Monday, March 17, 2003

Thoughts, On The Brink

Looks like it's go. Actually, near as I can tell, it's been "go" since last August. The delay has far more to do with getting our troops and equipment into position than to any desire for a peaceful settlement. Besides, it kept Colin Powell out of trouble.

The only thing I can come up with as a "reason" for this little escipade is that Saddam Hussein tried to assissanate Bush the Elder in 1993. Georgie Bush hero-worships his father; supposedly Ann Richards' keynote speech at the 1988 Democratic National Convention was the reason Georgie Bush went into politics in the first place. Richards (certainly the most amusing political speaker I've ever heard) said things like

I am delighted to be here with you this evening because after listening to George Bush all these years, I figured you needed to know what a real Texas accent sounds like.
Poor George. He can't help it - he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.
Georgie Bush pushed her out of the Governor's office in 1994. He knows how to nurse a grudge.

He's nursed this one for ten years. He's finally going to get what he wants. Doesn't matter that it has completely shredded our relationships with the rest of the world. Doesn't matter that the expense, along with his tax cuts, risks destroying our economy. Doesn't matter that he's essentially printing millions of recruiting posters for al Qaeda. "I'm a-gonna get that dirty low down snake what tried to kill mah Pa". Get the feeling that somebody's living in a not-very-good Western? Me too.

The War

I expect it to last between a week and ten days. Saddam's military is in horrible shape, and anybody with any clue about military operations was purged years ago. He could arrange some nasty surprises for us, but I suspect that he won't. Not his style.

The key for us is speed. Saddam will probably authorize the use of poison gas, but if nobody knows where to shoot it, it's useless. We need to go over or around any fixed defenses before they can get their nasties into action. If we bog down on the road, then we will have to deal with thousands of refugees being herded toward us.

The big problem is Baghdad. I'm not concerned about the "conventional" defensive perimeter -- looks like a video game to me, and it probably will look like a video game to our weapons operators. If we have to do any fighting in the city itself, it could be nasty. I'm especially concerned about the large number of anti aircraft guns. They're not much use against fighters, but they could be really nasty against helicopters.

The big problem, of course, is logistics. Our military has a huge logistical "tail", and we have to be very sure we don't run out of supplies. In particular, Baghdad is out of range of our Apache attack helicopters, so we will need some kind of intermediate base if we want to use them -- and we will.

War Crimes?

Is the US commiting a "war crime" by invading Iraq? I'd say "yes". The "official" justification for the invasion is Security Council Resolution 1441, adopted 8 November 2002 after being passed unanimously. The relevant section says

13. ... the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations;

The US is claiming that this is an authorization for invasion.

Thin. Very thin. Especially after U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte said:

This resolution contains no "hidden triggers" and no "automaticity" with respect to the use of force. If there is a further Iraqi breach, reported to the council by UNMOVIC, the IAEA, or a Member State, the matter will return to the council for discussion….[But] if the Security Council fails to act decisively in the event of further Iraqi violations, this resolution does not constrain any member state from acting to defend itself against the threat posed by Iraq or to enforce the relevant United Nations resolutions and protect world peace and security.

Of course, the US is now claiming that Saddam Hussein is ready to attack the US directly, thus we are "defending ourselves" against Iraq. Like Germany "defended itself" against Poland in 1939. (I've seen the German newsreels ...)

So is it a War Crime? Not really, since we withdrew from the International Criminal Court. Since we didn't sign the treaty, we're not bound by it. According to the theory of international law that Georgie and company are pushing, Americans cannot, by definition, commit "war crimes". I would, however, advise Georgie Bush and his cabinet, once they're out of office, not to vacation in Belgium.

Sitting On It

You can do anything with a bayonet except sit on it.

-- Talleyrand

The plans for the occupation that I've seen are very sketchy, and seem designed more to make political points than to present a real plan. One thing that's definite, and that is that the Administration, the media, and the American people have a short attention span. I suspect that we will be out of there in less than a year, declaring that Iraq is now a fuctioning democracy and ready to govern itself. Of course, as soon as we leave, the whole place will collapse into chaos, but the camera crews will either come home or risk being captured by Iraqi factions who don't like them one little bit.

Afghanistan is a nasty example. Despite promises, it's slipping back into anarchy, the Taliban are moving in, and this year's poppy harvest looks like the world is going to be getting plenty of heroin. The Administration is still making cheerful announcements, but it's been months since I've seen a news story from Afghanistan datelined anywhere but Kabul.

Keep in mind that we'll be blamed for every stubbed toe for the last twelve years. And this is in an area of the world that tends to hold grudges.

Gloom & Doom

It's impossible for an optimist to be pleasantly surprised or for a pessimist to be rudely awakened.

Why the worries? If I predict it, it's almost sure not to happen.

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