Army War College slams Global War on Terror plan

The U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute calls the Global War on Terrorism, as currently envisioned, “politically, fiscally, and militarily unsustainable.” Operation Iraqi Freedom was “unnecessary.” And these guys work for the Army.

First, the supreme, most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and the commander have to make is to establish the kind of war on which they are embarking, neither mistaking it for, not trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its true nature. This is the first of all strategic questions and the most comprehensive.
— Carl von Clausewitz

Two U.S. soldiers guard the road to Kirkuk in April Copyright 2003 Christopher Allbritton
In a publication from the “Strategic Studies Institute”:, the U.S. Army’s “think tank for the analysis of national security policy and military strategy,” titled “Bounding the Global War on Terrorism”: (PDF file), the United States’ conflating of the threat from al Qaeda with Iraq has led to “an unnecessary preventive war of choice against a deterred Iraq that has created a new front in the Middle East for Islamic terrorism and diverted attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al-Qaeda.”
Strong stuff. It’s authored by “Dr. Jeffrey Record”:, a visiting research professor. The opening of the executive summary is even more biting of the Bush plan for combating terrorism and defending America from attack:

In the wake of the September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States, the U.S. Government declared a global war on terrorism (GWOT). The nature and parameters of that war, however, remain frustratingly unclear. The administration has postulated a multiplicity of enemies, including rogue states; weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferators; terrorist organizations of global, regional, and national scope; and terrorism itself. It also seems to have conflated them into a monolithic threat, and in so doing has subordinated strategic clarity to the moral clarity it strives for in foreign policy and may have set the United States on a course of open-ended and gratuitous conflict with states and nonstate entities that pose no serious threat to the United States.
Of particular concern has been the conflation of al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as a single, undifferentiated terrorist threat. This was a strategic error of the first order because it ignored critical differences between the two in character, threat level, and susceptibility to U.S. deterrence and military action. The result has been an unnecessary preventive war of choice against a deterred Iraq that has created a new front in the Middle East for Islamic terrorism and diverted attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al-Qaeda. The war against Iraq was not integral to the GWOT, but rather a detour from it.
Additionally, most of the GWOT’s declared objectives, which include the destruction of al-Qaeda and other transnational terrorist organizations, the transformation of Iraq into a prosperous, stable democracy, the democratization of the rest of the autocratic Middle East, the eradication of terrorism as a means of irregular warfare, and the (forcible, if necessary) termination of WMD proliferation to real and potential enemies worldwide, are unrealistic and condemn the United States to a hopeless quest for absolute security. As such, the GWOT’s goals are also politically, fiscally, and militarily unsustainable.

Record recommends:

  1. Deconflate the threat, by treating rogue states (such as the former Iraq) as separate from terrorist organizations and separate those groups that are at war with the U.S., such as al Qaeda, from those that are not, such as Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines. Record makes the point that al Qaeda is undeterrable while North Korea, for the moment, is. By lumping all groups and rouge states together as “terrorism,” the United States will make enemies of those groups with which it has no quarrel. “Terrorism may be a horrendous means to any end, but do the Basque E.T.A. and the Tamil Tigers really threaten the United States?” he writes
  2. Substitute credible deterrence for preventative war as a means of dealing with rogue states’ attempts to acquire WMD. By this, he means shift the focus from stopping rogue states from acquiring WMD to deterring rogue states from using WMD. Iraq was deterrable; Saddam was deterred from using chemical and/or biological weapons in the 199s Gulf War in no small part because Secretary of State James Baker threatened the use of tactical nukes. A policy of preventive war encourages acquisition of WMD, anyway, as rogue states — such as North Korea — decide they have to arm up to deter the United States. Besides, using preemptive, preventative war as the overall tool in the foreign policy toolkit places too many strains and stresses on the military and intelligence agencies to be exact. The failure to find WMD in Iraq is Exhibit A here.
  3. Refocus the GWOT on al Qaeda, its allies and defense of the American homeland. Hands up, who attacked the U.S. on 9/11? Right, al Qaeda and _not_ a rouge state. Who is still conducting terror attacks against U.S. interests around the globe? Al Qaeda again. “The war against Iraq was a detour from, not an integral component of, the war on terrorism.” And spend more money and effort on homeland security. First responders are “woefully undertrained and underfunded”: to the tune of approximately $98.4 billion. How much as Operation Iraqi Freedom cost? About $150 billion has already been authorized and requested.
  4. Find some other way other than war to effect regime change in rogue states. It’s expensive, risky and ties down 100,000+ American troops, creating a huge drag on the armed forces. Iran, North Korea and Syria have little reason to fear the 82nd is about to occupy the presidential palaces in Tehran, Pyongyang or Damascus. They’re too busy in Iraq!
  5. Settle for stability rather than democracy in Iraq and international control rather than American control. Democracy in Iraq would be great. I’m all for it. But Record thinks that lowered expectations in Iraq would be better if the transition to democracy turns into a messy, chaotic and violent affair, which it might if the Kurds keep “pushing hard for Kirkuk.”: While it would truly suck to have an Egyptian-style autocracy, the United States may have to settle for that if democracy leads to a government hostile to American security requirements. This one is — and should be — a bitter pill to swallow. I hope it’s not a necessary one.
  6. More troops, more peacekeeping and more nation-building. Record notes that Americans seem to have forgotten Clausewitz’s dictum that war is an extension of politics and instead seem to substitute war for politics. The American vision of war posits the enemy as “target sets”; if one destroys enough of the target set, the enemy will surrender and American goals will be achieved. He quotes Frederick A. Kagan as saying that this vision ignores the importance of “how, exactly, one defeats the enemy and what the enemy’s country looks like at the moment the bullets stop flying.” Troops must do more than break things and kill people. They must secure population centers and infrastructure, keep the civilian populace safe and prevent humanitarian disasters. And that takes a lot of boots on the ground. It also takes a realization by the U.S. military that regime change is inextricably tied to nation-building and peacekeeping, and that those must be factored into initial planning for war. “The only hope for success in the extension of politics that war is to restore the human element to the transformation process.”

