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Saturday, August 19

Fighting with empty hands

"Pundita,
I think the frustration is that many feel if we would only make up our minds to use force against elements like Hezbollah, we would experience no more anti-US feeling than we do now and, once defeated, there may actually be an ability to move forward with the populations.

We have decided the new warfare is not to defeat opponents, but to play games and wait until we "convert" them. That may be fine fifty years from now. In the meantime, we have to live with the terror threat every day.

What do you make of Iran's Aug. 22nd timing to respond to the UN?
Dan Riehl
Riehl World View "

Dear Dan:
The frustration you speak about tends to ignore the objective of war, so it overlooks much that the US has accomplished since 9/11. The question I always put to myself when I get frustrated is, "Do you want to win with blood or do you want to win?"

If you want to win with blood then we shouldn't have accepted Muammar al-Gaddafi's capitulation, which happened without a US shot fired at Libya.

If you want to win with blood then we should have upbraided whichever of the two zillion Arab factions who put out a contract on Yasser Arafat when they saw that Palestinian elections and Israeli disengagement from Gaza were going forward.

If you want to win with blood then we shouldn't have given Fouad Siniora's government an opportunity to use a lull in the Hezbollah-Israel conflict to cast Syria as the real villain of the piece.

If you want to win with blood then we should have refused to assassinate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi when Iran's military ratted out his location to their US counterpart.

All you need is to look at the devolution of the type of violence in Iraq to realize that the Iraqis are winning the peace with help from US muscle. At the end of the first year, Iraq was in the throes of a Baathist-led insurgency. At the end of the second year, Iraq was under attack from foreign-led forces. As we near the end of the third year, Baghdad is drowning in bloodshed from sectarian rivalries and warring gangs. Not pretty but it is huge progress and in less than three years.

President Bush said at the outset of this war that it would be fought on many fronts in many ways -- ways that the public couldn't always see. The war has so many fronts simply because it is a globally fought war that is generating the multiple fronts at the same time. And most of the battles are fought according to 4GW principles.

Yet I venture the people who are frustrated with the course of this war are looking at the Battle of Fallujah as the standard for how the US should fight. The catch is that the US military had to level the blinkin' town, and was saddled with the post-conflict stabilization phase.

So, much as I generally can't miss by blaming the State Department for everything that goes wrong, State is not playing fast and loose with America's life in the war on terror; neither is the Pentagon. There is a saying that you fight at the level you see. State and Pentagon see a great deal more than the public. This allows them to scramble to keep up with events that unfold with dizzying speed. Here's an example:

Because Iran's military uses a clunky Soviet era playbook for their meddling guidelines, they were blind to how Lebanon's government would react to the war they engineered with Israel on Lebanese soil.

Lebanon was angry at Israel but beside themselves with fury that Iran would use their country as a battering ram. They got back at Iran in a very telling way -- by turning blame on Syria!

Maybe State was blind at first but as soon as they realized what was going on, they scrambled to throw together any kind of cease fire. They saw that it didn't matter for US and Israel interests whether Israel thrashed around in Lebanon or had a clear victory; either way Lebanon's government had been landed a big pile of lemons and proceeded to make lemonade with them.

All that put Hassan Nasrallah, who is famously an Iranian puppet, in a terrible position. He really had no choice but to accept the cease fire if he didn't want to appear as trampling on Lebanon's sovereignty -- which Hezbollah is supposed to defend!

But for the large part the American public has been blind to what's really going on because they are focused on keeping score between Israel and Hezbollah and totting up Israel's mistakes in the conflict! They are not looking at things from the viewpoint of Lebanon's government.

I am afraid that such blindness is very typical in this fast-moving war if one isn't privy to classified intel reports! So the frustration you describe is understandable. Yet it's based on the view that either we act quickly to destroy the governments that sponsor terror, or terrorist acts of catastrophic scale will force the US to such destruction.

To intuit the flaw with such reasoning one only has to study the US post-conflict stabilization phase in just one town in Iraq -- Fallujah. The phase includes rebuilding and insuring that the enemy doesn't retake the town.

Governments the US can topple, and there's probably not a country in this world that the US military couldn't conquer. But it wouldn't be long into the conquests before the US would face the same problems that Genghis Khan and the Romans faced. It's those pesky post-conflict stabilization phases that are the bane of conquerors.

The only real solution is one the Romans used on Carthage. In other words, the way to quickly stop the terrorist threat is to practice genocide then render entire lands to dust. That's what the frustrated sentiment inadvertently asks for. Yet the Carthage solution is out of the question unless one wants to lose all the gains civilization made since the Enlightenment.

And we don't have enough Americans, let alone US troops, to manage the post-conflict stabilization phases if we toppled the 60 or so governments in the Middle East, Africa, and parts of Asia that we'd need to dispense with if we wanted to take the terrorist threat off the table. If we relied on the UN or coalitions of the willing to make up the shortfall, we'd be back in the same soup we've found in post-invasion Iraq.

However, the choice is not the Carthage Solution or nothing. The choice is to bog ourselves down in Cold War strategies or fight with 'empty hands' -- adjust on a dime to fast-moving situations so we can make the best use of them. This means making use of deadly force sometimes, and other times racing to the negotiation table to take advantage of a mistake by the enemy.

With regard to the significance of the timing of Tehran's announcement, I make the same of it that Beijing makes of it. I don't give a rat's hindquarters what Tehran says; I'm watching their actions.

We have to factor in China's relationship with Iran. Iran's ruling class got spoiled by the way Western diplomats and intellectuals pandered to their behavior since Iran's revolution. But the Chinese don't believe in pandering to grown people who act like homicidal juvenile delinquents on LSD.

According to what John Loftus told John Batchelor's audience on Friday, the Chinese want Tehran to knock off the mystic jibber jabber and start acting like businesspeople.

If Iran doesn't listen to China's money? Beijing will scotch trade deals with Tehran and get behind economic sanctions against Iran.

The price: China's military does want to be assured that the US won't cut and run from the Middle East anytime soon.

"Pundita, you forget Reagan's passing interest in Gaddafi, as when missiles passed over his head. And ultimately, I doubt he would have caved if he didn't see what was happening in Iraq.

I'm not suggesting going to war with everyone, but not shying away from it in some cases where it can expedite the process.
Dan Riehl"

Dan --
I have not forgotten, and I couldn't agree with you more about Gaddafi. And I think it's reasonable for Americans to worry that pressure from NATO allies and congressionals on both sides of the aisle could cause the US to draw back from a necessary military confrontation.

Yet up to this point I can't see where the US has backed away from lethal force where necessary in the war. What I have seen is the tendency by the public, journalists, pundits, and congressionals to react to very fluid events as if they were witnessing a final result, and from there assume that the US is losing the war. Americans need to sit hard on the tendency because the enemy can profit from it as much as from overconfidence.
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