Monday, February 25, 2008

Mission Creep in the Middle East

John McCain's hyperbole about keeping troops in Iraq for a hundred years is alarmingly echoed in a Washington Post OpEd by one of the saner foreign policy experts on the Washington scene.

"What the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan have in common," Anthony Cordesman writes, "is that it will take a major and consistent U.S. effort throughout the next administration at least to win either war.

"Any American political debate that ignores or denies the fact that these are long wars is dishonest and will ensure defeat. There are good reasons that the briefing slides in U.S. military and aid presentations for both battlefields don't end in 2008 or with some aid compact that expires in 2009. They go well beyond 2012 and often to 2020."

Only seven months ago, Cordesman was pointing out that some recent advances in Iraq were the result of “sheer luck,” such as Sunni tribesmen turning against Al Qaeda insurgents and quoting a U.S. official as describing our situation as "three dimensional chess in the dark while someone is shooting at you."

Rejecting the extremes of staying the course or immediate withdrawal, Cordesman made a case then for phasing down troop levels starting early this year. Now, another trip to Iraq and Afghanistan has persuaded him that "these are wars that can still be won" if we stay another decade or more.

Does the word quagmire ring a bell? In 1968, Richard Nixon promised to end the war in Vietnam and stayed another five years before accepting a humiliating defeat.

Now, once again, we are testing our will in places thousands of miles away against antagonists who are willing to do anything for as long it takes to get control of their own territory.

We started out to remove Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, a mission that has morphed into policing the entire Middle East, with Pakistan and Iran next on the horizon. Can Cordesman and John McCain explain how we do that without breaking our military and busting the budget?

1 comment:

Liza said...

Well, we can continue to outsource the war to companies like Blackwater and the recruits can come from anywhere. The astronomical cost will be paid by foreigners who buy our bonds so that we can continue to buy their trinkets and finance their economic growth. It's called globalization.