JFK, it was said, quipped during the early days of his administration's involvement in Vietnam, that the US could get out of its entanglement there by declaring victory and take his marbles [advisors, military] back to Washington with America's held up high and reputation intact. He died too soon, before he could ever take his own advoice, if he ever gave a second thought to it. LBJ didn't, and we know the sorry history of the US' defeat in Vietnam. In history's mind's eye, the sorry image of the US ambassador fleeing from the roof of the American embassy in Saigon, the mighty stars and stripes in his possession as at helicopter lifting him to the safety of an American ship, as the North Vietnamese army triumphantly entered the Republic of Vietnam's capital.The US indeed had overstayed its welcome after a quarter century in Vietnam.
In today's online edition of 'The New York Times', we find an article by Michael R. Gordon, outlining a blunt memo by Colonel Timothy R. Reese, repeating JFK's advice, as it pertains to America's preemptive 6 years war in Iraq. He was one of the Bush administration's cheer leaders for the war, and a purveyor of less than forthright reporting on WMD [weapons of mass destruction].]So, it is an irony of sorts that he is covering a story the message of which is 'we should declare victory and withdraw'. The advice is sound, no doubt, after the waste in lives and billions in materiel and corrupt practices in sustaining weak Iraqi politicians and failing to rebuild a shattered army and police; in allowing the fault line of religious and ethnic differences to overwhelm a country which had never supported Islamic extremists, to offer a haven to them, to fight the invaders [read, the US]; billions wasted, where even today there is no 24 hour flow of electricity but in the US fortress known as the 'Green Zone'; no steady flow of running water; no sustained agriculture; in brief, Mr. Bush's war, based on his wishful thinking and patent lies, laid waste to a weaken Iraq ruled by Saddam Hussein.
Now the question arises can the US truly pack up its bags, say 'sayonara', and close the door behind its as it 'triumphantly' [sic] marches out of Iraq? Hardly. The geopolitics of the region are against Col. Reese's recommendations. Iraq once a foil to Iran, needs a US presence to check Iran rise as a dominant regional power. We can thank Mr. Bush & co. for creating conditions for strengthening Tehran's hand in the Persian Gulf, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Mr. Bush's lack of clarity on Iran has simply accelerated its nuclear programme and technical advances in rocketry and military weaponry. So as a countervailing presence Washington cannot simply withdraw. Furthermore, it has studded Iran with military bases and in the Green Zone, which we know from press accounts is a large as 8 US football fields, it has built an embassy which would put Citizen Kane's Xanadu to shame. Withdrawal from Iraq, would run counter to Baghdad since its authority rests on wobbly legs, and it need American taxpayer dollars and America's military might to shore it up. Furthermore, Iraq is sitting on one of the largest pool of oil which the US coverts.
Mr. Bush's war has implicated more deeply into the sorry and sad politics of the region. Washington has to stay to keep the Israelis in line.
In a few words, although Reese's words offer a way out of Iraq, of an Iraq with anti Americanism running a high fever, the realities politically keep the US there, one way or another, by design or by default. Yes, the American presence in Iraq smells like a barrel of rotten fish. Like it or not, the Iraqis will have to hold their noses and put up with a foreign presence till such time that they can chase the Americans out.