The purpose of this document is to provide a high level strategic
view of the cause of the war, the reason that the United States
became involved in it, the fundamental goals the US has to achieve to
win it, and the strategies the US is following, as well as an
evaluation of the situation as of July, 2003. Most of what is here
has been explored in far greater detail in numerous posts made on
USS Clueless (http://denbeste.nu). [It was adapted from this entry.]
[20030913: I have been making ongoing revisions to this document.
I've been adding links to supporting information, and rewriting some
sections which were misunderstood, whether accidentally or
The original version of this outline can be found at
include this URL in any copy made of this document.)
- What is the root cause of the war?
- Collective failure of the nations and people in a large area
predominately Arab and/or Islamic.
- Economically the only contribution they make is by selling
natural resources which are available to them solely through luck.
make no significant contribution to international science or engineering.
make little or no cultural contribution to the world. Few seek out their
poetry, their writing, their movies or music. The most famous Muslim
writer of fiction in the world is under a fatwa death sentence now and
lives in exile in Europe.
- Their only diplomatic relevance is due
to their oil.
- They are not respected by the world, or by
- None of this has anything to do with
historical Arab culture at its height, which was rich, powerful, and very
impressive. It produced great literature and poetry, great science, and
amazing architecture. It adopted and regularized place-value numbering,
developed arithmetic and invented algebra. But that all largely ended several hundred years ago.
All of the discussion above refers to the current culture of the region, and the
people living there now.
- Since this is a "face" culture, shame about this this has led to rising but unfocused discontent, anger and resentment.
- A 2001 survey of Arab teenagers found that
about half of them wanted to emigrate.
- People in a face culture are not comforted by the
accomplishments of their ancestors if they themselves have none. Others in the world don't respect a
people because of what was done by their ancestors. Thus the monumental
accomplishments of Arab civilization at its height are not material to
any analysis of the current situation.
- Some governments in the region have tried to focus it elsewhere so as to
deflect it away from themselves. (The "Zionist Entity" is a
- There's good reason to believe that the Saudis have actually
made deals with al Qaeda and other dissidents. It's been alleged that there was an
explicit deal with al Qaeda that if it made no attacks in Saudi Arabia itself, in exchange
the Saudi government would not interfere with its fund-raising in Saudi Arabia.
- The Saudi government has been involved in a devil's deal with Wahabbist extremists for
decades, letting them have full control over roving bands of thugs armed with canes who
would beat women wearing "indecent" clothing or walking without male relatives, or anyone
at all who acted in any way that
the extremists thought violated their interpretation of proper behavior. The Wahhabists have also been
given vast amounts of money (billions of dollars) to support their efforts to export their version of Islam around
the world, both to Islamic and non-Islamic nations. In exchange for this, the Wahhabists have
turned a blind eye to the decadence (and sins) of the members of the Saud royal family and have not
agitated for revolution against them.
- All the nations in the region demonize Israel. Their schoolbooks are loaded with
propaganda against the Jews, many of which repeat historical lies and slanders.
- This amounts to a culture-wide addiction to "the
cult of victimhood".
- Ambitious leaders of various kinds of tried to use it for their own
- Khomeinei and the Taliban used it to support revolutions
respectively in Iran and Afghanistan.
- Saddam used it to gain support for creation of a united pan-Arab
empire ruled from Baghdad.
- Why is the US fighting the war? Why were we attacked?
- American success casts Arab/Islamic failure in sharp contrast.
Politically, economically, militarily, technologically and culturally we set
the standard and our accomplishments make their failure look particularly bad.
- America is the largest and most important supporter of Israel. Arab
leaders have used Israel as a scapegoat for their own failure, and part of
that is to blame us since we refuse to abandon Israel. They have provided
enough support to the Palestinians to keep the struggle going, so that their
own people have someone outside to hate, which is why Israel is top of their
shitlist. But that also causes them to hate us for our support of Israel.
