All Brawn, No Brains?
For those not already wondering about the wisdom of the American war on Iraq, consider the current situation.
In a sign that an early end to the Iraq war is unlikely, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has ordered 120,000 more troops to begin moving to the war zone. When they arrive, more than half of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps will be in Iraq. (Emphasis added.)
Second, despite the fact that more than half of the army and Marines will shortly be in Iraq, Mr. Rumseld has threatened to "hold the Syrian government accountable" for alleged sales of military equipment to Iraq. Mr. Rumsfeld has also criticized the Iranian government for allegedly supporting the Iraqis.
Moreover, as the Guardian reports,
Syria is commonly mentioned, along with Iran, as one of the first regimes that would be expected to crumble or reform radically as a result of the installation of a new government in Baghdad — or alternatively as a potential future target of US military force.
Last month John Bolton, the administration's undersecretary of state for arms control, was quoted as telling Israeli officials that it would be "necessary to deal with" Syria, Iran and North Korea after a war on Iraq.
Third, consider the way the war on Iraq has played out to date. The named-for-TV "shock and awe" campaign has turned out to be less than the blitzkrieg which was promised by the Bush Administration.
As retired U.S. Army colonel Jack Jacobs opines on MSNBC.com, the U.S. went to war without sufficient force to do the job.
As Jacobs writes,
It is difficult to understand the tactical or strategic philosophy behind the incredibly small number of troops employed so far in this campaign. … Unless the public is being treated to an exceptional misinformation campaign, the coalition is stretched to the limit. There is not enough combat power to achieve the combat mission, control the population and protect the troops.
It does not matter that precision-guided missions may be perfectly precise, which they are not, or that the military may have perfect knowledge of enemy targets, which it does not. In the end, the campaign will only succeed when U.S. and British ground troops defeat Iraqi ground troops and occupy the land.
Given the forces currently at the command of Gen. Tommy Franks…that is not possible. With only two divisions in Iraq and one in reserve, there are no soldiers available to exploit successes, put down major counterattacks, protect interior lines or assault enemy formations along multiple and differing axes.
There are a number of items from Jacobs' piece which merit attention.
First, notice that Jacobs wonders whether the U.S. government is conducting a "misinformation campaign." For shame! To imagine that the government might attempt to deceive the public, Col. Jacobs must be "with the terrorists!"
Second, Jacobs points out an eternal verity of war: infantry is ultimately required to pacify an enemy.
Third, the Bush administration has failed to put enough troops on the ground in Iraq to do the job at this point.
Finally, as Jacobs concludes,
One would think that the military experience of planners would have inculcated the wisdom of applying overwhelming combat power from the very beginning of the conflict. Events thus far demonstrate either that they have forgotten the lesson or that CENTCOM has been overruled by those with less combat experience and a more reckless approach to war.
Query, then, who was "planning" the war? The generals or the politicians?
Given the Bush administration's pre-war "diplomacy," and given that politicians appear to typically interfere in the planning of generals, I will bet on the "reckless approach to war" option where the Bush administration is concerned.
Why, one wonders, did the Bush administration choose to start the war when it did? Rather than properly build up for war and do the job right, it appears that the Bushies treated it as a rush job — a war that had to begin before international opposition could coalesce sufficiently to stop the war or else firmly paint the United States as belligerent.
Mr. Bush went from a one-week ultimatum to the United Nations, to abandoning the effort to win U.N. approval for the war, to a two-day ultimatum to Saddam Hussein.
Now, with the administration brain trust realizing that: (a) the war is for real; and (b) it appears unlikely to be the promised cakewalk, Mr. Rumsfeld is threatening Syria and Iran.
At the same time, the BBC reports that North Korea has cited the American invasion of Iraq as grounds for refusing to cooperate over its nuclear weapons program.
Why threaten Syria and Iran when the North Koreans are nervous, there are not enough troops in Iraq to do the job right, and half the U.S. Army and Marine Corps is soon to be busy in Iraq?
If the rush to make war on Iraq is not sufficient evidence, then the Bush administration's present foreign diplomacy appears sufficient to support Col. Jacobs' charge of "reckless approach to war."
One hopes that disaster may yet be averted. How many believed, in 1914, that a war which began in the Balkans might last until 1918, and see the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as well as the Russian Empire?
How many believed, in 1918, that the Allied partition of the Middle East, including the creation of the artificial state of Iraq, would cause repercussions until 2003?
Time will tell where the Bush administration's plans will lead the world. Based upon the track record to date, there is little cause for confidence.
March 31, 2003
Mr. Dieteman [send him mail] is an attorney in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.
© 2003 David Dieteman