ISIS on the march. Iraq falls into Civil War.
This isn’t a surprise for many observers. See what I wrote along the way.
Written in March 2003
The Long Hard Peace
The triumph of Anglo-American arms over Iraq was certain. The triumph of Anglo-American values – namely democracy – is more uncertain. Not impossible – just a long, hard maybe. Our victory was a feat of arms, not ideas. Yet, the peace will be about our Western idea of democracy. Transplanting democracy in tribal, Muslim sand will make it the long hard peace.
American Pro-Consul Jay Garner better have James Madison on his staff. It’ll take more than the genius of the U.S. Constitution to forge the Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and Christians into a nation. Keeping the peace without oppressing the Iraqi people whobknow nothing of government but the rule of strong men, will be challenge enough. When we pull out the Occupying Army it will be a miracle if the rule of law rules.
The Iraqis may yearn for freedom, but they don’t know what democracy means.
Their religion doesn’t allow the basic ideas. Islam doesn’t allow a separation of state and mosque. Good Muslims are supposed to live under the Sharia, not secular laws. Many Shiites are already screaming about a new fundamentalist Islamic Iraq. Which means you can not have the free exchange of ideas – of speech – like religious speech. Democracies are based on the concept of individuals exercising freedoms as inalienable rights. The Iraqis will not stand for free proselytizing Christian speech or secular humanist denying God talk. Even if the Iraqis could, their neighbors won’t put up with religious, speech, press, and assembly freedoms.
The Islamist enemies of Western Civilization, still stuck in the relative barbarism of the 12th Century, will try to kill any Iraqi democracy in its crib. Even if the Islamofascists stay at a mere 10% of the Muslim world, there are plenty enough to spawn more Bin Laden-like leaders and homicide bomber followers. Hunting and killing the Islamists infiltrators will make the peace look like war.
The dictators and kings of all Arab lands have a lot to lose if democracy works in Iraq. These tyrants saw the first object lesson of the American Imperial Republic. They know what to fear. If they pay attention, they can see the weak seams of American military power – seriously there are counters to our strength, the fragility of political will and the paucity of courageous allies. They will prevent political comity to make a hard peace.
The U.S. liberals, the appeasing assembly of 30% of America, will criticize the peace as much as the war. These self-hating Americans, socialists, prideful pagans, deluded useful fools, sissy self-righteous Christians, and self-absorbed cowards conspire as subjects of the U.N. and citizens of the world to screw up every exercise in American sovereignty. They will try to defeat the peace.
Our Allies who are too weak to serve in the Coalition of the Willing, will find the nerve to interfere every aspect of the administration of occupation. They may go so far to un-align with the U.S. and unravel NATO. Europeans and Canadians won’t promote democracy in Iraq when they walk away from it, step by step, worshiping the pagan God – Self – and in fear of their Muslim minorities.
The best America can expect – we can hope and pray for more – is for an Iraq with a federation of separate groups. The new, improved Iraq can have clean elections that balance the powers of strong men from one faction against another. A national compromise, like the ones that provide peace in Lebanon between civil wars, can create a security arrangement. But, it won’t be a democracy.
Some point to the Kurds as a democracy growing up. Yet, it is self-determination for approved ideas and groups of people only. A Kurdish taxi driver was warned about telling his fares about the Jesus he accepted as a convert from Islam to Christianity. This simple man of individual conscience and faith continued to speak freely. He was murdered for his religious free speech earlier this year.
Can LTG (Ret.) Jay Garner fix that in a year or so? I doubt it. Even though I was very impressed with his insights when I briefed him and did Q&A for about 8 hours in ’98. The long hard peace can be a peace maintained to end violence. But, it will take a triumph of new ideas for the peace to prosper a democracy.
Written in 2011
I never understood why President Bush didn’t give a speech BEFORE the invasion about how the US would be in Iraq with an occupying Army for 10 to 30 years. The length of stay would depend on how high the bar would be set for stability and security.
Ten years is the low end for just a modicum of peace.
I had to conclude that Bush didn’t know invasion, occupation, and nation-building meant. Just like Johnson never understood what was happening in Vietnam. Ugh.
The soldiers triumphed tactically. Operationally, the intervention of jihad martyrs provided them the opportunity to die with little effect. Strategically, the invasion sent a signal for effective deterrence – for awhile. The occupation sent a signal on how to stalemate American power with asymmetric tactics. The whole war should have instructed politicians about the nature of war and the size of the Army needed for a single long campaign in Land Warfare, but I doubt it did.
