Sunday, July 13, 2003

Quo Vadis?

The inauguration of the Iraqi Governing Council opens the political endgame against the Ba'ath. Paul Bremer described the Council as representing "all the strands from Iraq's complicated social structure — Shiites, Sunnis, Arabs, Kurds, men and women, Christians and Turkmens." Saddam's formula for controlling an ethnically divided Iraq was to put one ethnic group in control of the rest. The American formula calls for making them all dependent on each other. The key to keeping a multi-ethnic Iraq together lies in preventing the emergence of individual militias and concentrating all legitimate military power in national institutions. Bremer reminded the new Council members of the tens of thousands of Iraqi policemen the Coalition had fielded. He did not need to remind them that America was creating a new Iraqi army as a national force.

In order to provide a single object of loyalty for the police and army, a new constitution was needed. While Bremer set before the Council the first tasks of appointing interim ministers and preparing policy and budgets, the major goal was to "establish procedures to write Iraq's new constitution." Which, "once it is ratified by the people" would lead to elections. "How long the coalition will stay in Iraq depends in part on how quickly the Iraqi people can write and approve a constitution." That constitution would not only have to be acceptable to the people of Iraq, but also to Washington, which signaled it's intentions by contracting Kellogg Brown & Root to build barracks for 100,000 soldiers in Iraq, according to Phil Carter. An American presence in Iraq under the auspices of a treaty between Washington and a new Iraqi government would make it difficult for future Democrat administrations to withdraw holus-bolus from the Middle East.

The companion piece of Bremer's velvet glove was the mailed fist of Ivy Serpent, the fourth major operation against Ba'athist holdouts. Billed as a pre-emptive strike against planned attacks on US forces during former Saddam-proclaimed holidays, the operations were concentrated in the Sunni triangle.''The goal is to knock the Baath Party and the Wahhabi elements off balance,'' said Lt. Col. Nat Sassaman, a Balad-area battalion commander. This is marks one of the first times when the US Armed Forces has named Wahabism, which is rooted mostly in next-door Saudi Arabia, as an instigator in the attacks. Glenn Reynolds links to an article by his former mentor, Federal appellate Judge Gilbert S. Merritt of Nashville, who is in Iraq as one of 13 experts selected by the U.S. Justice Department to help rebuild Iraq's judicial system. Meritt claims he has proof that a certain Abid Al-Karim Muhamed Aswod, an Iraqi intelligence officer, "was responsible for the coordination of activities with the Osama bin Laden group at the Iraqi embassy in Pakistan.'' This suggests that the battle for Iraq, at the geostrategic level, is segueing into the battle for Saudi Arabia.

Certainly Donald Rumsfeld does not believe that Operation Iraqi Freedom represents the end point of the struggle against radical Islam. Phil Carter quotes Esther Schrader who writes that "in a July 9 memo to the secretaries of the Air Force, the Navy, the Army and to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Rumsfeld called for shifting a broad range of professional specialties from the reserves to the active duty force to allow the military to mobilize for a major war within 15 days." In the years after Vietnam, the US Army was redesigned to require reserve forces to support the active duty elements. This prevented the politicians from using the Armed Forces in an irresponsible manner, as Johnson had done, but it made mobilization slow and extended deployments impossible. By moving key professional specialties back into the active service component, Rumsfeld is enabling the US Armed Forces to fight on much shorter notice and remain on a war footing for years at a stretch. Rumsfeld is attempting to reprise Lord Barham's sustained effort against Napoleon rather than Roosevelt's short campaign against Hitler. During the late 18th century, the Royal Navy was transformed from a surge force, accustomed to bloating periodically during a crisis, to a standing naval force which eventually strangled the ambitions of Bonaparte.

The grand strategic vision of Donald Rumsfeld, and possibly of George Bush is to mount and sustain an economic, military, political and cultural encirclement of radical Islam. How it will end, no one can possibly guess. But one thing is certain, the attack on the WTC on September 11, 2001 has unrolled a vast canvass on which the shape of the 21st century will be determined.