“I think we will be in need of American forces for a long time — even two military bases to prevent foreign interference,” Talabani told The Washington Post.
“I don’t ask to have 100,000 American soldiers — 10,000 soldiers and two air bases would be enough.”
[…] “In some places Sunnis want the Americans to stay,” he argued. “Sunnis think the main danger is coming from Iran now.”
Michael links to a somewhat perturbed blogger (note the shortened adjective ‘Democrat,’ a reliable indicator of hackdom) who has a hard time resisting a bit of triumphalism:
This is clearly a refudiation of every democrat talking point on Iraq over the last year. Iraqis are not asking America to leave or redeploy. They are asking for our help to keep their fledgling democracy afloat. The cut-and-run crowd has just been handed a huge foreign policy blow. We need Arab-Muslim support in our war against Al Qaeda and terrorism, and now we have a formal, public request from a country that used to be a sworn enemy of America to be an ally and help them out. Now when a liberal democrat cries “runaway” (in an echo of Monty PythonÂs Holy Grail) the country can respond “what about what the Iraqis want from us?”.
No doubt many Sunni recognize that a US departure will give the Shi’a even more freedom to exercise harsh, Iran-aligned majoritarian rule and will probably open the doors to a bloody partition that, owing to the geographical quirks that leave Sunni areas largely oil-free, will not do them any strategic favors. However, the US more or less pulled out of Anbar province for a reason. The idea that the red-hot insurgency will welcome the US back into their home territory is beyond ludicrous. Pacifying Iraq’s Sunni heartland would take a force that we simply do not have.
Iraq’s Kurdish president knows full well that an American pullout will lead to a war of partition. First to go will be the effectively independent Kurdish state in the north. Unfortunately the Kurdish dream of independence will last about as long as it takes Turkey and Iran to mobilize their armies massed on the Iraqi border. Both Turkey and Iran deal with constant harassment from Kurdish terrorists who filter back and forth through the porous border with Iraq, and have made no bones about what they will do if a separate Kurdish state appears. Talabani undoubtedly knows that as well as anybody.
Think about the details of Talabani’s plan. Nearly two hundred thousand troops cannot pacify Iraq. Does anybody seriously think that we can head off civil war with 10,000 based over-the-horizon in Kurdistan? No. The plan laid out here clearly shows that Talabani wants the best of both worlds: partition and the bloody war that it entails, and a South Korea-style trigger force of US troops to discourage “interference,” also known as “invasion,” by Iran and Turkey.
Talabani’s proposal does nothing whatsoever to support the stay-the-course right. Quite the contrary, it reflects the more sensible pullout plans in which we allow Iraq to follow its internal inertia while keeping a quick-reaction force in Kurdistan to strike the inevitable al Qaeda training centers as they appear. Conveniently for Talabani our bases will also forestall the negative consequences of independence, notwithstanding the chutzpah that it will take for us to stand in the way of Turkey responding to naked acts of terrorism. Talabani’s throwaway line about the Sunnis tolerating long-term US bases in their territory simply fails the laugh test.
In a related note, Gregory Djerejian recently asked whether we should classify Iraq as a failure or an impossibility. That is to say, could reasonable leaders with a grounding in counterinsurgeny have succeeded where arrogant incompetence has plainly failed?
My simple answer is that reasonable leaders recognized that winning an insurgency war would take more troops than America could possibly send. You cannot just invent magic pony scenarios where the Pentagon waves a wand and makes needed divisions appear out of the aether, so I would answer that reasonable people with relevant experience would not invade Iraq. At least, they would not do so without a multinational force several times the size of what we had (see, magic pony). The act of invasion was a strategically irresponsible act that would not have been repeated by people who knew what they were doing.