Cut and Run, Baby!

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If the surge fails, say Julian Barnes and Peter Spiegel, the U.S. is ready to tuck tail and leave Iraq.

Such a strategy, based in part on the U.S. experience in El Salvador in the 1980s, is still in the early planning stages and would be adjusted to fit the outcome of the current surge in troop levels, according to military officials and Pentagon consultants who spoke on condition of anonymity when discussing future plans.

But a drawdown of forces would be in line with comments to Congress by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates last month that if the "surge" fails, the backup plan would include moving troops "out of harm's way." Such a plan also would be close to recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, of which Gates was a member before his appointment as Defense Department chief.

What James Baker wants, James Baker gets. All of the experts Barnes and Spiegel talk to compare the prospective plan to what the U.S. did in El Salvador.

John D. Waghelstein, an El Salvador veteran who teaches counterinsurgency strategies at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., said the large number of troops in Iraq had weakened U.S. influence with the Iraqis by putting American prestige on the line.

"When you're dealing with a host country, less is better," Waghelstein said. "You lose leverage when you're committed to the degree we're committed."

Yeah, you think?

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  1. Why does John D. Waghelstein hate America?

  2. You also lose prestige when you support mass murder (or engage in it as many claim). So this Waghelstein character has a point: Less murdering of the locals, the higher the occupying force’s prestige.

  3. Of course, the theory currently en vogue is that we should have had more troops in Iraq all along; Waghelstein is actually agreeing with the original Rummy strategy of a small occupation force.

    The theory that no one wants to voice in public, is that the number of troops was always irrelevant; this thing was going to turn out badly from day one. One of the US’ few remaining advantages in the world is our overwhelming military superiority, and admitting that military might can’t solve every problem in the world would be a frightening admission for us.

  4. crimthink,

    “We needed more forces at the beginning” is a different argument from “we need more forces now.”

    Waghelstein is talking about what to do in the middle of an insurgency/civil war. There was no insurgency or civil war in April 2003. It is plausible to argue that more troops could have avoided the situation, but that the rise of the chaos since then has made that solution obsolete.

  5. People looking at El Salvador as a model might want to note that the end of their civil war and the achievement of a peace deal, and the election of broadly legitimate, democratic leaders took place only after the foreign powers using that civil war to further their geopolitical ambitions left the country and ceased their involvement.

  6. Hey, what’s a little D’Aubuisson between friends? I want to know who our forces will recruit to run death squads for us in Iraq.

  7. The U.S. objectives were achieved in El Salvador (and I am saying this in a dispassionate manner, without reference to the bloody nature of the conflict.) This was made possible by the general collapse of the Soviet bloc — the U.S. remains as ‘involved’ in El Salvador now as it had been in the past.

  8. JKP: What were US objectives? To stop communism? Somehow the Catholic Church doesn’t seem like the most authentic purveyor of communism. I don’t think anybody’s objectives were achieved in El Salvador except that of the ruling elite who were able to bitch slap the farmers and laborers.

  9. The only thing that’s a bigger disaster than our war in Iraq is American public education.

  10. First it was the Germany/Japan model, then the Kosovo/Balkans model, now the El Salvador model. The optimists are running out of examples.

    They should cite the Vietnam model (a country which we pulled out of that does not pose a threat to the US), or the Somalia model (bad for Somalis, yes but the terrorists in that country are people we can hit)

  11. “…the end of their civil war and the achievement of a peace deal, and the election of broadly legitimate, democratic leaders took place only after the foreign powers using that civil war to further their geopolitical ambitions left the country and ceased their involvement”

    vs.

    “The U.S. objectives were achieved in El Salvador…This was made possible by the general collapse of the Soviet bloc”

    I’m not sure what the difference is, unless “the U.S. remains as ‘involved’ in El Salvador now as it had been in the past” is supposed to mean that our trade delegations and military assistance in 2007 are supposed to be the equivalent of what we did to back the government in a dacade-long civil war.

    The relevant point here is that our military inovlement on behalf of ARENA and the landed gentry they represented didn’t do squat to end the war or bring about the conditions we wanted. As a defenseive measure, they may have prevented a Soviet/Cuban-allied regime from coming to power, but they most certainly did not produce an outcome that can compared to the desired outcome in Iraq.

  12. The Army plans for every contingency, and constantly updates those plans. This whole article is spin.

    They should cite the Vietnam model (a country which we pulled out of that does not pose a threat to the US),

    And, indeed, Vietnam provides excellent reasons not to bug out of Iraq. Genocide, repressive totalitarian state still in power, regional destabilization, etc.

  13. And, indeed, Vietnam provides excellent reasons not to bug out of Iraq. Genocide, repressive totalitarian state still in power, regional destabilization, etc.

    Too bad Vietnam isn’t a peninsula.

    Point being that I’m doubtful that anything short of a Korean styled DMZ would’ve ended the conflict in a way amenable to US goals at that time.

