A Short Checklist on Why the Iraq War Will Fizzle
February 13, 2006
[DNI Editor's note: Bryce Lane is a writer on physical strength, endurance, and flexibility for martial arts along with general strategy and philosophy. He lives in California].
Also by Bryce Lane: 4GW, High Noon, And How Even I Get It Now.
The gang problem. The US does not have nearly the troops or resources in the area to be any more than one more gang in a neighborhood full of them already. Yes, a gang with lots of firepower; but the problem is in not in the power of the weapons but in figuring out which way to point them. Without that knowledge and a growing local structure to make sure that knowledge continues to flow, all the guns and bombs in the world are no more useful than throwing a tantrum. Not only that, but US troops are the easiest to spot gang of all. We are the ones in the brown suits and big ugly vehicles. In any picture you can tell who we are, but you can't tell who the other guys are. The result is to be obvious and in the center of a multi-party crossfire. Another gang in a gang war that you set off and now don't have the effective resources to end or even stabilize.
The "product" (war) is oversold. In case you haven't noticed what we call “politics” in the US is now a fee-for-service industry. Elections aren't about votes, they are about money. If you pay the right people through a variety of completely legal means, they try to get the payer a return on his investment. The “return” isn't always just financial, yet it is at public expense. Even the most ideological notions take cash to realize. The public treasury is as it stands now “cheap money” available for purchase. Just take the money for whatever you like once payment is made. No need to build, transport or provide anything. Everyone in this transaction has the same allergy to uncomfortable questions and won't permit them to be asked.
To stay in power, both parties need money and some people in them just want money, anyhow. They will sell off parcels of domestic and foreign policy to finance this if not supervised closely by a functioning civil society. Since the only people who might call the cops (and the “cops” themselves) are profiting parts of this hustle, the door to the candy store is wide open. There is only so much of Iraq there to take especially in the physical, political and social condition it is in presently. The investments are made good to the participating stockholders from the public treasury.
If every party involved in this looting wants ever-increasing returns on their Iraqi investment then at some point it will be fiscally impossible to continue the war, especially the way this war has been “privatized”. The camp followers will defeat the Army with little help necessary from any enemy. If this isn't proved by now, then what ever can be?
The war is not winnable by acceptable means. There are things that can be done to “win” the war if by “win”, you mean only destroy any antagonist's ability to fight without concern to the future:
The common element to these solutions listed above is that they are morally unacceptable to any civilized people who wish to consider themselves “freedom bearers,” “champions of democracy,” or in some cases “the light of the world”. Anyone considering this should consider also that once you have given this power to your government, once you have let them this far out on the leash, there is no leash. There is nothing stopping them from doing this to you should they feel threatened, and it is the nature of outfits who do these things to always feel threatened.
If any of these happens, then what little legitimacy you might have once had is gone. Much of the world may not fight you directly, but they will find every other way possible to sabotage, stab you in the back or starve the monster you have become at every opportunity – and rightfully so! Many will also use such a vicious state to settle their own petty scores at the expense of the "less worthy" lives within it. The legitimacy of any government you install anywhere will be null, and when someday “the empire” falls at its edges or center, as all of them do, you should expect a visit to your door, a special delivery with interest compounded in outrage, death and suffering.
Organizational Incompetence. Our military is an organization structured to fight a certain type of war between existing, stable centers of order. It is organized and equipped to fight a similarly organized enemy, not gingerly broker deals and stand as armed referees between many antagonistic factions, especially when we are only another of those factions. The troops or officers may be individually as competent as they may, yet the organization is still incompetent for this particular task because of its structure, operations, and equipment. They can only do what they are set up to do, which is kill people and break things, even when they have bad information about what needs to be killed or broken. If the enemy actually wishes for you to kill people and break things to help their cause then they will continue to gain ground the harder you try. You will create the army that finally defeats you. The Iraqi's were not our enemies in the first place, until now. How many more enemies can we afford?
Holding on. Once you have bumbled into creating a conflict of gangs in which you are simply one more gang, once you have depleted your treasury to pay for increasingly ridiculous demands from “the investors”, once you have forfeited what moral authority you might once have had among some by killing the wrong people and breaking the wrong things and still you cannot or will not exercise the options that would end the conflict, there is nowhere to go. When there is nowhere to go, yet you refuse to quit, eventually your once grand endeavor “fizzles”. There is a gravity in politics and its extensions that eventually, always bring grand notions back to earth.
This is not to make light of all the lives, resources and good will that have been squandered in this mess but to point out that history is often studied for its grand decisive conflicts, not its “fizzles,” which are much more instructive in many ways. Decisive conflicts make good reading but wasteful foolishness on this scale leaves only a few souls with iron stomachs wanting to learn the lessons that need to be learned. If history is repeated as the cliché says, it certainly happens more often with “fizzles” since they are so fervently forgotten or more comfortably reconstructed in memory as time goes on.
Don't count a fizzle as any sort of marginal victory. The only palatable option open to those who advocated for or invested in this is a political holding action, where they have a very personal stake in keeping the whole mess going in some form as long as possible in order to keep themselves in power and avoid any account for this deadly fiasco. History shows us repeatedly that this is when the responsible parties and those who feed from their table are at their most dangerous. The war may “fizzle” over there, but it will not be finished for a long time here.