By the way, this report couldn’t have come at a worse time, what with former Treasury Secretary “Paul O’Neill”: stating that President George W. Bush “had an eye on invading Iraq from the earliest days of his administration.”: In response to these allegations, Bush himself has “refuted O’Neill’s statements”: and the Department of the Treasury has “demanded an investigation into the display of documents”: by O’Neill during his interview with _60 Minutes_ on Sunday. Talk about focusing on the real enemy.

Is Syria Next?

There’s been a lot of speculation that Iraq was just the first in a line of nettlesome problems in the Middle East that neo-cons wanted to “solve.” Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in an interview almost a year ago that Iran should be the next target. However, it seems Washington has decided to step up its campaign against Syria.

There’s been a lot of speculation that Iraq was just the first in a line of nettlesome problems in the Middle East that neo-cons wanted to “solve.” Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in an interview almost a year ago that Iran should be the next target. However, it seems Washington has decided to step up its campaign against Syria.
U.S.-led coalition troops treat wounded soldiers after an attack on a Humvee on the main road about 50 miles south of Baghdad. The extent of the soldiers’ wounds was unclear. (Greg Baker — AP) Click to enlarge
Last weekend, “to caution Israel’s enemies at a time of heightened tensions in the region and concern over Iran’s alleged ambitions,” Washington revealed that Israel now has land-, air- and submarine-based nuclear launch capability. This came just days after Turkish lawmakers voted to send up to 10,000 troops to Iraq. With the Turks now a dues-paying member of the “Coalition of Willing,” this means Syria is effectively surrounded. Remember that the major fighting in Iraq ended with Syrian and American forces skirmishing on the border, and now Damascus is pressed on the north and south by the formerly neutral Turkey and its old enemy Israel. The pressure is on Syrian President Bashar al-Asad to cease support for groups such as Hizballah and other groups operating out of Damascus. Asad is facing a dangerous gamble: Is the United States bluffing in its deployment of its and its allies’ forces around Syria in an attempt to force behavior change? Will a regime change follow if Syria’s behavior doesn’t alter?
Adding further to pressure is the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 (HR 1828). It passed the House this week, and particular note should be paid to Section 4 — Statement of Principles:

