Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Via Matthew Yglesias come Spencer Ackerman's objections to a post-occupation force in Iraq:
The maddening thing about a post-occupation is that the concept is thoroughly prudential. Who wouldn't want to hedge a bet for withdrawal, considering how awful the consequences of one could be? Unfortunately, if the consequences are really that bad, 40,000 troops won't be able to handle them, and the political pressure to reinforce them will be great... That will leave two choices: reoccupation or withdrawal. Better to strategise around those choices - thoroughly - than convince ourselves that something called a "post-occupation" exists.
Yglesias makes a good point of his own:
50,000 troops indicates a commitment to controlling the situation, but 50,000 troops is too few to control the situation, so why not surge another division in? Meanwhile Iraqis opposed to a US occupation (i.e., the vast majority of Iraqis) will still feel occupied, and the fact that the troop presence will have the imprimateur of the Iraqi government will do more to discredit that government than to legitimate the presence.
I would add that this kind of military presence also requires an enormous logistical and monetary investment. The very kind of investment that governments get tempted to protect by interfering in the internal affairs of the host country. Which in turn reinforces the idea of a meddling occupying power.
So yes, there are problems with this approach, but I still think it's the least bad option. I'd previously suggested that "disengaged bases" would only work under two conditions: The time horizon would have to be shortterm, and the rules of engagment would have to be strictly limited to border integrity and humanitarian crises.
I'll add a third, to cover Ackerman's, Yglesias' and my objections: That they be under the mandate and command of the UN or some other multi-lateral organisation. Not just a bogus Coalition of the Willing. A real peacekeeping force.
Update: Kevin Drum agrees with Matthew and Spencer and thinks leaving any residual force is a bad idea.