- America is secular. Islamic religious zealots have been preaching that
much of Arab/Islamic failure happens because Muslims have not been
sufficiently devout. Allah has not been fighting on their side because they
were sinners who have turned away from the teachings of the Prophet and a true
virtuous life. The zealots claimed that only by embracing extreme forms of
Islam could they again gain Allah's favor and begin to succeed. But the US
government and the American people do not follow those teachings, and
America is a success. At the same time, in the nations where the extremists took
power things got even worse. American success is heresy. In religious
terms the only explanation for that is that America is in
league with Satan, and Khomeinei said as much.
- American culture and American ideas are very popular with many of the
people who live in the Arab/Islamic belt in question, particularly among their
young people. This is viewed with alarm by traditionalists of all kinds. Their
own people were being seduced away from their traditional culture and extreme
- America has earned a reputation in much of the world as being rich, well-armed, but also cowardly; full of bluster but having no
guts. Such events as our defeat in Viet Nam, our experiences in Beirut and
Somalia, our half-hearted and largely ineffectual responses to the attacks
against us in the 1980's and 1990's, and many other episodes contributed to
the impression that we would not fight back if attacked, and that there was
little risk in in attacking us, whether rhetorically or even violently.
- America is the "top dog" in the world right now, and there was
prestige associated with attempting to take down the "top dog".
- Possible responses, small and large
- Some advocated appeasement: reduce our military spending, massively
increase foreign aid, stop supporting Israel and throw it to the wolves, and
apologize, apologize, apologize.
- Historically, appeasement doesn't work.
- Those proposing this generally hold strongly leftist, post-nationalist
political positions and assumed that since the terrorists evidently hated
the US as much as the leftists do, that they must hate the US for the same
grounds. But there's no reason to assume that al Qaeda or the other terrorist
organizations that imperil us have any sympathy with what Fonte calls transnational
progressivism, or that they would cease making plans for attacks
against us if the US ratified the Kyoto accord or the ICC treaty.
- This approach claimed that poverty and American foreign policy
missteps in particular were the proximate cause of Arab/Islamic anger directed
at the US. But there's no reason to
believe that this is true.
- al Qaeda's original political statement regarding the US did not include
any such claims. (Later statements sometimes did at least touch on such
things because al Qaeda was trying to gain support from leftists in
- Most of the terrorists who carried out the attack
on 9/11 came from prosperous families. None of them came from impoverished
- There doesn't seem
to be any difference in the degree of hostility expressed towards the West
in Arab nations which are relatively prosperous (e.g. Saudi Arabia) and those which are less well off (e.g. Syria).
- Arab and Islamic hostility towards the US even in nations relatively
unaffected by American foreign policy is far greater than in nations which have
suffered far more at our hands, such as Viet Nam (which has been trying
for years to reestablish normal diplomatic and commercial relations).
- If the true root cause was anger and resentment caused by Arab shame
at lack of Arab accomplishment, massively increased aid would not help. You
do not make a man proud by giving him charity.
- Irrespective of any other arguments against this approach, it wasn't
politically possible in the US. The vast majority of Americans (especially
America's Jacksonians) were in no
mood to accept such a solution. The domestic reaction to those who advocated
this solution was nearly uniformly hostile.
- The microscopic solution was to respond "proportionally" with
a token counter-attack, and then deal with the situation as one of
enforcement, by attempting to find and arrest those who were implicated in the
plot so as to put them on trial for it after extradition.
- That's what we tried to do in the 1980's and 1990's, and it failed. bin Laden
was already under indictment for previous attacks against us, and all
diplomatic efforts to gain control of his person for trial over a period of
several years had failed.
- This policy in the 1980's and 1990's was part of what established our
reputation in the Arab world as being cowardly.
- Doing this after an attack as devastating as the one on 9/11 would have further reinforced our reputation
for cowardice. It would have raised the reputation of all terrorist groups by
showing that terrorism was a valid (and successful!) way of striking back.
