategy makes a ton of sense. That’s all we need to do if the objective is to keep al Qaeda on the run. If there is another reason for being in that part of the world that has to do with national security, I’d love to hear it.

Please don’t tell me we need to occupy Afghanistan to keep terrorists from getting their mitts on Pakistan’s nukes. If we’re worried about that happening we can blow up Pakistan’s nukes. Suitcase nukes made from fissile material taken from weapons are an urban myth. A Soviet colonel claimed the USSR had hidden suitcase sized nuclear devices throughout the U.S., but nobody’s ever actually seen one. The technical difficulties involved are enormous. Terrorists will build a suitcase nuke about the time they design a hand-held photon torpedo.

An malevolent argument exists that if, by divine intervention, we ever do withdraw from Iraq, we’ll need to have troops in another country that borders Iran so we can invade it too if we decide to. I highly suspect neocon war wonk Fred Kagan suggested this very idea to McChrystal as they worked together on McChrystal’s leaked assessment of Afghanistan. But if we ever decide to whack Iran, we’ll do it from the air, not with boots on the ground.

The non-proliferation process with Iran seems to be progressing. Our politicians and media continue to muddy the waters on the subject of Iran’s nuclear program, and there are many in this country—mostly the same wrecking crew responsible for Iraq and Afghanistan—who want to see the process fail (See, we tried diplomacy and it didn’t work).

We’ve been threatening Iran with attacks for years. It has good reason to be wary of us, and of and our ally Israel. Inspectors are visiting the Qom site that we accuse Iran of keeping secret after it had already revealed its existence. They’ve made a counterproposal to the offer to let Russia upgrade the majority of their uranium for medical purposes. (It will still be far below weapons grade quality.)

The neoconservatives and the Pentagon were beside themselves when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down? How would they justify their budgets? The neocons came up with a plan to turn the Middle East into a mini-Cold War, something they could keep going for another fifty years. Iran plays the role of East Germany, a low level threat that justifies keeping conventional forces in the region (well, “justifies” in the minds of the warmongery). Neocon tank thinkers would like to go back to the big-Cold War too, or something close to it.

That’s the other angle on preserving NATO and occupying Afghanistan. It shoves a stick in Russia’s eye. The neos would love nothing better than to taunt Russia into embarking on another arms race with. That won’t happen; the Russians spend about ten percent as much as we do on defense and the U.S. and its western allies account for roughly 90 percent of the world’s arms sales. The Russians can never catch up; they won’t try. The same holds true for the Chinese who also have a defense budget about ten percent the size of ours.

As long as there’s a NATO, and as long as it keeps encroaching into the former Soviet satellites, the more the Russian regime will need to worry about an invasion from the west (they had a bad spot of that in the last century.) That’s why the war mob howled like banshees when Obama decided to cancel Bush’s deal to put a missile defense system that won’t work into Poland and the Czech Republic. That would have put U.S. troops on the ground one country away from Russia’s border (we could go through Belarus from Poland. They wouldn’t put up a lot of fight.)

Afghanistan fits in nicely with the neocon grand strategy, which is essentially to occupy as much of the world as we possibly can. The reason for invading Iraq had nothing to do with terror or weapons of mass destruction or even Saddam Hussein. He was just a convenient excuse. Invading Iraq gave us a global-strategic coup, a base of operations in the center of the oil rich Gulf Region from we could attack just about anybody else we wanted and enjoy internal lines of communication. That’s why the long warriors keep digging their heels in on Iraqi withdrawal dates. Odierno is on record as wanting to keep 30,000 or more G.I.s there well past the December 2011 deadline called for in the Status of Forces Agreement.

The more we give in to the agenda of a very bad group of people who should have been discredited years ago, the more difficult it will become to turn back from the path they have set us on.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.


  1. " He (General Odierno) thinks the insurgency may go on in that country for another five, ten or 15 years"

    This is truly wishful thinking on the part of Odierno.

    A general with no wars is like a carpenter with no nails. Endless building booms are great for carpenters, if you can get them.

    The taxpayers have way too many generals like Odierno, and way too many "wars" and their endless busy-ness.

  2. "The closest thing Afghanistan has to a legitimate government is the Taliban, and we’re not going to defeat them. They live there. They have nowhere else to go. We, on the other hand, do have a place to go: home to the States."

    The British colonists of North America were evidently able to defeat the natives who lived here.

    The American natives also lived here, they had nowhere else to go, and the closest thing the native Americans had to a legitimate national (continental) government was warring tribes, and mini-nations which were regional in scope at maximum.

    Jeff, I'll claim you've actually described many of the essential conditions for success, maybe not for imperial success, as the British father country got kicked out of North America, but for colonial success.

    And I make no claim who the colonists will identify with as a nation other than themselves.

  3. GA,

    Our experience with out natives was quite a bit different from what we're doing overseas now. We were here to stay.


  4. Not a suitcase bomb, but small h/t wikipedia

    The W48 was 846 mm long and weighed 58 kg; it could be fitted in a 155 mm M-45 AFAP (artillery fired atomic projectile) and used in a more standard 155 mm howitzer. The fission warhead was a linear implosion type, consisting of a long cylinder of subcritical mass which is compressed and shaped by explosive into a supercritical sphere. The W48 yielded just 72 tons TNT equivalent.

  5. Would you consider Germany, Korea, Alaska, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico to be more worthy of a very long US visit than Iraq and Afghanistan? I mean worthy in terms of military presence and natural resources.

    We're here to stay. Staying here is the whole point. There is no war to win.

  6. Yeah, ain’t nothing going on right in Iraq.

    All this time I've been convinced that the Iraq occupation was about co-opting its oil reserves. Maybe it was, but if so the long warriors have shown that they can't even get that right.

    Not that the Iraqis don't deserve to sell their oil to anyone they damn well please, or that the Chinese don't deserve to buy it. Hell, since they're the ones financing America's Iraq boondoggle (or is it Boone-doggle), I can't think of anyone more deserving.

    But the attitude on display in Pickens' testimony is sickening.

    "They're opening them (oil fields) up to other companies all over the world ... We're entitled to it," Pickens said of Iraq's oil. "Heck, we even lost 5,000 of our people, 65,000 injured and a trillion, five hundred billion dollars."

    All the hubris that characterizes American foreign policy is on display in that one quote. Yeah, we “lost” 5000 of our people (actually, Boone, I don't think it would be all that hard to find them, or what's left of them, if you looked). It just kind of “happened,” huh?

    No mention of how many people Iraq lost, or that such an accounting might even matter.

    It's official, I'm ashamed to be an American.

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