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Don't Panic!

Your war questions answered

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How much help are we getting from other countries in our effort to stabilize Iraq?

Other countries? What the hell do we need other countries for? Other countries aren't good for much other than beach vacations, a fragrant cheese or two, and affordable consumer electronics. We certainly don't need foreign militaries helping us. Our military spends more money before 9 a.m. than all other militaries spend all day. The Brits are helping us out, but it's not as though we need them. They're just being polite. Besides, they speak English, so how foreign are they, really?

Despite playing up the bullshit notion that we were a team player headed into Iraq with a massive, international "Coalition of the Willing" at our side, the above paragraph is, sad but true, an accurate description of the Bush administration's pre-war attitude toward a multi-lateral approach in Iraq.

Thanks in large part to all the Iraqis who ignored President Bush's carrier-top re-election campaign ad declaring that major combat operations in Iraq have ended, our attitude seems to have changed.

Did I say re-election campaign ad? My bad. I meant speech.

Restoring and maintaining order in Iraq is seemingly too demanding a task for the 150,000-person force we currently have in Iraq. That shouldn't be a surprise. In February, then Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki said it would take hundreds of thousands of soldiers to do the job. Like lots of people who dared to read lines that weren't part of the White House-approved screenplay, Shinseki was harshly criticized by the Pentagon for his statements and recently resigned.

Giving his honest opinion -- who does that Shinseki think he is, an American?

Our options in Iraq are limited by the size of our military. Of the Army's 33 active-duty combat brigades, only three are considered available for a new mission. Sixteen brigades are already in Iraq. Keep in mind that we've got a major military commitment in Afghanistan and that we need to be ready to deal with North Korea. And let's not forget about all the soldiers we usually station all over Europe and Asia.

Short of increasing the size of the military (which news reports suggest we may do soon), we need help from foreigners.

You remember foreigners, right? "Hot Blooded," "Cold As Ice," "I Want To Know What Love Is." No, that's Foreigner.

Foreigners are people from other countries -- people we're asking to send soldiers to help us in Iraq even though we completely discounted their opinions before the war.

We used a combination of pressure and charm to try to coax India to send 17,000 soldiers to Iraq, a deployment that the New York Times says would have given the Iraq "coalition" (yes, those quotation marks are sarcastic) a more international texture -- a phrase that may or may not have been a politely coded way of saying that darker-skinned soldiers make the occupation seem less colonial. India refused because the war is unpopular there, but said they might reconsider if the U.N. were more involved. France and Germany, our most militarily capable allies, and Russia are also refusing to send help sans U.N. involvement.

At our request, Turkey is considering sending 10,000 soldiers to patrol Iraq. No decision has been made, so we mustn't count Turkey chickens before they hatch.

We do have some foreign help on the way, but not much. Spain and Italy have committed 1,300 and 3,000 soldiers, respectively. Poland is reportedly going to have 1,500 soldiers in Iraq soon, provided we fork over the cash to pay for it.

That's not all though. I swear that the following is not a joke -- according to Time magazine, Lithuania is going to send 43 soldiers to Iraq, Macedonia 30 and Kazakhstan, bless their Central Asian hearts, is sending 25.

So, you see, we're not alone. The Bush administration's pre-war diplomatic bungling hasn't hurt our ability get foreigners to help us. As soon as the Macedonian 30 arrive and Iraqis start heeding Paul Bremer's June "Drug-Free Zone"-like decree outlawing incitements to violence, everything will be fine. Really.

andisheh@creativeloafing.com

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