- Such a response would have encouraged further attacks against us which
potentially might have been far more devastating, if the terrorists had
managed to gain access to some sort of extreme weapon.
- The small solution was to assume that al Qaeda was the entire problem,
and to eradicate al Qaeda and all others who could be shown to be directly
involved in the attack in September of 2001.
- If we had concentrated exclusively on al Qaeda it would have left
intact other similar movements, equally dangerous but not directly
implicated in the attack against us. al Qaeda launched the attack against us
but were not the only ones who had the ability or will to do so, and other
groups had been and had every intention of continuing to launch such attacks
against other targets (e.g. Bali, Israel, the Philippines, Kashmir).
- This would have been a case of treating the symptom, not the disease.
It would have left the deep discontent and frustration of the "Arab
Street" intact, as fertile ground for the next demagogue to come along
wishing the plant the seeds of jihad against the West.
- The large solution is to reform the Arab/Muslim world. This is the path
we have chosen.
- The true root cause of the war is their failure and their resentment
and frustration and shame caused by that failure.
- They fail because they are crippled by political, cultural and
religious chains which their extremists refuse to give up. The real causes of their failure is well described by Ralph
Peters. Most of the Arab nations suffer from all seven of his critical
handicaps, and the goal of reform is to correct all seven, as far as
- If their governments can be reformed, and their people freed of the
chains which bind them and cripple them, they will begin to achieve, and to
become proud of their accomplishments. This will reduce and eventually
eliminate their resentment.
- Their governments would then cease needing scapegoats.
- Their extremists would no longer have fertile ground for recruitment.
- This is a huge undertaking; it will require decades because it won't really be complete until there's a generational turnover.
But ultimately it is the only way to really eliminate the danger to us
without using the "foot-and-mouth" solution (which is to say, nuclear
- The primary purpose of reform is to liberate individual Arabs. This is a
humanist reform, but it isn't a Christian reform. There will be no
attempt to eradicate Islam as a religion. Rather, Islamism as a political
movement, and as a body of law, and as a form of government must be
eliminated, leaving Islam as a religion largely untouched except to the
extent that it will be forced to be tolerant. The conceptual
model for this is what
we did in Japan after WWII, where only those cultural elements which
were dangerous to us were eliminated, leaving behind a nation which was less
aggressive, but still Japanese. No attempt was made to make Japan a clone of
the US, and no such attempt will be made with the Arabs.
- Short term strategy in response to the 9/11 attacks
- al Qaeda had to be eliminated, or at least drastically crippled.
- In order to reduce the immediate hazard, we had to change the
perception that we were cowards who could be attacked with impunity. In the
short term, it was not possible for us to make the "Arab Street" love us, but we could convert its contempt into fear.
ideal, that had the dual merit of being feasible and effective. (Respect and
friendship ideally would come later, as it did with Japan.)
- The international web of finance which supported the terrorist groups was
vulnerable; their resources needed to be trimmed as much as possible to reduce
their ability to operate against us.
- The purpose of all of this was to give us breathing room, to stabilize
the situation for a few years so that we could carry out longer-term and more
effective strategies. It was not, however, sufficient on its
- Stage 1: Afghanistan
- al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan, politically protected by the Taliban. It had
operated there with impunity for years. The majority of its membership was
organized into relatively normal military formations which had been fighting
on behalf of the Taliban in the ongoing Afghan civil war. It also had training bases for terrorists, and most
of the leadership of al Qaeda was located there, beyond the reach of
international law enforcement.
- Even after the 9/11 attack, the Taliban refused to cooperate, and
continued to protect al Qaeda. We now know that this is because al Qaeda
controlled the Taliban. Omar was the nominal head of government but bin Laden
pulled the strings.
- Thus the Afghan war, fought by us mainly with air strikes, special
forces and bribery.
- The goal was to drastically reduce al Qaeda's ability to use Afghanistan
as a base of operations and eliminate the government that had been protecting
- Elimination of the Taliban would be an object lesson for other governments who had
been protecting terrorist organizations.
