ZenPundit
Sunday, September 26, 2004
 
WHAT IS TO BE DONE ? IRAQ, THE WAR ON TERROR AND HOW THE NEXT ADMINISTRATION CAN CUT THE GORDIAN KNOT

In the earlier preface I noted that in numerous quarters the call to do something about Iraq is rising and for many of these commenters -and the Kerry campaign given the implications of their criticism- the thing to do is to get out. Differences exist over whether we should leave in unseemly haste or only after a decent interval but mostly we are being offered the false dichotomy of staying the course with the existing strategy in Iraq or just bugging the hell out in a reprise of the fall of Saigon, complete with hapless locals clinging to departing American helicopters.

That's a false choice. It doesn't matter whether it comes from well-meaning myopia or a Z Magazine inspired hunger to relive the Sixties with an American defeat, it's still a false choice. What the administration needs to do is regain their perspective, remember the strategy and be willing to make radical changes in tactics that align our reach with our grasp. An enemy slain by a thousand cuts is just as dead as one you have sent to the guillotine.

The Gordian Knot

The Bush administration's decision to mount an invasion of Iraq generally struck the public in one of two ways - an eminently sensible and logical continuation of the war after smashing the Taliban or a grand folly of hubris, a distraction from fighting the real war with a grab for empire (or oil, or to help Israel) a misguided " democratic imperialism". The explanation for these viscerally different reactions is not political affiliation, after all we saw during the pre-war debate that America had liberal hawks and antiwar paleocons. The explanation lies primarily in the degree in which a person recognizes that the difficult strategic problems facing the United States - Radical Islamism, Terrorism, Rogue State dictatorships, WMD proliferation and Failed States - are an interrelated, interconnected, self-reinforcing Gordian Knot. If to you these threats are separate, highly compartmentalized, policy problems to be solved in their individual boxes unrelated to the context of everything else - which was our modus operandi during the Cold War to prevent escalation of a crisis to the unthinkable - then invading Iraq will look a little insane.

There is an internal logic to the anti-war position that is sound but it fails because it rests on the false premise that the old rules of the Cold War to keep WWIII from breaking out with the USSR make sense against an amorphous, nihilistic, irresponsible set of foes who wish to attack us sporadically, suicidally and apocalyptically. In reality, these problems are interconnected and cannot be solved in isolation. Pakistan forments Islamist extremism and trades in WMD with North Korea. The DPRK sells missile technology to Iran. Teheran, Saddam and Saudi Arabia , despite mutual loathing, all funded suicide bombers in the West Bank and Gaza and so on. Pulling on just one string of the knot creates freedom of action for a bad element elsewhere. Pressure must be applied everywhere at once ( if not to the same degree everywhere) and the Bush administration crafted a two pronged strategy of Preemption and Liberalization to change the calculus of our opponents by raising their potential costs.

Iraq in the Context of the War on Terror

The problem I have with the Bush administration is not their strategy but a haphazard execution that has allowed the conditions inside Iraq to increasingly determine our response and to magnify Iraq beyond it's actual strategic importance in the context of everything else. Just as it would have been foolish to wait until Afghanistan resembled a central Asian Switzerland before moving to confront our other enemies, attempting to " fix " Iraq without allocating the correct resources is hampering our mobility and keeping us off-balance.

Richard Nixon, shortly before he ran for President in 1968 administered a shock to the liberal foreign policy establishment with an article in Foreign Affairs entitled " Asia after Vietnam ", reminding them that Vietnam, while important, must not be allowed to tie America's hands from pursuing her strategic interests elsewhere. It was good advice then and it remains so now. The Bush administration achieved a key strategic victory by emloying regime change against Saddam but democracy in Iraq has yet to follow. Democracy, and more importantly the values of liberalization, will have a transformative effect in the Mideast but the reality is that given competing claims for limited resources, the complexity of nation-building and urgent threats elsewhere, Iraqi democracy is going to grow more slowly than we might wish. We cannot be stalled everywhere by a lack of progress in one part of our strategy in one place. To win the war the United states must be able to take the initiative globally while holding Iraq. The Iraqis will come along in due time to join the civilized world if the forces of barbarism and Islamism go down to defeat and despair.

