Resurrected: U.S. Could’ve Prevented Bloodletting in Iraq by Staying Longer

General John Allen Credit: Isafmedia

General John Allen
Credit: Isafmedia

Retired Marine General John Allen told a Washington conference that the problem with our Iraq strategy is we weren’t there long enough:

“We weren’t there long enough to provide the top cover for the solution of many of the political difficulties that might have resolved itself had we had been there for a longer period of time,” he told attendees of the Foreign Policy Initiative forum. “So consequently, as we departed, we have seen those tectonic plates begin to grind against each other and that has created instability and the body count is going up, the bloodletting is going up.”

My, what a familiar tune. It’s the same self-serving logic that we heard throughout the nearly decade-long occupation: US forces are endowed with a magical Power of the Clock in which bloodletting is a function of time spent adjacent to US forces. If there is bloodletting in Iraq now, then we should have stayed longer so there wouldn’t be any bloodletting.

You know, like in 2003-2011 when our presence prevented instability and bloodletting in Iraq [end sarcasm].

Anyway, Allen should direct his remarks at the Iraqi government since that’s the body that kicked us out of the country. John Hudson explains why Allen’s assertion is deaf to the context of our 2011 withdrawal:

…even if U.S. diplomats had somehow negotiated a new Status of Forces Agreement, the troop numbers floated at the time were a relative pittance: 8,000 to 12,000 troops — mostly for training purposes. That’s nowhere near the more than 160,000 troops that existed in Iraq during the surge. With Iraq now experiencing the worst violence in the last five years, the idea that these residual 12,000 troops could keep the peace in the same way raises doubts.

Instability is not created by the departure of an invasion and occupation force. Instability was internal to Iraq. Saddam repressed it. We invaded, arrogantly, and tore that repressive lid off unresolved resentments while inadvertently stoking further resentment. Solution? There is none, at least not on our end, not now. Lesson? Don’t do things like invade Iraq, because we’re not as smart or right or badass as some folks think we are.

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