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Raymond S. Kraft : Why We Are In Iraq II

Raymond S. Kraft is an attorney and writer in northern California.
Mr. Kraft receives receives e-mail at rskraft@vfr.net

Over the last few years, as the future risk of global warming and the Kyoto Accord were hotly debated, the Environmentalists, Democrats, and other proponents of the Kyoto Accord widely asserted that even if the real impact of global warming cannot be predicted, the fact that the impact might be severe must invoke the precautionnary principle, the idea that if there is a possibility of great harm, even if the risk is remote or cannot be accurately calculated, then all possible precautions must be taken to prevent that harm. Better safe than sorry. A stitch in time saves nine.

In October, 2004, I wrote an article first entitled It Will Be The Death of Liberalism, published at www.ChronWatch.com, about the necessity of fighting and winning the war on Islamic terrorism. It has been circulated since under other titles, including A History Lesson, A California Lawyer’s Perspective on Iraq, and Why We Are In Iraq. A number of correspondents have asked me to update it, but there is little in it that I would change. However, the time has come to write Part II, in response to the three year drumroll of criticism of America’s conduct of the Iraq War, which has culminated in last week’s Revolt of the Generals.

There have been two primary thrusts of criticism levelled against the Iraqi war policy of President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. One, fired insistently by many leading Democrats, and other Liberals and Pacifists and the national leaders of a few other countries, is that the war was a mistake ab initio and should never have been started. The second, in which General Colin Powell, General Anthony Zinni, General John Batiste, General Wesley Clark, and several other retired flag officers have joined, is that the war should have been fought with overwhelming force that would have prevented or quickly defeated the persistent insurgency that has followed the removal of Saddam Hussein from power.

I do not intend to impugn the personal integrity of the dissenting Generals. I am certain they speak what they honestly believe to be true. And I do not challenge their right to dissent. But I think they are mistaken, and this is why.

The assumption that the invasion of Iraq with a force of 500,000, rather than 150,000, would have resulted in a much different and better outcome is entirely speculative. It cannot be known to be true. Since this did not happen, the result of this option is inherently unknown and unknowable. Only that which has happened can be known with certainty. The assumption of a better outcome presumes that the Jihadists’ strategy would have been much the same as it has been, and that a larger force could have suppressed and destroyed the insurgency quickly and completely. While this might have happened, it is only one of multiple possible outcomes.

Let me propose a short story. A brief alternative history. What might have been.

In 2002 Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, convinced by the advisors and strategists advocating a massive force invasion in the Department of Defense that a heavy force operation was the best option, gave orders to prepare for an invasion of Iraq with a force of 500,000, about 20% of the total US military personnel of all branches throughout the world. The objective was a quick and decisive victory, the quick suppression of any insurgency or civil war that might erupt, and rapid imposition of a new government in Baghdad.

The invasion began (as it did) in March 2003. Three weeks later Saddam Hussein fled and the Baathist government fell. Soon after, his sons, Uday and Qusay, were surrounded and killed in a firefight. A month after that, Saddam Hussein was found hiding in a spider hole on the outskirts of town, was taken into custody, and thence to a secure prison to await trial.

Hiding in a remote area of northern Pakistan, protected by friendly tribes and warlords, Osama bin Laden remained the final arbiter of Al Qaeda strategic policy. He had considered two possibilities, both of which had been publicly discussed in the American press, and privately and fiercely debated within the Pentagon and the White House and Congress for over a year before the invasion.

Option One: the Light Force invasion with 150,000 troops, modelled as much as possible after special operations doctrine, move fast, stay fluid, hit hard, using speed and surprise as force multipliers. This idea is not new. It informed General Patton and General McArthur and the Hitlerian Blitzkrieg of 1939, and is as old as Sun Tzu and Gideon of Old Testament renown who staged a completely successful surprise attack on ten thousand Phillistines with a force of 300.

Option Two: the Heavy Force invasion, modelled on standard WWII and Cold War doctrine, with 500,000 troops. The Heavy Force will move more slowly and be less maneuverable and fluid, and no surprise at all, but is intended to overwhelm the opposition with massive troop numbers and firepower. It can also present a massed troop target more vulnerable to chemical, biological or radiological weapons attacks, than a smaller and more dispersed force.

