The Case For Permanent Bases In Iraq
The United States has 120 FOBs, or forward operating bases in Iraq, and plans to build 14 permanent bases there, including airbases (there is even an alleged 'Camp Bushwhacker' somewhere in Iraq). Via GlobalSecurity.org we can see the major bases already established there:
Take a look at the powerful strategic position Iraq possesses on the world map. Historically Iraq has been strategic not just for the middle east, but for the whole world - it is literally the crossroads of the ancient world. Alexander crossed here on his way to India, and at the height of its power the Roman Empire extended down the Tigris and Euphrates right to the Persian Gulf itself.The silk road had its terminus here.It was just about impossible to travel east or west through the fertile crescent without crossing through what is now Iraq:
Iraq remains just as geographically and politically strategic today. Axis of Evil senior member Iran is pinned between Afghanistan and Iraq - both held by American troops. On Iraq's flank is junior associate member of the Axis of Evil, Syria. This puts a tremendous incentive upon both of these regimes to be on their best behavior. While protecting the critical oil fields of Iraq, American and Coalition troops are well-poised to quell any mischief in oil rich Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as well, thus stabilizing the major energy resources of the entire world and putting them beyond the machinations of terrorists. Moderate and weak Jordan enjoys shade from this umbrella of protection, as do the Gulf States.
Its location also makes Iraq great piece of flypaper. If you had to pick one country in the middle east to serve as the center of gravity for jihadism, Iraq would serve nicely. Lodged between the respective headquarters of shia and sunni jihadism, Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iraq would be the absolute perfect locus to tie down terrorism if we could somehow pick up Egypt and place it right next to Iraq as well. The symbolic value of controlling Baghdad, seat of the ancient caliphate, and Najaf, theological center of shi'ite Islam, should not be underestimated. Granted, this is not the type of strategic advantage one looks for - the Pentagon would prefer not to fight any insurgency at all obviously. And the argument that if we don't fight them in the streets there, we will be fighting them in the streets here is quite a stretch. If al-Qaeda ever obtained an air force or navy powerful enough to force its way to our shores - which is what it would take to deliver sufficient numbers of jihadists to wage an insurrection here - then car bombs will surely be the least of our worries.
But,let's try to squeeze whatever possible lemonade we can out of this lemon . . . having lots of jihadists dying while fighting experienced American and Iraqi forces is arguably better than having jihadists spread all over the middle east causing mischief in places not expecting violence, or subverting, co-opting or forming partnerships with the tyrannies still at large there. Or planning attacks against the U.S.
We need permanent bases to properly house our troops and improve operations, and to avoid the utter disaster that befell South Vietnam once it collapsed. Losing Vietnam allowed the genocide in Kampuchea to begin. Who knows what equivalent horrors (or worse) would be unleashed if Iraq falls.
Permanent bases will go from being the anchors that keep Iraq stable and free, to being powerful projection points throughout the entire region once the insurrection is quelled. In time, I suspect the average Iraqi will no more resent a permanent American presence on their soil any more than the average German or Japanese does. Far from being the neocon imperialist nightmare envisioned by the overly-imaginative Left, permanent bases in Iraq will be tangible evidence of our continued commitment to a free and prosperous Iraq, and don't let the symbolic value of that for Iraqis and all the peoples of the region be underestimated either.
Linked to Outside the Beltway's Beltway Traffic Jam - thank you!