I say it's time to start calling it the "End Zone."
Among the most lamentable aspects of wars are their unfavorable and unintended consequences. Germany and Japan did not set out to have their major cities destroyed or to submit to unconditional terms of surrender. The United States and England did not conduct a generational struggle against the Axis Powers for the purpose of creating a 50-year Cold War with their old ally Russia.
We have yet to see the full extent of the unfavorable consequences of our Iraq experiment. We squandered our military victory in Afghanistan. By taking Saddam Hussein out of the Middle East equation, we triggered the impending emergence of Iran as a regional superpower and gave our Cold War foes Russian and China an opening to reestablish a bi- or multi-polar global balance of power. By most informed accounts, our land forces are stretched to the "breaking" point and the efficacy of America's armed forces as an instrument of national power has been profoundly damaged.
The spread of democracy, ostensibly a key policy aim behind the Iraq invasion, has boomeranged on us. Terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood have become legitimate political parties, and three "purple finger" elections in Iraq have produced a government that teeters on the brink of collapse.
The Bush administration's pursuit of global engagement through armed force has left America as isolated, if not more so, than at any time in the past hundred years. Russia's sale of TOR M-1 surface-to-air missiles to Iran has pundits asking whether Russia is our friend any more. That's an easy one to answer: nobody is our friend any more. Even our bulldog Britain shies away from us.
But as badly as our actions have come back to haunt us so far, I fear the worst is yet to come.
More Iraq Blowback
Mr. Bush seems hell bent for Kevlar to send 20 something thousand more troops to Iraq no matter who thinks it's a bad idea or who tries to stop him. There's a good chance that the best the escalation strategy will accomplish is to create 20,000 new targets for the bad guys.
Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times reports that several dozen members of Moktada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia have been arrested over the past several weeks. There's no telling what kinds of dire consequences that could produce. Will it break up the fragile Shiite bloc in the Iraqi government? Will it weaken al-Sadr's forces to an extent that allows Sunni militiamen to wreak havoc on the Shia population in Baghdad? If Shia-Sunni violence in Baghdad intensifies even further, will U.S. troops step in, and if they do, whose side will they take? If they step in on the side of the Shia's, will the Saudis come to the aid of the Sunnis?
Joshua Partlow of the Washington Post informs us that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says his government's need for U.S. troops could "dramatically go down" in three to six months if America accelerates delivery of arms and equipment to Iraqi forces. But do we really want to put more beans and bullets in the hands of Iraq's army and police? Iraq's army has a proven track record for not showing up for operations it doesn’t want to fight in, and Iraq's police are reputed to be infiltrated by militiamen who function as sectarian death squads.
I've said this before but it bears repeating: Iraq is a goat rope tied in Gordian knots and wrapped around a Mobius strip. It's a quagmire and a rabbit hole and a wasps' nest and a whole lot of other chaotic conundrums besides.
As is the entire Middle East situation.
Inside Our Circle
The genius of Osama bin Laden is that he's managed to maneuver the mightiest nation in history into a downward spiral, and he's done so without an army or a navy or an air force or an economy or a diplomatic corps or any other traditional, institutional form of power. Bin Laden has so expertly disrupted our decision/action cycle that whatever action we take plays into his grand strategy.
America's most influential strategists--Bill Kristol's gang of neoconservative ideologues who are urging Mr. Bush into the Iraq escalation and military aggression against Iran--are reminiscent of the feckless English political and military leadership in C.S. Forester's World War I novel The General (Thanks to Random Traverse for providing a link to this quote.)
In some ways it was like the debate of a group of savages as to how to extract a screw from a piece of wood. Accustomed only to nails, they had made one effort to pull out the screw by main force, and now that it had failed they were devising methods of applying more force still, of obtaining more efficient pincers, of using levers and fulcrum so that more men could bring their strength to bear. They could hardly be blamed for not guessing that by rotating the screw it would come out after the exertion of far less effort; it would be so different that they would laugh at the man who suggested it.
And so it is that bin Laden, Russia, China, Iran and the rest of our adversaries are perfectly happy to stand on the sidelines and cheer while they and the rest of the world watch us screw ourselves into oblivion.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.