Osama, reasoning that Rumsfeld was most likely to choose the Light Force option, as he would have done himself, had planned to field an insurgency soon after Saddam fell, to engage the Americans in a running war of attrition of which the American public and political classes would soon tire, and to stage apparently random attacks in Iraq intended to keep the country in a state of turmoil, until American support for the war evaporated, the Americans went home, and Al Qaeda could infiltrate and ultimately take over the government.

Surprised when Rumsfeld elected to field a Heavy Force instead, Osama bin Laden quickly adjusted his tactics. He immediately ordered his field commanders to withdraw and withhold the insurgents waiting to fight American in Iraq. “We cannot win against a force this large, and we will sustain unacceptable losses. We will win another way. We will lay a trap for the Americans. We will make an ambush of their own arrogance.”

Osama reasoned – correctly – that a force of 500,000 troops in Iraq would be more expensive than America would sustain for long, and that, if there was no insurgency, America would declare a victory and bring them home with bands playing as soon as possible. It was an astute evaluation, but Osama was an intelligent strategist. The Heavy Force deployment did, indeed, cost over $200 billion a year, three times the annual cost of the Light Deployment option, and Congress was not willing to maintain that expenditure any longer than absolutely necessary.

There was no insurgency, and little post-Saddam violence. The massive force enabled the US Army and Marines and British forces to garrison the Syrian and Iranian borders, and patrol the Iraqi National Musem of Antiquities and most city centers to prevent all but occasional looting. A few looters were shot, word got around. The Iraqi people were grateful to have Saddam gone, but widely resented the ubiquitous presence of American troops on Iraqi soil. There were too many, and they looked and felt like the occupation force they really were. There was much concealed resentment, but in the face of overwhelming force and with no other options, they cooperated, and in a few months a coalition government of Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds, had been hammered together, a Constitution hastily written, and the new Iraqi Defense Force which included some nearly-intact elements of the old Iraqi army was organized and began recruiting and training.

With little violence and none of the insurgency that was feared, by some, the Bush administration and the Armed Forces were elated, America was jubilant, and Democrats who had been critical of the war discouraged. U.S. forces had sustained fewer than 200 casualties due to enemy fire. In his January 2004 State of the Union address President Bush confidently predicted that the war to remove Saddam Hussein was an unqualified success, and that Iraq was already emerging as the first Islamic Democracy. And he promised that most of America’s troops would be home for Christmas. The crowd erupted in wild cheers. A million mugs and glasses clinked in bars across the land.

The 2004 presidential campaign proved to be a one-sided slugfest. With a won war in his pocket, President Bush rode high in the polls, and John Kerry never came within 10 points of catching him, not even in the bump week after the Democratic National Convention. In September, Bush promised that most of America’s troops would be home from Iraq by the end of October, before the election. It was a no-risk prediction, since more than half had already been redeployed back to the U.S., and thousands more were returning every week. By the end of October 90% of the invasion force was home, and by Christmas only a few hundred advisers, ithe largest contingent officers from the Army Corps of Engineers assisting with reconstruction planning, remained, along with a company of Rangers and a company of Marines to provide security for the American advisers, which, in the near-total absence of violence, was almost a ceremonial duty. Soldiers grumbled that they would never earn a CIB this way.

Bush had been re-elected by the second largest landslide in history. Christmas and New Years came and passed without incident, the Americans celebrating quietly behind the walls of one of Saddam’s former palaces that had been requisitioned to serve as an American compound, and which was already scheduled to be handed back to Iraq by the end of 2005. On January 20, 2005, President Bush placed his hand on a Bible held by the Chief Justice and took his oath of office for the second time, scarcely able to stifle a broad smile. He turned to the podium and began his Second Inaugural Address. Al-Jazeera TV carried it live. That was the signal.

It was night in Iraq, half the world away, and ten thousand Jihadis and Mujuhadeen who had been chafing at the bit for a year and a half began digging up the AK-47s, RPGs, and explosives, they had buried in yards and under house and factory floors in the fall of 2002, and moving quietly in ones, twos, and small groups, to their rendezvous points. Twelve hours after President George W. Bush had made a victorious Second Inaugural Speech dwelling at length on the emerging new Islamic Democracy, a dozen men, most in traditional dress, some in Western suits, approached the guards stationed at the several entrances to the new Iraqi Parliament building.

