US President George Bush would ultimately like America to have a role in Iraq that’s similar to the one the nation plays in South Korea, White House spokesman Tony Snow said yesterday: supportive but definitely not frontline. 

Which means the US is in for a long time (not a good time) — American forces have helped keep an uneasy peace for more than 50 years in South Korea, notes The Guardian.

Still, it’s not exactly news to anyone who’s surveyed the plans for the American Embassy in Baghdad.

Commissioned three years ago and due for completion in September, the $US592 million complex will be the largest and most expensive of its kind, not so much an embassy as a citadel. In fact, not so much anything as “a base”, writes Jonathan Freedland in The New York Review of Books.

It certainly needs to be a fortress. Set in the less-than-pastoral Green Zone, it will be an inevitable target and, set on 104 acres, a mighty big one. Not without reason are they planning more than 20 blast-resistant buildings.

The compound is not as grotesque as the “overheated, Disneyesque, Arabian-Nights palaces” of Saddam Hussein’s imaginings, writes Tom Engelhardt on TomPaine.com, but the whole thing fair reeks of “imperial impunity”.

American firm BDY, “architects to the wildest imperial dreamers and schemers of our time”, have all the plans up on their website, notes Engelhardt, where you can “take a little tour in sketch form, a blast-resistant spin, through its Bush-inspired wonder, its particular colossus of the modern world”. 

According to BDY, the self-contained compound will include the embassy itself, residences for the ambassador and staff, post exchange, commissary, cinema, retail and shopping, restaurants, schools, fire station and supporting facilities such as power generation, water purification system, telecommunications, and waste-water treatment facilities.  So life will “continue here as it already goes on in the US-enforced Green Zone”, writes Freedland, “as cosseted and disconnected from the surrounding reality as Happy Valley was from the rest of Kenya.”

Engelhardt is particularly taken with the embassy’s “pool house,” as imagined by BDY. Note the palm trees dotted around it, he says, “the expansive lawns, and those tennis courts discreetly in the background.”

But even for America, the nation that invented big, the compound is enormous. “Remarkably outsized”, says Engelhardt. So what’s going on? We can certainly assume that this new embassy “will house a rousing set of CIA (and probably Pentagon) intelligence operations for the country and region, and will be a massive hive for American spooks of all sorts”. 

A sort of Middle East control centre. Or perhaps, as Engelhardt says, simply the “imperial Mother Ship dropping into Baghdad”.