- "Nation building" in Afghanistan was not an essential part of the
operation there, except to the extent needed to make sure that Afghanistan did not
again become a large al Qaeda stronghold in the short run (3-5 years). Any
"nation building" beyond
that was inspired by humanitarian impulses, but did not further any strategic goals.
- Stage 2: Iraq
- Goal of Stage 2: we had to conquer one of the big antagonistic Arab nations and take
control of it.
- To directly reduce support for terrorist groups by eliminating one
government which had been providing such support.
- To place us in a physical and logistical position to be able to apply
substantial pressure on the rest of the major governments of the region.
- To force them to stop protecting and supporting terrorist groups
- To force them to begin implementing political and social reforms
- To convince the governments and other leaders of the region that it
was no longer fashionable to blame us for their failure, so that they would
stop using us as scapegoats.
- To make clear to everyone in the world that reform is coming, whether
they like it or not, and that the old policy of
stability-for-the-sake-of-stability is dead. To make clear to local leaders
that they may only choose between reforming voluntarily or having reform
forced on them.
- To make a significant long term change in the psychology of the
- To prove to the "Arab Street" that we were willing to fight,
and that our reputation for cowardice was undeserved.
- To prove
that we are extraordinarily dangerous when we do fight, and that it is
extremely unwise to provoke us.
- To defeat the spirit of the "Arab Street". To force them to
face their own failure, so that they would become willing to consider the idea that reform
could lead them to success. No one can solve a problem until they
acknowledge that they have a problem, and until now the "Arab
Street" has been hiding from theirs, in part aided by government
propaganda eager to blame others elsewhere (especially the Jews).
- To "nation build". After making the "Arab Street"
truly face its own failure, to show the "Arab
Street" a better way by creating a secularized, liberated,
cosmopolitan society in a core Arab nation. To create a place where Arabs
were free, safe, unafraid, happy and successful. To show that
this could be done without dictators or monarchs. (I've been referring to this as being the pilot project for "Arab
- Not confirmed: It may have been hoped that the conquered nation would
serve as a honey-pot to attract militants from the region, causing them to
fight against our troops instead of planning attacks against civilians.
(This was described by David Warren as the
flypaper strategy.) It seems to have worked out that way, but it's not known if this was a
deliberate part of the plan. Many of the defenders who died in the war
were not actually Iraqis.
- Neither Afghanistan nor Iran would serve the political goals. The
conquered nation had to be one generally thought of as being Arab.
- The human and cultural material we needed for reform did not
exist in Afghanistan.
- The "Arab Street" would not have
been impressed by successful reform in Afghanistan or in Persian
- Why Iraq?
- Already a problem
- The existing sanctions process against Iraq (including patrols over
the "no fly" zones) was a failure and was unsustainable. One way
or another the status quo was going to end soon. Lifting the sanctions and ceasing
to enforce the "no fly" zones without removing Saddam from power
was too risky.
- Saddam represented a substantial long-term threat. He had demonstrated
utter ruthlessness and viciousness in two external wars and uncountable
internal repressions. He showed no sign of abandoning his ambition to
develop nuclear weapons irrespective of how long it might take or how much
it might cost or what political sacrifice might be required.
- Saddam had been providing immense support for terrorist groups, both
monetarily and in other ways. There were known terrorist training bases in
Iraq and he had been providing money and arms. It appears that little of that support went to al
Qaeda. Most of it went to various Palestinian groups such as Hizbollah.
- Saddam had placed a bounty on Israelis by stating that he'd pay a lot of
money to the families of any successful suicide bomber, no matter what
group the bomber came from.
- Saddam had developed and used chemical weapons against Iranian troops
and on Iraqi civilians. Left to himself there was a non-trivial chance of
his giving such weapons to terrorists. After the war in 1991 and 12 years of
Anglo-American enforcement of sanctions, Saddam had a grudge against the US,
and the chance of him surreptitiously aiding terrorist attacks against us out of spite was too great to ignore. It's a matter of record that he attempted to have
the senior George Bush assassinated. (George Bush Sr. had been President
during the 1991 Gulf War.)
