Sunday, June 03, 2007

Bush Plan - 50,000 Troops In Permanent Iraq Bases

By Cernig

Here's interesting. It was David Sanger at the NY Times who last weekend floated the "Iraq as the new South Korea" trial balloon for the Bush administration, under cover of a piece about troop reductions. Now he's back this weekend, with a bit more detail on what that would entail.
President Bush has long talked about the need to maintain an American military presence in the region, without saying exactly where. Several visitors to the White House say that in private, he has sounded intrigued by what he calls the “Korea model,” a reference to the large American presence in South Korea for the 54 years since the armistice that ended open hostilities between North and South.

But it was not until Wednesday that Mr. Bush’s spokesman, Tony Snow, publicly reached for the Korea example in talking about Iraq — setting off an analogy war between the White House and critics who charged that the administration was again disconnected from the realities of Iraq. He said Korea was one way to think about how America’s mission could evolve into an “over-the-horizon support role,” whenever American troops are no longer patrolling the streets of Baghdad.

The next day, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates also mentioned Korea, saying that establishing a long-term American garrison there was a lot smarter than the handling of Vietnam, “where we just left lock, stock and barrel.” He added that “the idea is more a model of a mutually agreed arrangement whereby we have a long and enduring presence but under the consent of both parties and under certain conditions.”

Korea is an attractive analogy for the Bush White House for a host of reasons: a half-century later, South Korea is a raucous democracy and one of the world’s biggest economies. The North is a broken, isolated state, though one that, improbably, has not only survived for more than 50 years but has built a small nuclear arsenal.

But Korea is also the kind of analogy that stokes the fears of those who see Iraq leading to unending war. The model suggests a near-permanent presence in Iraq, though presumably with far fewer troops than the nearly 150,000 now in place.

...Administration officials and top military leaders declined to talk on the record about their long-term plans in Iraq. But when speaking on a not-for-attribution basis, they describe a fairly detailed concept. It calls for maintaining three or four major bases in the country, all well outside of the crowded urban areas where casualties have soared. They would include the base at Al Asad in Anbar Province, Balad Air Base about 50 miles north of Baghdad, and Tallil Air Base in the south.

“They are all places we could fly in and out of without putting Americans on every street corner,” said one senior official deeply involved in the development of Iraq strategy. “And our mission would be very different — making sure that Al Qaeda doesn’t turn Iraq into a base the way it turned Afghanistan into one.”
Sanger has thus, neatly, set out the administration's talking points for them. Holding out the hope of a successful Iraq - eventually - by anaology with a country that isn't Vietnam, a hand-off support role by "mutual consent" with its primary mission being Al Qaida in Iraq, a few bases and far fewer troops. There's the almost inevitable appeal to the ISG: "a long-term presence is envisioned by many experts, and it has been raised as a possibility by the Baker-Hamilton Commission" - even though it was a policy very far from the preferrences of the ISG. Sanger also notes that Bush favors the extreme Right's revisionist historical narrative on Vietnam, sure to become a major appeal to emotion for this new/old plan:
Mr. Bush himself has made clear, while in Hanoi late last year for a summit meeting, that he believes America’s mistake in Vietnam was that it gave up too early. “We’ll succeed unless we quit” he told a small group of reporters who asked him what lessons he drew for Iraq.
As for objections to this plan as being sheer idiocy that ignores the very real differences between South Korea and Iraq - the primary one being that the latter is a fractured nation where bases are likely to become daily target practise for nationalist armed groups and militias - they are mentioned, for balance' sake, but with some carefully constructed baggage.
In a Democratic-controlled Congress, which continues to press for a troop withdrawal deadline, talk of permanent bases is not welcome, though many Democrats acknowledge that the United States cannot simply leave Iraq in chaos. Nor is the idea popular in the Middle East, though some countries are desperate for a strategic counterweight to Iran’s growing power.

Critics on the left who have argued for years that the Iraq war was really about oil leap on such talk as evidence that the administration’s real agenda is to put its forces right on top of Iraq’s still-broken pipelines. Those who fear the next target is Iran — including the Iranians — will see the permanent bases as staging areas, in case the United States decides to take military action against Iran’s nuclear program and deal with the repercussions later.

...“It’s not that Iraq isn’t vital,” said Leslie Gelb, the former president of the Council of Foreign Relations, and one of the many experts organized by groups opposing Mr. Bush’s Iraq strategy to shoot back in the analogy war. “It’s just that Korea bears no resemblance to Iraq. There’s no strategy that can create victory.”
His subtext is an argument that objectors to this plan are "leaping" to conclusions for Bush-bashing reasons, despite un-acknowledged or hypocritical realizations that this plan answers their own wants and needs, and anything else will just be doing the will of the evil Iranians. Very real and pertinent objections to a permanent US presence in Iraq are thus brushed off with an appeal to strawmen rather than by answering those objections directly. David Sanger is still Judy Miller in drag, a shill for the White House.

And what are we to make of the Raw Story revelation today that ABC mysteriously dumped an article yesterday about those permanent bases involving 50,000 troops - an article which has reapppeared only after an extensive rewrite?
The original story, "ABC News Learns of Plans to Keep Troops in Iraq Beyond 2009," posted around 8 pm Friday, was gone by Saturday morning. The link listed in Google News took users to a default page not found.

Sometime on Saturday, however, ABC replaced the story with a second revised piece, "Troop Drawdown by February 2008? Two Plans Set Forth."

According to both articles, officials said 50,000 troops could remain for '5 to 10 years' beyond 2009.

The original article began, "U.S. officials tell ABC News that the troop levels in Iraq cannot be maintained at the present level, either politically or practically, with the military stretched so thin."

The new article begins, "The current U.S. emphasis may be on the surge in Iraq, but there are plans to start drawing down U.S. forces by the beginning of 2008, according to senior U.S. officials with knowledge of the planning."

The original headline remains in Google News as: "ABC News Learns of Plans to Keep Troops in Iraq Beyond 2009."

Also of note is that the section dealing with a plan to keep troops in Iraq for up to a decade is now six paragraphs down as opposed to four, and continues onto a second page.

ABC could not immediately be reached for comment.
The cost to buy the souls of the "watchdogs of democracy" appears to be one shilling and a threat to cut off their access to "anonymous sources".

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