Permanent military bases won't work

Kimberly Marten and Alexander Cooley, professors of political science at Barnard College, Columbia University, argue that military bases won’t work.

In Iraq, it seems unlikely that the U.S. military will shake its current negative reputation, in spite of the good intentions of most American soldiers. As a result of mounting civilian deaths, the failure to establish security, and the enduring images of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, America will always be regarded as an unwelcome occupier by most Iraqis. Politicians in a democratic Iraq will have a ready-made election issue to exploit if bases remain.

Considering all these factors, a continuing U.S. base presence in Iraq is unlikely to be politically tenable. When the United States finally decides to leave Iraq, it should remove troops under an interim agreement that allows it to retain its most important facilities only for the few months necessary to complete withdrawal. Any long-term presence, no matter how small, would make American troops the focus of political unhappiness and the targets of violent attacks.