On War #150
The Next Act
By William S. Lind
Wars, most wars at least, run not evenly but in fits and starts, settling down into sputtering Sitzkrieg for long intervals, then suddenly shooting out wildly in wholly unpredicted directions. The war in Iraq has fallen into a set pattern for long enough that we should be expecting something new. I can identify three factors – there may be more – which could lead to some dramatic changes, soon.
In Israel, it was Sharon who repeatedly refused the Israeli generals’ requests for air strikes; he is now out of the picture. His replacement, Olmert, is weak. The victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections gave Olmert’s main opponent, Likud’s Netanyahu, a big boost. How could Olmert best show the Israeli electorate he is as tough as Netanyahu? Obviously, by hitting Iran before Israel’s elections in late March.
In Washington, the same brilliant crowd who said invading Iraq would be a cakewalk is still in power. While a few prominent neo-cons have left the limelight, others remain highly influential behind the scenes. For them, the question is not whether to attack Iran (and Syria), but when. Their answer will be the same as Israel’s.
Washington will assume Iran will respond with some air and missile strikes of its own. Those may occur, but Iran has far more effective ways of replying. It can shut down its own oil exports and, with mining and naval action, those of Kuwait and the Gulf States as well. It can ramp up the guerilla wars both in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
It could also do something that would come as a total surprise to Washington and cross the Iran-Iraq border with four to six divisions, simply rolling up the American army of occupation in Iraq. Syria might well join in, knowing that it is only a question of time before it is attacked anyway. We have no field army in Iraq at this point; our troops are dispersed fighting insurgents. A couple dozen Scuds on the Green Zone would decapitate our leadership (possibly to our benefit). Yes, our air power would be a problem, but only until the Iranians got in close. Bad weather could provide enough cover for that. So could the Iranian and Syrian air forces, so long as they were willing to expend themselves. Our Air Force can be counted on to fight the air battle first.
As I said, when a war has been stuck in a rut for a long time, thoughtful observers should expect some dramatic change or changes. Any one of these possibilities would deliver that; together, they could give us a whole different situation, one in which our current slow defeat would accelerate sharply.
Beware the ides of March.
William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.
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