The Best Defense

The costs of leaving Iraq

I mentioned this on NPR's "Morning Edition" yesterday, but I am still turning it over in my head.

When I was on book tour in California last week, some people attending one of my signings were arguing for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq and said that they understood that a genocidal civil war might break out there -- but didn't care. Do a lot of Americans see it that way? What are you hearing?

Meanwhile, Sen. James Webb (D-A Country Such as This) notes with alarm in an interview with NBC's Andrea Mitchell that the Status of Forces Agreement between the U.S. and Iraq has "plenty of loose language in there that would allow our troops to stay longer." He dislikes that idea. I think it is going to happen and think, on balance, that it is better than leaving. But I don't much like either option.

But what happens when the Americans pull out? Here's an interesting quote from today's Stars & Stripes:

Maybe they try to punish anyone who says bad things about the [election] results. That's why we need the Americans. We need people to protect us from them."

That's Rahim Khalaf Mohammed al-Aethowi, vice president of the North Ramadi City Council, talking about the Iraqi police in the city.


The Best Defense

War with China, not with terrorism?

Big-time strategic thinker Colin Gray serves up an ambitious article in the new issue of Parameters, discussing the 21st century security environment. He begins with some good common sense about the futility of trying to discern the future. "The challenge is to cope with uncertainty, not try to diminish it," he cautions. I like this point because it underscores the necessity of adaptability as a key principle of building, training, and educating our military leaders. (Hat Tip to Yingling and Nagl.)

Then, in an effort to outline the security environment, Gray leaps into a nervy bit of globe-twirling. These are the three comments that really struck me:

Warfare is quite likely between China and America over Taiwan, though not about Taiwan."

Too many people have become unduly fixated on the challenge posed by terrorism. ...Terrorism does not threaten our civilization, but our over-reaction to it could do so. ...Compared to interstate conflict, terrorism-even terrorism armed with weapons of mass destruction-is a minor menace."

NATO-Russian relations are an accident waiting to happen."

I have found Parameters pretty dull in recent years, but it appears to be coming back to life. Next I'll read, and probably blog, the article by Shawn Brimley on strategy in an age of transition. 

Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images