The 9 year long war in Iraq is officially over. Frankly, I’m fine with that. I think the one lesson we need to have learned from both Iraq and Afghanistan is the meaning of punitive raid or punitive action. If a country attacks us or otherwise deserves to see the “blunt instrument” of national policy used, we need to go in and do what is necessary, then leave.
For whatever reason, we’ve chosen nation building as an end state instead. And while I certainly understand the theory (and the examples where it has worked … such as Japan, West Germany, etc.), it shouldn’t be something we do on a routine basis.
There were certainly valid reasons to do what we did in both Afghanistan and Iraq. And while I supported both actions, the decision to try to build a democracy in both countries has been expensive in both blood and treasure and I’d deem it somewhat successful in Iraq (we’ll see if they can keep it) and at best marginally successful in Afghanistan (where I fully expect the effort to collapse when we withdraw).
So I’m fine with folding the flag and leaving Iraq. And before the Obamabots try to claim it was their man who finally made it happen, Google it. This is the Bush plan, negotiated before he left office and simply executed by this administration. That said, Obama will shamelessly try to take credit for it while also trying to erase the memory of voting not to fund the war while troops were engaged in combat.
It is going to be interesting to see how Iraq turns out. It is an extraordinarily volatile country sitting right next to two countries waging religious war against each other by proxy. Saudi Arabia and Iran are deadly enemies and with the end of the US presence there, I think Iraq will end up being their battleground.
Within a few months I think there will be concerted campaigns of violence aimed at toppling the current government and installing some flavor of Islamist regime there. I hope I’m wrong.
But again, bottom line – I’m happy to see this chapter draw to a close and that we’re getting our troops out of Iraq. It’s time. And to them all, a huge “well done” and “welcome home”.
Hey, weren’t “Blackwater” and “mercenary” a bad words during the Bush administration? Didn’t the left spend an inordinate amount of time demonizing private contract security in Iraq? Weren’t we told that wouldn’t be something we’d see in an Obama administration?
By January 2012, the State Department will do something it’s never done before: command a mercenary army the size of a heavy combat brigade. That’s the plan to provide security for its diplomats in Iraq once the U.S. military withdraws. And no one outside State knows anything more, as the department has gone to war with its independent government watchdog to keep its plan a secret.
Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), is essentially in the dark about one of the most complex and dangerous endeavors the State Department has ever undertaken, one with huge implications for the future of the United States in Iraq. “Our audit of the program is making no progress,” Bowen tells Danger Room.
For months, Bowen’s team has tried to get basic information out of the State Department about how it will command its assembled army of about 5,500 private security contractors. How many State contracting officials will oversee how many hired guns? What are the rules of engagement for the guards? What’s the system for reporting a security danger, and for directing the guards’ response?
Yeah, nothing could go wrong with this, could it? Ackerman is asking the right questions. Civilians and diplomats running a quasi-military organization the size of a combat infantry brigade, and trying to keep it secret to boot.
Let’s be honest here – this is a private army. And since taxpayers are obviously paying for it, a little transparency (yeah, you remember that promise too, right?) would be nice.
But that’s not going to happen if the ambassador has his way. Citing jurisdictional conflicts, he’s told the IG to butt out.
And for months, the State Department’s management chief, former Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, has given Bowen a clear response: That’s not your jurisdiction. You just deal with reconstruction, not security. Never mind that Bowen has audited over $1.2 billion worth of security contracts over seven years.
“Apparently, Ambassador Kennedy doesn’t want us doing the oversight that we believe is necessary and properly within our jurisdiction,” Bowen says. “That hard truth is holding up work on important programs and contracts at a critical moment in the Iraq transition.”
So here we have this secret private army of 5,500 that is way above and beyond what is necessary to guard diplomats (something the State Department has been doing for years and years all over the world). This isn’t just about diplomatic security – not with those numbers:
They have no experience running a private army,” says Ramzy Mardini, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War who just returned from a weeks-long trip to Iraq. “I don’t think the State Department even has a good sense of what it’s taking on. The U.S. military is concerned about it as well.”
