Monday, September 27, 2004

What's Next in the War on Terror?
from the mind of  ME=mc^2.

If all goes according to plan, both Afghanistan and Iraq will hold elections by the end of next January. The insurgents and Baathist holdovers in Iraq and the al Qaeda and Taliban remnants in Afghanistan will eventually be rounded up or killed, and in any case, those problems will increasingly fall under the purview of the new Iraqi and Afghan security forces, respectively, rather than be solely a job for the U.S. military. So the question becomes what should be the next front in the War on Terror?

The answer, unquestionably, is that the status quo in both Iran and Syria must not be allowed to persist. That both of these states are terror supporters is beyond question. And Iran's quest for nuclear weapons must not be allowed to reach fruition. In short, it is hard to see how the war on terror can be won without regime changes in both Damascus and Tehran.

The failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in no way negates the arguments made prior to the war regarding the dangers of the nexus of terrorists, terror sponsoring states, and WMD. Saddam Hussein's regime turned out not to be as serious a threat as the pre-war intelligence suggested. The only appropriate feeling regarding this turn of events should be relief -- relief that we had overestimated Saddam's WMD capabilities rather than underestimated them as we had done so often in the past, relief that no WMD were used during battle, relief that there was no environmental catastrophe resulting from the use of such weapons, and most of all relief that relatively few people were killed during the invasion of Iraq. Instead, the Democratic party saw political opportunity and exacted a political price from Mr. Bush for acting on intelligence that both political parties not to mention the intelligence agencies of the world all agreed on a priori.

All the Democratic carping about the war in Iraq is proof of how unhinged the Democratic party and their surrogates in the media have become: It is almost impossible to imagine Republican presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey complaining in the fall of 1944 that the war in Europe was "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time," or that the D-Day Invasion of Normandy "was a profound diversion from the battle against our greatest enemy," Japan.

Beyond the fact that Mr. Kerry's rhetoric arguably gives aid and comfort to our enemies -- the insurgents in Iraq have to be thinking that if they can just hold out until January, President Kerry will start withdrawing the troops and Iraq will once again be theirs for the taking, it also makes the next logical fronts in the war on terror -- namely Iran and Syria -- much more difficult politically. And consider that the only war America ever lost -- Vietnam -- was lost on the political home front, not on the battle field.

Indeed, if Mr. Kerry is elected, it far more likely that the war on terror really will become the next Vietnam: Let us all hope that we never see a helicopter plucking the last 10 marines off the roof of the Baghdad Embassy while panicked Iraqis lay siege, begging for evacuation, as Iranian troops armed with nuclear weapons overrun the country.


Blogger David said...

Alright, I'll take your dare, sir.

I think you would agree that few things have gone "according to plan" in the Iraq theater of operations since the "Mission Accomplished" banner was hung. Pat Buchanan correctly cites the withdrawal from Fallujah as a major turning point for our occupation. What leads you to believe that conditions will improve once the Iraqis take over? Or does this simply provide us with a convenient opportunity for withdrawal?

As to Syria and Iran, let's not be too quick to overestimate either the threat to our homeland from either of these regimes, or the efficacy of pre-emption in either case. Agreed, all things being equal, these guys are thugs and are without a doubt more closely connected to real terrorism in the Middle East than Saddam ever was (this begs a question, but it can wait until another time). However, this does not mean that we should simply "throw down" in Tehran or Damascus without considering the massive unintended consequences and cost in lives and dollars.

And if another regime change/nation-building operation is indeed undertaken, whom besides the Israelis will openly support us? In fact, we may not even be able to count on their support, since they are profoundly vulnerable to terrorist retaliation as a result of any Iranian or Syrian destabilization, and well within range of Iranian ballistic missiles. In reality, retaliation will be the result whether they support us or not, since the US and Israel are inextricably linked, both in the minds of radical Islam and in Israel's military procurement ledgers.

As to your attacks on the Democratic candidate, I won't engage in partisan squabbling here, because I am trying to conduct a civil discourse and would appreciate your understanding in this matter. I am reserving my own anger and indignation, righteous or otherwise, for my readers.

I will say, however, that your Normandy comparison is quite without merit, both in scale and significance to global events. Also, you make the assertion that Vietnam was lost at home and not on the battlefield. Are you saying that we were on the way to winning the war at some point before public opinion turned? I am not aware of any evidence to support this claim.

I always hope for the best, but have learned to expect the worst. Unfortunately, war is never easy or cheap, and it seldom produces exactly the outcome intended. The families of an estimated (The McLaughlin Group, PBS, 9/26/04) 20,000 Iraqi civilians and over 1,000 U.S. troops can attest to this truism. These are not video games we are talking about here, these are human lives. We must remember that the decision to go to war should never be taken lightly or be anything but a last resort, after all other means have been tried and exhausted.

After our Iraq experience, I seriously doubt there will be adequate domestic support for more pre-emption and I am certain there will be even less international support. The latter has been rendered nearly irrelevant, but the former may prove to be an immovable impediment.

Thanks for the opportunity. I look forward to your response.

