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 theU.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.
How many fingers is commander in chief Obama holding up? He has flushed every one of his promises to wind down our wars all the way to the mess tent, yet he insists that we nod in eager agreement when he tells us he’s keeping them.
Like many citizens, I voted for Obama twice. When he won the party nomination from Hillary Clinton, I thought, “Ding! Dong!” When he won the election, I sacrificed a cigar to my Maker in thanks for Him not allowing one of the planet’s most dangerous lunatics to become its most powerful head of state.
Then Obama announced he’d keep Uncle Bob Gates and “King David” Petraeus and Michael “Moon” Mullen and the rest of the Pentagon’s Long Warriors on the job and I thought, “Uh oh!” Then he appointed Hillary to become secretary of state and my thoughts began to contain adult language.
I made the sound of one hand slapping a forehead when Ray “Desert Ox” Odierno announced in February 2009 (via Petraeus hagiographer and former journalist Tom Ricks) that he wanted to see a U.S. force of “around 30,000 or so” skulking about smartly in Iraq until 2014 or 2015, well beyond the status of forces agreement (SOFA) deadline for all U.S. troops to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. Odie’s projected occupation schedule also busted all withdrawal promises either Candidate or President Obama had made, but the White House chose to let Odie’s insubordination go without reprimand.
Few people took note of Odie’s open defiance of an international agreement and an order from the top of his chain of command, but that’s almost understandable. You need to construct a timeline to figure out what promise Obama made when, when he changed it, what he changed it to, and which promise he was breaking when he claimed to have kept it. Obama tells us these days that the redeployment of the last “combat brigade” from Iraq fulfills the promise he made while stalking his present office. But what was that promise, exactly?
Somewhere along the firing line, “our troops” became our “combat” troops, then our combat brigades became “training and assistance” brigades and their combat mission went into “re-mission” and morphed into “stability operations.” The next thing you know, our troops will transmogrify into goodwill divas on an extended farewell tour.
Michael R. Gordon of the New York Times, who made his bones with the neocons when he and Judith Miller helped Dick Cheney pander the Niger-gate hoax, tells us in an Aug. 19 article that “By October 2011, the State Department will assume responsibility for training the Iraqi police, a task that will largely be carried out by contractors. With no U.S. soldiers to defuse sectarian tensions in northern Iraq, it will be up to U.S. diplomats in two new $100 million outposts to head off potential confrontations between the Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga forces.”
The “diplomats of fortune” will no doubt come from whatever Blackwater Inc. happens to be calling itself at the time, and they will almost certainly provide other “stability services,” like “preserving” the aforementioned $100 million outposts and “enabling” Iraqi soldiers on “social services and fact gathering” missions and “ensuring the enhanced cooperation of guests of the government.”
But it’s not like the sad sacks from State and their mercenary bodyguards are expected to replace active-duty military troops altogether come January 2012. The U.S. Air Force has long-standing plans to stick around and help Iraqi pilots fly the F-16s we agreed to sell them. I can’t wait to hear Pentarchy* spin physicians explain that it’s okay for the Air Force to be in Iraq after the deadline because Air Force discipline is so lax it isn’t really a military service. That would at least be in line with what the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps have been saying for decades. But expect representatives from the other branches to keep their wild blue Bubbas company in Iraq after the SOFA nods out.
Petraeus’s lapdog-of-war Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Iraq, tells us via access-poisoned Gordon that now matter how good the State Department turns out to be at running its first war (freaking heh!), it’s important for the U.S. military to maintain a “presence” in Iraq because, um, um, um… because it will encourage Iraq’s generals to stay out of politics. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Crocker is so full of gas he could airlift the Statue of Liberty back to France. Does he honestly expect anyone to believe that there’s a general on the planet who isn’t a politician?
