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- Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2003 21:38:23 +0100
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Bisschen OT, aber spannend zu lesen, imho.
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[ Werbung entfernt ]
Here is your complimentary Stratfor Weekly, written by our
Chairman and Founder, Dr. George Friedman.
Please feel free to email this analysis to a friend.
To War or Not to War, That is the Question
Even as recent weekend demonstrations increased pressure for the
United States to avoid a war in Iraq, the pressure on Washington
to go to war is mounting. The United States has deployed the bulk
of its military strike force in the Persian Gulf region, but it
cannot keep it there indefinitely. Given weather conditions, the
war must conclude in April. The preference to begin the war under
moonless skies means that an attack is possible around March 1 or
at the end of March -- which wouldn't leave enough time for the
simply walking away from Iraq is impossible for the United States
and Saddam Hussein is not likely to fall by himself, the pressure
for war in the next two weeks is heavier than the pressure
The United States has had a bad few days.
It had appeared that Franco-German insistence that weapons
inspections continue, despite reports of limited cooperation on
Baghdad's part and the presence of some weapons that clearly were
proscribed, was on the way to being managed. The behavior of
French and German leaders (not to mention Belgians) on beginning
a NATO planning process on behalf of Turkey had put the United
States in an excellent position. Their vetoes in the 16-3 vote on
the issue made those countries look totally rigid and
unreasonable; more important, it made them appear to be isolated
and unilateral, while the United States appeared to have broad
support and to be acting multilaterally. France's inflexibility
within the U.N. Security Council was being turned against it.
Then the United States ran into a set of public relations
setbacks. The American media in particular portrayed the outcome
of the Feb. 14 Security Council meeting as a broad repudiation of
the U.S. position. While anti-French sentiment intensified in the
United States and polls showed growing support for going to war
without a second U.N. resolution, the weekend arrived with the
sense that, for better or worse, the United States was relatively
isolated. The problem hadn't been solved, but then it hadn't
worsened much either.
The weekend was another story. Reports of worldwide
demonstrations against a war dominated the global media. Though a
total of 2.5 million demonstrators -- the number that has been
estimated globally -- represents an infinitesimal fraction of the
world's population, it was sufficient not only to energize the
media into an obsessive focus but to shake up policymakers and
military officials alike.
The nightmare for U.S. policymakers and military leaders is a
repeat of the Vietnam War. For the serving military in
particular, which maintains a group memory of that conflict,
fighting a war without public support remains the one thing that
none of them wants to do. In a scene redolent of Vietnam, where
Richard Nixon crushed the dovish George McGovern in an election
that hinged on the war -- but in which the persistence of public
demonstrations created the impression of overwhelming opposition
to the war -- policymakers and the military suddenly were hit by
the specter of a Vietnam that was unpopular even before it began.
The situation was even worse for Tony Blair in the United
Kingdom, where the demonstrations were massive and the polls held
The anti-war demonstrations were effective, but it is not clear
that they have redefined the situation. The problem that the
United States has now is, in the first instance, military: It has
deployed the bulk of its striking power to the Middle East; it
cannot leave it there indefinitely. A host of other problems,
apart from the fact that other potential trouble spots cannot be
dealt with effectively while this force is concentrated in the
Persian Gulf, also are rearing their heads. For example, the U.S.
military depends on reservists. It is one thing to mobilize
reservists for war and quite another to mobilize, deploy and then
have them do nothing. It is politically difficult. It is also
difficult to keep five carrier battle groups in position
indefinitely -- they need maintenance and rotation.
The weather window also is closing in, and this is not a trivial
problem. By the end of April at the latest, the temperatures in
Iraq will be rising, particularly in the south, into the 90s
daily. Apart from chemical warfare suits -- which are unbearable
in such weather and merely wretched in other weather -- other
systems degrade rapidly as heat rises. The United States must
conclude this war by about April 15 or else postpone until the
fall. Some have argued that the United States can solve the
problem by fighting only at night. True, so long as Saddam
Hussein cooperates and doesn't attack during the day.
There is another constraint: the moon. During the opening days of
operations, U.S. aircraft will knock out Iraq's electronic air
defense system. They cannot knock out the optical system -- human
eyes. On a moonless night, it is hard to see, but with a full
moon, it is quite possible to see and to fire at aircraft. Even
more important, the United States will be carrying out extensive
special operations on the nights surrounding the start of war.
One of the advantages of the U.S. military is that it "owns" the
night: Its equipment and training are optimized for night
fighting. But with moonlight, a great deal of the invisibility
upon which U.S. special ops depend disappears.
The next moonless night, or night when the moon rises after 4
a.m., will be Feb. 27. The moon re-emerges on March 4. The United
States does not want to attack in mid-month, with the full moon.
The next open window will come at the end of March. If the
weather sets a terminus date of about April 15, that will allow
for only a two-week operation before problems might begin to
arise from the weather.
The United States therefore appears to have these military
choices. First, launch the attack in the Feb. 26-March 4 period.
Or launch the attack in mid-March, under much less advantageous
conditions. It could launch the attack at the end of March,
hoping that the operation ends quickly and that summer heat
doesn't come early. Or it could postpone the invasion, bring the
troops home and redeploy in the fall -- or simply leave them in
the region for the summer.
Postponing the invasion is not a likely strategy:
1. This would make the United States appear weak and indecisive
in the view of the Islamic world. It would generate greater
confidence in Osama bin Laden's analysis of the weakness of U.S.
forces, increase recruiting for al Qaeda and undermine the entire
psychological basis of the American strategy.
2. It would not generate any increased support for the United
States in general. Those who demonstrated against the war are, in
general, opposed to the United States on a host of issues, of
which Iraq is merely the most salient. The idea that abandoning
the war would generate substantial support for the United States
is dubious. Moreover, the value of such support is unclear.
3. U.S. allies in the region -- such as Kuwait, Qatar and Oman,
which have risked a substantial amount by participating in the
war buildup -- would be left in a highly exposed state, both from
external threats and internal instability. The United States
would be regarded as a highly unreliable ally.
4. Hussein, rather than being contained, would perceive that
there was no effective limit on his behavior and would begin to
exploit his opening.
Here, then, is the U.S. problem. Washington must have regime
change Iraq. Regardless of whether the United States would like
to build a broad coalition, it is running out of time on the
diplomatic process. If the process continues much past March 1,
the option of war will begin to disappear and the pressure on
Iraq will diffuse. The United States either will spend the summer
off-balance, with its forces concentrated in the Persian Gulf and
idle, or it will withdraw. It is unlikely that it would be able
to redeploy in six months, given the new political configuration
in the region.
It is no accident that a French proposal suggests another report
from chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix on March 14. The
French, in this apparently innocent proposal, know they are
undermining the U.S. military option. It is also no accident that
the United States is insisting that Feb. 28, when Blix is
scheduled to give his next report, is the date that Washington is
insisting on as the final decision point. If France wins, the
United States either has to fight the war under less-than-optimal
conditions or postpone the attack. President George W. Bush is
not going to start a war at a time when his commanders are saying
that it might entail additional risk. If anything went wrong, the
president couldn't survive that call.
So the situation is this. The United States no longer can avoid
war, even if it wanted to -- the situation has gone too far down
the road. Washington is running out of time to wage the war. The
best time to go will be the end of February and the beginning of
March; later is possible, but this option increases the risk of
casualties and failure, and the benefit of delay is primarily
diplomatic. If France opposes on March 1, it will oppose on March
15. At the same time, the situation in Europe has improved over
the past 24 hours. French President Jacques Chirac's assault on
Eastern European states for siding with Washington undermined his
standing as the voice of reason -- while the revelation that the
German government knew about Iraqi stockpiles of smallpox months
ago undermines Berlin's claim that it needs proof of a material
breach. To that extent, the public relations war is not entirely
hopeless for the United States.
In a sense, Washington already has delayed too long. The United
States has been talking about this war since last spring. It has
allowed opposition to the war to gel. Paradoxically, the very
thing the Europeans have accused the United States of -- haste
and unilateralism -- is about the only thing the United States
isn't guilty of; the Bush administration has taken nearly a year
and endless diplomacy to come to this point. In doing so, it has
lost the diplomatic initiative that it held after the Sept. 11
attacks. It also has lost any possibility of strategic surprise.
The only other options? -- a coup in Baghdad or Hussein's
resignation -- has been dramatically reduced as a possibility by
the events of the last few days. Hussein, who consistently
appears to believe that Europe would save him in the end, as well
as believing that the United States really is afraid of taking
casualties, now seems more convinced than ever that, if U.S.
forces take casualties, the Europeans will rush in with a cease-
fire proposal and Washington -- under pressure from a public
unwilling to bear the burden of war and of an anti-U.S. alliance
rising up -- will accept it.
Meanwhile, the possibilities for a negotiated settlement have
declined dramatically. Indeed, if the diplomatic struggle
continues, another window of opportunity will not open. It is
doubtful that the global anti-war demonstrations encouraged
potential coupsters in Baghdad to take risks. Moreover, the
arrest of the commander of the Iraqi military (who is Qusai
Hussein's father-in-law) signals that Hussein is beginning the
traditional process of shuffling his staff -- arresting some of
them and shooting others prior to a crisis, in order to disrupt
any covert plans that Washington may think it has in place.
The United States therefore is in a situation in which it cannot
avoid war, in which diplomatic complexity remains substantial,
and in which the enemy, Iraq, is fully alerted and prepared.
Unless Washington's core assumption is true -- that the Iraqi
army will collapse under first assault -- the circumstances for
this war are not particularly auspicious.
On the other hand, if the United States wins a quick and
relatively easy victory, the events leading up to this conflict
will not be long remembered. Few will recall, for example, the
acrimony -- domestic and international -- that ripped the United
States prior to the 1991 war. Success solves many problems. Given
that the United States is now in a position from which it cannot
easily retreat -- indeed, from which it does not want to retreat
-- a complete and rapid military victory is the only solution to
its problems. Or so the reasoning in Washington goes.
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