I would be too if I were the military. This is dangerous stuff and if they do stupid things, it could get other Americans, specifically those in the military, killed.
Of course, with this crew, you also have to ask, “how much am I getting taxed to pay for this debacle looking for an opportunity to happen?”
So far, the Department has awarded three security contracts for Iraq worth nearly $2.9 billion over five years. Bowen can’t even say for sure how much the department actually intends to spend on mercs in total. State won’t let it see those totals.
About as much information as the department has disclosed about its incipient private army comes from a little-noticed Senate hearing in February. There, the top U.S. military and civilian officials in Iraq said that they’d station the hired guard force at Basra, Irbil, Mosul and Kirkuk, with the majority — over 3,000 — protecting the mega-embassy in Baghdad. They’ll ferry diplomats around in armored convoys and a State-run helicopter fleet, the first in the department’s history.
And here I thought we were leaving Iraq.
I have to admit that when I received an invitation to have lunch with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld while I was in town for CPAC, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As with most public figures I’d seen him from afar through both the lens and filter of the national media. About 10 of us were invited in to meet and eat lunch with Sec. Rumsfeld and talk about his new book.
It included a group of pretty heavy hitters in the conservative sphere, including Conn Carroll of the Heritage Foundation, John Noonan and Mary Katherine Ham of the Weekly Standard, Matt Lewis late of AOL and now with the Daily Caller, Ed Morrissey of Hot Air, John Hinderaker of Powerline, Philip Klein of the American Spectator … and me (and yes, I was asking myself wtf am I doing here? The answer is a friend who managed to get me a seat at the table as a favor).
Sec. Rumsfeld arrived and immediately welcomed us and thanked us for joining him. He was gracious, engaging, humorous and both forthright and informative. The atmosphere was relaxed and convivial. It was an hour or so that seemed to fly by. Frankly I could have stayed there all day talking to the man – it was that enjoyable of a meeting. And hearing the history of events I had observed and written about first hand from one of the decision makers was, well, an incredible opportunity.
He was hit with all the questions one could imagine in that short time, but perhaps the one that I most appreciated was related to his offering to resign twice and President Bush refusing to accept either (as we all know, he did, in fact, tender his resignation a third time and it was accepted).
One of the resignations was offered after Abu Ghraib. You could tell, even now, that Sec. Rumsfeld was still both mad and upset about what had happened there, calling it “perverted”. It had a very negative impact on the image of the military, even if the perception was wrong and he was bothered by that.
He said that after the investigation he looked for someone he could hang it on because he felt someone had to take responsibility for what happened. But looking at the facts in the case there wasn’t really a single person in the chain of command he could validly point too and say “because of him or her, this happened”. He felt it left him no choice but to take responsibility himself. He was in charge, it happened on his watch, the damage was extensive and he thought he should fall on the sword and resign his position. President Bush refused to accept his resignation.
His point was about accountability, something he believes in strongly, but – as many of us have observed – no one seems to take very seriously anymore, especially in DC. He felt then and still does that he should have been the one to be held accountable for the Abu Ghraib fiasco. I thought that was pretty telling about the man and his sense of duty and honor.
Ed Morrissey has a lot more at Hot Air (Ed actually wrote his blog post as we sat there with Rumsfeld – Morrissey is a blogging machine) so be sure to give it a read.
After the meeting began breaking up (and I got my copy of his book signed), he spontaneously offered to take us around the office and show us the memorabilia he’d collected over the years. It was an incredibly impressive tour (picture on the right of yours truly and Ed Morrissey hearing Rumsfeld tell us about each item). This is a guy who has served numerous presidents in various capacities (to include two stints as SecDef) for decades. Additionally, he served as a Navy pilot before getting into public life.
Anyway, one of the pieces of memorabilia that really struck a chord with me was a mangled piece of metal. It was from the airliner that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. Rumsfeld had picked that up that day as he toured the damage, had it mounted and hung it on the wall in his office at the Pentagon so he could see it every day and be reminded of the job they had to do (you can see it below on the left– sorry for the photo quality, but you get the idea).
