Skip to comments.The U.S. Will Not Go to War Against Iraq: Not ever
Posted on 05/20/2002 7:54:48 AM PDT by xsysmgr
Are you starting to get the feeling I'm getting, the feeling expressed in my title? The feeling that there will be no war against Iraq? Not this year, not next year, not ever?
Let me emphasize the word "feeling." As a responsible columnist, I am going to do my best to justify my title with facts. It all starts with a feeling, though a slow-rising, ever-strengthening feeling that it just ain't going to happen. I spend a couple of hours every morning surfing news sites, reading the papers, gathering material for NR editorials and web columns. I go to functions where I meet people who know stuff. I read, I listen. Occasionally I pick up a revealing fact. Much more often, I just accumulate impressions. Reader, I have accumulated the impression that the U.S. will not go to war against Iraq. But let me do my best to justify that.
First of all, this is no way to make war. By "this" I mean these jut-jawed expressions of determination to act... but not till next year, when all is ready; these fatuous exercises in "coalition-building" or "seeking understanding"; these protestations that the time is not yet ripe; these specious rumors of materiel inventories that need to be built up. (Concerning which, Colonel David Hackworth, who has a considerable reputation in these matters, says, to Larry Henry, that it's all bull: "Got enuff to take Iraq and Iran at the same time." Uh-huh. So all this delay is for... what? To give us time to organize peace between Israel and the Arabs? Oh, that won't take long.)
This is no way to make war. The most elementary fact about war, that you learn in your first week of lectures at staff college, or can pick up for yourself by reading half a dozen decent books of military history, or just by talking to veterans, is that battles are won by speed, audacity and surprise. Gentle reader, in the administration's movement towards engagement with Iraq, do you see speed? Do you see audacity? Do you see surprise? Do you even see any sign that our government is capable of those things? I sure don't.
It is true that one, or even two, though probably not all three, of those key elements can be dispensed with if you possess overwhelming force. That's why unimaginative, plodding generals sometimes win wars; that's why Dwight Eisenhower carried off the D-Day landings (he still had surprise). And we probably do possess overwhelming force, even allowing for the couple of years we have given Saddam Hussein to further disperse his biowar facilities, plant saboteurs in the U.S., acquire a few North Korean missiles and add another 20 feet of reinforced concrete to his underground command bunkers. Which brings me to the next issue: Do we actually have the will to use that force? Or, more to the point, shall we have that will in spring of 2003?
I was once in the capital city of a country that was going to war. That was London in 1982, when Margaret Thatcher took her country to war against Argentina. I remember the electric sense of urgency in the air, the fevered preparations: welders working 12-hour shifts to rig helicopter pads on to the decks of requisitioned cruise ships, the lights on all night in the barracks, the seasoned army officer I knew who told me, so grim-faced I believe he really meant it: "I will kill to get a berth on the Task Force." (He didn't get one. Serving officers were clambering over each other, gouging eyes and ripping out hair, to get their names on the Task Force rosters.)
War is a fierce and desperate business, operations thrown together in haste and launched at a hazard, junior officers racing forward to be the first to distinguish themselves, staff officers spotting unexpected strategic opportunities and hurling at them everything that comes to hand. Materiel shortages and supply bottlenecks are chronic, there are never enough engineers, and you improvise somehow. (Improvisation is a core military skill. Waiting for all the ducks to line up is not part of a soldier's job. The ducks aren't ever going to line up. The ducks are trying to kill you.) War is not systems analysis; war is not Mergers and Acquisitions; war is not computer programming. War is noise and smoke, opportunity and frustration, chaos and slaughter.
In the case of aggressive war which, let's be frank and unapologetic about it, is what this projected war against Iraq would be there is also what Bernard Montgomery called the "hare and hound" factor: The hare is running for his life, while the hound is merely running for his dinner. Other things being equal, bet on the hare. For the Iraqi regime not just Saddam, but all his place-men there would be a great deal at stake in a war, far more than would be at stake for anyone in Washington, DC. That's not a reason not to go to war, if we are truly resolved, but it is a reason to examine our resolution, and ask ourselves whether it has the necessary component of determined stone-cold ruthlessness. In 1991 it didn't, which is why Saddam Hussein is still with us. Are we hound enough to play hare and hound?
