Sunday, June 10, 2007

Military Talks "Post Occupation" Plans

There is now talk in military circles about a smaller "Post Occupation" force in Iraq that does not constitute a total US troop pullout, but also does not maintain current troop levels. The goal is to move roughly two-thirds of the troops out of Iraq by late 2008. (Washington Post: Military Envisions Longer Stay in Iraq.)

My readers can attest that you would be hard pressed to find a more ardent supporter of our actions in Iraq than I. Despite that unwavering support, I find it very difficult to understand the logic behind this "Post Occupation" concept. There's something we seem to have failed to learn from history. It takes roughly twenty four hours for an army of liberation to become an army of occupation. While the people welcome you with opens arms when troops enter the city to oust a tyrant, those same people awaken then next morning and ask why you're still there. That is what happened in Iraq.

In the eyes of most of the Arab world, and likely the world at large, any US troops in Iraq for the foreseeable future will be considered an occupation force. I don't care if that force is 200,000 strong or down to a mere 40,000, it will still be viewed as an army of occupation. Worse yet, with the smaller numbers projected by the end of 2008, our troops will be ill equipped to maintain any order in the areas they do occupy.

Whether or not the current situation in Iraq may be viewed as a civil war is largely semantics. The fact is, there are three faction groups engaged in a violent power struggle, each using the US military both as pawns to engage their enemy and as targets to ferment unrest. Perhaps the best course of action at this point is to allow the three factions to fight it out, then deal with the winner. Continuing to leave US troops in the middle of those three factions without any clear long term objective does not make much sense either politically or militarily.

What concerns me most about the "Post Occupation" force plan is what appears to be a lack of long range planning. Arguably, that has plagued us from the start, but to suggest at this point that we can discuss post occupation while maintaining a troop presence there is ludicrous. It would seem to me that we are merely setting up our troops to be even more of a target for the various insurgencies without giving them sufficient manpower to safeguard their own positions. As supportive as I've been of our actions in Iraq, I do not see how it is possible to support this "Post Occupation" plan without the prerequisites of a stable Iraqi government, a strong Iraqi military force, a strong Iraqi police force, and an end to the insurgency that is currently plaguing the region. Until those prerequisites are met, there is no "Post" anything.

The troop reduction plans as stated appear to be more political than anything. It's not coincidental that the target listed was late 2008. As I recall, that would be right around the next presidential election. It is bad enough that our troops are currently being used as political pawns by the three warring factions in Iraq. Let's make absolutely certain that they are not used as political pawns here in the US. Our troops deserve far better than that. They deserve our support and Congressional funding sufficient to do the job. Most importantly, however, they deserve a clearly thought out long term plan that includes achievable objectives that justify their deployment into a war zone. When I hear this latest "Post Occupation" nonsense, I have to wonder how far removed we are from the latter.

1 comment :

Silas Scarborough said...

We're simply going to have to stop agreeing with each other. It's unseemly! Nevertheless, it's true. If it walks like a duck, it's probably an occupation force surrounded by yet more semantic flim-flam. Iran will probably occupy Iraq after the U.S. leaves and it will be interesting to see what happens when the Iranians try it.