War Watch #2
by Joseph D. Douglass Jr., USA
[Note: Take also a look at "War Watch #1" and "War Watch #3 - After Iraq, What?"]
Starting two weeks ago, tiny red flags began appearing in the war news.
The complexion of the war was changing ever so slightly.
Iraqi military were camouflaging themselves in civilian clothes.
Iraqi irregular forces were appearing in many cities and villages.
Foreign nationals and irregular forces – Iranians, Syrians, and Saudis
– also began appearing. Russia and Syria were found to be assisting in
the supply of military materials to Iraq. Turkish forces were gathering
at the border, waiting for the right opportunity to move in. Jordanians
have also been sighted. Suicide Palestinian bombers are said to be
headed to Iraq to attack U.S. forces.
This incipient broadening of the war introduces complications. What
happens if the United States ends up in the middle of a general war in
the Middle East? Most of the players in the region want to see the
United States humbled.
Most notable over the past two weeks has been the evident rallying
of hundreds of Iraqi civilians living in other countries. They are
leaving these countries, especially Jordan, to return to fight for Iraq
– not for Hussein but for Iraq.
This may portend a serious change in the war. It appears to have
started when the U.S. attack plan began running into trouble. This is
when it became evident that the Iraqis could put up a fight and likely
were not going to just roll over as had been anticipated by the
principal U.S. war planners.
Further insight into what is happening may well be President Bush’s
National Security Strategy (NSS). It presents the strategic map for the
U.S. war on terrorism. It was approved and distributed in mid-September
2002. It is readily available on the Internet. The Arab nations must
have understood its message.
The tone of the NSS is brash and arrogant. This has been noted at
home and abroad. The NSS projects a war that extends well beyond the
assumed boundaries of the war on terrorism. This may in part explain why
President Bush, when offered a Congressional Declaration of War,
declined. He already had ample authority, he said. It should now be
evident, however, that the real reason may be that he already had other
plans. The war on terrorism was just the take-off platform and he did
not want to be limited or constrained by a Congressional Declaration of
War that logically would have simply focused on the war with Al-Qaeda.
As is stated in the first chapter of the NSS, the war on terrorism
presents the United States with “a time of opportunity.” We will “take
advantage” of this “historic opportunity,” it says.
“U.S. National Security Strategy,” the document explains, “will be
based on a distinctly American internationalism that reflects the union
of our values and our national interests.”
The implications of this internationalism are clear: “We will defend
the peace by fighting terrorists and tyrants [which includes most
Middle East countries]. . . Our goals are: political and economic
freedom, peaceful relations with other states, and respect for human
dignity.” The last item is further clarified as follows: “We stand
firmly for the non-negotiable demands for the role of [secular] law,
limits on the power of the state, free speech, freedom of worship,
equal justice, respect for women, religious and ethnic tolerance, and
respect for private property.” While this may not seem out of order to
Americans and most other industrialized nations, it would send a shiver
up the spine of the leaders of most Arab states, perhaps deliberately
Our enemies in this war are not just the Taliban, who supported
Al-Qaeda, but repressive governments everywhere. This is the historic
opportunity: to wage war on repression around the globe. “We will
actively work to bring the hope of democracy, development, free
markets, and free trade to every corner of the world. . . open societies
and build the infrastructure of democracy,” presumably as we are
planning to do in Iraq. The accompanying global economic growth will
benefit all the people and not just the privileged few. This global
growth requires, among other conditions, “energy security,” by which is
There is no questioning the serious tone of the Bush Administration
National Security Strategy. To implement this strategy, the United
States will use its “unparalleled military strength and great economic
and political influence.
Middle East regimes are high on the list. Iraq is not the only
repressive and intolerant country that is targeted. Most of the Middle
East regimes are at risk. Iraq is just the start. The most immediate
candidates for action following Iraq are Syria, Iran, and North Korea.