Speed... audacity... surprise... resolution... ruthlessness... fevered preparations... volunteers working 12-hour shifts... officers standing on line all night in Pentagon corridors for a chance at a combat posting. That's war. Do I see these things when I look at Washington DC today? No, I don't. Shall I see them a year from now, when our resolve, our anger, our desire for revenge, have had twelve more months to dribble away like sand between our fingers, and every excuse for inaction (never any shortage of those) has been rehearsed on a thousand TV talk shows by everyone with an interest in making the Bush administration look foolish (definitely no shortage of those)? When 9/11 is a fading memory, washed over with layers of frivolity the latest celebrity murder, the latest political squabble, the latest judicial outrage, the latest stock market spike?
I'm not betting on it. If the mood in Washington today or even, may the brave lads fighting in Afghanistan forgive me for saying it, the mood in Washington last fall if that mood were the mood I saw in London in the spring of 1982, we'd be in Baghdad by now. Materiel? We'd have coped somehow. Allies? With 'em or without 'em. Bases? We'd have taken what we needed, and apologized later. But that was not the mood among our leaders even last fall; it is not the mood now; barring some horrid new atrocity against us, which Heaven forbid, it will surely not be the mood next spring. In my glummer moments I wonder if we are even capable of that mood.
Did I mention allies? If our leaders were sufficiently determined, it wouldn't matter a damn; but since (according to me) they are not, let's take a look at the line-up. Latest news:
Tony Blair has privately reassured his Labour Party critics that Britain will not back US military action against Iraq unless it wins the backing of the United Nations Security Council. His assurances, at a private meeting with senior Labour figures, were disclosed as Britain stepped up the pace to secure agreement through the Security Council for the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq. (London Daily Telegraph)
"Unless it wins the backing of the United Nations Security Council..." We all know what that means, don't we? So the British have bailed out, as I predicted last October. So that reduces the number of committed allies we have in this fight to... how many?... let's see... hmmm oh: zero! Personally, this fact would not stop me; but then, I personally don't run the U.S. Department of State.
Which brings us to the Colin Powell problem. Bringing Powell into the cabinet will, I believe, come to be seen as a classic error by George W. Bush given a whole chapter to itself in future textbooks on how to form a cabinet, or how to get a new administration off the ground. Powell has a huge constituency, far larger and more committed than the President's own. To be sure, a lot of people don't like him. Blacks don't like him because he's not "authentic" enough (which is to say, he shows no sign of hating white people). White liberals don't like him because he escaped from their plantation somehow. White conservatives don't like him because he's squishy on a lot of issues they care about: affirmative action, abortion, the Second Amendment, and so on.
However, if you add up all the blacks, all the committed white liberals and all the committed white conservatives, you only have about one-third of the electorate. The other two-thirds l-u-r-v-e Colin Powell. Even among my own readers, actually, there is a strong love-Powell contingent.
Which means that Powell can't be fired, and that a Powell resignation would be, as Mao Tse-tung once said in a similar case: "An earthquake of the eighth magnitude." Which means that Powell has an absolute veto on our foreign policy. This is the Colin Powell who has sold out tothe Riyadh-Cairo line on the Middle East, the Colin Powell who lined up in the dove camp with Jim Baker and the striped-pants Neville Chamberlain Appreciation Society from Foggy Bottom when Iraq invaded Kuwait, the Colin Powell who wrote in his autobiography that Saddam was left standing at the end of the 1991 Gulf War because the desire to avoid further slaughter overwhelmed the desire to get rid of the dictator.
I favor war against Iraq. I believe a successful war against Iraq would trigger major attitude adjustment in the Middle East, to the benefit of us and the promotion of our values. I believe it would greatly enhance this country's security by removing a major supplier of WMD to terrorist gangs. But if our leaders believe that "the desire to avoid further slaughter" trumps the desire to take down our enemy; if they believe that Crown Prince Abdullah or Hosni Mubarak will lift one jeweled pinkie to assist our war aims; if they believe that we need the permission of crooks and despots before we act in our own interests; if they believe that Europe is militarily significant; if they believe that the U.N. Security Council is worth anything more than a thimbleful of rat's piss; if they believe that our fighting men and women cannot carry out their duties without a year and a half of preparation; if they believe all these things, then it would be best if we did not start a war at all. They do: We won't.
Mr. Derbyshire is also an NR contributing editor
I don't know if there will be a war or not. If we can get rid of Saddam without one, that certainly would be preferable. But I know that Saddam is a dead dictator walking.