And while the meeting had a purpose, to publicize his new book, “Known and Unknown”, it was an event I’ll certainly not forget anytime soon. Later that day, Sec. Rumsfeld received the “Defender of the Constitution” award at CPAC. I think he’s very deserving of the award.
While there were some things I disagreed with him about during his tenure – and I’m certainly not here to pretend there weren’t problems during that time -I have to say my perception of the man changed significantly with this meeting. While I’ve had the book for a couple of days I’ve not had the opportunity to read it in full – only selected parts I was interested in for this meeting. And to all you folks who contributed questions, I apologize, I was only able to ask one and it concerned the “you go to war with the Army you have” comment and the fall out. When I brought it up, he laughed, pointed at me and said, “you’d better not say that in public, you might get in trouble”.
I’m looking forward to reading the book … I feel in know the era and events pretty intimately from the time I spent studying and writing about them. It’s going to be very interesting to read his version (with almost 100 pages of source notes) that was 4 years in the writing. I’ll be sure to post a review here when I finish.
Let’s just say I was “underwhelmed”. As a friend ask in an email, “where did the great speech maker go?” I can only contend that this speech was like a task you know you have to do, but really don’t want to do. And the results are usually along the lines of what you saw or heard last night.
The big questions were would he acknowledge success, victory or George Bush?
While he didn’t come right out and acknowledge success with that word, his “turn the page” comment implied success. Victory? No way, no how does that enter into the speech. And his acknowledgement of George Bush explains why:
As we do, I am mindful that the Iraq War has been a contentious issue at home. Here, too, it is time to turn the page. This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq’s future.
How does one who so adamantly opposed a war he ended up in charge of characterize it as anything but a mistake that somehow, in general, turned out well? After all he was a “patriot who opposed it”. And please, let’s turn the page.
No acknowledgment of the fact that the surge worked when all – to include our “patriot who opposed it” said it wouldn’t. And even though he and his staff are now trying to rewrite history, it’s clear he was against the surge and claimed it wouldn’t work.
“I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.” – Senator Barrak Obama in response to the PSOTUS. (January 10, 2007 on MSNBC)
Of course, they had precisely the opposite effect. Why this is so difficult to acknowledge even when there’s video of him saying it remains a mystery.
And, of course, even with the acknowledgment of Bush, Obama couldn’t resist a shot as well:
Unfortunately, over the last decade, we have not done what is necessary to shore up the foundation of our own prosperity. We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform. As a result, too many middle class families find themselves working harder for less, while our nation’s long-term competitiveness is put at risk.
That “trillion dollars” for war is not what has put us in the financial shape we’re in today. And anyone following the news knows that. That canard has been laid to rest. However, if you read the paragraph carefully, you find the usual lefty talking points firmly embedded in the substance of the message. Government is the answer and is the entity which should be making “tough decisions” about everything “from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform”. Of course not acknowledged in the paragraph is its previous decisions about those areas has given us what we have today. A pure mess.
Even in a speech about ending the combat mission in Iraq, Obama seems unable to avoid politicizing it. And, as usual, the blame Bush card – not as blatant as usual – is played.
Acknowledging the role of the military and the sacrifice of the troops, as well as the herculean job they did in filling roles outside their job description, was a good and appreciated part of the speech by all, I’m sure.
The rest – eh. The usual boilerplate, wordy finger-pointing delivered in an uninspired and flat speech. You can always tell when someone doesn’t have their heart in something. My guess is he’s not over his vacation-lag yet.
Perhaps – after that arduous night’s work, it’s time for another one.
UPDATE: And finally, Joe Biden is heard from on the subject:
Vice President Biden said the day after President Obama’s Oval Office address that the debate over who deserves credit for removing troops from Iraq isn’t “worth arguing about.”
And why is that Mr. Biden? Oh, yeah:
“At the end of the last administration, the transition was in place.”
Yes it was – which is another explanation for the lackluster speech marking the end of the combat mission in Iraq.
Ed Morrissey reminds us that if we’re waiting on the present POTUS to show a little class and at least acknowledge the success in Iraq was due to his predecessor’s strategy and persistence, we shouldn’t hold our breath. Obama’s weekly address is an indicator of why that’s the case:
On Tuesday, after more than seven years, the United States of America will end its combat mission in Iraq and take an important step forward in responsibly ending the Iraq war.
