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The Elephant In The Military Base

Speaking of Iraq policy, I seem to have misset my clock radio last night and instead of the usual NPR got what I think was C-SPAN Radio where they had Marina Ottaway on. She, unlike pretty much everyone else one ever hears talking on this subject, did an admirable job of raising the elephant in the corner of American Iraq policy, the fact that near as anybody can tell the administration is still trying to finagle some kind of permanent military basing agreement in Iraq. That the administration has managed to hew consistently to this agenda without ever stating that this is one of their major policy goals is astounding, and that the American media is consistently unwilling to discuss the point is appalling. What's even more astounding about it is that one regularly hears and reads in expert commentary that we ought to "make clear" that this isn't what we're doing. Apparently, it's impolitic to note that Bush isn't making it clear that we don't want permanent bases because we do, in fact, want permanent bases.

On the same subject, one of the more intriguing bits in Larry Diamond's forthcoming book is his discussion of American efforts to grant the pre-election, post-sovereignty interim government the authority to sign treaties (and to expedite the approval process for said treaties) with foreign powers. This was consistently resisted by virtually ever relevant Iraqi actors, and Diamond's book doesn't make it clear what, exactly, the hidden agenda was here, but one has to assume that the idea was to get a permanent basing agreement on paper before Iraq got a government reflective of public opinion on the subject. Also intriguing in a personal way is that apparently the CPA official in charge of trying to get this done (though the orders, according to Diamond, came straight from Washington) was Roman Martinez who was a couple of years ahead of me in school and, I think, editor of the oft-bizarre Harvard Salient.

The bases, though, are the important thing. This is, by all expert accounts, a huge problem in our Iraq policy, and our dear media doesn't see fit to even discuss it in a manner that comports with the facts to any reasonable degree.

March 21, 2005 | Permalink

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» Bases in Iraq from Political Animal
BASES IN IRAQ....Matt raises (again) a point that doesn't get enough attention:[As] near as anybody can tell the administration is still trying to finagle some kind of permanent military basing agreement in Iraq. That the administration has managed to ... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 21, 2005 1:29:44 PM

» Permanent Iraqi bases from bennellibrothers.com
So I disagree that this is a huge problem in our Iraq policy. Its something that the Bushy administration and the US Military want. It perfectly meshes with Rumsfelds' leaner, meaner, and more agile fighting force with a possilbe force projection to ... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 21, 2005 4:03:56 PM

» Concurrent basing from Daniel Widome
I'm glad to see that Kevin , Matt, and I are in agreement on the issue of permanent U.S. basing in Iraq. It's hard to be in better company than that.... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 21, 2005 5:50:33 PM

» Concurrent basing from Daniel Widome
I'm glad to see that Kevin and Matt are in agreement with me on the issue of permanent U.S. basing in Iraq. It would hard to be in better company than that.... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 21, 2005 5:53:56 PM

» Bases in Iraq from Political Animal
BASES IN IRAQ....Matt raises (again) a point that doesn't get enough attention:[As] near as anybody can tell the administration is still trying to finagle some kind of permanent military basing agreement in Iraq. That the administration has managed to ... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 21, 2005 7:05:55 PM

» Well, No Kidding from The Colossus
Matt Yglesias seems dismayed/perplexed/disappointed (pick one) that we want permanent bases in Iraq. Well, no kidding we want bases in Iraq. How the hell else do you expect us to keep the pressure on the regimes in Syria and Iran? Global politics isn't... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 21, 2005 8:39:41 PM

» Going and staying in Iraq from chez Nadezhda
What with the nominations of Bolton and Wolfowitz and the release of the National Defense Strategy and the new "blueprint" for [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 22, 2005 10:29:30 AM

» Going and staying in Iraq from chez Nadezhda
What with the nominations of Bolton and Wolfowitz and the release of the National Defense Strategy and the new "blueprint" for [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 22, 2005 10:30:29 AM

» Permanent Iraqi bases from bennellibrothers.com
So I disagree that this is a huge problem in our Iraq policy. Its something that the Bushy administration and the US Military want. It perfectly meshes with Rumsfelds' leaner, meaner, and more agile fighting force with a possilbe force projection to ... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 22, 2005 7:35:23 PM

