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July 19, 2008

What's Going To Happen?

You've probably already seen this:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki supports US presidential candidate Barack Obama's plan to withdraw US troops from Iraq within 16 months. When asked in and interview with SPIEGEL when he thinks US troops should leave Iraq, Maliki responded "as soon as possible, as far as we are concerned." He then continued: "US presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."

I have no idea what's going to happen now. Generally speaking, empires never peacefully retreat from valuable possessions. That goes double for a situation like this, since the idea of a Shiite Iran and a friendly Shiite Iraq controlling much of the world's oil—right next to the Shia sections of Saudi Arabia, which have the rest of it—is the greatest nightmare imaginable for the US foreign policy elite. So I'd always assumed Barack Obama would be our next president and at the end of his two terms we'd still have 100,000 troops occupying giant military bases in Iraq. Moreover, this would all be done at the request of the Iraqi government.

On the other hand, perhaps the world is changing—either slightly or a lot. Certainly in the past we would already have overthrown Maliki and installed a more compliant "democracy." But maybe the combination of the internet, satellite TV and IEDs has made that kind of imperialism more difficult, and when you add America's financial exhaustion it's close to impossible.

I don't know. I still wouldn't bet against us being in Iraq eight years from now, or eighteen years from now. But things are not proceeding according to my expectations.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at July 19, 2008 02:14 PM

"things are not proceeding according my expectations".
And aren't we all glad, we are happy to note that!
Also, BBC is reporting today, 'Sunni bloc rejoins Iraqi cabinet'!

Posted by: Rupa Shah at July 19, 2008 02:41 PM

Time and season for everything. Whatever they say and do now - it's all about the elections; elections in the US and elections in Iraq. After the elections they will, if necessary, overthrow Maliki (more likely he'll change the tune), they'll escalate sectarian violence, they'll do whatever needs to be done.

Posted by: abb1 at July 19, 2008 03:51 PM

I'm willing to bet that the 16 month timetable is conditioned on the US winning in Iraq. It was the same thing with Vietnam, every president saying that they'd withdraw the troops real soon.

Posted by: Non Nato at July 19, 2008 06:01 PM

There are more PR problems in being an imperialist these days. You have to be more subtle about it. Take carpet-bombing. It's a lot harder to do without even our pathetic media noticing something. So they use "precision weaponry" and the death toll is still high, but not like it was in Vietnam or Korea, at least not from that particular cause and they can pretend they're doing all they can to keep the civilian toll down, short of, you know, not bombing anyone. The US bombing campaign in Korea is one of the almost totally forgotten episodes in mass civilian killing. By some guesstimates Korea lost more civilians to aerial bombing than any other country in history. If they'd totally flattened Baghdad in 2003 as we totally flattened numerous towns in Korea, North and South, even our embedded press might have noticed it was a funny way to liberate people.

I just had maybe my 500th argument about Israel's human rights record at another blog and the usual defense came up--in this case, that Israel could have killed a lot more than just "hundreds" of civilians in Lebanon in 2006. Yeah, they could, and they did, back in 1982, but apparently there's more pressure not to do that now, at least not with bombs.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at July 19, 2008 06:28 PM

I hesitate to draw a parallel here to the American Revolutionary War (very different in so many ways) yet it is interesting that in both cases, the empire's forces are stretched thin and the war is unpopular.
"The race goes not always to the swift, nor victory to the strong . . . but that's the way to bet."

Posted by: Monkay at July 19, 2008 08:58 PM

Non Nato: "I'm willing to bet that the 16 month timetable is conditioned on the US winning in Iraq."

Winning? Winning what, exactly? The people the US forces are hunting are people trying to extract foreign forces from their country, mainly us.

My read on the 16 months comment is precisely the opposite-- Obama is saying

"the glass is half-(mumble), and we need to (mumble) the water."

People are hearing, "return the water to the US", but he's just setting a line without really saying anything about the subsequent direction. He is just setting people up to get ready to accept that it may take more, than 16 months. It's the classic foot-in-the-door technique, only this car salesman isn't offering undercoating or pinstripes.

Rather, he's given the putative left a bone, so they accept the 16 month line and get with the program, so nobody complain it should be even less than 16 months, ok?

GWB has done the same thing before, with the broader audience. He announced troop reductions, then turned around and announced "the surge" a few months later.

The democrats lost the '08 election as soon as they agreed that the surge is working and joined the GOP in scolding the Iraqis in not dying properly to make their country safe for US forces.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at July 19, 2008 10:04 PM

Jonathan V: Buck up. The Democrats are going to win the 2008 elections, and win big. Won't mean great things will result, just that some really really crappy things might be avoided.

Maliki's statement is great news for people who want to see McCain lose. Now the Iraqi government, the Iraqi people, and the American people, by large majorities, want the U.S. to get out. McCain is going to have to explain why we shouldn't.

Obama has the luxury of pretending that we will -- even though he's never been willing to specify how large that "residual force" will be. My guess: 60,000 troops and 30,000 contractors (half mil, half support).