- Military feasibility
- The leaders of Kuwait feared Saddam and owed us a big favor from
1991, so Kuwait could be used as a base from which to launch an invasion of
- NATO ally Turkey shared a northern border with Iraq and it was expected
that a second invasion force could be massed there. (As it turned out, this
- Iraqi terrain between Baghdad and the Kuwaiti border was well suited for mass armored assault.
- Because of ongoing low-level combat in enforcement of the southern
"no fly" zone, it was possible to do most of the essential air
preparation slowly over a period of months before combat began.
- Though the Iraqi military was large and had a reputation with the
"Arab Street", in fact it was deeply crippled and likely to be
much less formidable than many expected.
- Political feasibility
- A casus belli existed that could be leveraged to justify
conquest in certain international fora.
- This related to Saddam's failure to abide by the truce
terms signed in the aftermath of the war in 1991, particularly in
cooperating with international inspections to eliminate Iraqi chemical,
biological and nuclear weapons and development programs.
possession or intent to acquire such weapons represented an indirect and
long term threat, but was not in actuality the primary justification for the
- There had been substantial support by American voters since 1991 for
military operations to remove Saddam from power. There was far less support
for invasion of Iran and no support at all for conquest of any other nation
in the region.
- Strategic suitability
- Iraq is centrally located with borders on Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia
and Jordan. It has major ports through which supplies and troops can move.
Thus if we occupied Iraq, it would be ideal as a potential base of military
operations against any of those other nations later, should that become
- The governments in the region know it. Having American troops on their
borders, or even the threat to move troops there, was guaranteed to get
- If the military victory over Iraqi forces was overwhelming, that
would make the threat even more impressive. The military forces of the
other nations in the region were even less formidable than that of
would make diplomatic threats against them far more effective and inspire
much more cooperation from them than had been forthcoming to that point.
- Potential for Reform
- Among the major nations of the region, Iraq before Saddam had been relatively
mercantile, relatively secular, and had originally had a relatively
well-educated and cosmopolitan population.
- Iraq had a history of democratic government, albeit not very
- The Kurds had already established a government similar to what we needed
- Iraq's oil wealth could be used to offset much of the cost of
rebuilding after the war, as well as making the nation economically viable
and prosperous and helping to finance diversification of its economy.
- Symbolism and propaganda value
- Saddam had become a hero to the "Arab Street". He was
thought of as a strong Arab leader who was standing up to the West. Though
Iraq's military had been decisively defeated in 1991, Saddam survived
this actually enhanced his reputation. He hadn't won against us, but at
least he'd tried, which was better than anyone else seemed to be doing. The
"Arab Street" was proud of him for making the attempt. (This
involved a lot of revisionism, such as ignoring Saddam's earlier invasion
of Kuwait, or the participation of large Arab military forces in the
coalition army which fought against Iraq.)
- Iraq's military had the reputation of being the largest, best armed
and most dangerous of any in the region. If it could be decisively crushed it
would be psychologically devastating.
- Baghdad historically was one of the great capitals of classic Arab
civilization. Having it fall to outsiders would be symbolically important.
- Other factors
- We owed the southern Shiites a moral debt for not supporting their
attempted revolution in 1991, and for our failure to make any attempt to
prevent the retaliatory slaughter inflicted on them by Saddam afterwards. (I
consider this the most important and most shameful lapse by the US since the
end of the Cold War.)
- The Kurds had prospered under the umbrella of the northern "no
fly" zone. If the sanctions against Iraq had ended and we had stopped
enforcing the northern "no fly" zone, the Kurds would
then have been crushed, in a repeat of the 1991 slaughter inflicted on the
- Without invasion, reform in Iraq was impossible. The sanctions had
failed, and after the debacle of the 1991 Shiite uprising, there was no
further possibility of revolution. Removal of
Saddam and beginnings of reform in Iraq could only be imposed
from outside by military force. Thus invasion of Iraq would have been necessary
eventually even if it wasn't the first target.