"Ability to defeat he enemy means taking the offensive" - Sun Tzu

Much opportunity was wasted politically in Iraq that cannot be now brought back, at least not easily. Likewise while it would be nice to have an army of 3 million men, the United states does not have one and would not have one for years even if we began creating one tomorrow. We must work with the tools we have and deal with things as they are, not as we might wish them to be. There are a number of things we could do right now to change the dynamic:

Be the Point of the Spear: This is what our armed forces really excel at, being Tom Barnett's scary, stealthy, overwhelming Leviathan force. It's what our military personnel are superbly trained to do and right now they are spread much too thin over too many square miles facing too many Iraqis who see everything our troops do. As Colonel David Hackworth pointed out in his Playboy article, long logistical lines of support for a conventional army facing an insurgency is a terrible position to put our troops in, it degrades our effectiveness and raises casualties. Since we really don't control Iraq we might well admit it and pull back to create zones we really do control, safe havens to properly train the Iraqi army and National Guard and close off the border with Syria. The Iraqi government will actually have territory that it can effectively administrate and then expand from there as Iraqi forces become more reliable. We can then, with better rested troops and shorter internal supply lines, zap the bad guys at times of our own choosing with mobile strike forces.

Recognize the Strong Horse: We are trying to build up Allawi, something that may work or not, following Daniel Pipes idea of a "democratically minded strogman". While Allawi is tough minded and ruthless the fact is he does not yet have an army that works. Who has real power ? The Kurds with 50,000 combat seasoned peshmerga. Ayatollah Sistani has a different type of power in Iraq, more diffuse but no less real. No, neither the Kurds nor Sistani's followers will want concessions that are completely to our liking but they are the only viable basis to get genuine cooperation from significant numbers of Iraqis. Our arms-length posture has to end and we need to treat the Kurds and Sistani's shiites as allies or win them over to that kind of relationship, even if this irritates Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The Right Commanders for the Right War: Excuse me from cribbing from David Hackworth once again but since the insurgents aren't fielding a Panzer army, perhaps our top generals should be counterinsurgency and special operations experts and not tank commanders ? Perhaps Secretary Rumsfeld could set aside seniority to bring up gifted general officers who best fit the foe we face in Iraq rather than those slated for the tour of duty ? George Marshall began WWII by cashiering those elderly colonels and brigadiers whose experiences were ill-suited to command troops in a global war. I'm not suggesting something quite that drastic but getting the best men for the job is more important than interservice rivalries.

Stop the Jihadis where they Begin: Jihadis are made not born. There is a flow of money that supports, for example, 14,000 extremist madrassas in Indonesia, seeking to radicalize that nation's gentle and syncretic vision of Islam. Money can be interdicted. Schools for zealots can be closed. Secular or moderate alternatives can be offered. Fundraisers for terror and preachers of Jihad and issuers of terrorist fatwas can be killed or captured and tried before military tribunals. There is no reason why sheiks, emirs and mullahs should be exempt from the fate suffered by gauleiters and reichsmarshals.

Lastly, there's something else longer term. Iraq and the CPA is an experience that demonstrates we need a separate armed force that specializes in nation-building during " small wars" - we need Dr. Barnett's System Administrators to guard, provide humanitarian relief, build, police and connect while a shattered society like Iraq recovers it's sense of normalcy under an umbrella of protection. It's a different set of skills than what a Leviathan force requires but they are no less important. It's hard to imagine the insurgency in Iraq would enjoy much popularity right now if the lights were on, kids were going to school, hospitals were functioning and thugs were being jailed.

The war is ours to lose not the enemy's to win. Much like the during the Civil War as it took time for the North to find the right men and the best tactics to bring her enormous power to bear on the Confederacy, it will take America time to throttle our enemies globally. We have a good strategy, we'll find the right tactics, we have the best men...

If we persevere, we will win.


LINK: I would like to add this excellent observation on the interconnectedness of our strategic problems by T.M. Lutas.



