American Troop Levels Will Remain Too High In War-Ravaged Iraq


There have been many pundits who have argued over the past months that the Iraq War was no longer the main issue in this election year.  Housing woes and health care, as part of the overall ailing economy, were seen to be the issues that most Americans were now stressing to pollsters as more important than the war.  The fact that the national price tag for the war is damaging the national economy seems forgotten by many Americans. 

To be sure the economy is a major issue that makes many uneasy, but after the Congressional hearings today and Wednesday I think the Iraq war will again become an issue.  The smooth talk from Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker does not quite balance out the fact that 4,000 Americans have been killed, and the lull in violence in Iraq has now started to climb once again.

The fact that there have been no real political answers applied in Iraq over the past year, while the whole purpose of the ‘surge’ was to allow for that very thing, is unsettling.  The lead paragraph from the New York Times seems to place the right somber tone for the nation.

The senior commander of multinational forces in Iraq warned Congress Tuesday against removing “too many troops too quickly” and refused under stiff questioning to offer even an estimate of American force levels by the end of this year.

There is no end to the conflict, and no hope for an end given the current political climate in Washington, D.C.  Instead of hoping that the war will somehow end if we just no longer concentrate on it is folly.  The economy is rough, but the war should be the top priority this election cycle as it deals with international, economic, legal, and moral aspects of our lives as citizens.

It is time for the war to be back on page one above the fold in our morning papers.

In stating the Democratic Party’s case against administration war policy, Senator Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said that Mr. Bush’s goal of creating “breathing room” for political progress by sending five additional combat brigades last year “has not been achieved.”

“That reality leads many of us to once again challenge President Bush’s policies,” Mr. Levin said as the general and the ambassador sat motionless at the witness table. Senator Levin said the current Shiite-led government in Baghdad has shown “incompetence” and “excessive sectarian” policies.

The fact that an occupying force of American soldiers will be in Iraq for the foreseeable future is clear.  And wrong.  Has no one ever read the history of the Middle East in the Bush White House?

It has been widely anticipated that American troop levels in Iraq would be held steady for some weeks after the departure by July of five extra brigades ordered to Iraq last year by President Bush. There would be 15 combat brigades and close to 140,000 troops remaining in Iraq.

Given the time required to remove troops from Iraq or to halt departures of heavy equipment from the United States, senior officials have said that even under the best of circumstances no more than two or three more brigades could be brought home before Mr. Bush leaves office in January.

Even if all goes well, more than 100,000 troops would probably remain in Iraq into next year, leaving any decision on major reductions to the next president.

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3 thoughts on “American Troop Levels Will Remain Too High In War-Ravaged Iraq

  1. Patrick

    I agree that we should continue to debate the war in Iraq, but I think a more reasoned approach is needed.

    You’re right to point out the “great” cost of the war. But lets remember that it is costing us less than 5% of GDP–far less than the cost of other major conflicts. We should also note that perhaps four to five million Americans are employed directly or indirectly by the defense industry. We should also note that just because this money is being spent on the war does not mean that it would be spent on healthcare or education later. From what I understand, much of this spending is deficit spending and the left has traditionally supported deficit spending as a way of ending recessions (we are not currently in recession now).

    You also note that the political probelms existing between the Sunni and Shi’a continue to be a problem. While this may be more true on a national level, a closer examination of the news will note that on the local level this isn’t the case. It is largely a myth that Sunni and Shi’a can’t get along in Iraq or that they can’t share power. If nothing else, the American presence continues to increease security which makes compromise between factions more acceptable.

    While I’m sure Levin has extensive expertise regarding Iraq (I’d be shocked to learn he had not visited there several times himself) I think General Petraeus might have a slightly better perspective on these matters. Perhaps when Mr. Levin bemoans: ““incompetence” and “excessive sectarian” policies” he is talking about our own government. We’d likely agree that our own congress, under leadership from either party, has done much.

