I’ve started regularly reading Wired’s Danger Room, a blog that focuses on defense policy and other related issues. For example, they’ve done a really great job following Blackwater’s involvement in the Nisour Square incident, and of contractors in general. The scope is a bit different than that of coverage by Spencer Ackerman over at TPMMuckraker, which is also excellent. Danger Room contributer P.W. Singer recently completed a study showing that contractors are a Catch-22 for U.S. goals:
If we judge by what has happened in Iraq, when it comes to private military contractors and counterinsurgency, the U.S. has locked itself into a vicious cycle. It canâ€™t win with them, but canâ€™t go to war without them.
Today, contributor Kris Alexander looks forward to post-US presidential election Iraq (ie 2009). How’s this for a starting point:
First, there is another â€œsurgeâ€ at work in the region â€” a surge in regional defense spending as a hedge against instability and the rise of Iran, both consequences of the war in Iraq.
The US recently gave Jordan $78 million in defense aid, and other countries are purchasing $63 billion in arms. So, if the war in Iraq is paving the way for a stable, democratic Middle East where things get a little better every day, why is everyone going on an arms buying binge? And why is the US the architect of the deal?
It’s a lengthy post, including end-game thoughts for a post-withdrawl Iraq. What happens in Turkey, or other players in the region? Can we realistically expect to leave entirely? I’m not sure I agree with the entire premise, but this is an interesting thought:
So in the end, weâ€™re right back where we started before Operation Iraqi Freedom — a large, semi-permanent military presence in the Middle East with the mission of â€œcontainingâ€ Iraq. Theyâ€™ll make for lucrative targets and insults regional sensibilities. We will still be occupiers, in the radicals’ eyes.
In the end, we canâ€™t stay and we canâ€™t go. To save our military we will have to cut back our commitment to Iraq, but to save the region, this commitment will still be robust, expensive, and vulnerable.
Did someboady say something about a Catch-22?
UPDATE: 12:06 p.m. â€” Singer answers six questions over at Harper’s magazine.