- Potential problems
- Saddam might use nerve gas or biological agents against the invading
force, or the buildup in Kuwait.
The possibility existed that the cost of the war in casualties could be
- Iraq isn't really a single nation; it is at least three, depending on how
you count. (It had been three provinces under the Ottomans.) Creating a unified nation out of it involved problems due to ethnic
- It also included both Sunnis and Shiites, who generally felt about each
other the way that the Catholics and Protestants feel in Northern Ireland.
- It could be expected that neighboring nations would try to support
factions inside Iraq to work to prevent creation of a democracy there. Iran,
in particular, was certain to try to inspire the majority Shiites to
establish Iraq as another Khomeinite Islamic Republic.
- Preparing for war
- Development of a "coalition of the willing".
- NATO was a
hopeless waste of time, especially since some NATO members sided with Saddam
and tried to use the mechanisms of NATO to prevent our attack.
British and Australians openly sided with us. The British in particular
could offer substantial military and diplomatic assistance. Australian
assistance was smaller but no less welcome.
- Canadian opposition was a major unpleasant surprise.
- Other nations were willing to help,
though in some cases they didn't want to admit it publicly until the last minute.
- It was necessary for Congress to pass an authorization for war.
- The one
passed in September of 2001 (under which we had fought in Afghanistan) could not plausibly be interpreted as
authorizing war in Iraq unless the Bush administration claimed that
Saddam's government was directly implicated in the 9/11 attack, and no such
evidence existed. There's no reason to believe that Saddam was directly
- An attempt to try to use the one passed in 1991, or to go into combat
without one using the 60-day clause in the 'War Powers Act', would have caused a constitutional crisis.
- It would have been wrong to try to bypass Congress, violating both the
spirit and letter of the Constitution.
- It was vital that the Congressional authorization for war in Iraq not include any provision
that would give hostile foreign nations (e.g. France) the ability to veto the war.
Thus it was vital that it not require UNSC authorization or NATO approval
- We had to attempt to deal with the UN.
- Tony Blair required UN approval (or an "unreasonable
veto") for domestic political reasons. In the British system, a
decision to declare war is made by the cabinet and doesn't directly
require approval from Parliament, but Parliament has the indirect
ability to veto it through a vote of no confidence, causing the
government to fall. If Blair's cabinet had decided to go to war without any attempt to gain UN approval it would have led to a party
revolt and a vote of no confidence.
- It was clear that the UNSC would never actually grant permission for
armed invasion. By going to the UN in September, it had become abundantly clear by
October that the UN wasn't going to cooperate, so Congress defeated all
attempts to include a requirement for UNSC approval in its authorization.
(In the Democrat-controlled Senate, those attempts were defeated by a
- Wrangling with the UN ended up covering the primary period of troop
deployment in Kuwait, restraining Saddam from a preemptive attack
against us before we were ready. He believed right up to the last minute
that his friends and supporters in Europe could prevent the attack, and
knew that any military action by him would have scuttled that political
effort by France, Germany and Russia. (Not yet known if this was a deliberate
part of the Anglo-American strategy or
fortunate side effect.)
- Dealing with the UN required arguing the case on the basis of Iraqi
failure to comply with previous UNSC resolutions, and to concentrate on
the issue of inspections and WMD disarmament. This was not the real issue
for anyone involved.
- All negotiations at the UN happened on two levels. Speeches and
announcements all talked about Iraq. The real issue was the fact that
the French feared the US more than Iraq. It was a keystone of French
foreign policy to use all possible means to restrain US military power and
- After Congress passed an authorization for war without requiring UNSC
approval, and after the Republicans won the November election and gained
a majority in the Senate while keeping control of the House, European
opponents of war were chastened and permitted Res 1441 to pass. It started one "last chance"
opportunity for Saddam to cooperate with inspections, and was ambiguous
as to whether war would automatically be authorized if the inspections
failed. The US claimed it did; the French that it did not.
