Cole: too little, too late, too militaristic

I was a little late getting round to reading Juan Cole’s 10-point plan for reconfiguring the US footrprint in Iraq. His basic idea seems to be to try to replicate what the US and NATO military have done in Afghanistan. That is, draw the US troops in Iraq back into a limited number of barracks, evacuate many of the ground troops, and then just keep in-country some special forces and air force units able to undertake swift pinpoint actions from time to time.
Then, as Iraq’s independent military ramps up (and when might that be), Ayatollah Sistani would issue a fatwa and the Americans would all leave.
I think it’s ways too late to suggest such a plan. It’s also inappropriate. Iraq is not the thinly populated, poorly infrastructured reaches of Afghanistan. It’s a large country with a dense population (in the fertile parts) and good communications. The US military bombs targets and does Special Forces stuff in Afghanistan all the time. But no-one’s there to record it. If it sets off a protest, the protest is small and localized and no-one else really hears about it until a lot later.
Iraq is a LOT more wired, and has party organizations that are a LOT more organized than the ones in Afghanistan.
(Also, even in Afghanistan, the US tactics seem to be working increasingly poorly in recent weeks.)
Juan does say a couple of good things. His points 9 and 10 are excellent. Namely that (9) Congress should stop stipulating that USAID money gets spent as much as possible on purchase of US goods, and (10) that the US (and Russia? But why Russia?) should work closely with Iraq and all of its neighbors to establish a regional security regime.
Personally, I still think the 9-point plan I laid out here in early July is far superior. It calls for a US exit from Iraq that is speedy, total, and generous.
Iraq as Afghanistan, though? Nah. I don’t think it would work.

9 thoughts on “Cole: too little, too late, too militaristic”

  1. I was appalled at Juan’s 10 point plan. I also do not buy is doomsday scenario. Of course, I often disagree with Juan’s analysis, and am sometimes appalled by his suggestions.

  2. PS On the “too militaristic” angle, it is worth noting that Juan comes from a military family, and his analyses and ideas often reflect that. A good aspect of his background is that he has at least somewhat of an insider’s grasp of things military, and that insight can be valuable when evaluating both what is going and what people say is going on, and in understanding what does and does not make sense.

  3. In watching a documentary about some of the US bases in Iraq, like Anaconda, they are quite more than barracks. They are small cities with fifty thousand people (not all American, there is outsourcing to other nationalities in a large scale). The logistics are very impressive. Maybe two or three Anacondas with a scope of a decade or so of stabilization is the way to go.

  4. Machiavelli says that garrisons in a hostile territory are doomed, and he’s right, David. Never mind if they are fifty thousand or even more, they are doomed. They will have to go. The Yankees and their “outsources”, they’ll all have to go home.
    Stabilisation? Don’t make me laugh.

  5. Juan Cole’s piece is interesting :
    1) He keeps the pressure on the Bush government, examining exit strategies.
    2) In his introduction, he sums up the arguments of the anti-war movement calling for the withdrawal.
    3) He has abandonned the irrealist theory of requesting UN peace force in order to “stabilize” Iraq after US withdrawal.
    I’m not convinced by his refutation of the antiwar arguments however.
    1)I think that his 10 points solution plays into the hands of Bush, Rummy and the other hawks.
    2) Accordingly, it’s quite cynical : the US troops would withdraw in their fortified bases and then, the Iraqis would be able to kill each others for decades, provided this stay at a low level grade. Whoever will care ? The US will keep control of a pro-US government retired in the secured (and extended ?) Green Zone.
    3) The Algerian civil war between the government and the muslims brothers lasted years, killing tenths of thousands, but the oil never stopped flowing, because the oilfields were better protected than the population. Once they leave the cities to the Iraqis, the US military will have more human ressources to keep the oilfields.
    4) Juan Cole’s proposals (with the exception of the generous ones at the end) are probably a good an realist scenario of what the Bushies may try to achieve in the coming months and it isn’t good for anyone, except for the big US corporations who makes money out of this war. The neocons have two arguments to justify “staying the course” : to the conservative crowd they say that a withdrawal would weaken the position of the US; to the democrates, they pretend it would create chaos. Juan Cole is just biting the second argument. The Bushies invaded Iraq without exit strategies, because their goal is to stay there, build permanent bases and control the oil.
    5) I agree with Dominic here : the US won’t be able to keep military bases in a largely hostile country. All the question is how much time would they be able to hold it ? It could be a decade or more claiming a lot of Iraqi lifes and creating a lot of useless sufferences. More than what goes on in Iraq, it’s probably what goes on in the US and how the anti-war movement developpe, which will bring the troops back faster.
    6) The US should be brought to court for what she has done to the Iraqis.

  6. Maybe two or three Anacondas with a scope of a decade or so of stabilization is the way to go.
    Ummm – no.

  7. Christiane, as always, thanks for your very helpful & intelligent comments. Especially the observation you make inyour point #4 that:
    Juan Cole’s proposals (with the exception of the generous ones at the end) are probably a good an realist scenario of what the Bushies may try to achieve in the coming months…
    I agree with the two different kinds of “justifications” you say the Bushies use for not exiting Iraq. But don’t under-estimate the extent to which many “Democrats” here in the US are also very concerned about “maintaining the credibility of the US strategic posture in the world”– i.e., the ability of the US to continue to exercise global hegemony. The party’s leaders truly have not yet adopted any alternative to the stance of continued US global supremacy.

  8. Doesn’t Afghanistan actually have four million more people than Iraq, and is bigger in size? So are you sure that Afghanistan is “thinly populated”?

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