Crocker says that if the Iraqis ask us to stay past the December 2011 SOFA deadline, “It is going to be in our strategic interest to be responsive.” The Iraqis are already asking us to stay, one of the most notable among them being Lt. Gen. Babaker Zebari, who became chief of staff of the Iraqi army by virtue of his political skills. Zebari says his forces won’t be ready to defend his country until 2020 at the earliest, even though determining what nation on earth would be bull goose loony enough to invade Iraq after watching the world’s “best-trained, best-equipped” military get its brass handed to it there is beyond the pale of cogent imagining.
Crocker had plainly been nipping at the talking-points bottle when Gordon interviewed him. “We need to have strategic patience here,” he said. Strategic patience. That’s quite clever. That’s a crisp one. What won’t those neocon think-tankers dream up next? Operational aplomb? Tactical sangfroid?
As I’ve watched the never ending war story unfold over the past 20 months, and cringed every time Obama played slut puppy for the Pentarchs, I’ve sought solace in the reflection that at least Pops McCrackers and Tea-Bag Barbie aren’t in the White House.
Alack the day, though. I’ve arrived at the conclusion that we might be better off if Obama had lost the election. Sure, we’d still be stuck in Iraq forever if McCain had won; but we might not be in the same boat in Afghanistan.
And yeah, Bob Gates would still be on the job as well as Mullen and Petraeus and Odierno. But Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be secretary of state.
And yep, Sarah Palin would be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office, but Joe Biden wouldn’t.
The good news is that Defense Secretary Bob Gates is going to save money by shutting down Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) in Virginia. The bad news, as the New York Times reports, is that the White House says the money Gates saves will free money that can be “better spent on war fighting.”
Egad. That’s like selling off your garage full of vintage sports cars so you can blow the money on booze and hookers.
Actually, it’s more like selling the cars plus taking out a loan to finance your booze and hooker habit, because Gates’s thrift measures will result in a net defense spending increase; the 2011 budget will top $700 billion, and that just counts the defense dollars spent by the Pentagon. Throw in the Homeland Security budget and the defense-related items from all the other cabinet departments’ budgets, plus the interest owed on money borrowed to fight our wars and the interest on the accrued interest, and pretty soon, to channel the late Sen. Everett Dirksen, you’re talking real money.
That’s not to say that making JFCOM fade away isn’t an overdue measure. A descendant of the once-proud Atlantic Command that fought the Battle of the Atlantic against Hitler’s U-Boat force in World War II, JFCOM (pronounced “jiffcom”) was a boil in dismal need of lancing.
JFCOM is America’s premier military-industrial welfare program. JFCOM directly employs 2,800 civilians and active-duty military members, and is supported by over 3,000 contractors. It openly advertises itself as the gateway where prospective defense contractors can climb aboard the cash caisson.
The keel of this gravy boat is JFCOM’s “battle laboratory” directorate, a massive conflict-of-interest Ponzi scheme in which retired military defense contractors work hand-in-pocket with soon-to-retire active-duty types who hope to go to work for defense contractors to “test” favored doctrines and weapons systems. The war games get rigged to produce the desired results, appropriation bills are passed, contracts are signed, and the wild blue budget continues to soar.
The most notorious of these pre-fabricated battle “experiments” was Millennium Challenge 2002 (MC02). MC02 purported to simulate a war with one of the powers in the Persian Gulf. Initially, the play-enemy commander, retired Marine Lt. Gen. Paul van Riper, used low-tech, asymmetrical tactics to pull off a David-spanks-Goliath victory by tucking the U.S. Navy in with the fishes. The game gurus didn’t like having their network-centric warfare dogma and shock-and-awe gizmology defeated by a dollop of cunning and a pinch of common sense. So they screeched “What a world!” and halted the game, and cast a spell that re-floated the fleet, and changed the rules so they couldn’t lose.
The next year, America unleashed its network-centric shock and awe on Iraq and we’ve been getting our baby-makers stomped by guile and sagacity ever since.
According to Gates’s “savings” plan, JFCOM’s responsibilities will be “reassigned.” That shouldn’t be too difficult.
