EMPIRE! There's been some conversation recently about what, exactly, our long-term intentions were and/or continue to be in Iraq -- Josh Marshall has written a few interesting TPM posts on the subject, and of course the president brought the matter into stark relief with his recent comparison of our presence in Iraq to that in South Korea. Kevin Drum discusses what had been, for some reason, the issue that dared not speak its name in respectable venues for years after the invasion: permanent U.S. bases in Iraq:

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.

I think the definitive reported piece on our "enduring bases" in Iraq was written by Spencer Ackerman for the November 2006 issue of the Prospect. Spencer showed exactly how this process has actually played out on the ground in Iraq with a U.S. military that is hardly privy to or supportive of all of the administration's real policy objectives in the region -- nobody has been responding to an official White House directive stating, "Build some permanent bases for our new imperial outpost!" But, through one decision after another made within the deliberate strategic fog set by the administration, that's just what has been happening. Spencer's piece is highly, highly recommended if you haven't yet read it.

--Sam Rosenfeld