At the time this
is written, just before Easter, the Iraq War’s second half is being played
out in life and on the networks. During the break after the US' victory,
the show was filled with a program in which the Jihadists' pom-pom girls
were cast as the main attraction. Admittedly, this second round, sort of
an overtime, was not planned or wished by Coach Bush and his Assistants.
Nor was this “once-over-again” on the American wish-list. Arguably, in the
short-term, the Saddamite and fundamentalist crazies, as well as the US’
detractors -- especially those blindfolded in Europe and the venomous domestic
variety -- are, so far, the beneficiaries. On a mid-term basis, in the idiom
of electoral politics, the winners are those Democrats who are, out of naiveté
or cynicism, willing to energize their chariot with the bad news for America.
(To quote Lenin: the worse it is for them, the better for us.) In the long
run, however, the renewed combat activity might prove to be a blessing to
America, if only the military opportunity it creates can be exploited politically.
Before the reader qualifies the writer as “sick” for implying that the newest
fighting approaching the criteria of set-piece battles is a disguised boon,
one feels rather hard pressed to present some of the reasons for this “contrarian”
perspective. Well, here it comes!
After the more total-than-hoped-for and faster-than-expected victory (yes,
I did say “victory” close to uttering "America") over the Saddamite tyranny,
we got to the period of “asymmetric warfare.” This post-war phase’s challenge
consisted of this: US forces were required by self-imposed rules to play
a selectively reactive role and then, when allowed to become active, to use
all restraints that PC-thinking could offer. Given the enemy’s freedom to
act and the politically imposed constraints on armed US reaction, the difficulty
of effectively combating the “insurgency” mounted well above the level of
the impediment the actual military-security challenge on the field warranted.
As a general point it is to be added that asymmetric warfare only works to
the benefit of the weaker party if the party stronger in numbers and weapons
is, from the outset, unwilling to make full use of its might. The word
“unwilling” refers here to PC-derived constraints, the fear of world public
opinion, or the kowtow before a politically uneducated public’s presumed
reaction to some of the inevitable casualties. Add to this the expected exploitation
of any effective action’s collaterals (real or pretended civilian deaths)
by the domestic opposition for the sake of party-politics.
Let the writer accentuate the point with a personal experience. He has seen
in Hungary asymmetric combat against Soviet occupation in 1956. While
their cause was wrong, the Red Army’s tactic was right. Soviet forces used
their superiority to crush speedily and completely every resistance anywhere.
There were no political limitations to what they were willing and able to
do militarily. It was asymmetric warfare. Only the Kremlin did not play by
American rules. So it won. Without qualifications. That Moscow did not know
how to use this particular victory, and also many others it scored, belongs
on another page of history. This failure is why the USSR is no more. But
her going out of business has nothing to do with her savvy to use her means
to push through Moscow's order of things.
The radical Shiites have now managed to move the Iraq matter into its third
phase. What we got as a result is set-piece combat between quasi-regular
militias and the Armed Forces of the USA. One might ask, what is so good
about it? Since the toppling of Saddam, the USA has again an enemy “with
a return address.” Once again, two conditions coincide: (1) there is a big
fist attached to a hulking guy, (2) there is a clear-cut target to hit. The
Shiites, egged on by the US’ mismanagement of the retaliation of initial
harassing attacks against its troops that they attributed to weakness and
not to the restraints flowing out of the US' political culture, decided to
move against a “paper tiger.”
By the thinking of the radicals who judged US restraint in terms of what
they would have done in the US’ place had they had her power, the time was
right to drive the decadent infidels out of Iraq. So they made their biggest
mistake -- assuming that America is willing to make use of the God-sent opportunity.
The radicals (a) surfaced, (b) they concentrated their presence in clearly
definable locations, and (c) undertook whatever might be needed to provoke
and justify their foe’s full-scale action of annihilation against them. In
summary: the once invisible foe became a shining target. All has been put
in place by bigoted clerics acting reasonably from the 7th century’s perspective,
to serve on a silver platter a major power of the 21st, the political and
military pre-conditions for crushing them.
The open question regarding whether America prevails or fails is not that
of the adequacy or insufficiency of her objective means and opportunities.
The question posed is the consequence of the irrationality of election-year
politics. The results of the coming election could determine that there will
be for the US no “in the long run,” but, as implied by an electable candidate,
only a “run.” The current shootout at the OK Corral Iraq-style supports,
regardless of the situation on the field of battle, the political argument
for accepting defeat. Incredulous? Let me jog your memory! Remember the “Tet
Offensive” of the Viet Cong? That one was a total military disaster for “Victor
Charlie” in ‘Nam and a total defeat for America at home on the political
front. In the Iraq case, the outcome of the conflict has, thanks to
the election-year tactics of a major party and the limited political education
of a public assumed to be fickle, become a conflict whose main battle
is fought not in Faluja but in America.
George Handlery is an historian. He has lived and taught in Europe since 1976.
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