As a candidate for this office, I pledged I would end this war. As president, that is what I am doing. We have brought home more than 90,000 troops since I took office. We have closed or turned over to Iraq hundreds of bases. In many parts of the country, Iraqis have already taken the lead for security.
In the months ahead, our troops will continue to support and train Iraqi forces, partner with Iraqis in counterterrorism missions, and protect our civilian and military efforts. But the bottom line is this: the war is ending. Like any sovereign, independent nation, Iraq is free to chart its own course. And by the end of next year, all of our troops will be home.
Of course he didn’t “end this war”, success has ended it and “we” (meaning “he”) hasn’t brought 90,000 troops home, a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) negotiated by the Bush administration and signed, sealed and delivered before he ever was elected is the reason they’re home.
4 “I”’s, no mention of success, no mention of Bush, and strangely, no mention of inheriting something that seems to be winding up well.
Iraq has been on SOFA auto-drive since the treaty was agreed too by both sides. It has nothing to do with Obama or his “promise”. And I’ll make you a bet right now that he’s wrong about all of our troops being home by “the end of next year”.
As Morrissey notes about that promise:
It’s certainly possible, although very unwise. The Iraqis still don’t have much of an air force or navy, and it will take years to build both. They face pressures from Iran and Syria, and while their army can maintain internal security now, they won’t be any match for Iran or Syria alone, let alone together, if the two countries decide to subjugate Baghdad. I’d put that promise in the easier-said-than-done category, where the promise to close Gitmo wound up. If we’re not involved in combat operations, the political pressure to withdraw those forces drops to about the same level of class shown by Barack Obama in this address.
I’d say that’s about right.
Democrats are particularly fond of that meme because it provides them the opportunity to again shift the blame for something on their arch enemy, George Bush. It is also a convenient way to claim they’re blameless for all of these trillions of dollars in deficit spending that has taken place over the years.
But a funny thing happened on the way to using this convincingly. The real numbers simply don’t support it. In fact, they show us something a lot more believable to be the cause of our new and huge deficits. And it is certainly not anything the Democrats want associated with them.
Randall Hoven at American Thinker does an excellent job of dismantling the myth that the Iraq War and George Bush’s decision to prosecute the war (with the permission of Congress – to include almost every Democrat) are the reason we’re suffering these huge deficits today. And he uses the CBO’s numbers and the Federal government’s own budget figuress to prove that it wasn’t Iraq that put us in the poor house, but the Democrats.
Take a look at this chart:
According to the CBO’s numbers, the Iraq war has cost $709 billion. Not the wild estimates by some on the left (to include the absurd claims by James Carville and others that the war cost $3 trillion). And look carefully at the added cost of the war on top of the federal deficit spending shown in red.
Notice anything? Now think back – who was in charge of Congress from 2003 – 2007? And what was the trend in overall deficit spending – including the cost of the Iraq war – through 2007. Any impartial observer would point out the trend was downward. The party in charge of Congress at the time was the GOP.
Who took over the Congress in 2008? And what has happened to deficit spending since? Certainly the cost of Iraq has increased the deficit somewhat, but in comparison to the deficit spending since the Democratic Congress has been in session it pales in comparison.
And now, that war is essentially over and we’ve pulled the last combat brigade out, costs will certainly come down and eventually be quite small. But the trillion dollar yearly deficits – the Obama budget for 2011 is $1.4 trillion dollars – aren’t coming down at all, are they?
Be sure to read Hoven’s piece – he shows his work and provides a powerful tool to debunk the left’s “Iraq is why we have a huge deficit” canard. It has, instead, been the spending of the Democrats in Congress. Hoven’s work easily puts lie to the Democrat’s attempt to once again shift the blame for their own profligacy on to George Bush and the Iraq war.
Seriously. President Obama thinks if we work really, really hard and do a great job, Afghanistan can be a success – just like Iraq!