Eclectic reflections 10 years after the start of hostilities for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
From March to August 2003, I waited for the President or the Secretary of Defense to give a speech and tell the American People that the U.S. military would be there 10, 20, 30 0r open ended years – depending upon how much change the US wished to impose on Iraq. It would be the practical, military application of the political objectives. The extension of politics – the essence of military operations. But, the speech was never given.
When I realized that the governing adults of the USA hadn’t thought through their war well enough to give the speech, I was more disappointed than I can express here. I had a nagging suspicion that the political leaders lacked the moral and political courage to make their case – and express it in decades of commitment – yet, that is not as bad as knowing how clueless very, very powerful persons could be. Of course, Carter and Clinton should have been prologue and Obama epilogue the Folly of Bush II.
The folly wasn’t in the invasion and regime change against Saddam Hussein. It was the lack of understanding the nature of the initial combat phase and the subsequent occupation phases.
A dear friend of mine, classmate, quit talking to me for years at the time, because I was so nonchalant about the coming war in Iraq. I figured it would happen sooner or later. Better to happen on our terms. Except our leadership was so ill-prepared. A key exception being the Army Chief of Staff, GEN James Shinseki. He spoke the truth to power with courage – and understanding.
And, there were many officers in the Army who knew the Occupation would be long and complicated. Unfortunately, they weren’t in charge. I wrote “The Long Hard Peace” http://jatticus.wordpress.com/2011/12/19/the-long-hard-won-peace/
Obviously, I wasn’t in charge or influencing.
SecDef Donald Rumsfeld got to play out his theory on modern warfare. It would support gutting the Army. His theory failed. ( Obama is still going to gut the Army – for different reasons.) Rumsfeld’s decisions made the war last at least 2 years longer – andcost about 1500 American lives. He earned a special place in Hades next to SecDef Robert McNamara.
The Air Force and Air Power cheerleaders got to bomb a lot. They bombed the Iraqi intelligence agencies and destroyed the records on the entire population which would be invaluable during the Occupation.
Disbanding the Iraqi Army – 400,000 men – was an act of monumental stupidity. Ambassador Bremer had a hand in that.
The good news is that a lot of jihadi Islamists from everywhere came to Iraq to kill Americans and were sent to see Allah asap.
The terrible news is how many innocent Iraqis died – especially in their own sectarian fighting. And, that fighting isn’t over.
Democracy, the flower of Western Civilization, didn’t bloom in the Islamist sand. I knew it wouldn’t unless the US did all the things to change the culture that the US lacked the courage to think, let alone say. The US lacked the moral will to do what it did in Occupations after WW II. Those Occupations – even including Japan – had far less to change than Iraq.
The Active Army which had been reduced by over 40% in the 90s after Operation Desert Storm had its troops suck up extended and repeated tours. The Reserves were activated and deployed, but still the burden fell on Joe Bag of Donuts soldier and his family. The Marine Corps conducted sustained land operations as part of the Joint Force.
New technologies in digitization and robotics matured. The modular designed Brigade Combat Team for the future became the building block of Army organizations.
A generation of soldiers were bloodied. The killed and wounded suffered valiantly. All the vets deserve respect.
One campaign in a long, long, long World War Against Islamists took 10 years. It’s called a war, but it was one campaign in the bigger, longer war.
God bless all who served and their families – our Country and its Allies.
Also Written in 2011
In March 2003, in the initial attack for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), I wrote the piece, The Long Hard Peace. It wasn’t hard to predict how hard things were going to be.
I didn’t predict that LTG (RET) Garner would be around for only a couple of months. Too bad. SecDef Rumsfeld proceeded to really screw things up – beyond what he had done in messing with the invasion planning. Until, a few years later, some Army colonels got the Sunni Awakening working for the U.S. And, then GEN (RET) Dave Petraus figured out what was needed to surge up enough force to create some security. Finally, President Obama set the deadline for troops out with the greatest convenience to his re-election campaign.
The troops did what they were told to do. They gained a hard, won peace. They did great. Who knows how long it will last.
Now we are seeing how long the peace lasts.
Changing map. Doesn’t show Kurd controlled areas – not under control of government in Baghdad.