Well, this "speed, audacity and surprise" thing certainly applies once you cross the line of departure.
Before that, some careful planning, deception, and logistical build-up is important too. Think of the D-day landing. They planned that literally for years, and it ultimately worked, not that they showed much speed ,audacity or surprise after they hit the beach.
But they DID get strategic surprise on the Germans and that may have been decisive.
And we need strategic surprise.
Referring again to D-day, tactical surprise would find the sentries asleep as you approach the beach, operational surprise would keep the SS panzer divisions from deploying the first day, and strategic surprise would keep 200,000 German troops in the wrong part of France for six weeks. The latter two did happen.
Right now, the war is in the shadows. We don't and shouldn't know what exactly is happening on a lot of levels.
Don't know whether its accurate or not. Colonel Hackworth says we have enough to fight Iraq and Iran at the same time, but others disagree, saying a Desert Storm-style invasion is beyond us now.
The article above states that Bush really hasn't lived up to his campaign rhetoric to rebuild the military that Clinton decimated. He has hardly increased military spending at all. If he had asked for a $600 billion defense budget, Congress would have given it to him.
Well, in 1982, the Brits were going to smash down on the Argintines; it didn't matter that the Argies knew they were coming, in a sense. Remember the "Time" cover: "The Empire Strikes Back"?
The Iraqis are a tough nut in the sense of logistics and that very important strategic surprise. We've got to ensure that if we land Marines on those mud flats up at Basrah, we can support them. I don't think the Iraqi Army will fight better than they did in 1991. Arab men fight best when they can poke an AK-47 in your face.
It's true that the Germans expected an invasion. They were totally duped as to where.
No they wouldn't have. Rumsfeld is trying to modernize the military, not just throw money at defense contractors.
"Realistically, all wars have been for economic reasons. To make them politically palatable, ideological issues have always been involved. Any possible future war will undoubtedly conform to historical precedent."
Congressional Record, April 5, 1947
As long as Bechtel's boys don't prod Saddam into threatening Saudi oil profits again, we shouldn't see any war.
if our leaders believe that "the desire to avoid further slaughter" trumps the desire to take down our enemy;
if they believe that Crown Prince Abdullah or Hosni Mubarak will lift one jeweled pinkie to assist our war aims;
if they believe that we need the permission of crooks and despots before we act in our own interests;
if they believe that Europe is militarily significant;
if they believe that the U.N. Security Council is worth anything more than a thimbleful of rat's piss;(My personal favorite!)
if they believe that our fighting men and women cannot carry out their duties without a year and a half of preparation;
if they believe all these things, then it would be best if we did not start a war at all.
They do: We won't.
What eveidence do we have that Rumsfeld is looking to modernize the military? That costs money. The fact is that we really aren't spending all that much money on defense as a percentage of GDP.
Logic says that the Bush Administration is politically caught between a rock and a hard place - a defense budget capable of building a military machine that can crush our enemies would require spurning some of the piglets that pant at the federal nipple. It would mean no $190 billion farm give-away. And that would mean weathering an unpleasant political storm.
He cancelled the Crusader.
We don't have enough people in the military to use a bunch of fancy new stuff anyway.
I see a contradiction here. If 'we' were hearing about it then a build-up wouldn't be very 'secret' would it?
It follows that if 'we' were hearing about it then Saddam Hussein would 'be hearing about it', too.
My point exactly. It will take, according to most estimates by those far more knowledgable than myself, between 200,000 - 400,000 troops to invade, occupy, and depose Hussein. We had 500,000 in Desert Storm. With our current forces, are we able to sustain that kind of an invasion while maintaining apresence in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and numerous other places around the globe? Perhaps a knowledgable military person could speak to this.
Probably not - now.
I just found the use of the term 'secret' to be rather pointless as in the modern world of communications, no sort of military action on a large scale can truly be secret.
This guy is obviously a neophyte at this. There are many things that go on behind the scenes that no one even has a hint about. He is really naive to think that just because he doesn't see anything that nothing is going on. More of, "I'm not a soldier, but I read about one once and my uncles stepson is in the National Guard, so therefore I'm an expert." Perhaps this type of reporting or opinion pieces serve a useful purpose in spreading disinformation but as far as I'm concerned it's a total waste of time.
Where are all the amphibious ready groups?
Do you know?
You could be right. I hope and think that things have changed enough since 1944 that a huge mountain of supplies and millions of troops massed in a small area are not a precursor to a big fight. Granted, that was what happened in 1991, but we know more about how the Iraqis are going to react.