 
Comments:
My position on the war in Iraq appears to be something of a rarity. The only conditions under which I could support the war in Iraq were strategic. Not because of WMD's (containment was sufficient); not because Saddam was a monster (there are lots of monsters); not because he supported terrorists (so do the French); not to establish democracy in the Middle East (desireable but perhaps impossible). And so on. But as a means towards the ends of removing troops from Saudi Arabia and encircling Iran (either Syria or Iran to be the next target) it can't be beat. But to do this Mr. Bush had to enlist the support of the American people. He didn't. And we had to be prepared to subdue the Iraqi populace as well as remove the government. We weren't.

And that's why I opposed the war. IMO the war in Iraq has gone much better than we had any reason to expect. The levels of casualties we're taking are tragic but have little tactical or strategic significance.
 
With such a considered reasons-of-state viewpoint you were probably not the most popular guy at the stop the war rally ;o)

Iraq was one piece of a much larger puzzle ( Iran is another even more important piece)but Saddam as a " monster" had the edge over the mullahs in the view of the Bush administration in that he was personally unpredictable and had centralized power in his hands. The Rafsanjani-Khameini clique was uneasily sharing power with more moderate Islamists at the time. Less so now.

Iraq was also an easier target than Iran; we will have to limit ourselves to destroying the nuclear sites and control bureaucracies (Pasdaran, Ansar Hezbollah etc.)by air.
 
At this point it looks strongly as though we'll be using Israel as a stalking horse with respect to Iran.

Have I mentioned how much I like your posts? Your blog is one of my daily visit.
 
Thank you very much. I just call'em as I see them.

I think you are right -Israel is very much a " live " option as we just sold them bunker-busters and the Sharon-Bush relationship is very,very tight. Not like Bush pere and Shamir or even Reagan and Begin.

Also there is a good IL argument made after Osirak by Tony D'Amato from Northwestern U. during his Congressional testimony on that event - It fits situations like Osirak and Iran.
 
One of our greatest challenges is internal. The neo-McGovernites are so powerful in the Democrat party that it is constantly wedged between the responsible and the irresponsible. For us to win the GWOT, we need to come up with not only a conservative "sun" coalition to fight this war but also a "moon" coalition that will not completely bollix the process in the inevitable event of a need to replace a corrupt/incompetent Republican here and there.

The "one-and-a-half" party system with a dominant "sun" party and a lesser "moon" party is a long-term feature of US politics. We've got the "sun" working out ok. It's the moon that really has me worried. The alternative is to toss the playing board up and have a real realignment with the death of the Democrat and/or Republican party. That's going to be very messy in time of war.

As patriots, we need to find some sort of baseline consensus around which to revolve party differences. If the differences stay too broad, the temptation will be high for our enemies to resort to electoral violence. I view the above article as something of a start on a reasonable alternate pole for a "moon" party platform.
 
Thank you TM.

You make an insightful point.

When the political alignments were reversed after WWII with liberalism dominant and the GOP deeply divided each party and major philosophical persuasion made the choice to adhere to a " vital center".

From 1948 onward the anticommunist liberals mostly rejected their previous New Deal associations with Communists and fellow travellers in the Democratic Party and trade unions; the conservatives led by Arthur Vandenberg,rejected the isolationism of Nye, Lindberg and Borah and supported the Truman administration on Containment, NATO and he Marshall Plan. Old Right antisemites were kicked out of respectable company in the GOP by Buckley. It was a vital center that held until Vietnam, unravelled by some of the same individuals who are currently power-brokers in the Democratic Party's irresponsible wing.

We need another vital center. Conservatives have to make it easier politically for responsible
Democrats and progressives like Paul Berman to join forces on the war. Reponsible liberals and Democrats have to take back their party from the destructive Left elements.
 
Thank you TM.

You make an insightful point.

When the political alignments were reversed after WWII with liberalism dominant and the GOP deeply divided each party and major philosophical persuasion made the choice to adhere to a " vital center".

From 1948 onward the anticommunist liberals mostly rejected their previous New Deal associations with Communists and fellow travellers in the Democratic Party and trade unions; the conservatives led by Arthur Vandenberg,rejected the isolationism of Nye, Lindberg and Borah and supported the Truman administration on Containment, NATO and he Marshall Plan. Old Right antisemites were kicked out of respectable company in the GOP by Buckley. It was a vital center that held until Vietnam, unravelled by some of the same individuals who are currently power-brokers in the Democratic Party's irresponsible wing.