What Seems To Be Happening
There seem to be two strong currents flowing in the Middle East that
affect what is happening. First there is hatred for Saddam Hussein.
Second is hatred toward any infidel who would dare to invade their
lands and change their governments, society and culture, especially an
infidel who would want to open their society to all the crime, illegal
drugs, pornography, feminism, homosexuality, and government promoted
secular humanism, which is how many people in the Arab world see the
Examined in this light, there is an obvious hypothesis that may help
explain the developing “complications.” American military might is well
recognized and feared. Hussein is strongly disliked, albeit not
universally so. Indeed, his popularity, dead or alive, may be growing.
Thus, the initial action logically for non-Iraqi Middle East regimes
was to wait, watch, and figure out how to protect their interests.
As U.S. forces began running into resistance, those with a vested
interest in the region may have sensed an opportunity, if not a
necessity, to assert themselves, albeit ever so carefully. The question
they likely entertained was whether it might be possible for the United
States and Hussein to beat each other up, thus ridding the Middle East
of Hussein but leaving an environment that is inundated with suicide
bombers and irregular forces that would, in effect, obviate the
possibility of planting democracy. As an added benefit, it might be
possible to so sour the American public that they would rise up against
further attempts by the Bush Administration to spread its “distinctly
The Middle East regimes do not want Hussein to win, but neither do
they want Iraq defeated. The country they want defeated is the United
States. The United States has to be defeated because of the clear and
present danger it presents to the Middle East regimes and culture as is
evident in the new U.S. National Security Strategy.
How can it be otherwise? Syria and Iran are both threatened. Neither
can afford a U.S. triumphant win. Both are targets for regime and
government change because both are regarded as repressive and terrorist
regimes and in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Saudi Arabia is
also in trouble because it is regarded as repressive and as a major
sponsor of radical Islam and terrorism. Its critical role in energy
security seals its doom.
The U.S. attack may serve the Arabs well by destroying Hussein, his
followers, and his military capability. They would like to see this
happen, especially if in the process the United States learns that even
if it wins, it loses, and does so at great cost. All the countries also
know that the only way to achieve the second goal is not by challenging
the United States military forces head on, but by the same type of
guerrilla and irregular force tactics that were demonstrated in
Vietnam, Afghanistan, Israel, and, most of all, Somalia and Mogadishu..
In other words, they may be serious when they “welcome” a war in
Baghdad. Their rationale is simple. In the city, guerrillas and
irregular forces may have an advantage. They believe it was the
unrelenting action of bin Laden and his mujahedin or “bandit gangs” that
defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan in 1988 and Mogadishu in 1993.
Hopefully, the analogies will not hold. What worked in Afghanistan
may not work in Baghdad, which is considerably more limited. Also, the
U.S. military is extremely wary about walking into another Mogadishu
Nevertheless, urban warfare is extremely tough. But then, so is the
U.S. military. A big uncertainty is chemical warfare agents. If they
are used, and American troops have to operate in CW protective gear,
especially wearing gas masks, it will be like fighting with one or two
hands tied behind their backs. Let’s hope that does not happen.
Bacterial and viral agents, generally ignored as tactical weapons, could
also be very useful to the guerrillas and the right ones could be
introduced covertly. The remaining unknowns remain massive, even at
this late date.
The Future Remains To Be Seen
We will have to wait patiently to see how the war in Baghdad
develops. Because of the care required in pursuing the guerrillas, the
pace of the war may be very slow, or very fast to overpower the
resistance before they can act. Most of the action might be at night,
when night vision provides an advantage and temperatures are cooler. In
all likelihood, it will be a 24-7 war. But, there is no way of knowing
at this time.
In the meantime, download a copy of the National Security Strategy
and read it carefully. You may be surprised to see how far it departs
from the values and principles our Founding Fathers tried to establish
in our Constitution, such as respect for private property,
non-intervention in the internal affairs of others, avoiding foreign
entanglements, and limiting the war powers of the Executive.