Are we staying or are we going? In a statement Thursday, President Bush pooh-poohed comments by the Pentagon that we would begin pulling troops out of Iraq in the spring as “speculation.” Damn, the generals say one thing and the “Commander In Chief” contradicts them. Is anybody in charge? Does anybody know what the hell is going on? Plainly, there are generals who think that we have overstayed our welcome just as there are those who foresee an indefinite occupation. Certainly, the Iraqis themselves would like us to leave ASAP and have said as much. As reported in this journal some time ago, the Peerez promised that when the Iraqis asked us, we would politely leave.
Whatever you think about our plans for withdrawal, and whatever way that happens, I think it might serve us well to recall two prior occupations, those of Japan and Germany. In both cases, we maintained a military presence that lasted several decades. In fact, we still maintain bases in Germany, including Ramstein, which houses the hospitals that are presently treated those wounded in the Mid East prior to their being shipped Stateside. Admittedly, in the case of Germany, these bases are ostensively there as part of our NATO commitment, but bear in mind that we still haven't technically ended WW II. Their surrender in 1945 was only the end of the shooting, not the end of the state of war. The latter is a legal term defining our right to occupy their defeated country after hostilities ceased. During our extended occupation, we instituted the Marshall Plan and rescued beleaguered Berlin with the Berlin Airlift, both famously generous acts on the part of an occupying military power. Germany re-civilized itself and America can be proud of the generosity of spirit of which Germany is an example. However, our troops are still there and it has been 60 years since the end of hostilities.
In the case of Japan, while there was no Marshall Plan, per se, General Douglas MacArthur, as military commander of that defeated nation, wrote and imposed a constitution on Japan and we maintain a military presence in the islands until the present day. Negotations between the US and Japan for the departure of American troops were opened in 2004 (!), but as of this writing, US troops are still on Japanese soil.
The surrender of Japan to the United States did not end the war, because Japan and the Soviet Union never signed a peace agreement. In the last days of the armed conflict, the Soviet Union occupied the Southern Kurile Islands, an area previously held by Japan and claimed by the Soviets. Multiple efforts to bring to a peace agreement, and officially end the War, have failed since 1945. Therefore, World War II has technically never ended.
Now, the neocons want us to keep our fat asses planted in the Middle East indefinitely, which basically means forever, as a hedge against the Chinese while leaning on Iran, not to mention India. This strategic thinking is outlined in the National Security Strategy, which reflects the present thinking of the NSC. Basically a rehash of the Project For The New American Century’s (sic) white paper mentioned below, this policy calls for a hegemonic establishment of permanent bases all around the globe, and the continuing occupation of Iraq, forever.
Now for the punch line: there are a number of prominent Democrats who have bought into this Neocon plan to dominate the world, including Senators Biden, Clinton and Joe Leiberman, just to name a few. Their statements concerning commitment to a continuing occupation can be found here, here, and here It has been suggested that this position is a reflection of their concerns that they not be perceived as “soft on defense” in their personal runups to a Presidential bid. Personally, I think it takes a bigger person to reject the Neocon philosophy of American military domination of the planet and screw perceptions of “softness.” (In a side note, I wouldn’t vote for any of these people if they were the only people running, as I have no respect for any of them). The “war on terror,” despite the misnomer, is a gigantic Tar Baby, and is in no way related to national defense. It is a police matter, and needs to be handled as such, just as the British are doing at this moment.
Howard Dean is committed to the proposition that we withdraw from Iraq now. What’s yours?