- To no one's surprise, the new inspections were a joke.
- After Saddam yet again failed to really cooperate with inspections,
the US and UK introduced one final resolution in the UNSC that
effectively would have authorized war. Those opposing the US, in
particular the French, continued to oppose this. The debate became
surreal because the true French position was to oppose the US
irrespective of the merits of the situation.
- Chirac ultimately overplayed his hand and gave the US and UK the
diplomatic opportunity to
walk away. Tony Blair had as a practical matter gotten his "unreasonable veto".
- Despite the setback of Turkish
non-cooperation (due to another French political maneuver) logistical
buildup was complete and CENTCOM told Bush that it had sufficient force in
place and was ready to go. The attack was launched, and we won.
- Results. No battle or war is ever 100% effective in accomplishing the
goals set for it, but this one was very good. To review:
- The military operation was rapid, efficient and overwhelming.
- Coalition losses were very light.
- Iraqi civilian
losses were also very light, confounding predictions before the war.
a result of a very successful psyops campaign before the war, large
parts of the Iraqi military deserted. Many of those who remained refused outright to fight.
Most of the paper strength of the Iraqi military never had to be engaged,
and the remnants of the Iraqi air force didn't make a single sortie.
- Iraq's military was not seen by
other Arabs as having put up a good fight. Most found the performance of
the Iraqi military embarrassing and humiliating.
- We now control the territory of Iraq, and have been applying
substantial pressure to Syria, Saudi Arabia and indirectly to Iran. Syria
and Saudi Arabia appear to grudgingly accept the new situation. The
situation in Iran is very fluid and difficult to predict.
- Headlines notwithstanding, in most of Iraq the rebuilding process is
actually going moderately well. There have been mistakes and progress has
not been as fast as many would like, but most of the resistance has been in
a small region of Iraq which is dominated by those groups and tribes who
were the top-dogs under Saddam. The armed resistance remains a concern and
will continue to be a problem for months, but in the nation as a whole
progress has been satisfactory. Most of the people of the nation are glad
we're there, and their main fear is that we'll leave too soon, or that the
Baathists will somehow regain power and reinstitute their reign of terror.
- After the war, the true degree of brutality and barbarism of the
Baathist regime began to be revealed. This helped shift the
political discussion internationally, since it became increasingly
difficult for anyone to argue retroactively in favor of any policy which
would have left Saddam in power and thus let the horror continue.
- When Baghdad fell in just a couple of days, with very few American
casualties, Arabs elsewhere were totally disillusioned and
- The news reports fed to them during the war had been lies,
and had told them that the Americans were being badly hurt and that the
Iraqi army was fighting well.
- As a result, the rapid
fall of Baghdad was like a bucket of ice water in the face; totally
unexpected and an even more massive shock.
- They are now asking
themselves what other lies they've been fed by their governments.
some are asking themselves "why we Arabs always seem to fail? What
is wrong with us?"
Arabs are now openly debating the merits of reform.
- Anti-American rhetoric is rapidly going out of style in the region.
It's no longer fashionable to advocate picking a fight with us.
- Irrespective of whether Saddam actually had physical possession of any
kind of WMD, it remains the case that he had not abandoned his ambitions to
develop such things. Now that he has been deposed, that is no longer really
possible, even if he is still alive. He may still have that ambition but he
no longer has the means. It would be nice if he were captured or
killed, but removing him from power was the primary goal. (Qusay and Uday
were found and
killed; Saddam may also die very soon.)
- With Saddam's defeat, substantial support for Palestinian terrorist groups has
been cut off, and it's already beginning to have effects on them.
- Stage 3 and beyond: the future
- Pacification and nation building in Iraq must continue. This is a
gradual process which will go on for at least the next year and probably for
several years at a reduced level. I expect us to have at least some military
presence in Iraq for the next 30 years. (It is essential that we
maintain such a presence.)