  14. “And, indeed, Vietnam provides excellent reasons not to bug out of Iraq. Genocide, repressive totalitarian state still in power, regional destabilization, etc.”

    The fact that each and every one of those things was underway years before we ended our involvement, came into being during the period of our involvement, and are in many cases traceable to our own actions while waging the war (especially the regional destabilization, ie, the spread of the war to surrounding countries) make Vietnam a particularly useful model for Iraq.

  15. Vietnam provides excellent reasons not to go into Iraq in the first place. If we didn’t heed the lessons in 2003, why would we do so now?

  16. Georgie-Porgy, puddin’ and pie,
    How many kids will have to die?

  17. “If we didn’t heed the lessons in 2003, why would we do so now?”

    Because we’re starting to get our wits about us. Remember Freedom Fries? Most Americans thought that was a GREAT idea a few years ago.

  18. I should have said that in a more positive voice. We didn’t heed the lesson of Vietnam in 2003, and the surge (now a surge against anybody with oil or terrorists?) indicates we still haven’t learned. By “we” I meant the administration.

  19. Yes, joe, I’m sure if we had just stayed out of Vietnam, the Communists would have peacefully overrun the South, and there would have been no genocide, not repressive totalitarian government, and no regional destabilization.

    Its all our fault for not giving the genocidal maniacs their way without a struggle. Damn us for resisting the totalitarian butchers!

  20. Remember Freedom Fries? Most Americans thought that was a GREAT idea a few years ago.

    A class-III whore on the banks of the Seine: ?19

    A half-liter box of live escargot: ?27

    Jerry Lewis Collection on DVD: ?49,99

    Watching the Americain bogged down in Iraq after not taking our advice: Priceless.

  21. Point being that I’m doubtful that anything short of a Korean styled DMZ would’ve ended the conflict in a way amenable to US goals at that time.

    Well, for one thing, in 1975, we could have provided air power against the North Vietnamese Army when it invaded. Kind of like we did in 1972.

    Also, it would have been nice if Congress would appropriated more aid that 20 bullets and 2 hand grenades for every South Vietnamese soldier.

  22. “Its all our fault for not giving the genocidal maniacs their way without a struggle. Damn us for resisting the totalitarian butchers!”

    You mean the genocidal maniacs who offered to accept a parliamentary government and scheduled elections in 1956, which we had cancelled? Yes, that is our fault.

    Or did you mean the genocidal maniacs who were able to take over Laos and Cambodia because of our efforts, and who could have fit into a closet before we did them of the favor of turning their countries into war zones?

    But, hey, we meant well.

  23. “the Communists would have peacefully overrun the South”

    You mean by winning elections? Yup, they would have won the national elections.

    “…and there would have been no genocide,” Nope, there wouldn’t have been. There was no genocide in the region prior to our military involvement.

    “…not repressive totalitarian government,”

    No, governments that rely on re-election through popular voting don’t meet with a lot of success if they become totalitarian.

    “…and no regional destabilization.”

    Nope, none. As demonstrated by the complete and utter lack of involvement by Cambodia and Laos is any of the fighting before we took the war to them.

  24. “As demonstrated by the complete and utter lack of involvement by Cambodia and Laos is any of the fighting before we took the war to them.”

    …and by those countries’ complete lack of involvement in any aspect of the war prior to our actions in Vietnam.

  25. “Damn us for resisting the totalitarian butchers”

    RC Dean: Are you saying that American foreign policy should recognize resisting totalitarian butchers as a legitimate rationale for war?

  26. ‘Cause there are a lot of potential wars out there if resisting totalitarian butchers who don’t threaten the U.S. is a legitimate rationale for war.

  27. So, in joe world, the Communists were peaceful, law-abiding, democratic, umm, totalitarians, who we went to war with, totally unprovoked, and turned into genocidal butchers.

    Because Communists always come into power through peaceful elections, and never violate anyone’s human rights, and would certainly never slaughter millions of their fellow men, if the Americans didn’t turn them into bad people by going to war against them.

    And the peaceful peasant followers of Uncle Ho would never have violated international law by using their neighbors’ territory to fight their war against the South if the US hadn’t started bombing their neighbors first, like totally unprovoked, man. Or something.

    Right.

  28. I’m confused. I don’t live in Joe world. I know that Latin American communist movements were never, despite Reagan’s silly proclamations, a threat to the United States. In fact, as far as I know, the only democratically elected communist was Allende in Chile, and the US toppled him.

    I’m not sure what your justification for war is anymore. Is the commies, is it the genocidal maniacs?

  29. “””Well, for one thing, in 1975, we could have provided air power against the North Vietnamese Army when it invaded. Kind of like we did in 1972.”””

    Did it work for us in 1972?

  30. Uh, TrickyVic, it’s air power. You’re supposed to be in awe of our super cool technology and not ask whether it works or not.

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