Forever?

Abe Greenwald, discussing a permanent presence in Iraq:

In the unlikely event that Barack Obama insists on rebuffing our Sunni and Kurdish partners, he would establish the U.S. as a nation that’s indifferent to, indeed disdainful of, strategic alliances. Far from being the gesture of a “humble” country, such a rejection would mark a policy tilt toward unprecedented American arrogance. Remember, we are supposed to return to working together with allies. Turning down friends – in the Muslim world no less – is no way to signal America’s hope for cooperation among “the community of nations.”

By “rebuffing,” he means turning down offers to maintain a long term presence in Sunni and Kurdish Iraq.

This is, to say the least, a very odd argument. On the one hand, Greenwald seems to suggest the United States is obliged to put some sort of military presence in another country any time an “ally” requests it. This doesn’t really make much sense; military bases require resources to maintain and plant a certain amount of our troops in one area with little mobility. Of course, they can have some benefits, but to that end they only make sense when they’re in our interests to maintain, not as something to hand out willy nily.

Secondly, the Kurds and Sunnis make up a minority of Iraq’s population, so what their preferences are supposed to mean. Is Greenwald suggesting we side against the Shia and take up the Sunni and Kurdish sectarian cause(s)? That’s going to be tricky, given that the government is made up of a majority Shiite coalition. And, if we assume a certain level of proportionality in public opinion, if the Sunnis and the Kurds want us to maintain a presence, and the Shia oppose it, then it would stand to reason that a majority of Iraqis would be in opposition. As would the government. Does Greenwald want us to maintain a presence in Sunni and/or Kurdish parts of Iraq without the governments approval, or against the governments wishes? That would be rather odd, seeing as how we’ve been told that establishing a sovereign democratic government in Iraq was the point of the war all along.