- A new Iraqi army, modest in size but far higher quality compared to the
old one, will be trained over the next year and will eventually take
responsibility for most internal security.
- The process of creating Iraqi self-government got off to the wrong start
with the wrong concept (top-down) but is now moving in the right direction
(bottom up). Most of the cities and towns in Iraq now have ruling councils,
and local elections will become the norm. A national council is in place but
has little real power, but in perhaps a year there will be the beginnings of a
process to write a new constitution and to hold real elections, after which
most power will be turned over to the new government. Then, for a period of a few years, there
will be "democracy on training wheels" where some of our troops
remain but largely don't interfere unless there is a threat of the
government being taken over by radicals.
- Iraqi liberal democracy will represent a threat to the autocratic regimes
in the region merely by existing, and the US will have to militarily guarantee Iraqi security
against threats in particular from Syria and Iran, and to a lesser extent
from Saudi Arabia. We'll also have to guarantee Kurdish security against
threats from Turkey. This is another reason why there will need to be a
significant American military presence in Iraq for years.
- There's going to be low level armed resistance in Iraq for a very long
that means a ongoing trickle of casualties. This isn't a problem which can be solved
- Diplomatic pressure will continue on other nations in the region to cut
support for terrorist groups and to implement domestic reforms, and that will
be far more effective. Also, as Iraq gets back on its feet, the new-found
freedom there will serve as both a challenge and an inspiration for others in
the region. The "Arab
Street" will begin asking their governments why they can't have
the same thing.
- There is no way to predict whether any more significant military operations will be
needed in this multi-decade war to bring about fundamental reform in the
Arab/Muslim region. We will plan no new major military campaigns there in the immediate future (the next three years), but invasions of Iran or
Syria or even Saudi Arabia are conceivable sometime in the next 20 years if
their leaders refuse to cooperate in reforming, or if hostile and activist
regimes take power.
- Punitive or preventive
bombing, especially of Iran's nuclear facilities, is entirely possible.
There will probably be varying degrees of American involvement in low-level
or non-traditional armed conflict in various places in the region. The
Marines and Army Special Forces will
continue to operate in Yemen and Somalia.
- The shadow war against terrorist group finances and against the cells of
those groups will continue, occasionally popping into the public view when
there's a high-profile success – or a high-profile failure.
- The chance of new and devastating attacks against the US and UK now
appears to be substantially reduced. The risk of attacks against us is not
zero; there will be more attempts and some may succeed. However, the terrorists now seem
primarily to be operating
inside the Arab world itself (except for ongoing Palestinian operations
against Israel). That's
doubly good, because it's motivating the governments there to help us more
than they have been.
- We can still lose this war.
- If nation building in Iraq fails, we won't succeed in demonstrating that
reform can work for Arabs and make them happier and more successful. We will
fail to show them that reform is a better choice for them than jihad.
- If we permit low level resistance in Iraq to drive us out, the Arab street will
once again conclude that we are ultimately cowardly, and will again feel
contempt for us. And no nation or group in the region will ever again take
the risk of helping us in any future operation there.
- If other nations in the region don't implement reforms, their people will
continue to be angry and will continue to support terrorism and extremism.
- If the other nations in the region don't cut off support for terrorist
groups, those groups will continue to have the wherewithal to operate, and
may eventually target us.
- If we do not bring about general reform before one or another nation in
the region successfully develops nuclear weapons, the political situation
will become vastly more complicated and we will be in extreme peril. It will
become extremely difficult for us to continue to foster reform in the
region, and there will be an unacceptably high likelihood that one of our
cities will eventually be nuked.
- It is therefore critical that we continue to be engaged in the region and
continue to work for reform there, doing whatever we must to prevent
development of nukes by hostile nations in the region and continuing to work to weaken
existing terrorist organizations. We are winning the war but we have not won
it. It will take decades to win, just as the Cold War took decades to win.
The greatest danger facing us now is that we'll lose heart and give up
before we finish the job.
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