» Permanent Midnight from A&W
Ok, so I'm late on chipping in, as usual, but this has been stirred up, and rightfully so, by Yglesias: permanent military presence in Iraq. I say rightfully so not out of indignation, but because I really want to get to the bottom of this... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 27, 2005 10:52:23 PM

» All your base are belong to...? from The Slithery D
Three weeks ago Matt Yglesias mentioned a subject occassionally on my mind that I, like him, noticed hasn't been discussed much: the prospect of permanent bases in Iraq after the occupation [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 10, 2005 8:56:40 PM

Comments

I seem to have misset my clock radio last night and instead of the usual NPR got what I think was C-SPAN Radio

Ah, FakePR. It's like two micronotches away from NPR but several orders of magnitude more difficult to wake up to in the morning.

Posted by: Kriston | Mar 21, 2005 1:03:31 PM

Do you really think Cheney is going to settle for an outcome without American bases? Would be totally out of character.

Posted by: Bob H | Mar 21, 2005 1:04:40 PM

I think it will take major threats from us to get those bases. Carrots won't do it, except maybe in Kurdistan.

Posted by: John Isbell | Mar 21, 2005 1:07:24 PM

All the media would need to do is read the PNAC documents and use them to analyze our actions. The permanent military bases were always one of the main objectives. The silence on this subject, as you suggest, is appalling...

Posted by: David | Mar 21, 2005 1:12:30 PM

So, dude, why are you advocating the "declare victory and go home" strategy, when it's clear that the declaration of victory won't lead to going home? I don't get it.

Posted by: bobo brooks | Mar 21, 2005 1:20:04 PM

Don't forget, Bush has already appeased Bin Laden by pulling US troops out of SA.

So, if we do not get troops in Iraq the net results of the war is a big cut in US power.

Posted by: spencer | Mar 21, 2005 1:31:30 PM

Kerry brought up the military bases during the debates - mentioning 14 IIRC. While it was by far the most interesting part since it was the first time it had been noted by anyone, it was completely ignored. I can't remember if that was the Mary Cheney debate, but regardless, no one wanted to bring it up or talk about it, which was a huge shame at the time and still is.

Posted by: zoidberg | Mar 21, 2005 1:43:06 PM

Bases and force projection have been a logical (rationally defensible), if unstated and unwise, justification for our actions in Iraq. Bases in Iraq will project US force into the heart of Asia, satisfying our geostrategic worries with regard to Iran, Russia, China, the Caspian, India, India-Pakistan, et al. This was clear from the first talk of Iraq in this Administration pre-9/11. It also fits with the larger neo-con fantasy in favor of overwhelmingly dominant US power as the defining international fact for the foreseeable future.

Posted by: hyh | Mar 21, 2005 1:49:27 PM

We probably would have been content with our bases in Saudi Arabia, but 9/11 changed that comfort for us as well as the Saudis. Interesting would be the answer to why our bases in Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait are insufficient or undesirable. Is it simply a matter of size? (On one level, it surely is!)

Posted by: hyh | Mar 21, 2005 1:54:06 PM

A lot of foreign policy, trade policy, and monetary policy can be understood by acknowleging that in the future America's comparative advantage comes not from information, but from boots on the ground.

We outsource the tech and manufacturing jobs and then we export our soldier services.

Posted by: jerry | Mar 21, 2005 1:57:56 PM

I think the other issue is the SOFA.

Posted by: praktike | Mar 21, 2005 2:05:28 PM

I seem to have misset my clock radio last night and instead of the usual NPR got what I think was C-SPAN Radio where they had Marina Ottaway on.

NPR... C-SPAN Radio... Either way, you must rock with the ladies!

That kind of talk is like chum in the water to the hotties!

Posted by: timshel | Mar 21, 2005 2:05:35 PM

The most radical thing Kerry said in the debates, and the thing that made me hope that deep, deep down inside he might just understood what needed to be done to beat this guy, was when he pointed out all the military bases we were building there.

