BIDDING IRAQ FAREWELL
By Alan Caruba
However, I couldn’t shake the notion that his animus toward Saddam Hussein was personal. His father, President George H.W. Bush (Bush41), had been the object of a thwarted assassination attempt attributed to Saddam, and had lost his bid for a second term as U.S. President, despite the successful execution of the first war to drive the Iraqis out of Kuwait.
Bush43 came into office with a promise to cut taxes, and then the 9-11 Islamist terrorist attacks completely altered whatever other plans he had. What followed was a brief, successful incursion into Afghanistan to drive out the Taliban, but it was a war largely fought by local warlords whose assistance was purchased with gobs of money and by the application of American air warfare. The result, however, is that the Taliban are back. I doubt that anyone wants to take any bets on how long the Bush-backed government in Kabul will last.
In retrospect, one is forced to ask if democracy, American-style, can be established and implemented in Iraq or any other place where there never has been widespread understanding of the concept of the rule of law and any experience with genuine constitutional democracy? It’s a question I should have asked myself back then.
Within a year of the Iraq war’s inception, some warnings regarding its prosecution were being issued, but few were listening. In January, 2004, the U.S. Army War College issued a report that criticized the Bush administration’s global war on terrorism as “unfocused.” Its author, Jeffrey Record, said that the war in Iraq was “unnecessary” and “a detour” that diverted attention and resources from the threat posed by al-Qa'ida.
Given that, five years after 9-11, the United States has been unable to find Osama bin Laden or penetrate al-Qa'ida, Record seems prescient. The recent U.S. congressional elections, however, may turn out to be as big a victory for al-Qa'ida as for the Democrats.
Recently, Record was part of a Cato Institute panel on the current state of affairs in Iraq and delivered a stinging denunciation of the conduct of the war there. In October, he had written, “America’s defeat in Vietnam, humiliation in Lebanon and Somalia, and continuing difficulties in Iraq underscore the limits of U.S. conventional military strategy.”
We have, without parallel, the most powerful military establishment the world has ever seen. We could defeat any nation that declared war on us, but, since World War II, we have not been fighting nations.
We have inserted ourselves into civil wars, as was the case of Korea, a stalemate to this day, and, of course, Vietnam, taking over after the colonial French were defeated. “In Vietnam,” Record noted, “the Communists fought a guerrilla war against a politically impatient America and a tactically inflexible American army.”
“Democracies,” said Record, “have limited tolerance for prolonged wars that their citizens do not regard as essential.” As the war in Iraq continued, Americans — at least those who voted — had concluded that Iraq could and should be abandoned to the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds within that nation to determine its fate. Who has won in Iraq? The answer is the nation where the game of chess was invented, Iran.
The British strategist, Colin S. Gray, observed that “the American way of war is apolitical, impatient, ahistorical, culturally ignorant, technology-infatuated, firepower-focused, profoundly conventional, and sensitive to casualties.”
Despite President Bush’s exhortations about the “war on terror,” Americans concluded that his failure to focus on the overriding threat of al-Qa'ida was a major error of judgment. That’s what the Democrats kept saying. Other factors played a role, of course, but political pundits tend to agree that Iraq was Bush’s Waterloo.
Our “ally” Pakistan has since ceded much of that nation's territory to its impenetrable mountain tribes that border Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Iran is firing off some of its arsenal of missiles to demonstrate its military power. It will soon join the world’s nuclear nations.
An army that Record describes as “profoundly averse to counterinsurgency” is unlikely to adapt to the way the Iraq war is being fought. Though transformed into a fighting force that can be swiftly brought to the battlefield, the U.S. Army is still a conventional army, one against which guerrilla warfare has succeeded. This is in no way a criticism of the gallantry, the sacrifices, and the patriotism of the men and women who have fought this war.
Back in America, five years after 9-11, America has a huge new bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security, elements of which, like FEMA, proved disappointing during Hurricane Katrina. The folks in charge of immigration enforcement seem overwhelmed, despite efforts to increase the number of border patrols. The FBI still needs a major upgrade to its computer systems and a new counterintelligence mindset. The CIA, grown risk adverse over the years, often appears to be operating independently of White House policy.
Most certainly, political power in Congress has been shifted to the Democratic Party, a party that is adverse to many of the counterintelligence measures necessary to protect the nation. The Democrats are consumed with hatred for the incumbent Republican President. Those Democrats who will take over major congressional committees are mostly longtime, devout Leftists. Whatever else is wrong with the Democratic Party, it leaders understood that Americans want to leave Iraq.
We will leave, though probably not while George W. Bush is President. The good news is that our conventional military can defeat a nation like Iran in a conventional war. The bad news is that Iran will not fight a conventional war. Instead, its proxies in the Middle East will be fighting unconventional wars until they destroy Israel and hold the West hostage because of its dependence on Middle East oil.
We are still not drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. We are still largely stymied by coastal states that do not want to grant permission to explore for rich reserves of oil and natural gas under the continental shelf. Between discovery and delivery is perhaps ten years of heavy investment. Life in America is going to become more expensive, unless these energy reserves are tapped.
Iraq is likely to join a growing list of American military disappointments and defeats. How fast and how soon we can adjust to the learning curve of such failures will say much about the world in which we live in the decades ahead. The only certainty is that there will not and cannot be any negotiated end to the conflict with the leaders of the worldwide Islamist Jihad. Until they are found and killed, the terror war against America and the West will continue.
The American Political System:
Politics & Government in the U.S.A.
The American Political & Cultural Left:
Liberals, Statists, Socialists, & Other Leftists
The Middle East & the Problem of Iraq
Page Two Page One
The Problem of Rogue States:
Iraq as a Case History
National Strategy for Victory in Iraq
Middle East -- Arabs, Arab States,
& Their Middle Eastern Neighbors
Islamism & Jihadism -- The Threat of Radical Islam
Page Three Page Two Page One
International Politics & World Disorder:
War & Peace in the Real World
Page Two Page One
Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.
Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
Against the U.S.A. & Western Civilization
Islamist International Terrorism &
U.S. Intelligence Agencies
Counterterrorism & U.S. National Security
U.S. National Security Strategy
Alan Caruba is a veteran business and science writer, a Public Relations Counselor, and Founder of the National Anxiety Center, a clearinghouse for information about media-driven scare campaigns. Caruba writes a weekly commentary, "Warning Signs," posted on the Internet website of the National Anxiety Center, which is located at www.anxietycenter.com.
Caruba’s new book, Right Answers: Separating Fact from Fantasy, has been published by Merril Press.
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