Friday | April 04, 2003
The war is not over yet
Some in blogistan are looking to the last few days and thinking the war is over or close to it. That is patently not true.
The US used it's last combat power to get to the Baghdad suburbs from the west, but the Marine divisions are still to the south and still fighting. Only the 3ID has anything like most of it's combat power up front, with brigades of the Marines still fighting holding actions as well as the 101st ABN fighting around Najaf. A break in operations is coming whether we want it or not.
The Iraqi Army is 400,000 men strong, not counting irregulars. The Feyadeen could be a problem for years to come. Not weeks, not months. Years. We're assuming that Saddam's death will diminish loyalty to him. That's a bad assumption. Look at the cult of Stalin. The army could walk away and then when they come home from the POW camps, form a Freikorp. (The post war army in Germany involved in combat after WW I)
The most dangerous point in the war is not the combat, but near the end.
This war could mutate like a disease. If we come close to dumping Saddam, the Shia clerics could demand that once he's gone. we leave.
Because hatred of Saddam is not the same as love of the US. These are not the Gulf Arabs. Iraqis are nationalists.
The Kurds and the Turks
The Kurds are making nice with the US, smiling and the Turks are glowering. They're waiting. The minute the Kurds enter Mosul and Kirkuk, the Turks are going to rush forward to seize the cities. Which is what the Kurds are preparing for. You notice no big battles in the north. There's a reason for that. Like the Chinese Communists, their war is the one which comes after the big war. They expect the Turks to come south, no matter what Washington thinks.
The control of the north is about as important to Turkey as political stability in Mexico is to the US. If the Kurds get frisky (read as creating Kurdistan), the Turks will launch a war to prevent it. They've been the major driver of keeping Saddam in power since 1990.
The Iranians and the Shia
In a Newsday article, the Shia leadership has been balancing joining in killing Saddam vs their hatred of the US. The ONE constant, US occupation means war. They've been clear about that, even though Washington ignores them. The US either leaves quickly or faces an even worse problem with guerrillas than now. Why? The remnants of Saddam's supporters will have access to weapons, money and secrets. An alliance between them and the Sunni tribes could happen quickly, more quickly than the US is prepared for.
Iran has no reason to support stability, neither does Syria. It is in their interest that the US have the most difficult occupation possible.
The uselessness of the exiles
The only exiles with power are the Shia. The rest, Cambridge (Boston and UK) dillitants with no real coherent organization or planning. Ahmed Chalebi is Washington's man, which makes him the Jorge Mas Canosa of Iraq (the late Cuban exile leader who thought he would be President of a Castro-free island). But in reality, one fatwa could make a US occupation a nightmare of violence on a scale which would force the US into one of two choices, leave or act like Saddam. American troops don't want to hunt down a few thousands Baathists in cities like Najaf. Imagine having to control a full-scale rebellion in the shrine of the Shia.
Gen. Shinseki was not kidding when he said they needed an occupation force of 200,000 men. We could be putting out all manner of fires. As a British officer said "Controlling Baghdad, like we control Belfast?" The exiles we want to rely on, like Kamiya, would get stared at in any Iraqi market as a stranger who speaks funny. The exiles we need are friends of people we don't much care for.
Oh, and there's Baghdad
It's a big city. Subduing it will require brute force if people don't quit fighting. You can offer all the plans you want, but when a column is surrounded by RPG carrying teenagers, people who will charge tanks, you may take heavy losses.
We could be outside there for months, and even then, still face open hostility from places like Saddam City, home of the Shia.
Despite all the boosterism, if we can't take Basra, taking Baghdad is beyond the pale. If the British cannot control the city, how can we expect to control a much larger and more populated city. We may control the countryside, but Saddam's minons still run life for the average Iraqi.
Just because Special Ops has free reign to run around Baghdad, don't assume that's because they're supermen. Saddam runs a Stalinist police state. He may well be letting them run their missions and then, one day, they all get shut down. Why? Because it breeds confidence in the US planners. They take more risks. Then, imagine the morale of the units if five or six of their teams are captured or killed. Saddam is very clever. The Iraqis are tough-minded. Assume nothing until the war is over and the troops are home.
An uprising could be very bad for us
While the freepers and neo-cons have been begging for a rebellion against Saddam, who says that rebellion will be restricted to Saddam. Once you have local leaders, and the Badr Brigade in the mix, why would they listen to Americans? Why would they need us. Once Saddam is dead, our usefulness to them is over. They would be armed and able to kill Americans . They would have no reason to put down their guns. For what? To take orders from Jay Garner? To have a pro-Israeli government imposed? Why not kill the Baathists, demostrate your power and then deal with the Americans with guns in your hands and anti-Americanism at a fever pitch?
There's no reason they would have to accept it. Not if they have leaders, weapons and Saddam is dead.
The proxy war we fought in Afghanistan worked only so far. At some point, the US had to step in. Well, a proxy war in Iraq could wind up like the Phillippine Insurection, with us fighting the guerrillas we armed and helped.
Even if Saddam quit today, this war could only be just starting.
Steve GilliardPosted April 04, 2003 07:35 PM | Comments (121)