Wednesday, April 9, 2008

To Stay or Not to Stay in Iraq: That is the Question

I’ve just finished reading The Wall Street Journal’s April 9th article by Yochi J. Dreazen about General David Petraeus’s Iraq report to two Senate panels.

As I’m not writing a political bog, I’m not going to give my opinion on what Petraeus said. And even if this were a political blog, I believe it’s ludicrous for people in the United States to make pronouncements about an extremely volatile situation halfway around the globe. That’s what the concept of “boots on the ground” is about – you have to be there to have even the remotest chance of knowing what’s really going on.

What I want to say concerns Dreazen’s following comment about the testimony of U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker: “Mr. Crocker tried to reassure lawmakers that an emerging agreement between Iraq and the U.S. won’t establish permanent U.S. bases inside Iraq or require future presidents to maintain large numbers of troops there.”

The other day I was surprised to learn that a close friend had no idea that the U.S. still has troops (and their families) in Germany as an aftermath of World War II. So when I read the above statement I tried to visualize permanent bases inside Iraq the way the U.S. has permanent bases (kasernes in German) in Germany.

From September of 1970 until May of 1972, I lived in Munich, Germany, with my army officer husband in military housing connected with McGraw Kaserne. Recently I’ve been reviewing the letters I wrote home (I’m working on the sequel to my forthcoming novel MRS. LIEUTENANT).

Many of the problems I experienced living in Germany then are probably not problems today thanks to the internet, cell phones, etc. Yet for all the annoying problems of living in a foreign country, we Americans were never threatened with the possibility of West Germans lobbing missiles into our housing areas or shooting us as we shopped in downtown Munich.

I can’t imagine a future in which U.S. military families could live safely in a housing area connected with a military base in Iraq. Thus I assume Iraq would always be an “unaccompanied tour” requiring family separations.

I do understand why the U.S. established bases in West Germany after the war. I personally lived through the Cold War threat in Europe, when U.S. policy makers truly believed that, without the presence of U.S. troops in West Germany, the Soviets would roll their tanks from East Germany into West Germany, and then from there who knew?

The question of remaining in Iraq indefinitely is a different question, and one about which I certainly can’t opine. I also can’t imagine what would have happened if U.S troops had stayed in Vietnam indefinitely. Would the fall of Saigon and its terrible aftermath for the South Vietnamese who were our friends never have happened? Or would this horrific scenario only have been postponed for a few more years?

Unfortunately, history doesn’t offer a crystal ball for what would happen in future different scenarios. That knowledge is only possible in alternate science fiction stories. And, for better or worse, we’re living in the real world.

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