And if you look at what’s happening in Iraq right now, we have met every deadline. By the way, there was a timetable in place, and we are – we have – by the end of August, will have removed all of our combat from Iraq. We will maintain a military presence there. We will maintain military-to-military cooperation. And we are providing them assistance, but we’re meeting this deadline.
And I think it is worth the extraordinary sacrifices that we are making – and when I say “we” – not just the United States, but all coalition members – to try to see a positive outcome in Afghanistan, as well.
Of course the "timetable" he’s touting was the one put in place by the SOFA agreement negotiated by the Bush administration.
But you have to admit it is kind of ironic to see the guy who, when a Senator, declared the war in Iraq a lost cause and derided the general he’s now putting in command in Afghanistan, using Iraq as an example of a “positive outcome” don’t you think?
Mort Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of US News and World report writes a blistering piece that certainly seems to indicate that’s the case. Zuckerman says the world sees Obama as “incompetent and amateur” and that on the world stage he is “well-intentioned but can’t walk the walk”. That’s a nice way to say he’s a lightweight in an arena where only seasoned heavyweights prosper.
Zuckerman’s opinion is not one to be taken lightly. He was a huge Obama backer. He voted for him. His newspaper, the NY Daily News, endorsed him and was enthusiastic in his support of the Obama candidacy.
Now, 16 months into his presidency, he’s obviously very disappointed in his choice. And, it would appear, has come to understand that which he didn’t know or didn’t bother to find out about Obama at the time – that he has no leadership skills or abilities and is, in fact, more of an academic than a Commander-in-Chief.
Zuckerman is a keen and long time observer of American foreign policy, and as such he has the ability to compare and contrast what American foreign policy has seemed like under different presidents and under this one. He begins his critique of Obama by saying he actually inherited a “great foreign policy legacy enjoyed by every recent US president.”
Of course to hear Obama talk about it you’d think he’d been handed the worst mess in the world. But even assuming that, what has Obama done? Not much – and that’s beginning to become evident to the rest of the world. Says Zuckerman:
Yet, the Iraq war lingers; Afghanistan continues to be immersed in an endless cycle of tribalism, corruption, and Islamist resurgence; Guantánamo remains open; Iran sees how North Korea toys with Obama and continues its programs to develop nuclear weapons and missiles; Cuba spurns America’s offers of a greater opening; and the Palestinians and Israelis find that it is U.S. policy positions that defer serious negotiations, the direct opposite of what the Obama administration hoped for.
So success in the field that is exclusively the President’s has been elusive. Then there’s Obama the “leader”:
The reviews of Obama’s performance have been disappointing. He has seemed uncomfortable in the role of leading other nations, and often seems to suggest there is nothing special about America’s role in the world. The global community was puzzled over the pictures of Obama bowing to some of the world’s leaders and surprised by his gratuitous criticisms of and apologies for America’s foreign policy under the previous administration of George W. Bush. One Middle East authority, Fouad Ajami, pointed out that Obama seems unaware that it is bad form and even a great moral lapse to speak ill of one’s own tribe while in the lands of others.
Seems to be common sense to the rest of us, yet it is hard for anyone, even his most ardent supporters, to deny he’s engaged in more of that than any useful diplomacy.
Zuckerman also notes something I commented on months ago. He has no personal relationship with any of the world’s leaders. And that is critical to success in foreign diplomacy:
In his Cairo speech about America and the Muslim world, Obama managed to sway Arab public opinion but was unable to budge any Arab leader. Even the king of Saudi Arabia, a country that depends on America for its survival, reacted with disappointment and dismay. Obama’s meeting with the king was widely described as a disaster. This is but one example of an absence of the personal chemistry that characterized the relationships that Presidents Clinton and Bush had with world leaders. This is a serious matter because foreign policy entails an understanding of the personal and political circumstances of the leaders as well as the cultural and historical factors of the countries we deal with.
His meeting China was also a disaster and he was treated almost disrespectfully there. And he’s all but deep sixed our “special relationship” with the UK and certainly isn’t much loved by Sarkozy of France. Don’t even begin to talk about Israel.
These sorts of problems and perceptions have an effect in international affairs. A perfect example?