  1. Syria will be held responsible for attacks committed by Hizballah and other terrorist groups with offices, training camps, or other facilities in Syria, or bases in areas of Lebanon occupied by Syria;
  2. the United States shall impede Syria’s ability to support acts of international terrorism and efforts to develop or acquire weapons of mass destruction;
  3. the Secretary of State will continue to list Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism until Syria ends its support for terrorism, including its support of Hizballah and other terrorist groups in Lebanon and its hosting of terrorist groups in Damascus, and comes into full compliance with United States law relating to terrorism and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 (September 28, 2001);
  4. efforts against Hizballah will be expanded given the recognition that Hizballah is equally or more capable than al Qa’ida;
  5. the full restoration of Lebanon’s sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity is in the national security interest of the United States;
  6. Syria is in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 520 (September 17, 1982) through its continued occupation of Lebanese territory and its encroachment upon Lebanon’s political independence;
  7. Syria’s obligation to withdraw from Lebanon is not conditioned upon progress in the Israeli-Syrian or Israeli-Lebanese peace process but derives from Syria’s obligation under Security Council Resolution 520;
  8. Syria’s acquisition of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs threaten the security of the Middle East and the national security interests of the United States;
  9. Syria will be held accountable for any harm to Coalition armed forces or to any United States citizen in Iraq due to its facilitation of terrorist activities and its shipments of military supplies to Iraq; and
  10. the United States will not provide any assistance to Syria and will oppose multilateral assistance for Syria until Syria ends all support for terrorism, withdraws its armed forces from Lebanon, and halts the development and deployment of weapons of mass destruction and medium- and long-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles.

Note that many of these principles are almost identical to those expressed against Iraq, particularly the violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, the weapons of mass destruction and its ties to terrorism — in this case Hizballah, which has been promoted to Al Qa’ida rank in evil. Even the “axis of evil” rhetoric has been heated up, as this statement from the office of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, illustrates:

Syria is a government at war with the values of the civilized world and a violent threat to free nations and free men everywhere. We’ll send a clear message to President Asad and his fellow travelers along the axis of evil: The United States will not tolerate terrorism, its perpetrators, or its sponsors. And our warnings are not to be ignored. (Emphasis added — Ed.) notes that the capture of Baghdad shocked the Arab world, and the United States seized the psychological initiative with the city’s fall. The United States went from being perceived as a hated but impotent power to a hated but feared one. Since the fall of Baghdad, however, the perception that the United States is bogged down by guerillas has taken hold and much of the initiative has been lost. The passage of HR 1828 and the coalescing of a regional coalition against Syria is required if the United States’ is to regain its footing and momentum. If pressure by Washington works, then Syria will reduce support to terror groups targeting Israel and halt the flow of fighters into Iraq. If it doesn’t, the United States will need to deal with Syria by force.
Related link: Why Iraq?

Assassination in Najaf

The assassination today of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, the leader of an Iran-backed group, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), in Najaf is the latest nightmare of violence in Iraq.

Unfortunately on deadline today and unable to give a full accounting or analysis on a news-heavy day. Daily Kos has an item on the attack.
Initial response based on NPR: This is very, very bad (obviously). Twenty 75 More than 90 people dead and at least 140 wounded. The most holy shrine to Shi’a Islam is damaged [UPDATE but not too badly, apparently.] Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, a key Shi’a cleric and head of the SCIRI, is dead. Shi’ites in Najaf seem to be blaming remnants of Saddam’s security forces for the attack. (Which seems plausible.)
Hakim’s death could shatter the Iraqi Governing Council, on which Hakim’s brother, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, sits. It could set off a power struggle among the Shi’ites with the moderates — now possibly led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim (who isn’t even that moderate, frankly) — and the hard-liners, led by firebrand 22-year-old Moqtada Sadr.
If it turns out that Sunnis were behind this, expect riots and clashes in Baghdad.
Iran will be watching this very closely as well. Hakim was their guy in Iraq and it’s unclear now what will happen.
Tin-foil hat theory of my own: Al Qa’ida operatives, who are Sunni, did this in a bid to spark a civil war, which would embroil U.S. troops and tie them down when they might be needed in South Korea, Indonesia, Afghanistan, etc. The attack also aims to show the Arab world that American troops aren’t up to providing security and can be put on the defensive. This will embolden _jihadis_ and give other nations yet another reason to withhold additional troops. All this means America will likely remain pretty much on its own in Iraq and her ability to respond to threats around the world will be negatively impacted. Instead of flypaper for terrorists, Iraq is a tarbaby for America.
This could be the equivalent of the assassination of the Archuduke Franz Ferdinand that sparked World War I — although on national scale, rather than a global one. The probability of civil war — with American troops caught in the middle — just spiked.

Deadly Spectre

Most newspapers talked about the shift in tactics adopted by combatants in Iraq from individual attacks on U.S. troops to massive car bombs against “soft targets” such as the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad yesterday. I don’t have much to add right now, since I gave my analysis yesterday. But I think I know why the Jordanian embassy was targeted by a smaller car bomb Aug. 7.
It was practice.
The question that everyone should be asking now is, what’s the next target?