“No one starts a war--or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so--without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.”
-- Carl von Clausewitz
More than three years into our Iraq misadventure, the Bush administration has yet to give us a clear explanation of why we invaded that country and what we hoped to accomplish by it. I in no way believe that they were as fuzzy on their war aims as they appear to have been, and as they appear to be now.
The paper trail of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) makes it quite clear that the neoconservatives were determined to remove Saddam Hussein from power by military means years before the 2000 election. While the PNAC at various times cited weapons of mass destruction and protection of Israel as motivations for an invasion of Iraq, the real aim was to establish an expanded military footprint in the Middle East in order to control the flow of the region's oil, thereby giving the U.S. a virtual stranglehold on global energy and the global economy. Hussein himself was less of an immediate threat than a convenient excuse to execute the plan. From the PNAC's Rebuilding America's Defenses published in September of 2000:
The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein. (Page 14.)
The neocons were realistic enough at the time to know American's wouldn't support their imperialistic vision absent something like "a new Pearl Harbor."
The 9/11 attacks of 2001 gave PNACers like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby and others--by then in control of the reigning administration--the Pearl Harbor they needed, and they proceeded to pop the lid on the neocon can of spank.
It's important to note that prior to the 9/11 attacks, PNAC literature made little to no mention of Osama Bin Laden, his al Qaeda network, of Hezbollah or Hamas or of terrorism in general.
Would Have, Could Have, Should Have
That 9/11 was easily traceable to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization, operating out of Afghanistan, must have given the neocons by then in power joy beyond their wildest dreams. They had to take time to build a firmer case for invading Iraq based on the attacks, but already had more justification than they needed to go into Afghanistan.
While Afghanistan has little to no energy or economic assets, its physical position offered a profound geo-strategic lever to the neoconservative's strategy for sewing up the Middle East region and its oil reserves. Had we managed to establish permanent military bases and stable U.S. compliant governments in both Afghanistan and Iraq, while simultaneously bringing Libya's Muammar al-Gaddafi to leash, America would have had a lock on both the center and the periphery of the Islamic part of the world. Iran would have been isolated and surrounded, and we may have been able to elbow an emerging China and a re-emerging Russia out of the Middle East and Africa forever.
With physical control of the balance of the world's fuel and mineral resources, the U.S. could have commanded the cooperation of Western Europe and South America. Isolated, China and Russia would have had little choice but to play along with a semi-permanent U.S. hegemony as well, and the neoconservative dream would have been realized.
The "victory" the neoconservatives envisioned is now unachievable, and has given our peer competitors a critical vulnerability to exploit. Our experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq have shown our military's decisive edge in symmetrical combat to be impotent at accomplishing our national aims. The neocons may have been "clear in their minds" what they wanted to achieve and how they intended to achieve it, but they were wrong.
China, Russia, Iran and Venezuela, through superior strategies, have sat on the sidelines and watched the U.S. bang its helmet into the wall and shoot itself in the foot. Our adversaries play a sophisticated game of contract bridge with a full deck while we continue to play the child's game of war with a handful of deuces.
No nation in its senses, however powerful, ought to be doing that.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.