The present-day U.S. military qualifies by any measure as highly professional, much more so than its Cold War predecessor. Yet the purpose of today’s professionals is not to preserve peace but to fight unending wars in distant places. Intoxicated by a post-Cold War belief in its own omnipotence, the United States allowed itself to be drawn into a long series of armed conflicts, almost all of them yielding unintended consequences and imposing greater than anticipated costs. Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. forces have destroyed many targets and killed many people. Only rarely, however, have they succeeded in accomplishing their assigned political purposes. . . . [F]rom our present vantage point, it becomes apparent that the “Revolution of ‘89” did not initiate a new era of history. At most, the events of that year fostered various unhelpful illusions that impeded our capacity to recognize and respond to the forces of change that actually matter.

Andrew Bacevich

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Update for Saturday, April 20, 2019

Today I'm going to focus on Iraq. As I did last week for Afghanistan, I want to establish the context.

The Iraqi parliament is hosting a meeting of regional nations including rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia. It remains to be seen where this will go, but it is noteworthy that Iraq is an important Arab nation that has close relations with Iran and is also trying to establish good relations with the Gulf states. Perhaps it can play a role in moderating regional tensions. Newsweek's Tom O'Connor discusses this possibility and briefly reviews some relevant history.

A senior Iraqi MP says Iraq is indeed trying to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Indeed, Iraq and Saudi Arabia have executed a security agreement

The Institute for the Study of War is a hawkish think tank closely allied with the U.S. military, which I mention because otherwise somebody might likely point it out. Nevertheless their assessment of the status of IS is credible and includes some helpful recent history. For some reason there hasn't been a lot of attention paid to this by U.S. media or politicians, but with the conquest of the last territory held by IS the Syrian Democratic Forces accepted the surrender of some 55,000 women and children, many or most of whom remain loyal to IS, and transferred them to a camp near the Iraq border. Nobody seems to have a good idea of what to do about this situation. ISW is reporting that meanwhile, IS is rebuilding its guerilla networks in Iraq and producing numerous bomb attacks. Iraqi forces continue a campaign against IS in northern Diyala province. So no, this is not over.

As for the U.S. presence, the DoD does not state publicly how many U.S. forces are in Iraq and Syria. Since I'm a U.S. taxpayer and voter, I tend to resent that. However, there are 5,200 U.S. troops known to be in Iraq, probably not counting some special forces and mercenaries. The U.S. has said they will stay there "as long as needed," with the stated need being to combat IS. However it is not clear that U.S. troops have an important or necessary role in that campaign, and many Iraqi politicians have called for U.S. forces to leave. President Trump stated publicly that the rationale for U.S. forces to remain in Iraq was to "watch Iran," a proposition universally rejected in Iraq.


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