Recent U.S. attempts to introduce more meaningful sanctions against Iran produced a U.N. resolution that is way less than the “crippling” sanctions the administration promised. The United States even failed to achieve the political benefit of a unanimous Security Council vote. Turkey, the Muslim anchor of NATO for almost 60 years, and Brazil, our largest ally in Latin America, voted against our resolution. Could it be that these long-standing U.S. allies, who gave cover to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, have decided that there is no cost in lining up with America’s most serious enemies and no gain in lining up with this administration?
So they go their own way in the absence of US leadership. This week, Russia’s President Medvedev criticized the US for placing additional sanctions on Iran, above and beyond the UN’s rather pitiful ones.
Obama has been a foreign affairs disaster to this point, and as Zuckerman points out, this has sent a very clear message to many of those out there who wish us ill as well as those who count themselves as allies:
America right now appears to be unreliable to traditional friends, compliant to rivals, and weak to enemies. One renowned Asian leader stated recently at a private dinner in the United States, “We in Asia are convinced that Obama is not strong enough to confront his opponents, but we fear that he is not strong enough to support his friends.”
I think at this point, that’s a perfectly defensible and accurate assessment. This is why I continue to say that there are some pretty heavy storm clouds brewing on the international horizon. US leadership is seen as missing or weak – a perfect time for those who take advantage of power vacuums to step forward and make their particular grabs for power.
Don’t be surprised to see it happen soon.
It begins with a quote from President Obama’s West Point commencement speech:
Mr. Obama all but declared victory in Iraq, crediting the military but not Mr. Bush, who sent more troops in 2007. “A lesser Army might have seen its spirit broken,” Mr. Obama said. “But the American military is more resilient than that. Our troops adapted, they persisted, they partnered with coalition and Iraqi counterparts, and through their competence and creativity and courage, we are poised to end our combat mission in Iraq this summer.”
It ends with our quote of the day from one of my favorite milbloggers, Greyhawk of the Mudville Gazette:
Speaking for myself only, you’re welcome. Ignoring who – besides the troops – does or doesn’t get the credit, it absolutely was a bitch to fight an enemy overseas while a lot of sh*tbags in our own Congress kept saying they had won.
And, of course, one of the “s-bags” in question was the speaker at the West Point commencement.
Ah, what’s to be found in a name?
ABC News has learned that the Obama administration has decided to give the war in Iraq — currently known as Operation Iraqi Freedom — a new name.
The new name: “Operation New Dawn.”
In a February 17, 2010, memo to the Commander of Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus, Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the “requested operation name change is approved to take effect 1 September 2010, coinciding with the change of mission for U.S. forces in Iraq.”
Gates writes that by changing the name at the same time as the change of mission — the scheduled withdrawal of U.S. combat troops — the US is sending “a strong signal that Operation IRAQI FREEDOM has ended and our forces are operating under a new mission.”
Well actually, a lot. There’s no question the former mission under the umbrella of OIF is considered to have been accomplished if a new name to reflect a “mission change” is being requested. Why? Because orders issued under Operation New Dawn will reflect that basic change of orientation for forces. OIF’s mission guidelines were one thing. New mission guidelines will be issued under the new operational designation.
As Gates notes:
The move, Gates writes, “also presents opportunities to synchronize strategic communication initiatives, reinforce our commitment to honor the Security Agreement, and recognize our evolving relationship with the Government of Iraq.”
Shorter Gates: It’s a new game.
Of course not everyone is happy with the name change:
The move has met with some criticism. In a statement, Brian Wise, executive director of Military Families United said, “You cannot end a war simply by changing its name. Despite the Administration’s efforts to spin realities on the ground, their efforts do not change the situation at hand in Iraq. Operational military decisions should not be made for purposes of public relations, as the Secretary of Defense cites, but should be made in the best interests of our nation, the troops on the ground and their families back home.”
Whatever the reason for the name change, the reality on the ground is we’re leaving per the agreement negotiated by the Bush administration. It makes perfect sense to wrap up the old operation which doesn’t include that mission, and begin the phased withdrawal under a new mission designation.
Frankly I have no problem with it other than this administration, via the VP, trying to claim credit for what was fait accompli when it took office.