Maliki's statement is also great news for people who really want the occupation to end. We can stop pretending that a timeline for some-withdrawal is any kind of achievement and start agitating seriously for a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops and contractors by a date certain.

I wonder if Maliki was pushed over his limit by the little display of mob-style "negotiations" a few weeks ago, in which U.S. special forces choppered into Maliki's home town, took one of his sister's guards (a Maliki cousin) away and shot him. It was meant to send a message wrt the bases agreement, but it might have been just a bit over the top.

Probably not; this is just a politically smart thing for Maliki to do. He'll get a chance very soon to exchange winks with the next president of the United States.

Posted by: Nell at July 20, 2008 12:49 AM

Nell--link on that story about one of Maliki's cousins getting offed by special forces?

Posted by: grendelkhan at July 20, 2008 09:15 AM

Obama says 16 months to withdraw the "combat" troops. That's a clever ruse, and a shrewd dissembling point.

Because does not include the 80-100 THOUSAND troops (and mercs, oh, I mean 'contractors') that'll be needed to protect, service and man all the aircraft and other weapobs which will be stationed at the 50 bases the busheviks/USers have built in Iraq to support the mission of monitoring and establishing air supremacy over the trans-Caspian oil puddle.

There is only one condition under which the USers leave Iraq: if they take over another country closer to the trans-Casapian region. Kyrgyzstan is a possibility. They have no defenses, but no iol, either.

Ahmad Chalabi is the next Iraqi strongman.

Posted by: woody, tokin librul at July 20, 2008 09:15 AM

What does this mean? It means that the (more practical) Bob Gates wing of the CIA has defeated the Cheney/Dubya wing of the Military Industrial Complex. Anyway, the oil to the north of Afghanistan was the more important target. Gotta get that pipeline built!

Iran? Iran is a paper tiger. The only way it can hurt the US militarily is if we attack it. Then it can muck up the Gulf of Hormuz. Their internals are pretty bad. Expect Iran to have a lot of revolutionary activity in reaction to the lousy job the mullahs have done governing. As a result Iran may move closer to the West or it may cave in. Whatever.

The great Wahhabbi expansion seems about to end. The House of Saud may have been warned to knock it off. Much of it was at the behest of Western intelligence services anyway. If the CIA doesn't need to keep us so nervous maybe the Muslim Brotherhood will be ratcheted down again.

This may all be a prelude to Germany's (or the Euro's) Century. Then again, it may be premature in counting America out. We do have a fuckload of nuclear weapons.

One thing is clear: al-Maliki sees that it's the end of the road for the Bushites (as does Gordon Brown) and he's preparing for the end of the current occupation. Of course, as long as there are 100k Halliburton employees in-country he'll still be the servant of Big Oil.

But maybe for us things will be a little calmer. For awhile.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at July 20, 2008 11:31 AM

"things are not proceeding according my expectations".
Good, because your expectations tend to make my mind divide by zero and make me hope for an asteroid to obliterate us all by the end of the month.

Posted by: Wareq at July 20, 2008 02:48 PM

Of course, Maliki is obviously being pressured to say he was misunderstood. It'll be interesting to see how far he will go in taking back his original statements.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at July 20, 2008 04:15 PM

But maybe the combination of the internet, satellite TV and IEDs has made that kind of imperialism more difficult, and when you add America's financial exhaustion it's close to impossible.

Not to mention the fundamental incompetence of the Bush administration. Don't forget that they never effectively established control of the country. They intended to install Ahmed Chalabi as their puppet, but when that was a non-starter, they had no idea what to do, and ended up deferring to Ayatollah Sistani's insistence on holding elections. The result was to put what was then called the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq in power. (Maliki is the leader of a smaller, allied party but he's basically beholden to them.) They have played the U.S. like a drum, using the occupation to keep themselves in power and suppress their enemies, both Sunni Arab and Sadrist, but they were never really tools of the occupiers.

Right now, I'm sure President Cheney would like to put a more compliant puppet in power but he doesn't have any options. There's just no way to do it, the U.S. never organized an effective quisling movement in the first place.

Posted by: cervantes at July 20, 2008 07:01 PM

The part about "Obama would be our next president" is suspect. People think that the CheneyBush years have been so bad that we the American populace are prepared for the lesser evil, or brighter future, of Sadam Hussein Obama.

Consider: Do you underestimate the depth of the abyss? Is it perhaps more likely that we have a long way to walk along the road of war, death, hatred and misery before the public regains its sense?

Posted by: Weniger Gottquatsch at July 21, 2008 04:52 PM

Some folks are born
Made to wave the flag
Ooo, they're red white and blue
but when the band plays
"Hail to The Chief"
Ooo, they point the cannon
At you
Lord, it ain't me
It ain't me
I ain't no senator's son
Lord, Lord
It ain't me
It ain't me
I ain't no fortunate one---CCR
MY guess is, Obama, much like George Bush, wants to be a war Commander in Chief, a war hero, but not enough to pick up a rifle and take his chances squating in the sand with it.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 22, 2008 02:17 AM