Awakening Leader: Your Money or Your Life

I didn't see this AFP story last week:

The Iraqi officer leading a U.S.-financed anti-jihadist group is in no mood for small talk -- either the military gives him more money or he will pack his bags and rejoin the ranks of al-Qaeda.

"I'll go back to al-Qaeda if you stop backing the Sahwa (Awakening) groups," Col. Satar tells U.S. Lt. Matthew McKernon, as he tries to secure more funding for his men to help battle the anti-U.S. insurgents.

This, I think, does more than a little to underscore the limits of the "bribe our former enemies to be our friends" approach to Iraq. Of course, though the limits are real so are the possibilities. If keeping these guys on the payroll indefinitely were really crucial to American national security, I'm pretty sure we could find a way to work things out for quite a while. But it really isn't crucial to American national security. Having insurgents not shooting at US troops is much preferable to the previous situation, but insofar as the safety of our soldiers is the primary concern then getting the soldiers out of Iraq is a much more reasonable long-term strategy.

The "cash for allies" approach makes sense as a way to make a military presence more sustainable in a place where the presence is strategically important. But for some time now, the main strategic purpose of our presence in Iraq seems to be simply to sustain our presence in Iraq. That's not a good enough reason.