Sunzi in Iraq
- I must confess that the situation has me puzzled. At the initial
stages it seemed that the anti coalition forces were going to be
using the carbomb approach and then for a period of about a month or
so there was no organized resistance. Now there seems to be one,
whether directed by Baath party loyalists, clan leaders, or Sadam
Some military comentators suggested that this was not a guerilla war,
since the resistance was not following the classic three stage
formula, as though there is a guerilla rulebook that must be followed.
It seems to me that the coalition forces allowed the reaction to
develop, more by default than by virtue of a coherent Iraqi strategy.
Part of the problem is that the Military stragegy was flawed from the
outset and the civil/military strategy did not exist really. There
was not an overwhelming preponderance of force on the ground during
the invasion, and part of the force that was slotted was unable to
get through because the US assumed a Turkey transit that was not
achieved. This created large gaps in the control of the ground where
resistance could gradually grow.
This was followed up by... in fact very little. Relief efforts
seemed overly dependent on clearing the port of Basra initially and
thus were funneled through a logistical bottleneck that only became
available later than planned. There were some reports that looting
was allowed, at least initially, as a display that order (read
Hussein's order) was gone but which swiftly grew out of control.
The Iraqis, particularly after the sanction regime, have become
accustomed to receiving the basics from the government and the
Coalition did not step up swiftly enough to take over this function.
In addition, it seems to me, the coalition should have deployed some
form of constabulary fairly quickly which did not happen and there
was the paradox that the rioting was so severe at the begining that
those who were to train the new constabulary were unable or unwilling
to enter the country while it was still so unsettled. The fact that
there was little overt support in the Arab world meant that Arabic
speakers, essential from the point of view of gathering street
intelligence, were not part of the equation. I wonder how much
language proficiency there is on the part of the forces. Pointing a
gun barrel at someone and screaming in English "Sit Down!" can be
conveyed but lacks nuance.
In addition, the failure to do anything much with demobilized
soldiers meant that the coalition forces have created a cadre of
dissatisfied potential recruits trained in the use of arms.
The US policy seems to have been that the Iraqis would be willing to
put up with short rations, an uncertain future, worries about
retaliation from other internal groups (Kurds, Shia, Sunni, etc.) and
a collapse of civil order simply for the promise of democracy (which
they never had), the absence of Sadam, and the promise of future
prosperity. This may turn out to be wishful thinking on the part of
The question is whether the lacks of the occupying powers will
overcome the faults of Sadam's regime.
In a biography of Hideyoshi, who consolidated power after Nobunaga's
death in 16th Century Japan, the question was asked how could this
uncouth peasant convince others that he could lead the country? He
did it by just doing it, by acting as though it were perfectly
natural. The American and British military prowess was such that it
has had an international ripple effect in favor of the US because its
conventional tactical capability was demonstrated . But it is a
fragile commodity, nobody will worship a god who demonstrates that he
The US had an opportunity to go in and quickly establish order, and
prosperity to Iraq. It has missed its first chance. The question is
will it have a second chance, and resist the provocations of Iraqi
guerrillas to over-react while at the same time removing the sources
of any support the guerrilas may have?
But is it a matter that they have to defeat an enemy's strategy? Are
the forces directed centrally, or is this a more or less
spontaneously generated resistance? In that case we have the odd
situation where the strategy that has to be defeated is not the
enemy's, but the failing of the Coalition's strategy.