Monday, September 19, 2011


"It's hard to understand why the Obama administration would consider leaving only about 3,000 U.S. troops in Iraq after 2011. A force so small would have little ability to contribute to U.S. interests by helping to build a democratic Iraq or by preventing it from sliding back into civil war. But it would incur all the risks and costs of a continuing troop presence. A few thousand troops would have some residual capacity to provide training and modest logistical support for the Iraqi Security Forces. But that's about it.

They certainly will not be in any position to play the vital peacekeeping role that produced the phenomenal drop in violence starting in early 2007 and that made possible Iraq's hopeful—but entirely incomplete—democratic progress in 2008-2010. The loss of that role could well result in a relapse of Iraq's civil war that might suck in neighboring states and metastasize from civil war to regional war".

Kenneth Pollock, "In Iraq: 3,000 troops worse than none?" The Brookings Institute. 12 September 2011, in

"The plain fact of the matter is that we are no longer in a position to impose our will upon Egypt, regardless of the cost of men, money and international goodwill throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world."

Anthony Eden to Winston Churchill, 10 March 1952. PREM [Prime Ministerial Papers] 11 /91. Public Records Office, Kew.

The issues raised by Kenneth Pollock are quite pertinent and to the point. At merely 3,000, the number of American troops to be left in Iraq are almost worse than useless. With the terms 'hostages to fortune', being quite literally a description of what their position will be in Iraq. Especially with Persian money and arms flowing into the country virtually unimpeded by the Iraqi authorities. It is quite easy to imagine that come next year, with only three thousand or so troops in the country as trainers, that the Mahdi Army, or some other outfit will endeavor to either kidnap American troops or alternatively launch attacks on American posts in hopes of the same or worse. Unless, the Americans intend to retain an substantial air arm, or alternatively intend to retain the right to over-flow the country from Kuwait or the American fleet in the Gulf, it is hard to understand how the USA, can possible protect its troops sufficiently to make it a worthwhile endeavor to retain such a small number of troops 'in-country'. Much less endeavoring to stabilize things on the ground in Iraq. Frankly, I have a difficult time understanding the purpose behind the American (actually the American Defence Department) proposal. Except (nota bene) that the proposal is merely pro forma, and is more intended to force the current regime in Baghdad to allow a more substantial number of American troops to remain (perhaps 10,000-20,000) after December 2011. Pro contra it can be argued that given the current American budgetary problems, that a substantial reduction in American troop numbers to something approaching the three thousand number seems indeed what Washington is looking to achieve. If true, all one can say is that a pessimist (which I am not) would argue that the writing is on the wall for the decline of American primacy in the Near and Middle East.


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