This article originally appeared on TomDispatch.
Finally, the great American disconnect may be ending. Only four years after the invasion of Iraq, the crucial facts-on-the-ground might finally be coming into sight in this country–not the carnage or the mayhem; not the suicide car bombs or the chlorine truck bombs; not the massive flight of middle-class professionals, the assassination campaign against academics, or the collapse of the best health-care service in the region; not the spiking American and Iraqi casualties, the lack of electricity, the growth of Shia militias, the crumbling of the “coalition of the willing,” or the uprooting of 15 percent or more of Iraq’s population; not even the sharp increase in fundamentalism and extremism, the rise of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the swelling of sectarian killings, or the inability of the Iraqi government to get oil out of the ground or an oil law, designed in Washington and meant to turn the clock back decades in the Middle East, passed inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone–No, none of that.
What’s finally coming into view is just what George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, the top officials of their administration, the civilian leadership at the Pentagon, and their neocon followers had in mind when they invaded and occupied Iraq in 2003.
But let me approach this issue another way. For the last week, news jockeys have been plunged into a debate about the “Korea model,” which, according to the New York Times and other media outlets, the President is suddenly considering as the model for Iraq. (“Mr. Bush has told recent visitors to the White House that he was seeking a model similar to the American presence in South Korea.”) You know, a limited number of major American bases tucked away out of urban areas; a limited number of American troops (say, 30,000-40,000), largely confined to those bases but ready to strike at any moment; a friendly government in Baghdad; and (as in South Korea where our troops have been for six decades) maybe another half century-plus of quiet garrisoning. In other words, this is the time equivalent of a geographic “over the horizon redeployment” of American troops.
In this case, “over the horizon” would mean through 2057 and beyond.
This, we are now told, is a new stage in administration thinking. White House spokesman Tony Snow seconded the “Korea model” (“You have the United States there in what has been described as an over-the-horizon support role… — as we have in South Korea, where for many years there have been American forces stationed there as a way of maintaining stability and assurance on the part of the South Korean people against a North Korean neighbor that is a menace…”); Defense Secretary Robert Gates threw his weight behind it as a way of reassuring Iraqis that the U.S. “will not withdraw from Iraq as it did from Vietnam, ‘lock, stock and barrel,'” as did “surge plan” second-in-command in Baghdad, Lt. General Ray Odierno: