On War #292: Two Elections

by William S. Lind
February 17, 2009

In many Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, the story line depends on some sort of magic elixir or potion. Similarly, the advocates for Brave New World tell us the comic opera called “democracy” flows from the magic of elections. Just hold elections and presto!, wars vanish. Regrettably, BNW’s music is not nearly so entertaining as that of Sir Arthur Sullivan, while its plot is even more absurd than most of Gilbert’s.

Two recent elections point to a grimmer reality. The first was in Iraq, for provincial councils. In Iraq as in most of the world, the question is neither whether elections were held nor who won. The question on which social order depends is who accepts the results of an election. If elections are to substitute for war, not only the winners but also the losers must accept their outcome. Losers must give up power, patronage — one of the very few local sources of money (often lots of it) — and possibly physical security as well, hoping for better luck next time, if there is a next time.

I suspect the odds of that happening in Iraq are small. The Washington Post recently quoted one U.S. officer who served as an adviser to Iraqi army units saying of Iraqi commanders, “When you got to know them and they’d be honest with you, every single one of them thought that the whole notion of democracy and representative government in Iraq was absolutely ludicrous.”

That quote was in a piece by Tom Ricks, the Post’s long-time defense correspondent, in the Sunday February 15 “Outlook” section. Rick’s goes on to say,

I don’t think the Iraq war is over yet, and I worry that there is more to come than any of us suspect…

Many of those closest to the situation in Iraq expect a full-blown civil war to break out there in the coming years. “I don’t think the Iraqi civil war has been fought yet,” one colonel told me.

In such an environment, elections do not substitute for war but rather prepare the way for it. They exacerbate differences, heighten local conflicts, and lengthen the lists of “injustices” each party uses to justify fighting.

This unfortunate reality points again to what America needs to do in Iraq: get out now, fast, while it can. If we are lucky, history will grant us a “decent interval” between our departure and the next round of 4GW in Iraq. If we dawdle until the fighting ramps up again, we may find it difficult, politically if not militarily, to leave at all.

This brings us to another election, that in Israel. It is not clear what government will emerge from Israel’s vote. It is clear the Knesset has shifted to the right. From the standpoint of America’s interests, that is a negative outcome.

The danger is not only to prospects of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which are probably small in any event. The danger is that a new Israeli government in which Likud and voices to Likud’s right are stronger is more likely to attack Iran.

As I have said repeatedly in past columns, an attack on Iran by the U.S. or Israel threatens consequences disastrous to America. The worst potential consequence is the possibility of the destruction of the army the U.S. now has in Iraq. As almost no one in Washington seems to realize — thanks, as usual, to hubris — that possibility is all too real. All one need do to see it is look at a map. Iran sits alongside our main line of communications, supply and retreat all the way from Baghdad to the straits of Hormuz. Add in the probability that various Shiite militias and perhaps much of the new Iraqi army as well would join with the Iranians in attacking us, and the possibility of finding 100,000 American troops in an operational Kessel is frighteningly evident.

Thus we find that in two overseas elections, the magic elixir has proven poisonous to the United States. The two reinforce one another in their toxic effects, the one threatening to hold us in Iraq, the other to entomb us there. As Tom Ricks concluded his piece in the Post, “In other words, the events for which the Iraq war will be remembered probably haven’t even happened yet.” Thanks to two elections, they may be coming all the faster.

William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

To interview Mr. Lind, please contact (no e-mail available):

Mr. William S. Lind
Free Congress Foundation
1423 Powhatan Street, # 2
Alexandria, Virginia 22314

Direct line: 703 837-0483

Comments are welcome; please observe our comment policy.

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed in Uncategorized | 16 responses so far

16 Responses to “On War #292: Two Elections”

  1. JJon 17 Feb 2009 at 6:01 pm 1

    “The question on which social order depends is who accepts the results of an election. If elections are to substitute for war, not only the winners but also the losers must accept their outcome. Losers must give up power, patronage — one of the very few local sources of money (often lots of it) — and possibly physical security as well, hoping for better luck next time, if there is a next time…

    In such an environment, elections do not substitute for war but rather prepare the way for it. They exacerbate differences, heighten local conflicts, and lengthen the lists of “injustices” each party uses to justify fighting.”

    Mr Lind’s observations, as usual, are most interesting.

    Funnily enough I had thought of our own American election as I started reading this ‘On War.’

    At least the supply lines are manageable in the coming conflict.

    I wish I was joking.

  2. Maxon 17 Feb 2009 at 7:44 pm 2

    Mixed reaction to this one.

    Mr. Lind has predicted this before now on at least 3 occasions
    that spring to mind.

    “the possibility of finding 100,000 American troops in an operational Kessel is frighteningly evident.”

    Possible, possible ? Yes, I think it could happen,

    likely, though ? Perhaps, however not particularly.

    But not nessesarily due to any American brilliance, stratigy,
    or skill, but mainly due to luck, and a wearyness on the part
    of the Iraqis, little more.

    There maybe more evidence to support this scenario or something similar if not on a smaller scale, in Afganistan, where the Taliban has had some considerable and repeted success in ambush, interdicting NATO supply lines.

    Having said all this, somekind of stunning defete, not seen since
    the Marines baracks attack in Lebanon, maybe the only thing ever to bring American’s to their senses, and at least temporarily re-consider the grandious notions of middle east control and domination.

    Is it time to start retracting the empire ?
    Economic reality and the nessesity brought by survival
    may be the determination, if nothing else, and I do mean
    nothing else.

    Here’s an example.

    M

    http://tinyurl.com/c9abbn

    TOKYO – Hoping to give new momentum to a plan to rework the deployment of U.S. troops in the Pacific, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signed an agreement Tuesday with Japan that will move 8,000 Marines off the southern Japanese island of Okinawa to the U.S. territory of Guam.

  3. senor tomason 18 Feb 2009 at 1:24 pm 3

    “move 8,000 Marines off the southern Japanese island of Okinawa to the U.S. territory of Guam.”

    I suspect this is being done more for social reasons than military reasons. Many of the natives of Okinawa intensely dislike – possibly even hate – United States Marines because of the way some of them act when off duty.

  4. Maxon 18 Feb 2009 at 7:04 pm 4

    “Many of the natives of Okinawa intensely dislike – possibly even hate ”

    As covered in Chalmers Johnson’s superb
    “Sorrows Of Empire”

    The point remains, it’s the first reduction in the sprawl of the US Empire
    since 9-11.

    I conciede however that that the full effect of the collaphsing economy,
    further reduced tax intake, and burgeoning debt loads has yet to sink in,
    in Washington, and the Defence Establishment.

    Let’s face it, these arn’t the brightest pepole in the world.

    M

  5. EmeryNelsonon 19 Feb 2009 at 2:15 am 5

    I’ve looked at a map and have always wondered how hard would it be to cut our supply lines? How much armor do we have in Iraq? Does it still work? How much fuel? How much ammunition? Artillery? Ground attack Aircraft? I bet the numbers aren’t all that significant since fighting has eased. Are we cohesive enough fight a as Bns/Bdes after all this emphasis on COIN? A few days of heavy fighting would likely reduce our combat effectiveness to nothing.

  6. rmhitchenson 19 Feb 2009 at 9:50 am 6

    Two things: First, had we not sent an expeditionary force to Iraq the consequences of an Israeli attack on Iran would be immeasurably less. Second, having such an expeditionary force in place, I suggest to Mr. Lind that there is no aggregation of military force in the world, much less within the region, that can threaten it with destruction. There is simply no danger of that happening. Whatever you want to say about the inability of this force to wage 4GW, its ability to achieve and maintain “escalation dominance” cannot be questioned by any serious military analyst.

  7. loggie20on 19 Feb 2009 at 5:30 pm 7

    rmhitchens

    Serious military analysts study logistics.

    Retreat is attack over your own territory.

    An armored column does not carry much fuel, it needs resupply. Which can be disrupted by 4GW elements.

    The combat load of amunition for a fighting withdrawl is worrisome in Iraq. I worry about resupply there, too.

    The point EmeryNelson makes on lack of large unit coordinated effects training is troubling.

    The French general at Dien Bien Phu also thought his logisitcs and fire suppression would work. Giap changed tactics and marshalled a lot more than arty anticipated.

    And the above only worries Iraq where there are ports fairly close.

    I am very concerned about the logistics of getting out of Afghanistan if Mr Lind’s fears come to pass.

    Do 60,000 NATO troops fight their way into the Hindukush? Or Iran? The tribal regions? Tajikistan or Turkmenistan?

    Lots of fuel, ammo, food and sustenance in a place with all kinds of terrain challenges.

    Probably retreat to the -stans not Pakistan. But that moves away from the navy (if they overfly Pakistan), and Manas AB is close to being shuttered at best at the end a long air bridge.

    If Al Qaeda had loggies!

  8. Maxon 19 Feb 2009 at 7:15 pm 8

    “I suggest to Mr. Lind that there is no aggregation of military force in the world, much less within the region, that can threaten it with destruction.”

    That’s a most interesting statement.

    I like this one, from the distiguished ret. Col. Andrew Bacevich.

    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/08152008/watch.html

    “The people in the Pentagon had developed a phrase to describe this. They called it, “full spectrum dominance.” Meaning, that the United States was going to exercise dominance, not just capability, dominance across the full spectrum of warfare. And this became the center of the way that the military advertised its capabilities in the 1990s. That was fraud. That was fraudulent.”

  9. Maxon 19 Feb 2009 at 8:41 pm 9

    EmeryNelson on

    I wouldn’t rule it out, unlikely perhaps, but you can’t rule it
    out entirely.

    I think however that land locked Afganistan includng it’s infamous Kyber pass, is going to be riskier.

    http://www.rense.com/general74/cara.htm

    “Amateurs talk strategy; professionals talk logistics.” — Gen. Omar Bradley
    Washington, DC, December 16, 2005 — The flawed assessment offered by the Baker-Hamilton report neglects a crucial aspect of the political-military situation of the US and other foreign armed forces in Iraq: the danger that the US army of occupation might be cut off, encircled, and annihilated as a fighting force over the next few months. This flaw in turn makes it easier for Baker-Hamilton to reject a priori the one rational response to the current reality, which is the extrication of US forces before it is too late. We do not need a new way forward in Iraq; we require a speedy way out of Iraq.

  10. loggie20on 21 Feb 2009 at 4:39 pm 10

    Max

    “And this became the center of the way that the military advertised its capabilities in the 1990s. That was fraud. That was fraudulent.”

    True!

    However, it was used to criticize Clinton for only procuring $40B a year for the war machine which was not enough profit to yield “full spectrum dominance”.

    And justified Bush’s rush to $80B a year and a defense drain on society equal in real terms to that of 1970 and a shooting war in SE Asia.

    It is catchy phrase, advertising for the war machine nothing more than business development.

    The complex exists to sustain itself and deliver dividend, paycheck and PAC money.

    Nothing more.

  11. Newjarheaddeanon 22 Feb 2009 at 10:32 am 11

    AHOY, IMO the Israeli elections are going just as planned. It could be a posturing i.e. positioning to give the illusion of negotiating from a point of power.

    Time magazine Feb. 16 2009 Article Pakistan’s prospects; page 28.
    India is intractably opposed to any outside mediation on Kashmir, and lobbied successfully to have the matter removed from Holbrooke’s mandate.

    IMO there most likely never was or well ever be a true Democracy any where on earth. And I for one feel silly debating reality with only the official revealed figures or data i.e. and no kings truth facts.

    Six degrees of separation, 5 million dollar budget i.e. bounty and no UBL. Have read and agree that the difference btw Dems and Reps is like the Pepsi, Coke challenge. G-day!

  12. rmhitchenson 23 Feb 2009 at 3:01 pm 12

    I submit that the logistics of a fighting retreat down to Basra and Kuwait are hardly insurmountable, and the amount of high-end combat power necessary to effect the “cutoff, encirclement, and annihilation” of our forces in Iraq is well beyond the individual or combined capabilities of any “actor” in the region. Oh, and four of the countries bordering Iraq are US allies. There is simply no justification for hysterical fears about the security of the US expeditionary force.

    That we’re fighting the wrong war in the wrong place is beyond dispute; it was a catastrophic strategic error on the part of the Bush administration. The sooner we draw down our presence the better. The more we can internalize 4GW lessons the better. But none of this excuses poor military analysis.

  13. Maxon 24 Feb 2009 at 2:57 pm 13

    “Oh, and four of the countries bordering Iraq are US allies.

    Syria ?
    Iran ?
    Afganistan ?

    Sorry, but you talk quite empaticaly of seemingly flawed analysis.

    The prospect of US forces being over run maybe somewhat, if
    not exeedingly unlikely, but to rule it out entirely, is equaly
    foolish.

    “If” ok, “IF” the bulk of the Iraqi civilian poplution, being armed,
    rose up for some reason, and with suisidal determination,
    occupying American and dwindling allies could be in for a
    very rough ride indeed.

    Here’s an example just yesterday.

    http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/afp/090224/world/iraq_unrest_us_mosul

    Iraqi police shoot dead four US soldiers: ministry

    BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraqi policemen shot dead four US soldiers and their local interpreter in the main northern city of Mosul, an interior ministry official said on Tuesday.

    “Four US soldiers and their Iraqi interpreter were killed by two Iraqi policemen who opened fire at them in the Dawasa district of (central) Mosul and then fled,” the official told AFP, declining to be named.

    Now if US secrurity contractors can get away with shooting
    Iraqi civilians, why can’t the Iraqi’s shoot back at our soldiers ?

    Suck it up !

    Or, start treating others accordingly.
    MaX

  14. loggie20on 24 Feb 2009 at 8:10 pm 14

    rmhitchens,

    I hope you are correct, also that there will be no need for a fighting withdrawl.

    However, I wonder if there is precedent for retreat by armored forces through hostile territory?

    US armor demands a huge amount of fuel. And secure fueling stands where the transfer can occur from bulk to the tank.

    I am thinking RPG’s or 82 mm mortors could play havoc on the road and at logistics stops.

  15. Maxon 25 Feb 2009 at 7:57 pm 15

    I am thinking RPG’s or 82 mm mortors could play havoc on the road and at logistics stops.

    Not to mention the humble IEDs placed throughout.
    M

  16. senor tomason 26 Feb 2009 at 6:18 pm 16

    “I wonder if there is precedent for retreat by armored forces through hostile territory?”

    Might be best to just abandon the tanks and leave them behind. Of course, have to blow them up first.