Heres something Id like

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Here’s something I’d like to share with you. This is an email I received this evening from a former career diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to a Muslim country. He also studied military strategy at the National War College with retired four-stars like Wes Clark, Hugh Shelton, and others.

As the author of the email himself says, many parts of it are speculative. Perhaps they’ll prove correct, perhaps not. Who knows? But I found the discussion and predictions fascinating and full of insights, if profoundly ominous in their implications …

Your latest posting raises the question of what is going to happen. You
write that we still have to come up with a strategy to protect our troops
and complete the mission. Yogi Berra said never to make predictions,
especially about the future. But I have had a pretty good track record over
the years in predicting the future. (That’s the sin of pride, and not a
Nostradamus complex.) So, looking into my crystal ball, I do not believe
that we will be able to complete the mission on OUR terms, which were to
eliminate weapons of mass destruction, overthrow Saddam, and liberate the
Iraqi people.

Not only has this not been a cakewalk, the most telling point is that we
still have not been able to secure Basra in the Shiite south. That was
supposed to be easy. So how we will be able to enter and secure Baghdad, so
much larger, so much more populated, so much more Sunni, so much angrier at
us (after days and nights of bombing), defended by the toughest of the
Republican Guard, and so much more critical to Saddam? Baghdad is the
“prize,” the center of gravity (in Clausewitz’s phrase). Without Baghdad,
there is no regime change. And how will we be able to take it without
getting bloodied, both militarily and politically? Are we really prepared to
bomb the bejeezus out of it (and the people who live there)? Are we prepared
to be drawn into urban warfare in such a large place — a mega-Mogadishu —
when Saddam & Co. already have demonstrated that they are prepared to use
every trick in the book to thwart us (irregulars in civilian clothes,
terrorism, suicide bombers, human shields, etc.)? And where, as in Vietnam,
we cannot distinguish friend from foe?

Holbrooke predicts in a new NY Times story by Johnny Apple as follows:

–“Saddam won’t win,” said Richard C. Holbrooke, the former United States
representative at the United Nations. “Unlike L.B.J. in Vietnam, Bush won’t
quit. He’s a different kind of Texan.(**) He’ll escalate and keep
escalating. In the end his military strategy will probably succeed in
destroying Saddam.

–“But it may result in a Muslim jihad against us and our friends. Achieving
our narrow objective of regime change may take so long and trigger so many
consequences that it’s no victory at all. Our ultimate goal, which is
promoting stability in the Middle East, may well prove elusive.”

The war obviously is not going to end the way that Rumsfeld, Cheney, Perle,
Kristol, etc. all predicted. I see three scenarios:

1. We will hesitate to enter the city for fear of losing large numbers of
US casualties in urban warfare. We therefore will have to engage in major
bombing in Baghdad, including in civilian areas. To use the Vietnam era
phrase, “we had to destroy the village in order to save it.” International
outrage will be overwhelming, and we will pay the price in the Arab and
Muslim worlds for years to come. Operation Iraqi Freedom becomes Operation
Iraqi Conquest.

2. Like the Russians against Napoleon and later the Nazis, there is
“defense in depth.” Let them get deep inside your country, and then start
nibbling at them and making their life miserable. It’s already happened —
we were rolling to Baghdad with little opposition against our main and
heavily-armed forces, and then all hell broke loose against our lighter
armed but critical logistics chain that is in the rear. Following this
pattern, Saddam eventually will make it “easy” (that’s in quotes, because it
won’t be that easy) for us to enter Baghdad as a ruse, and once we are
there, with only 20 to 30K troops inside an unfamiliar and large city of 5
million, his forces will engage in hit and run, guerrilla, terrorist tactics
against us. We will have to retreat from the city, bloodied and
demoralized — to borrow your phrase, this is the chickenhawk down scenario.
There will be calls from within the US (and certainly from Britain) to pull
out of Iraq all together, because the mission has failed. How do you spell
“Dunkirk?” We will have to get us forces safely out of the country across
300 miles. (Is that the distance from Baghdad back to Kuwait?) Remember
April 1775? The British lost more troops marching back to Boston than they
did at Lexington and Concord.

3. This is what I think is the most likely scenario. Cooler heads such as
Colin Powell and our senior military leaders will be able to convince Bush
that Option 1 and 2 are not “viable,” to use a USG phrase. (It will be a
tough sell, because Bush personally will prefer Option 1, the stay the
course, show the world (and Daddy) how tough and determined and “focused” I
am). Our military leaders, already mad at Rummy and company for not giving
them the forces they needed to do the job, will simply not want to engage in
such butchery or subject their forces to heavy casualties. Tony Blair will
make the same point. But what to do? We will need to surround the city,
secure the rest of the country, and then play the game of “political
standoff.” Somebody will have to blink.

If there is this political standoff (option 3), then others in the world —
the UN, our European allies, responsible NAM members — will push to
eliminate two of our objectives (regime change and liberation) and return to
what 1441 was all about, which is inspections and disarmament. With our
forces in country, we will have in effect what Jessica Matthews called for
before the war started — “robust inspections.” With US military force at
hand, UN inspectors should be able to go anywhere they want to outside
Baghdad. If Saddam wants the rest of his country back, he would have to
agree to robust inspections within the 50 miles radius of Baghdad as well.

After Option 3 goes into play, Bush will need to deflect blame in order to
try and save his political skin. He will let Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz know
that he wants their resignations. The finger pointing around town will be
staggering. Career military officers and CIA/DIA analysts will continue to
leak damaging stories of how their concerns were suppressed at “the
political level.” A number of military officers will resign/retire because
the honor of their service and the lives of their men/women were needlessly
squandered by an arrogant and deaf political leadership. There will be calls
from the talking heads that if Bush wants to be re-elected, he should start
to focus on the economy and replace the disgraced Cheney on the ticket in
2004 with Colin Powell. The Democrats will be as ineffectual as ever in
taking advantage of all this.

(**) Comment. Right. LBJ’s self-doubts about the war are not only in Doris
Kearns’s biography, but also have been revealed in the transcripts of his
phone conversations with Sen. Richard Russell (even in 1964-65). And when he
saw that it wasn’t working, he halted the bombing and went to the peace
table. As for GWB, he is not given to self-doubts, second thoughts, or
self-reflection.

Food for thought. Like syrup of ipecac …

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