Will Gates Open the Floodgates in Iraq?

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That’s the question posed by Tom Engelhardt in a new piece that deflates some of the hype surrounding the retun of Robert Gates and Jim Baker. The conventional wisdom is that “daddy’s boys” have arrived to (once again) save George W. Bush’s butt from a fiasco of his own making. (See this week’s Newsweek cover for the short version of this satisfying pop psych-meets-poli sci analysis.) But Engelhardt suspects that rather than advocating redeployment or withdrawal, Gates and Baker may just prolong our involvement by signing onto the recently floated plans to send more troops to give it the old school try:

…[P]erhaps the disaster behind us will be nothing compared to the disaster ahead, especially if Daddy’s Boys, the Iraq Study Group, other Democratic and Republican movers and shakers, and all those generals and former generals floating around our world decide that this isn’t the moment to rediscover a Colin Powell-style “exit strategy,” but “one last chance” to succeed by any definition in Iraq. Then, god help us — and the Iraqis. Sooner or later, we’ll undoubtedly be gone from a land so determinedly hostile to being occupied by us, but that end moment could still be a long, long time in coming.

Here, for instance, is Robert Gates’ thinking eighteen months ago in a seminar at the Panetta Institute at California State University in Monterey on “phased troop withdrawals” from Iraq:

“But Mr. Gates qualified his comments, noting it sometimes takes time to accomplish your goals. Sixty years after the end of the Second World War, ‘there are still American troops in Germany,’ he noted. ‘We’ve had troops in Korea for over 50 years. The British have had troops in Cyprus for 40 years… If you want to change history, you have to be prepared to stay as long as it takes to do the job.”

So hold onto your hats. Tragedy and more tragedy seems almost guaranteed, and the Pentagon has just submitted to Congress a staggering $160 billion supplemental appropriation request in order to continue its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Engelhardt says we should expect “endless months or years of non-withdrawal withdrawal plans” combined with preparations for a permanent American presence in Iraq (a story that hasn’t received much mainstream attention but was covered in MJ last year.) George Bush Sr.’s cavalry may have arrived, but we’re far from being rescued.

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