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Sunzi in Iraq

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  • Douglas Henderson
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 21, 2003
      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
      himself.

      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 coalition.

      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
      can bleed.

      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.

      Regards
      Douglas
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