- By Marc Lynch
Marc Lynch is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, where he is the director of the Institute for Middle East Studies and of the Project on Middle East Political Science. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He is the author of The Arab Uprising (March 2012, PublicAffairs).
He publishes frequently on the politics of the Middle East, with a particular focus on the Arab media and information technology, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and Islamist movements.
I’m about to catch a plane, but I wanted to quickly note a few contrarian views that have come through my inbox in the last few days.
First, Iraq. Col. James Hutton, who I believe to be Gen. Odierno’s spokesman, writes in response to yesterday’s post (reproduced here with his permission):
….The headline of your latest entry more than suggests an either/or decision is required and that there are two sides vying for a particular fixed position. Gen. Odierno, at President Obama’s direction, is developing and reviewing several options. While Gen. Odierno sees the full election cycle as being vital to judging longer-term stability, this view does not preclude reduction options in the interim.
Inasmuch as no particular decision has been announced as to the date and size of future reductions, or of the President’s ultimate decisions, it is premature to state without equivocation, "(t)his strategy is also a recipe for endless delay." It is clear from each of our actions since the ratification of the Security Agreement that our direction is steadfastly moving toward fulfilling our implementation obligations.
Finally, you state, "I hope that Obama is able to head off a battle with the military — and the military, a battle with Obama — by working together on such a strategy." There is no "battle" to "head off." Gen.Odierno, and other military leaders, will continue to provide their advice to the chain of command and will carry out the decisions rendered by the President.
My response (in part):
….as I wrote in my post, part of the New York Times story was clearly an attempt by the media to drive a pre-existing "conflict narrative" between Obama and the military. Such conflict is as unneccessary as it is dangerous — since everyone presumably shares the broader goal of finding the best way to begin drawing down from Iraq responsibly. General Odierno should correct the New York Times report and make clear that this narrative isn’t going to fly.
That said, I stand by the argument that the Brookings-CFR version, at least, is in fact a recipe for endless delay — regardless of current intentions. There will always be problems on the horizon that make it appear dangerous to being drawdowns, and at some point the US does need to make a strategic decision to begin. I do think that there’s a substantive difference between making that decision now — and sending clear signals to Iraqis — and postponing that decision for potentially more than a year.
This debate will continue, and I of course welcome Col. Hutton and Gen. Odierno’s feedback.
Ben Pauker is executive editor at Foreign Policy. Ben came to FP in May 2010 from World Policy Journal, where he was managing editor from 2007-2010. A native of New York, he grew up in Brazil, Australia, and Thailand and has written for Harper's, the Economist, and the Chicago Tribune, among other publications. He is the co-founder of the Gastronauts, the world’s largest adventurous-eating club, and, in the course of reporting but mainly to see if it was possible, has smuggled small arms out of Central Africa.| In Box |
Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge.| The E-Ring |