The Obama White House and the Pentagon are moving heaven and earth to keep a substantial military presence in Iraq. That includes four giant air bases, 20,000 or multi-capable troops, and a host of CIA operatives complemented by the usual assortment of hirelings.
What is the strategic purpose? The administration has not leveled with us about their aims. Nonetheless, they are easily inferred:
1. To serve as part of the cordon encircling Iran able to support coercive diplomacy and possibly coercive force itself. They are not there to defend Iraq from Iran (the cover story) since the Iraqi leadership itself has no fear of an attack. I don’t recall Saddam and Khomeini walking hand-in-hand in Tehran gardens.
2. To serve as a component of the base network extending from the Gulf well into Central Asia. That conforms to the “full spectrum dominance” concept that seeks to dominate militarily every global region. Mission? Anything and everything. Cost concerns? Austerity doesn’t play when national security is at stake.
3. To serve as leverage to influence domestic Iraqi politics and policy. The Pentagon has been relentless is currying favor with the new Iraqi army which is seen as their card in the political game. Some factions in the Iraqi army want the US to stick around so as to guarantee a smooth flow of aid. A few even see this as a national need as opposed to a strictly private one since currently they are outgunned by the Kurdish Peshmega. The Kurds, of course, want us around to serve as a check on the Arab government in Baghdad. How to reconcile these last two? Well, Washington has a genius for inventive methods to square circles -- even if their record to date is one of perfect failure.
4. The advertised notion that a substantial American military force on Iraqi soil plays a complementary role to our viceregal embassy in ensuring domestic political stability is spin without empirical or logical foundation. The United States has been the catalyst to the civil strife that has bedeviled the country for the last eight years. We are not a mollifying element. Internal conflicts have their own dynamic. In addition, most Iraqis despise us – a factor contributing to fraught conditions and making any residual American personnel natural targets.
There is an old blues tune made famous by Mississippi John Hurt:
“I’m just a poor boy far from home,
and I don’t got no friends.
So please..please let me stay the night.”
(I’m afraid of those Persians lurking in the dark)
(Professor Michael Brenner teaches at the University of Texas, Austin, and at the University of Pittsburgh. He can be reached at: email@example.com)