Greeting the guards, they each asked directions, and then quickly with sharp knives slit the throats of each of the guards who died in astonishment as they slid to the ground. The men walking casually by the capital and chatting in the street fell into assault lines, uncovering their guns, running in through each of the now unguarded entrances, into the lobby, in through the service entrance, into the delegates’ entrance from the motor court, shooting everyone they saw on sight. Designated teams fanned out to assinate the staff in each of the offices, and a special picked team burst through the doors into the midst of the Iraqi Congress, in session and in full debate. Alashnikovs leveled, triggers pulled, clips emptied, empties flew and clattered like hail, the room filled with smoke and a deafening roar of gunfire, and one minute later every member of the coalition Iraqi Congress lay dead or dying on the floor, now awash in a sea of blood and littered with splintered chairs and desks and scraps of flesh and clothing and bone.

At the White House early next morning, President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld were in the Oval Office with several leading Republican and Democrat members of Congress discussing the possibilities for extending the new concept of Islamic Democracy from Iraq to other Arab countries, when Karl Rove barged in without knocking, his eyes wide, his tie askew, his face ashen.

“We’ve got a problem,” he said, “Big problem. Get the TV on, get Al Jazeera.”

Al Jazeera was broadcasting the massacre of the new Iraqi government, including all members of the Congress, the President, and the Secretaries of all Ministries except the Ministry of Defense, who proudly announced that the coup d’etat he had helped orchestrate had been even more successful than had been hoped, that he was taking over as a temporary governor until Saddam Hussein could be brought from prison to be reinstalled as President of Iraq, and that the purge of all those suspected of cooperating with the Americans had begun.

In the next thirty days, more than a million Iraqis and Kurds would die, those who had worked with America, and their families, and many of their friends and some of their mere acquaintances, anyone who might have been been tainted by contact with the infidels. Diplomatic inquires were quickly made as to the status of approximately one thousand American troops and advisers still in Iraq. The Iraqi ambassador replied that he was unaware of any Americans in Iraq. The bodies would never be found.

A few hours later Saddam Hussein appeared on a live feed through Al Jazeera TV, with a fresh haircut and shave, a new suit, looking a little tired and gaunt, but gloating in the victory that Allah had given him over the Great Satan, and promising that there would be vengeance until the Infidels cried for mercy, but there would be no mercy, for God is great. Alla-hu Akbar.

America would not have the stomach to go to war in Iraq again. Rightly fearing multiple terrorist attacks inside America over the next months and years, America ramped up its internal security until it became the police state it had long denounced in other places. Some of the attacks succeeded anyway.

So, there is one possibility, one scenario, that might very plausibly have happened had the U.S. invaded Iraq with a force of 500,000, as some retired generals, and many leading Democrats and media pundits, think we should have done. The advice of the Heavy Force advocates might have been followed, and the consequence might have been a false victory, followed by a sudden, unexpected, and catastrophic defeat. The enemy adapts.

Others have contended that the Iraq war was a mistake ab initio, unjustified, illegal, undertaken on trumped up evidence of WMDs that never existed. Bush lied, people died. Most of the WMD arguments, for and against, have been made many times by many writers for many months. I will make only one.

If the Precautionary Principal requires extraordinary measures to protect against the uncertain possibility that at some time in the near or distant future Global Warming might become a serious problem, does not the Precautionary Principal compel, with even greater urgency, extraordinary measures to protect against the certainty that in the near future Islamic regimes under the political control of Jihadist radicals will acquire nuclear weapons which they intend to use against Israel and the West, unless prevented from doing so? Does not the Precautionary Principle mandate that we do whatever is necessary to protect America, Israel, and Europe, from the threat of a radicalized Middle East bristling with nuclear weapons, and with its hands on the oil pump handles?

Most of the major Arab countries have been chasing after nuclear weapons, some off and on, since the 1960s. For reference, see The Islamic Bomb by Steve Weissman and Herbert Krosney (New York Times Books 1981).

