SETTING UP SHOP….Speaking of former Monthly editors, Jonathan Alter is getting shrill at the news that the Bush administration sees Iraq as the new Korea:

All of that White House chatter about staying in Iraq for decades means that Bush has essentially given up on democracy there.

….So why the move to permanent bases in Iraq?….The only two reasons to station troops in the Middle East for half a century are protecting oil supplies (reflecting a pessimistic view of energy independence) outside the normal channels of trade and diplomacy, and projecting raw military power. These are the imperial aims of an empire. During the cold war, charges of U.S. imperialism in Korea and Vietnam were false. Those wars were about superpower struggles. This time, the “I word” is not a left-wing epithet but a straightforward description of policy aims — yet another difference from those two older wars in Asia.

It’s nice to finally see a few people in the mainstream press taking seriously the question of why the Bush administration has, for the past four years in Iraq, been busily building permanent military bases the size of small towns to go along with an embassy compound more suited to be NATO headquarters than a diplomatic outpost to a country of 25 million. What’s more, this isn’t a “move” to permanent bases in Iraq. That’s been the plan all along. I remember there was a period a couple of years ago when I’d write about this periodically, but then finally gave up because it didn’t seem to get more than a shrug from anyone else. As if building an embassy compound the size of the Pentagon in downtown Baghdad didn’t really mean anything special.

I expect that the White House will back off pretty quickly from the South Korea analogies that started all this, but hopefully a few people will have taken notice anyway. An occupying force that’s planning to leave someday doesn’t need the kind of infrastructure we’re building in Iraq. Only a country planning to use Iraq as a staging area for further conquest needs that.