We can easily find other places to fritter the money we presently blow on JFCOM. Its annual operating budget of $704 million won’t even finance half a week’s worth of our fire drill in Afghanistan, which in fiscal year 2010 will cost about $105 billion, roughly $287 million per day. In FY 2011, Afghanistan will weigh in at $117 billion. And, of course, JFCOM’s budget barely amounts to one tenth of 1 percent of the aforementioned 2011 defense budget.
JFCOM’s civilian and military government employees can’t lose their jobs; they won’t miss a paycheck as they transfer to another unit or agency. And there’s enough gold mother’s milk sloshing around the Commonwealth of Virginia to keep JFCOM’s 3,000 contractors from starving. In 2009, Virginia firms won more than 60,000 government contracts worth over $51 billion, an amount roughly 72 times greater than JFCOM’s entire operating budget and enough to finance almost six months of the Afghanistan war.
If you wonder how Gates considers axing JFCOM to be a serious step at reining in the defense budget, keep in mind that he’s been arguing for months that, as the New York Times puts it, “if Congress and the public allow the Pentagon budget to grow by 1 percent a year, he can find 2 percent or 3 percent in savings within the department’s bureaucracy to reinvest in the military.” That’s the sort of line you’d use to sell encyclopedias door to door in a trailer park.
JFCOM’s counterfeit battle lab function can be absorbed by institutions like the U.S. Naval War College, which already runs a jiggered exercise each summer called theGlobal War Game. Here’s the sort of thing that went on at the Global Game during the Cold War:
The chief umpire, a member of the faculty, would ask the admiral in charge of the game, who was also the president of the college and hence the umpire’s boss, how many aircraft carriers he thought the U.S. would lose in a war with the Soviets. The admiral would say “two or three.” So the result became three lost carriers if the dice rolled odd and two if the dice rolled even. Hence, the Global War Game “proved” that the U.S. would only lose two or three of its 12 or so aircraft carriers in World War III.
We no longer need a battle lab of any kind to figure out how to trap ourselves into inextricable wars of invisible merit. The Long War may have become a permanentcomponent of the American psyche. The warmongery has so desensitized the populace to the realities of war that no one is paying particular attention to urgent notices that Obama’s withdrawal timelines for Iraq and Afghanistan have gone the way of dial-up Internet connections. Club Combat spokesmodels aren’t even bothering to offer coherent arguments why we need to stay in those two sinkholes.
In a twitty analysis for the New York Times, Tim Arango says we may not pull out of Iraq “because many American and Iraqi officials deem the American presence to be in each nation’s interest.” The officials he cites are former ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, Gen. Ray “Desert Ox” Odierno, and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, all of whom have a personal stake in continuing the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Arango also references Joe Biden, which journalistically is akin to quoting a stoned parrot and identifying him as a “senior official.”
Plus, the cost of the Iraq war has plummeted to a bargain-basement price of $183 million per day, making it cheaper than the Afghanistan conflict. So, by Gates’s fuzzy accounting methods, we can’t afford not to stay in Iraq, huh?
Neocon jackanapes Josef Joffe boldly insists that we need to “stay forever” in Afghanistan, even though he baldly confesses the conflict is “indecisive” and “a difficult war of choice” in which our interests are “remote” and “abstract.” But “once we go in,” Joffe insists, “we have to be willing to stay sine die” (i.e., until brown cows give chocolate milk). Sure, it sounds loopy, but throwing good tax dollars after bad on ill-advised high jinks abroad is a core tenet of neoconservative grand strategy. “King David” Petraeus, who has dictated U.S. foreign policy since young Mr. Bush put him in charge of it, told NBC fop David Gregory on Sunday that he won’t seek a “graceful exit” from Afghanistan, which means he won’t seek an exit of any kind from Afghanistan, so staying there forever is a fait accompli (i.e., bend over and try to relax).
It’s thanks to the persuasions of Pentarchs* like Joffe and Petraeus that we Americans, who spend more on defense than the rest of the world combined, are, of our own volition, engaged with foes who have no defense budget at all in a contest to see who can urinate on a car battery the longest.