Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams
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There is no doubt that the land attack will involve a lot of battles, and one cannot rule out losses being sustained. And I am probably not far from the truth – if a little premature – in saying that the ability of the regime to fight a long campaign is open to doubt. But one should add a caveat here: if one does not pay attention carefully, then complications might arise. Before concentrating on these, let me say, without hesitation, that if the relationship between the regime and the people was healthy, and the people and the armed forces believed they were fighting a just battle, then the US would have to pay a high price. I would even go so far as to say that if the relationship between the regime and the Ba'th party was healthy in matters of organization and principle, then the US forces would be encountering greater difficulties.
However, relations between the regime and the people are based not only on mutual distrust, but also on mutual enmity. Monopoly of power has emptied the Ba'th party of its contents and turned its members into robots. The regime has also failed to take into account the fact that the decision to expand the size of the army has created a double-edged sword. When the regime is in full control, then these forces represent an element of strength. But if the winds of change blow, then the army could turn against the regime and create the opportunity for a military coup – or when the fighting starts, there could be many desertions.
The Iraqi regime has not overlooked the fact that there is a great disparity between the two sides in technology and weaponry, with the enemy technologically superior and set to launch an electronic war against Iraq. Hence the regime has worked hard on its military industrialization program with the aim of throwing a spanner into the technology. It was especially encouraged in this effort by the success in shooting down a US drone. It is also a fact that the regime has gained a lot of experience from previous wars on how to out-maneuver the enemy and prolong the conflict. Moreover, the regime is not hiding the fact that its tactic in the conflict will be to adopt urban warfare, because street fighting would prove costly to the enemy and expose its military hardware to danger.
However, the calculations and preparations of the Iraqi regime will not be enough. For in truth, the armed forces are tired of war. They know that it is an unbalanced conflict, and they are not motivated to fight because they know that they are not defending a nation, but rather a regime that, in the past, has sent them blundering into adventures and losing battles.
The US will use all the resources at its disposal to make this a short war. It is keen to undertake the mission quickly and with as few losses as possible. It also has to take into account the fact that the longer the war lasts, the more reaction there will be to it – especially given the splits in the international community. This would be the case all the more if there was large-scale destruction and loss of life as the war went on. It would also mean an increase in the cost of post-war reconstruction. A prolonged campaign, too, would open the possibility of a security vacuum, increasing the chances of chaos or anarchy in the country.
Will the US’s bet on a short war come good? The evidence points to the fact that it will. But if some of the variables are neglected, then there could be some surprises in store. For example, if the Americans do not put over the right message to the supporters of the regime – and there are millions of them. The same would be true if they sent a confused message to the Arabs who fear they are being deliberately marginalized. There are also loud voices around the world opposed to the US that might find an echo in Iraq.
The US also needs to take into account the fact that the Islamic authorities in al-Azhar, Makka and al-Najaf have issued fatwas calling for jihad against the war. While one can discount the Najaf fatwa, issued under conditions of oppression, one can not do the same to the other two. Nevertheless, the fact is that the Islamic wave in the region has touched the Iraqi shore less than it has others, because the totalitarian regime has weakened the patriotism of its people.
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