Ending the War in Iraq

I see that Elizabeth Bumiller, writing in the New York Times

Even though the agreement with the Iraqi government calls for all American combat troops to be out of the cities by the end of June, military planners are now quietly acknowledging that many will stay behind as renamed “trainers” and “advisers” in what are effectively combat roles. In other words, they will still be engaged in combat, just called something else.

“Trainers sometimes do get shot at, and they do sometimes have to shoot back,” said John A. Nagl, a retired lieutenant colonel who is one of the authors of the Army’s new counterinsurgency field manual.

The issue is a difficult one for Mr. Obama, whose campaign pledge to “end the war” ignited his supporters and helped catapult him into the White House. But as Mr. Obama has begun meeting with his new military advisers — the top two, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are holdovers from the Bush administration — it has become clear that his definition of ending the war means leaving behind many thousands of American troops.

has reached the conclusion that I reached nearly a year ago: that now President-Elect Obama’s statements on ending the war in Iraq were self-contradicting. On the one hand he spoke of removing combat troops but on the other he spoke of continuing to pursue objectives, e.g. training, going after terrorists, that could only be achieved with combat troops. It made sense politically but little sense logistically.

You square the circle by changing the names. Even having ended the war in Iraq we’re likely to have no fewer than 30,000 and as many as 80,000 U. S. soldiers in Iraq for the foreseeable future. While still painful, particularly to the families of our troops stationed in Iraq, since Iraq has vanished from our front pages, except for rare cases like the shoe-throwing incident, staying in Iraq at that level is likely to remain politically possible. This month the the number of deaths among U. S. forces is proceeding at the lowest rate since the 2003 invasion, one third what it was a year ago, less than one tenth of what it was in 2006.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, US Politics, ,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    has reached the conclusion that I reached nearly a year ago: that now President-Elect Obama’s statements on ending the war in Iraq were self-contradicting. On the one hand he spoke of removing combat troops but on the other he spoke of continuing to pursue objectives, e.g. training, going after terrorists, that could only be achieved with combat troops. It made sense politically but little sense logistically.

    First Dave, there seems an editing error here you may want to address.

    Secondly, yeah, that does seem the case. As we see with just about everyting he’s been doin since he showed up, the political need is always first, and everything else is secondary. THeyn again, that now leaves the Democats in the position of trying to lower expectations,after promising everyone a magic pony in their garage by next Tuesday.

    since Iraq has vanished from our front pages, except for rare cases like the shoe-throwing incident,

    Yeah, it’s the pattern we’ve seen for years now. If it make Bush look bad, it leads. Otherwise, it gets buried in the clutter, if it runs at all.

  2. odograph says:

    Actually, there is remarkable agreement in both parties that this is the year for a wind-down in Iraq.

    And typically people are lining up to fault Obama for doing the mainstream thing. Again, if we take the premise that he should have done something worse (an immediate and arbitrary withdrawal?), we can fault him for doing something that a Republican might have done.

    (Have you given him a hard time for NOT using a Koran at the inauguration yet?)

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    Just to make it clear, odograph, I’m not faulting Obama for anything at this point. Just observing that this was a foregone conclusion.

  4. Franklin says:

    First off, don’t act like Obama just started talking to military people.

    Second, you guys are simply forgetting what he said. He’s always said that the pullout would be done carefully, and would leave behind an unspecified number of troops. Many people asked how many this would entail but he would indeed never actually answer that part of the question.

    I would agree that the timeline has appeared to have changed. The fact is, the American people don’t want to be there indefinitely with permanent bases, which is what the neoconservative plan was and has always been.

  5. Bithead says:

    First off, don’t act like Obama just started talking to military people.

    Oh, I’m quite sure he’s been talking to people such as Wesley Clark, though I’m rather interested in how anyone would consider that an advantage.

    And actually, where I’ve been critical of Obama has focused on where he’s been giving the impression that he was going to satisfy the wildest wet dreams of the extreme left. I’ll give him credit for recognizing that’s an unrealistic goal, but I wonder if the country wouldn’t have been better served if he’d admitted that point openly, say, back in July, instead of playing both ends against the middle, as he did.

  6. odograph says:

    Sorry Dave, maybe I was reacting more to a perceived OTB thing, rather than your post.

  7. raoul says:

    I doubt very much that we will have 30,000 “trainers” in Iraq in 18 months; the number will be signifacntly lower due to political realities.

  8. anjin-san says:

    Casualties are down in Iraq, and that is very good news.

    On the other hand, we are blowing through a lot of money there every month that is badly needed at home. Our economic problems have reached the point where they have national security implications, and that is something we have to address.

  9. Triumph says:

    Gee whiz, this is a swell post.

  10. caj says:

    I would like to know how after all this time these Iraqi forces have not been trained….how long have we been there now 6/7 years!!!!
    Is that just another ploy so the US can remain there indefinitely again..it seems every time you turn around there is another reason why we can’t leave.
    I know PE Obama wants them all out and will go along with the commanders on the ground for their advice….but when is it ever going to be “ready” enough for us to leave there for good??
    The time for the troops to come home is long overdue,one more day there is one too many and one more life lost is not acceptable anymore.

  11. anjin-san says:

    Oh, I’m quite sure he’s been talking to people such as Wesley Clark, though I’m rather interested in how anyone would consider that an advantage.

    Right. Because a patriotic American should respect the military and those who serve(d), unless of course they are Democrats, then the righties feel free to treat them like crap.

  12. mike says:

    Anyone want to take bets that this time next year we will still have 90,000 plus service members in Iraq plus contractors still there?

    Less than 30,000? Raoul, I wish we would but I just can’t believe it.

    Have we even made it below the 130,000 mark yet?

    My history is a bit fuzzy but isn’t this the reverse of how we got into Vietnam? First send in “advisors” that only advise, but if need be take part in action. Next step was to have a QRF or two. Just curious.