12:38 AM  
Blogger Zeke_Wilkins said...

David, ME=mc^2 is more knowledgeable than I am, but here are a few thoughts:

1) The President, his cabinet, and the Joint Chiefs are aware that in war things seldom go according to plan, and they have been candid about that fact. However, the Iraqis have done an excellent job so far of exceeding expectations and deadlines set for creating their new government.

2) Please try to avoid citing Pat Buchanan or PBS for any reason. I can't think of a single poster on this blog who likes either of them.

3) A possible reason for things improving after U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq is that it leaves the insurgents without an attractive target or scapegoat. The killing of U.S. soldiers by insurrectionists may be frowned upon by the average Iraqi, but it is also tolerated to a greater degree than insurrectionists killing fellow arabs. When our troops do leave, the insurrectionists will no longer be able to hide their actions under the guise of trying to force a U.S. troop withdrawal. Pure arab-on-arab violence will stir great distaste even among those who would turn a blind eye to the killing of westerners.

4) The doctrine of preemption is not mutually exclusive with being the last option. Even when all other options have been exhausted, we can still strike first militarily. No sane person would wait to be stabbed in a knife fight before trying to defend themselves. Similarly, the U.S. should not subject itself to a nuclear attack before disarming Iran of its nuclear weapons.

2:39 AM  
Blogger David said...

Thanks for your cogent reply. And for the tips...
I still disagree but appreciate the civility.

7:06 PM  
Blogger ME=mc^2 said...


I agree that the Iraqi occupation has been more difficult than expected, that things have indeed gone wrong, and that mistakes have been made. In my opinion, after the savage murder of the four Blackwater security guys, Falluja should have suffered the same fate as Dresden. And the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf should long ago have taken a daisy cutter with Muqtada al-Sadr inside. History shows that victory only comes when enemies are defeated and their ideas discredited.

But in broad strokes, things actually have gone remarkably according to plan. Consider: A governing council was set up right on schedule; it went on to create a provisional government at the time promised; municipal elections have been held in almost all parts of the country; a new interim constitution has been drafted with an extraordinary bill of rights that includes the rights to free speech and assembly, the free exercise of religion, habeas corpus, the guarantee of a fair and open trial, and gender equality; the handover of sovereignty and the appointing of a new interim government happened a couple of days ahead of schedule; and the Iraqi security forces continue to grow in size and capabilities. Without doubt, there is still much to be done, but progress is being made. So despite the problems and missteps, I am highly optimistic about the future of Iraq, although in the short term I would not be surprized if the situation gets worse before it gets better.

My point about Iran and Syria is merely that the war on terror cannot be thought to be won until these terror-supporting states stop supporting terror. It's very simple: If there are still states who are harbouring and supporting terror networks, then it is only a matter of time before one of those networks successfully mounts another attack on America. They only have to be lucky once while our intelligence and law enforcement agencies have to be lucky everytime. The only realistic way that I see Damascus and Tehran ceasing their support for terror networks is for regime change.

Regime change does not necessarily mean an invasion: We achieved regime changes in Moscow, Berlin, Warsaw, Prague and Managua without an American shot being fired. Iran is ripe for revolution: The Mullahs could go the way of Nicolae Ceausescu tomorrow, and we Americans should absolutely be doing everything in our power to see to it that they do. Their time is running out.

The big question is whether their time will run out before they manage to constuct a nuclear weapon -- a situation that I believe cannot be tolerated. For that reason, military force as a means to accheive regime change must remain a credible option. And it shouldn't matter who does or doesn't support us. Never before in history has America let the coalition determine the mission: It has always been the mission which determines the coalition.

With regard to Vietnam, in my opinion there is not a strategic or tactical reason why we could not have won that conflict: Rather it was lost on account of the politicians bowing to pressure from the peace movement and trying to micromanage the war from Washington.

You talk about poeple's lives: However many Iraqi civilians were accidently killed by American bombs in this conflict surely pales into insignificance next to the number of Iraqis who would have been murdered or tortured at the hands or Saddam and his sons -- or on their orders -- has that dispicable regime remained in power. And I don't buy any of these moral equivalence arguments either: As the military historian Victor Davis Hanson once noted, "The dead, of course, are the dead, and their loss is tragic. But there is a difference, a moral difference, between deliberately targeting civilians in peace and deliberating attempting to avoid them in war — especially at the risk of endangering the lives of our own pilots." For the Iraqi civilians, the toppling of Saddam's regime came 12 years too late.

I believe history will eventually prove me right about the comparison of the invasion of Iraq to the invasion of Normany. With regard to the scale, let me quote the military historian Victor Davis Hanson: "By any fair standard of even the most dazzling charges in military history -- the German blast through the Ardennes in spring 1940, or Patton’s romp in July of 1944 -- the present race to Baghdad is unprecedented in its speed and daring, and in the lightness of its causalities." With regard to its significance to global events, the liberation of Iraq marks the beginning of consensual government in the heart of the Arab Middle East where previously only medieval theocracies, tribal monarchies, and Soviet-style dictatorships have existed.

Onward to Iran and Syria!

12:31 AM  

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