Today, Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and but for American intervention in 2001, 2002, and since, might well be under the political control of Al Qaeda today, rather than the more moderate government of President Mushaaref. If, or when, Mushaaref falls from power, there is a grave risk that a far more radical government will succeed him, and it will have a finger on the nuclear trigger. But for US intervention in the Middle East, it is probable that a more radical Islamist government would be in power in Pakistan today, with a finger on the nuclear trigger.

After the Iraq invasion, President Gaddafi of Libya made a “pre-emptive surrender” of his nuclear weapons program to the United Nations and U.S. inspectors and forces. Reports emerged that Libya’s nuclear weapons program was far more advanced than US and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the UN had expected. But for US intervention in the Middle East, it is probable that Libya would have continued its nuclear weapons research, and might be a nuclear power soon, or already.

After the Iraq invasion, no evidence was found that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons, or an active nuclear weapons development program, but some 500 tons of yellowcake uranium was found, probably imported from Niger in the 1990s. On Sunday, June 7, 1981, the Israeli Air Force destroyed a French Osirak nuclear reactor at Tuwaitah, near Baghdad, which was soon to go into operation and would have enabled Iraq to develop nuclear weapons. In 1981. But for the US intervention in Iraq, it is probable that Iraq would have sought to develop nuclear weapons again some time in the relatively near future, when UN sanctions were lifted, for which France, Germany, and Russia, the major weapons and technology suppliers to Iraq (under the alleged “Oil for Food” program) were pressing.

Today, Iran is in the process of developing nuclear weapons. There is uncertainty how soon Iran can have a deployable weapon, and intelligence estimates range from 10 years to six months. But for US intervention in Iraq, the US would have little or no military presence in the Middle East today, since our forces were removed from Saudi Arabia in response to Islamist political pressure there. Because of US intervention in Iraq, we now have a major US military presence in Iraq, next to Iran. Iranian President Ahmadinejad has promised, or threatened, to destroy Israel and America.

But for American intervention in Iraq in 2003, or soon after, it is somewhere between a probability and a certainty that Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and Libya, would have either nuclear weapons under development, or deployable nuclear weapons, now, or soon. Probably within months or years, not decades. It is possible, if not certain, that the proliferation of the Arab Bomb would quickly spread to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, if only as a matter of self defense: the reasoning would be, If Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and Libya have the bomb, we’d better have the bomb to protect ourselves. Makes sense. But any Arab country that developed the bomb in self-defense might later see its government fall to the Jihadists, who would then have another bomb. Saudi Arabia comes to mind.

Thus, but for American intervention in Iraq on or about 2003, there is a clear and present danger that at least four, and possibly as many as nine, of the Arab nations would have the bomb, now, or soon, and that all or most of them would be under the political control of the Jihadists who have been preoccupied, recently, fighting Americans and killing Iraqis in Iraq. Instead of having at least a tentative ally in Pakistan, and facing Iran with a nuclear program, but no weapons yet, we, and the world, would be facing the present or imminent prospect of a Middle East bristling with nuclear weapons, and also in control of the world’s largest oil reserves and production capacity, both of which could then be used to blackmail America, Europe, China, Japan, and India, into dhimmitude, some degree of submission to the will of Islam, or into nuclear war in the Arabian subcontinent.

This would be the direct consequence of America’s decision not to invade Iraq, not to intervene in Middle Eastern affairs, even if we had (as some critics think we should have done) made a brief and forceful expedition into Afghanistan, found and arrested Osama bin Laden, and brough him back to New York for trial.

But for the Iraq War begun in 2003, or something very much like it, either this president, now or soon, or the next president, or the next, in the near future, Republican or Democrat, would face an imminent threat of nuclear war with one or more nuclear powers in the Middle East under the political control of Al Qaeda and driven by visions of a restored pan-Islamic Caliphate and a global Islamic Empire centered in Iran, or Iraq, or Pakistan, or Libya, or Syria. This is a confrontation between radical Islam and civilization that cannot be avoided. It can only be joined before Al Qaeda or its ideological compatriots control the Arab bomb, or after. “Never” is not an option.

If the long-term threat of disruptive Global Warming at some indefinite future time calls for implementing the Precautionary Principle, surely the near-term threat of a Middle East bristling with nuclear weapons and churning with Jihadist ambitions must mandate the implementation of the Precautionary Principle. Better safe than sorry. A stitch in time saves nine.