Rick on Withdrawal: Yes We’re Staying March 3, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Uncategorized, War.
Tags: arabic source, camp lejeune speech, Iraq, iraq combat, Iraq war, Iraq withdrawal, Obama, roger hollander, SOFA, special operations, status of forces agreement, tom rick
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Last week I was mildly critical of Tom Rick’s book “The Gamble” because it made no use of Arabic or Iraqi sources and instead was based on interviews with US Army officials. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Not talking to any Arabic sources means that the book will tend to focus on the Surge as the Americans see it. At the same time, however, Ricks has a level of access that no other Western journalist has, so if he’s saying the following, then we can probably assume it reflects a major train of thought inside the US Army, regardless of how the issue is officially being framed:
The more I consider it, the more I think President Obama’s Camp Lejeune speech last Friday was about how to stay in Iraq for a while, not about how to get out. I think he is doing the right thing, or at least the least wrong thing in a misbegotten war.
But I don’t think he has been clear about what he is doing. Let me say this almost as plainly as I can. You can label it a non-combat force. You can call it the Jayash al-Barack or the Mahdi Mouseketeers if you like. But there are going to be two combat brigades at the core of that post-2010 American force in Iraq, plus a substantial Special Operations force executing combat counterterror missions. And those bombs that hit American convoys sure feel like combat, especially when the flash of the explosion is followed by RPG and machine gun fire, even if the soldiers inside the Humvees are told they are on a non-combat mission.
What’s more, the planned troop reductions won’t really happen in a big way until sometime in 2010, so Iraq can get through its national elections. (And a memo to everyone who is counting on the SOFA to bail us out of Iraq: Guys, that was about getting Iraq through 2009, not about what happens in 2011.)
Let me say this even more plainly: Our participation in this war ends not when one president hangs a “Mission Accomplished” banner or when another president declares that combat has ended, but when American troops stop being killed there. I asked a military official at the White House on Friday if American troops will stop dying in Iraq in August 2010, and he said no, that will go on. One reason this war has been such a bitter experience at home is that people feel that the White House has misled them, especially because its previous occupant was so consistently overoptimistic