“Driving us out of the Middle East”

I just finished listening to President Bush’s year-end press conference. His prepared remarks were, unsurprisingly, rather dry and bland but some of his answers to the questions posed by the reporters were rather interesting.

He responded rather sharply to a question about whether he would go ahead with a “surge” action to pacify Baghdad in the face of opposition from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Obviously, it’s something of a sore subject.

But I found his comment in response to one of the questions on Iraq extremely interesting. He characterized the goal of (at least some of) the insurgents in Iraq to “drive us out of the Middle East”.

I don’t know whether that’s true. It’s obviously the objective of (at least some of) the insurgents in Iraq to drive us out of Iraq. It was the stated objective of Osama bin Laden to drive us out of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (that’s largely been accomplished).

I certainly believe that there are lots of people all over the Middle East who would like to see the U. S. military vacate their many bases all over the region. If I were one of them I’d be looking at the strategy of the insurgents in Iraq very closely. If the U. S. military leaves Iraq before the situation there is much more under control than it is now, they may conclude that, if they raise enough hell, the Americans will leave their country, too. If I were a leader of one of those countries, I’d be wondering if, on net, the U. S. military presence in my country were working to preserve my power or put it in jeopardy.

As I’ve noted before our substantial military presence in the Middle East wasn’t our first choice. It wasn’t even our second choice. It’s accumulated over the years in reaction to the assaults on the stability of the region (in particular those of Iran) that have threatened our legitimate interests there.

The interests will remain for the foreseeable future. I’m finding it increasingly hard to see how we’re going to secure those interests in that future.

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