There is much banter in the blogs this morning about a talk given by "military strategist" Stephen Biddle, originating in this note from attendee Marc Lynch. Laff line:
Without getting in to his arguments or my reservations, I just wanted to lay out Biddle's best case scenario as he presented it: if everything goes right and if the US continues to "hit the lottery" with the spread of local ceasefires and none of a dozen different spoilers happens, then a patchwork of local ceasefires between heavily armed, mistrustful communities could possibly hold if and only if the US keeps 80,000-100,000 troops in Iraq for the next twenty to thirty years. And that's the best case scenario of one of the current strategy's smartest supporters. Man.Friends, readers, fellow fags, and breeders, gather 'round and tilt your ears. Herein, I shall endeavor to resolve your confusion on this point. Take every sentence you have read, written, or spoken about the Iraq War in the last five years, and replace the word "War" with the word "Occupation." Now marvel as the scales lift from your eyes. By way of example, let's turn the typical--
Stephen Biddle says the War in Iraq is going to last for twenty to thirty years.--to the correct--
Stephen Biddle says that the United States will occupy Iraq for twenty to thirty years.Was that so terribly hard?
Confusion on this point is common even among the majority of the ostensibly antiwar community, in particulawr among those who self-identify as Democrats. Though they're happy to bitch about "accepting Republican frames," and so forth and so on through the many permutations of that complaint, they largely accept a very elementarily false premise about this war: namely, that it is a war. But while it's true that Iraq is restive, that states of conflict exist throughout that territory, and that words like war and occupation are really terms of art, the conceptual weakness of this interpretive framework is quite clear. It accepts prior to analysis the given that the necessary end for the war is the substantial removal of American troops from Iraq. Whether that end is accompanied by some sort of political or strategic success--the flowering of democracy, the institution of a stabilizing military government, whatever--is really quite secondary to the main, common conclusion that when the war ends, in victory or defeat or some indefinable state in between, the boys will come home.
There is a particular irony here for those of us who have mocked and lambasted the President for his notorious Mission Accomplished speech on the deck of the aircraft carrier. The irony is this: viewed properly, that statement wasn't such a stretch. Since the goal of our invasion was occupation, the first brief period of warfare during which the United States engaged in the territorial conquest of the nation of Iraq was, in fact, concluded with the accomplishment of its goal. The flaw in reasoning since then has been to assume that the presence of "80,000 to 100,000" American soldiers in Iraq is somehow extraneous to our purpose there. Reader, the presence of those troops is our purpose there.