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Tuesday, December 20

Victory in Iraq

"Look, the US has lost the war in Iraq - everybody knows this. Iran isn't taking any chances the Bush "lie machine" won't target Iran next to cover its tracks. Iran is acting rationally. (I don't like the Iranian regime.) We have seen the same kind of US pressure against Syria lately. Again, Iran is acting defensively."
-- Peter Lavelle, from Dec 16 Pundita
post about reported Russian sale of SAMs and weapons tech to Iran

December 16
"Pundita, I wonder if Peter Lavelle thinks we are losing in Iraq as a result of the US not attempting to "win" in the classical sense? One could argue we are actually attempting to "lose", but in a specific way.
Alaska Reader"

Dear Alaska Reader:
Wouldn't our enemies love to know what CENTCOM is attempting to do in Iraq, eh? Realize that some of the people making accusations against the Bush administration are attempting to glean information. It's one of the oldest tricks in the book: if your opponent is very close-mouthed you might loosen his tongue if you make a wild accusation against him. The Bush administration is the tightest-lipped in modern US history and the Defense Department has their lips zipped.

But in Peter's case, I assume he's simply repeating what he knows from watching CNN International, BBC and Russian television. In other words, his view of the Iraq campaign is shared throughout much of Europe and among the antiwar camp in the United States. And even many Americans who supported the Iraq invasion believe the US is losing the war in Iraq -- or least, having won we lost the peace.

From that view, one might argue that the Allied forces did not win World War Two until the Warsaw Pact dissolved in 1991. There are parallels; by knocking out Saddam's regime, this knocked out a counter-force to Iran's military. With Hitler's forces beaten, this knocked out a counter-force to Stalin's forces.

But we know from what Jim Ellsworth wrote (and which I published in the dialogue about Saddam Hussein's trial) and from other military sources that CENTCOM was not born yesterday. They knew that knocking out Saddam would unleash other forces in the region, including al Qaeda.

In some ways it's like pest control. Farmers have learned the hard way that if you kill off one crop pest, you can set off an onslaught from the prey of the bug you wiped out. However, human beings generate so many varieties of responses that the analogy to crop pests is not useful.

There are many variables that could only emerge after Saddam's Baathist regime was toppled. So the phase of the war, post-Saddam, is highly reflexive on both sides. Keep in mind that the enemy couldn't predict how all the chips would fall, either.

Of course "highly reflexive" suggests the need for much improvisation and going back to the drawing board, which Congressional check-writers don't like, which the media do not like, and which in fact everyone having to watch from the sidelines does not like.

Above all, everybody watching a war hates the words "campaign" and "theater." We want a theater of war nicely labeled The War, so we can win or lose, so then everybody can go home. It's nerve wracking to follow a war.

Pundita used to sit around at 2:00 o'clock in the morning listening to John Batchelor's war reports; I'd get so nervous I'd throw my pen across the room and snap, "I am not going to listen to this any more."

By the time Batchelor's show was moved to an earlier time slot I'd calmed down a little.

Are we winning in Iraq? We already won that campaign; the Coalition defeated Saddam's military. As for the rest, we'll find out. My money's on CENTCOM.

As for the Bush "lie machine," again Peter is repeating widely held views in Russia and among European allies who strongly opposed the invasion of Iraq. There are lies told in war, but Bush did not lie the US into a war.
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