Things are going so well in Iraq that, as the headline says, “Pentagon Urges Delay in U.S. Troop Reductions in Iraq.” Or as retired four-star Gen. Barry McCaffrey said the other day at the Council on Foreign Relations, “If you look at the totality of our experience in Iraq, it’s been a major disaster. There’s no two ways about it.”
“The change in Iraq is like night and day,” McCaffrey said. “The violence is down enormously. It’s gone from bordering on the edge of all-out civil war to completely different circumstances.” How different? Well, there are six million people in Baghdad, “all of them armed.”
Here’s another way to say how swell it’s going:
There’s “still massive unemployment. Our allies are leaving.” And “there is a complete lack of political domestic support to continue the war.” (I think he meant political support in the U.S., minus McCain and Joe Lieberman et al.)
So Jane Arraf, the former CNN Baghdad Bureau Chief, asked, “What do you think Iraq is going to look like in five years?’
“I don’t know,” McCaffrey said. “I think it’s hard to imagine that anyone thinks an all-out civil war to settle the political struggle is a good outcome. I think there’s a fear on the part of the Iraqi leadership that all-out civil war will be a blood bath that’ll yield Pol Pot’s Cambodia.” That’s how really well things are going.
“The problem,” he added, is whether “the Constitution we issued them [is] appropriate for that people and this time. I think there’s a good argument that it isn’t. So I’d be unsurprised if two years from now there isn’t some hotshot two-star general as head of government in Iraq, and I’m not so sure that wouldn’t serve the interests of the Iraqi people and their neighbors as well as some of the alternatives.”
Which is to say that things are going really really well.
Consider this: “The Sunnis figured out that we’re leaving — and by the way, we are leaving in the next 36 months,” he said. Many have become our paid allies for the moment. There are “80,000 primarily Sunni insurgents that we’re paying $300 a month to guard their own village[s], their own neighborhood[s], and that has defused an awful lot of the violent insurgency struggle that we are trying to dominate.” This comes to $24 million a month for bribes to the tribes. Nearly $300 mil a year. Chickenfeed.
Some more good news: “Your Air Force — our principal fighter aircraft, probably a quarter of them are down now — F-15s — and will never fly again. And the tanker fleet is broken. If you want to have a global air force, there’s no sense in buying one unless you buy the tanker fleet to sustain it. Our airlift assets are being ground down by overuse and no resources. Our C-5A aircraft are busted. They’re over.” Also, “we now have 124,000 contractors in Iraq. They’re doing all our retail [and] wholesale logistics. Damn near. They’re doing all of our long-haul communications. … We’ve been forced to go to contractors to carry out absolutely what our military functions [are].”
But here’s what McCaffrey called the truly “good news”: Not only has the current Secretary of Defense Bill Gates “restored sanity to the national security process,” but the U.S. commander in Iraq is a superhero straight out of the comics: “David Petraeus, personally, I think may be the most talented person I ever met in my life. … He looks like a movie star. He can jump over high hedges in a single bound. A doctorate from Princeton. He likes being in the public eye. And our U.S. Ambassador there, Ryan Crocker, is as good as he is.”
If that’s not proof that things are going really, really, really well in Iraq, then McCaffrey is a monkey’s uncle. Meanwhile, the even better good news is that when you look at the worldwide terrorist picture, “the Saudi royal family is no longer funding Al Qaeda.”
We do have a leetle problem, though. The threat from Al Qaeda “has morphed,” he said. “If you asked me to identify the capital of terrorism, I’d be more likely to say London than Damascus and more likely to say Paris and Hamburg than Teheran.” And he predicts, “in the first term of the next administration there will be an attack on the U.S.”
Why so? Because it’s going so well.
Postscript: Something I forgot to mention was McCaffrey’s funniest remark: “We had too many people in high office who never got punched in the face.” He offered it as the reason for the “disastrous failure” of leadership by Donald Rumsfeld and his circle of advisors. So many people in high office needing to get their faces punched, and so little time, says a friend.
PPS: Nov. 30, 2008 — Essential reading: “One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex”