From what White House Press Secretary Tony Snow was telling reporters during his briefing today it seems like the White House is starting to think of the U.S. military presence in Iraq in the same way as the long term troop deployment in S. Korea. “Here is — what the President means by that is that at some point you want to get to a situation in which the Iraqis have the capability to go ahead and handle the fundamental matters of security. You have the United States there in what has been described as an over-the-horizon support role so that if you need the ability to react quickly to major challenges or crises, you can be there, but the Iraqis are conducting the lion’s share of the business — 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,” Snow said.

Snow continued, “In this particular case, what you want to be able to do — and I’m now not trying to draw comparisons with any of the neighbors of Iraq, but instead, simply taking a look at the situation within Iraq proper. You get yourself into a position where you do have security in places like Baghdad and at the provincial level, and then you provide security as long as seems reasonable to the Iraqi people who are, after all, your hosts and the ones making the invitations.” Snow also said that he wasn’t suggesting that U.S troops will be in Iraq for 50 years, but that the war on terror will be a long one, and that the administration hopes that U.S forces will be playing a support role for the Iraqis someday.

The analogy between Iraq and S. Korea is fatally flawed because the Korean conflict involves conventional warfare between two nations separated by a border. If any fighting would break out, it would be the conventional military kind. In Iraq, the enemy isn’t a nation, but a collection of native born fighters using guerilla tactics. The troops in Iraq aren’t securing a border. They are patrolling the streets with potential enemies all around them. The support capacity for U.S. forces in Iraq will be the Iraqi army, because for the foreseeable future, the U.S. will be the security presence in Iraq.

This discussion also makes it clear that the Bush administration has no intention of ever leaving Iraq. Sure that might give into political pressure and bring some troops home, but the bulk of the forces will stay there. On top of this, all the top GOP presidential contenders either want to stay in, or expand, the Iraq war. This means that we could be in Iraq for possibly nine more years.  I don’t think that the majority of the American people will find this position acceptable. It is doubtful that any candidate who wants to stay in Iraq will be able to win the presidency, but anyone who tries to compare Iraq to S. Korea is trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

 Text of Tony Snow press briefing

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics

Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse
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