My thinking is that things will be non-linear and non-standard. Lots of UAV's (pilotless vehicles), special forces, viruses placed in computer systems, Kurdish allies, etc.
This is the information age. That is what we need most.
That is a really good point.
What if analysis showed that the economy was permanently impacted by the price of security (from airport screeners to combat air patrols) so that it was more economical to take out Saddam?
Not so fast there, Bucko! Aren't you forgetting Mexico? They are our best friends and allies, President Bush said so.
If you can see any of this coming, how can it be a suprise?
If the interpretation in this article is correct, the anthrax implication is presumably that we are being deterred from attacking Iraq because of the threat of retaliation with anthrax, a weapon of mass destruction.
However, I do not believe things are that simple. Anthrax is a terrible weapon, but if we let it deter us while Iraq develops nuclear weapons, we'll be much worse off in the long run. I hope that the U.S. government isn't actually making the calculation that we can't attack Iraq because of the threat of retaliation by anthrax. So I look for other possibilities.
One possibility, of course, is that the article is simply wrong, that we are going to attack Iraq, when we're good and ready. In spite of what the article says, this isn't just dilatory:we may be waiting until we have an adequate supply of anthrax vaccine and smallpox vaccine to protect our population, and then we'll attack.
There are other possibilities here. Pakistan already has nuclear weapons, of course, and preliminary plans for anthrax and/or cyanide bombs have been associated with a Pakistani nuclear scientist. Maybe we're not going to attack Iraq because Iraq isn't the immediate threat.
Israel may take things into its own hands. Israel destroyed Iraq's fledgling nuclear program once already. The Israelis may well decide to forego playing second fiddle to the U.S., and simply do what has to be done themselves.
Also, we shouldn't discount the possible reaction of the American public to another terror attack. There clearly are elements in the Muslim world that are trying very hard to provoke an all-out war. (Look at the 9/11 attack, at the Palestinian homicide bombers, at Islamic terrorism in India. A few days ago, for instance, terrorists attacked a military base in India, killing primarily the wives and children of Indian officers; the obvious purpose behind such an action is to try to provoke full-fledged war betweeen India and Pakistan.)
Finally, watch China. Nobody is talking about the Chinese. I would like to know what their true position is, behind the scenes.
...........is that there is no such build up taking place for Iraq. Believe me, if there was, we would know about it. It is inconceivable that it could be hidden. Saddam also knows there is no build up.Hmmmmmm....
Pre-Positioned Ships Always In The Right Place
Source: European Stars and Stripes; Published: May 19, 2002;
Author: Scott Schonauer
China has been very quiet considering what is going on with their next door neighbors having a spat and nuke weapons.
Well, over the perpetual cries of "we're about to attack, we're about to attack," I have been telling anybody who'll listen for months now: don't expect us to attack Iraq any time soon. Saddam Hussein is in a fixed position facing a vastly more powerful foe. There is no way he would perpetrate something on the scale of the WTC attack without very good back-end security. Now, simply ask yourself, does the threat communicated in the anthrax letters fit the bill? I maintain that it does. There is no way that Bush can take out Saddam without incurring a very real risk of taking millions of civilian casualties in return. That is a MAD situation. Saddam bought himself MAD on the cheap, and he used it to score one quick but devastating blow against the US. He probably won't do anything directly in follow up -- he'll just sit back, safe in the knowledge that Bush can't point the finger in any unequivocal way without revealing that he is powerless to act. But there is no way to exaggerate the scale of Saddam's "achievement" in turning a seemingly impregnable United States into a painfully vulnerable, sitting duck target. With its impressive economy of means and the massive, unprecedented scale of the destruction, 9-11 set the baseline for future terrorist attacks on the United States by the arab/muslim axis, whether perpetrated with or without state sponsorship. Thus, for Saddam, the benefit was not simply the orgasmic feeling of an exquisite revenge he experienced as he settled down to watch the destruction of the WTC on the live CNN feed. He knows that he has permanently altered the psyche of the Arabs and the Americans, permanently altered their power relations. Truly, an accomplishment worthy of his alter ego, Nebuchadnezzar, is it not? And all for the price of a handful of dust.
You replied: China has been very quiet considering what is going on with their next door neighbors having a spat and nuke weapons.
We don't know how quiet China has really been.
