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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Tuesday | January 14, 2003

The Guns of February


This is an important article. It's by William Arkin, a defense analyst who also writes a regular column for the Washington Post. Arkin appears to have gotten a reasonably clear picture of the U.S. war plan for the Iraq invasion. Afghanistan II it ain't.

Despite Rumsfeld's desire for a high-tech, ride-'em-cowboy war, Central Command seems to be proceeding with something that looks much, much more like Gulf War II. Lots of tanks, lots of grunts; or, in Arkin's words: "the kind of ground assault the Army has trained and equipped itself to conduct in Europe since the beginning of the Cold War."

Obviously, this requires a much more elaborate, expensive -- and less sustainable -- logistical buildup. This isn't something that can just be slapped in a crate and shipped back to the states if somebody decides to postpone the war. Nor could it be easily reassembled later, if somebody decides the war's back on again.

Arkin: "As tens of thousands of ground troops and their vast support infrastructure arrive in Kuwait, any options other than war fade further and further. This is the military corollary to the Field of Dreams: If they come, you will use them."

So, a Field of Dreams, but without Shoeless Joe Jackson. ("Say it ain't so, Joe! Say it ain't so!")

Actually, the period setting would be almost appropriate, because this kind of resembles what happened in the final weeks leading up to World War I.

In 1914, each of the great powers had a very complex, very cumbersome plan to mobilize for war. Once started, these plans couldn't be easily stopped. In fact doing so would be potentially disastrous, since it would leave the demobilizing power wide open to attack.

So, once the Austrians mobilized, forcing the Russians to mobilize, the Germans had to mobilize, forcing the French to mobilize. A military chain reaction that made war inevitable.

Obviously, the Pentagon doesn't have to worry about leaving itself exposed to an Iraqi attack. But given the size and scale of the buildup, and the difficulty in unwinding it, if Bush were to back down now he'd probably be backing down for some time to come -- maybe indefinitely, since I don't think anybody in the White House wants a war that drags into an election year.

This, in turn, would tell Saddam -- and Iran, and Kim Jong-Il -- that they have at least a bit of breathing room in which to accelerate whatever WMD programs they have in the works or on tap. Out go the inspectors; crank up the anthrax factory.

So Bush has got us well and truly boxed. War is coming: soon.

Posted January 14, 2003 08:22 PM | Comments (24)


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