Small Wars Journal

The war in Iraq isn't over... (updated)

... the main events may not even have happened yet. By Tom Ricks at the Washington Post.

... I don't think the Iraq war is over, and I worry that there is more to come than any of us suspect.

A smaller but long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq is probably the best we can hope for. The thought of having small numbers of U.S. troops dying for years to come in the country's deserts and palm groves isn't appealing, but it appears to be better than either being ejected or pulling out -- and letting the genocidal chips fall where they may.

Almost every American official I interviewed in Iraq over the past three years agreed. "This is not a campaign that can be won in one or two years," said Col. Peter Mansoor, who was Gen. David H. Petraeus's executive officer during much of the latter's tour in Iraq. "The United States has got to be —to underwrite this effort for many, many years to come. I can't put it in any brighter colors than that." ...

More at The Washington Post.


Ken White

Sun, 02/15/2009 - 1:14am

I read that article and noticed some of the dichotomies Schmedlap cites. Thought about it for a bit, decided the probable answer was the guy wrote a book titled "<i>Fiasco</i>" about a military operation he did not fully understand and which was not a fiasco, it just had some to be expected problems and the usual crop of wartime unexpected problems. In any event, said book sold well -- a large number of people opposed to the war (as was and is said author) bought the book to confirm their darkest suspicions. Read a friend's copy and decided I didn't need it for my military history collection.

Not sure of the literary protocol, but I suspect that having sold a book to other believers and being unsure a follow on book which would seem to contravene the earlier book might not sell as well, the intent of the article was to state the obvious as negatively as possible and confirm fiascoization as a truth...


Sat, 02/14/2009 - 7:54pm

<I>"President Obama campaigned on withdrawing from Iraq...

...many Americans seem to think that the war, or at least our part in it, is close to being wrapped up.</I>

I wonder if there is a correlation there? Maybe there is a lesson to be learned in there, somewhere.

Writing about a potential long-term presence in Iraq, Ricks points out that such a presence is likely and then gives a downbeat forecast for such an endeavor. He then writes...

<I>"Almost every American official I interviewed in Iraq over the past three years agreed."</I>

I don't mean to sound like an English teacher nitpicking my students, but that sentence is an incredibly vague statement. To use such a vague statement to reinforce his point really makes me wonder about just how universal this view is that he is espousing. I am ever more suspicious because his forecast paragraph followed allusions to fallen empires of the past and a suggestion that we're next in line.

Does he mean that those American officials agreed at some point in the last three years? I can't help but suspect that many people have changed their views since 2006.
Or does he mean that he recently had a reunion with all of the officials whom he's talked to in the last three years and asked their opinions, given recent changes in the situation?
And what makes someone an "official"? Being a flag officer or being someone who leaks information devoid of context to the media because it makes him feel special?

More importantly, what is it that they agree on? The statement of universal agreement follows a paragraph that has some generally accepted ideas and Ricks' dour assessment of the situation based upon those ideas. Most people can agree on some of the ideas, but vehemently disagree on the argument drawn from them. Do the "officials" agree with some or all of the ideas? That seems plausible. Do they agree with his assessment of those ideas? Given the downbeat manner in which he presents the ideas, rather than simply stating them, I highly doubt this.

Some would assert that a <I>"smaller but long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq"</I> is a measure of progress, especially since such a presence is unlikely to occur without the approval of the democratically elected GoI. Ricks casts it as <I>"probably the best we can hope for."</I> He forecasts this long term presence as one of potentially <I>"small numbers of U.S. troops dying for years to come"</I>. Is this supposed to connect the dots in the historical parallel that he draws between the US and the Roman Empire in the first two paragraphs of the article? That dour forecast for Iraq of <I>"small numbers of U.S. troops dying for years to come"</I> happens to be an accurate description of the past 4 years of our presence in Kuwait (over 30 non-combat deaths in Kuwait since 2004). Of course, describing Kuwait in that way would earn you some weird looks, even with the facts to back you up.

What is it that these "officials" agreed with Ricks on? Did they agree with Ricks' downbeat forecast of how a likely long-term presence in Iraq will unfold - or merely agree that there would be a presence? And when did this agreement take place - recently, or over a three year period? As the situation changes, opinions tend to change with them, at least among most of us.