We need another vital center. Conservatives have to make it easier politically for responsible
Democrats and progressives like Paul Berman to join forces on the war. Reponsible liberals and Democrats have to take back their party from the destructive Left elements.
 
Finally someone has nailed the idea of the"irresponsible wing" of the Dem.Party. They seem to be an ideaology all to them selves and damn the consequences. Also I think they are inspired by like minded lefties around the Western world who see the Gap as an opportunity to push some kind of Neo-Marxism(anti-globalism)with the goal of maintaining the Gap.I don't know how the present Dems can defeat this wing as the funding comes from there. Sen.Miller can't do it alone. B.H.
 
You were right: I'm much more impressed with this post than your preface. Two cavills: your suggestion that we should withdraw into areas we control, shore up our supplies and allies to reinforce our position and your shortsighted reliance on Kurdish and Sistani's militias. While that is true that if we would fortify areas we have unfettered control over to our benefit, it would also allow our enemies to shore up their posisitons as well. It works both ways and the fact of the matter is that we can deal with uncertainty and instability better than they can precisely because we're the big boy on the block. We need to be as everywhere at once as we can be in order to keep them harried, on the run, confused, and frightened otherwise we lose credibility and will be seen as weak for withdrawing into "friendly" areas whatever the strategic rationale for it. Being seen as weak is what got us into this mess. Second you suggest we should use Kurds and Shi'ites in place of an Iraqi Army. While I couldn't care less about Turkey and the Saudis, once again this would have the reverse effect of what we're trying to do: unify the country. The task of asserting authority would be that much harder for the Iraqi govt. if it had to rely on mercenaries, who got used to the power, money, etc. of being the govt's iron fist if you will once it told them to go home. To me, that's a surer recipe for civil war than anything that's going on now. Giving official sanction to separitist elements is dangerous stupid for in incipient government struggling with credibility at home and abroad (thanks to John Kerry.)
 
Good Blog, you have lots of good content. Keep up the good work.

I have a blog too it is aboutcar insurance uk.
 
Good content. Thanks for the information.
 
I love when I find usefull info. Thanks
 
Hello, I am a korean visitor, good to see you.
I am sure that your blog page looks great to me which mean looking crowded so, I would like to let everybodies know korea information official site korea.net same as Dynamic korea - contains all about korea news and informations, please let me introducel this cool site. Dynamic korea offer korea travel, culture, food, arts and government info exactly what you want to known korea. You better check it out some time.
 
I am totally nude come see me. Take a bit for all pics and movies to load.

Why do I do this I like to make men blow their jiz in their pants.

Visit me.??
 
Post a Comment

<< Home
Zenpundit - a NEWSMAGAZINE and JOURNAL of scholarly opinion.

My Photo
Name:
Location: Chicago, United States

" The great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances as though they were realities" -- Machiavelli

Determined Designs Web Solutions Lijit Search
ARCHIVES
02/01/2003 - 03/01/2003 / 03/01/2003 - 04/01/2003 / 04/01/2003 - 05/01/2003 / 05/01/2003 - 06/01/2003 / 06/01/2003 - 07/01/2003 / 07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003 / 08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003 / 09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003 / 10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 / 11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003 / 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004 / 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004 / 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 / 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 / 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 / 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 / 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 / 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 / 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 / 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 / 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 / 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 / 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 / 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 / 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 / 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 / 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 / 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 / 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 / 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 / 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 / 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 / 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 / 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 / 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 / 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 / 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 / 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 / 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 / 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 / 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 / 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 / 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 / 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 / 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006 / 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006 / 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007 / 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007 / 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007 / 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007 / 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007 / 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007 / 06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007 / 07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007 / 08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007 / 09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007 / 10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007 / 11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007 /



follow zenpundit at http://twitter.com
This plugin requires Adobe Flash 9.
Get this widget!
Sphere Featured Blogs Powered by Blogger StatisfyZenpundit

Site Feed Who Links Here
Buzztracker daily image Blogroll Me!