In recent days, the White House has begun a public campaign to rally the American public around “a lengthy U.S. troop presence in Iraq like the one in South Korea,” where U.S. troops have been stationed for 50 years.
President Bush offered the Iraq-South Korea comparison late last month, and Press Secretary Tony Snow confirmed soon afterwards that the administration envisioned a long-term occupation of Iraq. Defense Secretary Robert Gates endorsed the Korea model last week, and Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, who oversees daily operations in Iraq, called it a “great idea.”
Comparing the Iraq war to a “five-reel movie,” U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker this morning announced his support for the concept of a long-term U.S. occupation. He told NPR that he doesn’t “see an end game in sight” in Iraq:
Sometimes I think that in the U.S. we’re looking at Iraq right now as though it were the last half of a three-reel movie. For Iraqis, it’s a five-reel movie and they’re still in the first half of it. I don’t see an end game, as it were, in sight.
When asked his estimate for how long the U.S. will remain in Iraq, Crocker answered, “I could not give that estimate.” As the September deadline approaches for Congress’ reevaluation of Bush’s course in Iraq, it appears the administration is consolidating behind a “no end game” strategy.
NPR: Is there any indication that those fighting are tired of this war? Last week on this show, former Gen. Barry McCaffrey told us that the stakes are higher than ever before because every side is positioning itself for the end game. Is he right?
CROCKER: Sometimes I think that in the U.S. we’re looking at Iraq right now as though it were the last half of a three-reel movie. For Iraqis, it’s a five-reel movie and they’re still in the first half of it. I don’t see an end game, as it were, in sight.
NPR: What is your estimate at this moment in time on how long the U.S. will be in Iraq in force?
CROCKER: I could not give that estimate. And I think one of the things all Americans have to consider is if we were to scale back our engagement here in a major way before there has been a major change in circumstances on the ground, what are the consequences?