March 2003

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John Lukacs in his monograph, June 1941: Hitler and Stalin, reports that "the best military experts throughout the world predicted the defeat of the Soviet Union within a few weeks, or within two months at the most" following Hitler’s invasion of Russia on June 22, 1941.

While the superb German military machine made an excellent showing, by the beginning of 1943 its offensive capability was exhausted and the Germans were defeated at Stalingrad. Germany lost the war one and one-half years before the US could manage the invasion of Normandy. If Hitler had not depleted the German Army in Russia, a US invasion of Normandy could not have been contemplated.

Lukacs concerns himself with unintended consequences of June 22, 1941. It is not too early, or too late, to concern ourselves with the unintended consequences of March 20, 2003.

Four and one-quarter years ago the Pentagon and its neoconservative advisors and media propagandists promised Americans a "cakewalk" war of 3 to 6 weeks duration. Six weeks later on May 2, 2003, in history’s most ill-advised propaganda stunt, President Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, whose tower was adorned with a banner declaring "Mission Accomplished," and announced the end to major combat operations in Iraq.

In fact, the war had hardly begun. Four years later with the failure in June 2007 of President Bush’s desperate last measure — "the surge" — US offensive capability is exhausted. The US military can do no more and has less control of the situation than ever.

Perhaps the clearest indication that the war in Iraq is no longer under American control is Turkey’s announcement of plans to invade northern Iraq, the home of the Iraqi Kurds. As June 2007 came to an end, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul announced that if US or Iraqi forces did not eliminate the Kurdish guerrillas that were attacking Turkey, the Turkish Army would move into northern Iraq to deal with the situation.

Foreign Minister Gul was unequivocal: "The military plans have been worked out in the finest detail. The government knows these plans and agrees with them. If neither the Iraqi government nor the US occupying forces can do this [crush the guerrillas], we will take our own decision and implement it."

This ultimatum puts President Bush in an impossible situation. Neither the Iraqi government nor the US military have the means to deal with Kurdish guerrillas in their mountain strongholds. The US military cannot even occupy Baghdad. The Iraqi government exists in name only and can be found only in its offices located inside the fortified and US-protected Green Zone in Baghdad. Moreover, to the extent that the in-name-only Iraqi government has any support, it comes from the Kurds in northern Iraq.

The rest of Iraq is controlled by Sunni insurgents and Shi’ite militias. Even Basra in the south has been abandoned to the Shi’ite militias by Bush’s British ally.

The over-stretched American Empire hasn’t any troops to send to northern Iraq. NATO, whose charter was to defend Western Europe from Soviet invasion should have been disbanded two decades ago. Today NATO functions as an auxiliary US force and has been sent to Afghanistan, where it is being defeated like the British and Russians before it.

In the midst of this unmanageable chaos, vice president Cheney, Bush’s former UN ambassador John Bolton and the rest of the War Party are demanding that the US attack Iran, and Syria, and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The unintended consequences of the "cakewalk war" are already far outside the Bush administration’s ability to manage and will plague future governments for many years. For the administration to initiate new acts of aggression in the Middle East would go beyond recklessness to insanity.

Paul Craig Roberts [send him mail] wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is author or coauthor of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University Press). He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has contributed to numerous scholarly journals and testified before Congress on 30 occasions. He has been awarded the U.S. Treasury’s Meritorious Service Award and the French Legion of Honor. He was a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy under editor Robert Mundell. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He is also coauthor with Karen Araujo of Chile: Dos Visiones — La Era Allende-Pinochet (Santiago: Universidad Andres Bello, 2000).

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