    Finally, you claim that “The fact that an occupying force of American soldiers will be in Iraq for the foreseeable future is clear. And wrong.” I would ask why? In reality, we invaded Iraq. Before we leave we have a responsibility to ensure that it is a better place than it was before we arrived. A hasty withdrawl presents the greatest chance for future disaster. And if you believe that the move to begin the war was poorly conceived and immoral, then the need for careful deliberate planning and more planning is an even greater moral imperative. You also wonder (boldly):”Has no one ever read the history of the Middle East in the Bush White House?” Considering your earlier posts I suppose we must assume that the answer is no. To be honest, I’m no expert but I’ll be willing to wager that a weak Iraq will become an increasingly tasty target for factions like al-Qaeda and Iran who are not our friends nor friends of the people of Iraq.

    Since there is no longer any reasonable chance that we can lose militarily in Iraq, we must take the time to win. I pray that our senators and presidental candidates demonstrate the ability to listen to General Petraeus who has accomplished so much in Iraq. Consider the following testimonial regarding his skill from one of his advesaries:

    Brothers, the truth is that I admire the intelligence of the present Crusader, General Petraeus, for through his intelligence and cleverness he was able to achieve in one month what his colleagues couldn’t achieve in five years. . . . After the sly Petraeus became in charge, he started to play his game with us unfairly. We established the Islamic State of Iraq, so he established the Awakening Council to fight it by the method of guerilla warfare, and they started setting up booby traps for the Mujahideen and detonated the explosive packages on them. Al-Furqan Media Foundation was formed, so he established a media council to defame the S[t]ate and to erase it media productions.” –posting on an al-Qaeda forum in February 2008.

  2. Thanks for a well argued counter-point.

    The one thing I must say I strongly disagree with you over is the amount of working together than you feel the Shia and Sunni factions are doing. I think the perceptions are greater than the reality, and that the chasm between the two is deep and wide, and not easily bridged. The security forces and oil profits are but two areas where there is need for unity, and none will come. At times they set each other up for defeat, and in the end I suspect that Al-Sadr at some point (years?) will be the ruler in Iraq. After all we have done, will we be happy with the result of their democracy?

    We went into that nation on bad information at best, and lies at worst. No good can come from it. We must learn our lesson the hard way over this war. Having said that I want to have our troops brought out in a timely fashion. (I did not take this position until late 2006 as it was clear there was no end game by this White House. I felt up to that time we needed to fix what we broke. While I think we need to pay for the fix I no longer feel that we can do it ourselves.) I am very concered about the power vaccumn there…..but then I was one of those who argued this very point, using Iran as my reasoning, while conservatives were beating their chests to go to war.

    Second, invading nations are not the victors in the Middle East….and esp. not the United States in the fashion we did it. This was the blunder that I am most shocked at.

    Third, the economic turn-over of a dollar in the military is far lower than if that same dollar were spent in another sector of the American economy. We should have built a health-care sytem and saved the world a lot of grief by not invading a nation.

  3. Patrick

    I don’t mean to suggest that the Sunni and Shi’a are working consistently hand in hand across the country. The real good sign is that Sunni and Shi’a don’t value those sectarian identities as much as we think. There is a fair amount of inter-marriage already, and it is stability and security which make these groups more and more likely to consider labels like Sunni and Shi’a irrelevant. In Bagdad, for instance, we have reports that many residents acquire both Sunni and Shi’a identity cards–another indication that what people want is stability, freedom, and access and don’t define themselves as rigidly as they could. Again, stability and security, which American forces are morally obligated to help provide for now, is the key to preventing warlords like al-Sadr from exploiting.

    I agree that Iran is a problem. But simply saying that you realized that they were a problem earlier and with more aclarity than others avoids the question. If withdrawl from Iraq is predicated on a timeline, doesn’t this just provide them with time to prepare their plans for Iraq?

    You return secondly with a claim “Second, invading nations are not the victors in the Middle East….and esp. not the United States in the fashion we did it. This was the blunder that I am most shocked at.” this is not so much an argument as a statement that implies some future prediction or premonition of events. It is not well suited to a logical response–and I’m trying not to be snarky (you know how I can be).

    I’ll agree that we caould get a higher retutn for money invested be people in their own dreams than wasted on any government funded program. However, the real question is: is it stupid to spot spending money now when future disaster which might arise from early withdrawl might cost much more in lives and treasure down the road. This is what needs debate. Of course, we might leave Iraq tomorrow and never see another problem there. Lets debate the issue with reason.

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