Of course it only could have made a difference if he had said it over and over and over again in every speech.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein | Mar 21, 2005 2:13:22 PM

Perhaps there's a lack of discussion over "permanent bases" because it simply isn't happening?

I mean, the only evidence I recall seeing reported was that story about the installation of some optic fiber infrastructure, and that story was bogus (it was only a $10M contract).

Does anyone have anything to substantiate this rumour?

(Not that there would be anything wrong with negotiating a basing agreement with the Iraqi govt anyway).

Posted by: ronb | Mar 21, 2005 2:16:14 PM

I can't speak for all women, but NPR and CSPAN turn me on.

More to the point -->

Follow the money. Look at the contracts that support the current bases. Little stuff you don't normally think of like McDonald's, Taco Bell and all that other MWR stuff. What's the duration? Not just overseas, but stateside contracts that support AAFES/Commissary mission overseas.

Long-term, look further South, say ... the horn of Africa.

Posted by: Roxanne | Mar 21, 2005 2:19:18 PM

Chingers! We must defeat the Chingers!

Posted by: jerry | Mar 21, 2005 2:48:19 PM

Caving in to Osama. One thing that Al Qaeda has consistantly claimed as justification for their attacks is that they were highly (and religiously) offended by U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia.

The major Bush administration and MSM storyline is that problems in the Mid East are caused by insane haters of freedom. It is hard to use this storyline to explain why the U.S. just doesn't build up the Saudi Arabia bases and wants a more friendly country for such purposes (what? Saudi Arabia is not our friend?).

So since Iraq bases does not fit with the current talking points, there is no way to talk about it.

Posted by: MonkeyBoy | Mar 21, 2005 2:52:07 PM


Just to ground things here a bit, can someone give a cogent argument of why a modest set of long-term US bases (say 30,000 troops) would be a bad idea for either the US or Iraq. I can understand why it would be a bad idea for the Democratic party, and the left in general, but that's not the question. It's not as though a democratic Iraq wouldn't have significant security concerns that a moderate US force couldn't help calm, including fears of both coup and destabilization from abroad. And it's not as though anyone believes that the US is actually capable of disengaging from the Middle East completely. I can understand concerns if the Iraqi government were an imposed puppet regime, but it's becoming clearer and clearer that that isn't going to be the case (if it were, our actions would have been very different, and in many cases easier and more effective).

Assuming we're legitimately invited, it would seem to make sense to stay. Conversely, it makes more than a little sense for the Iraqis to invite us, at least for a time. Such arrangements have worked in the past (Germany, Japan, Britain, Korea). What am I missing?

Posted by: dave | Mar 21, 2005 2:57:12 PM

I can't speak for all women, but NPR and CSPAN turn me on.

That's good stuff.

Posted by: timshel | Mar 21, 2005 2:58:49 PM

No point paying for the same land twice. This post just shows how utterly irrelevant your opinions are. We will have military bases in Iraq for a long time.

Posted by: Chad | Mar 21, 2005 3:08:28 PM

Dave: "Assuming we're legitimately invited, it would seem to make sense to stay."

While you're at it, assume a pony for everyone.

Posted by: Kevin Donoghue | Mar 21, 2005 3:09:28 PM

"I can understand why it would be a bad idea for the Democratic party, and the left in general, but that's not the question."

I think you're completely backwards on both questions.

It may make very good sense for the Democratic Party to not be opposed to permanent bases.

But on the merits of the issue, you're missing quite a bit.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 21, 2005 3:11:55 PM

dave:

And it's not as though anyone believes that the US is actually capable of disengaging from the Middle East completely.

Well, except for the people who live there. But I see no reason to consult them at this late date.

Posted by: grh | Mar 21, 2005 3:12:21 PM

dave,

"I can understand concerns if the Iraqi government were an imposed puppet regime..."

"Assuming we're legitimately invited..."

You really need to undertake further investigation of the situation.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 21, 2005 3:14:46 PM

Chad:

"This post just shows how utterly irrelevant your opinions are"
Who are you talking too?

Posted by: ladder | Mar 21, 2005 3:26:26 PM

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