Who provides support to the Maoist terrorists in northeastern India? What kind of support is China providing to Pakistan? What has the relationship been between al-Qaeda and China, since the time a few years ago when China is said to have purchased U.S. missiles from bin Laden? What is the connection, if any, between the cyberwarfare efforts that China appears to be testing and other world events? Who mailed anthrax last Fall?
Might China be putting the Muslim world up to this? Who would benefit from a protracted war between the West and the Islamic countries? China -- they'd sit back, watching their two major enemies weakening one another, ready to pick up the spoils at the end.
This is all entirely speculative. I don't make any claims regarding China's involvement or non-involvement; nor do I "believe" or "disbelieve" something in the absence of evidence. It's just a possibility to be aware of and watch for. But, until we know the answers to those questions above, we don't know how quiet China is really being.
We will get this war eventually Mr. Derbyshire, either by Saddams doing or public opinion forcing Bush to act.
It may make sense to wait until we have adequate supplies of anthrax vaccine and smallpox vaccine. It does not make sense simply not to respond.
If we don't respond, we'll be seeing more and more terrorist acts in the future, and they'll be increasingly destructive. The sooner we can respond, the better off we'll be.
Two BIG problems there:
1. The Kurds are still smarting from the end of Desert Storm, when we egged them on, and then stood by while Saddam wacked them. They are not eager to repeat that experience.
2. Ask yourself - exactly what do the Kurds want? Do they simply want to topple Saddam, or do they want their own homeland, a Kurdish State? The latter is quite problematic, for the Kurdish nation straddles the border between Iraq and Turkey. And in Turkey, those Kurds who clamor for a homeland are known as "terrorists" (very versatile word, isn't it?) The Turks will never agree to a Kurdish State - even one carved out of Iraq - for fear that it would spark an irredentist movement among the Kurds living in Turkey. And the Turks are our allies - we routinely look the other way when the Turks cross the border and wack the Kurds in Northern Iraq.
In short, I don't see the Kurds going along.
In a sense, you're making the no-go case.
Hitler was fooled as to location, and the nature of our deployments. But he knew we were deployed.
Sadaam was fooled tactically last time as well. He also knew we were deployed. Same mistake.
Saddam knows we're not deployed today.
It would be nice to think we could do it with air power and insurgents on the ground. But if we're going to attack him again, we have to be prepared for another major American ground action. When the necessary call ups begin we'll all know.
On 9/11 I said China. A graduate of the Naval Academy now in the sea of COSCO containers in southern California said, "No, China wants the trade. This is muslims."
But the board game for millenia says they would use deniable surrogates to instigate struggle between their enemies.
This would be consistent with their Unrestricted Warfare principles.
Why would it not be especially attractive to the Chinese to engineer our involvement in Islamist struggle to give them a freer hand vis a vis Taiwan?
We have traitor-rapist 42 getting 300K to speak at China's annual Taiwan Roast in Australia, then having a private meeting with Abdullah. Why would there not be Clinton moles in FBI, CIA, DIA, etcetera serving as channels of information and disinformation?
It can readily be seen that the PRC would welcome a Hillary presidency, and the coordination between Clinton & Clinton, LLC, PRC and Anti-Semites 'R' Us would be a capable ethernet.
The service of the media and Democrat hack machine to the left and to the Islamists and to the Clintons is an established fact.
There is more facing Bush, Inc. than one Stalin aficionado in Bagdhad.
Not quite a Sax Rohmer, Tom Clancy, Jeff Head scenario, but anyone who is in the grease trap with Marc Rich, the mafiya, the top echelons of Interpol, and China Resources contributes to the smell from the carpet when wet.
Color me totally unimpressed with W's military prowess to date. I'll reconsider when we get Bin Laden, and Al Zawahiri on our trophy wall.
Osama is dead, by the way.
It goes back and forth and is all over the board, one day it sounds like we will go in next week, and the next day it sounds like the last thing on anyone in the administrations mind.
I also have the "feeling" that if we attacked say Saudi Arabia instead, 40 to 70% of our terrorist problem would be solved.
It is just frustrating to hear that more attacks on us are imminent and there seems to be no resolute action to stop them. But I suppose we not only had to rebuild the military, but the entire intelligence network too.
I suppose we should just be glad we aren't fighting a powerful enemy or multiple fronts. We should be grateful Clintigula left us any military at all.
I don't know if you saw this, but it may be of some interest.