Monday, February 1, 2010

Bushama's Never-Ending Wars

It truly wears on a person to be always spotting gloom and doom lying down the road, but the impending release of the Pentagon's quadrennial review indicates that the US is poised to be fighting lots of wars, in a variety of theaters, in the years ahead - and that the Pentagon is going to be asking for proportionally larger budget allocations to fund them.  (And, of course, in looking ahead to a variety of wars and theaters, the Pentagon makes room to spread the appropriations wealth to ever more weapons manufacturers, which brings jobs to favored states and votes to legislators.)

According to Pentagon officials, Defense Secretary Robert Gates will be asking for $708 billion, including funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- $44 billion more the 2010 budget of $664 billion.

The review also focuses on - among other things - more helicopters and drones for Afghanistan, cyber-attack prevention, and the looming threat from China - who, by the way, is feeling its muscles and asserting itself ever more strongly on the international stage.

All the while, the US is likely moving toward a negotiated settlement with the Taliban in Afghanistan, even while it undercuts the Karzai government by recruiting local tribal militias against them and funneling aid directly to them in order to keep Karzai's corrupt officials out of that loop.  None of this suggests that the US will be able to leave Afghanistan in the foreseeable future.

At the same time, we're ramping up Special Ops efforts in Yemen, selling missile defense systems to the Persian Gulf countries (to thwart Iran, as well as induce Israel to hold off on any military strike), permanently stationing naval forces in the Persian Gulf - and Congress is about to present Mr. Obama with a bill to authorize sanctions against Iran.

Of course, Mr. Obama has insisted that the US will indeed depart Iraq on his watch.  And truly, we keep hearing that it's all over there (or so says Max Boot and his ilk).  Except that it's not.  Tensions between the Shii-dominated Baghdad government of Nuri al-Maliki and the Kurdish Regional Government in Erbil are extremely high (and getting higher), over both territorial issues (like Kirkuk) and oil revenues.  General Odierno is having to re-insert US combat forces between the two to keep the peace.  Maliki's government has also banned from the upcoming elections more than 500 candidates, most of them Sunni or otherwise secular nationalists whom Maliki's Iranian allies don't want to see in any future Iraqi government.  One of Iraq's most influentials Sunni tribal leaders is threatening to call for a Sunni boycott.

And, to make things worse, today a suicide bomber killed perhaps as many as 50 Shii pilgrims making their way from Baghdad to Karbala to commemorate Arbain.  No, Iraq's not over.  Thomas Ricks may have been right to opine that it may be only beginning there.  What Obama will do if the lid blows off remains to be seen, but he has long been feeling pressure to delay the US withdrawal.

So, Bushama, you ask?  Well, why not.  These wars, these quagmires, these crises in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen now, and the ongoing crisis with Iran, were largely brought to you courtesy of George W. Bush.  And except for Iraq (which is by no means a done deal as far as the US is concerned), they've been continued, even ramped up, by his silver-tongued successor.  Fifty years from now, unless Mr. Obama acts soon to turn things around, historians will see them, and their policies, as cut from the same cloth, though embroidered with different rhetoric.

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