September 06, 2002



Couple points on Steve Den Beste's prognosis on Iraq's options right now from today:

*The Red Team commanded by Van Riper in Exercise Millennium Challenge 02 was actually playing the role of Iran, not Iraq, as was pointed out on this website a month ago;

*Den Beste says the SCUDs, because they don't have "active navigation," aren't really guided missiles. That'll no doubt come as a surprise to those in America's landbased nuclear deterrent forces, which have always relied on inertial guidance systems considerably more sophisticated than the SCUD's, but using essentially the same concept (the navy's Trident missiles, by contrast, supplement the IG with a star-shot). To Den Beste, Minuteman and MX crews are really just "rocket powered artillery"... as an ex-gunner, I'd have to say that's a little oversimplified..

*Den Beste says the majority of American casualties in the Gulf War were due to SCUDs. For the record: total American casualties, 148 killed, 458 wounded; total American casualties due to the one fatal SCUD attack, 28 killed, 90 wounded. Largest actual cause of American fatalities in action: friendly fire (35).

What would I do if I was Saddam? Continue a diplomatic strategy, as Den Beste suggests, sure, but he overlooks the potential of covert action to destabilize other volatile areas, particularly Palestine, Kashmir or even Afghanistan, to throw any American timetable off track. I actually think that's the two-fold strategy he's been following all year... being vewy vewy quiet on the world stage, while dramatically increasing the flow of Iraqi oil funds to Palestinian radicals (largely through millions in gratuities to suicide bombers' families), with the expectation an Israel in flames would keep the Americans busy.

Posted by BruceR at 10:19 PM



Unnoticed by American press or bloggers today (no mention yet by Reynolds, Quick, Sullivan, or Johnson, and nothing on the front pages of the WashPost or the NY Times), Afghanistan continues its slow-motion collapse back into anarchy. Unfortunately, it's probably inevitable... without an injection of American "nation-building," or at least some articulation of real political reform (the current plan to basically recreate the way things were before the Soviets came, with kings and Loya Jirgas, has much to discredit it), decline and collapse is a matter of time. Al Qaeda or its successors could well have their bases back this decade. Poor Hamid Karzai, who now officially can be said to be kept alive by his Special Forces bodyguards alone, is a man with a target on his forehead so long as he stays in the 'Stan.

The absence of comment by the bloggers, in a continuing torrent of Iraq rhetoric, is particularly notable. In their minds, they've already left Afghanistan, and are on to the next war. Omar's definitely still there, Bin Laden likely is, but it doesn't matter: time to move on. We have to remember that the Marshall Plan was something of an exception... historically, American military interventions abroad only rarely produce any long-term improvements in their wake for the people who've been invaded.

Andrew Sullivan, meanwhile, urges his readers once again to read the Jeffrey Goldberg piece on Iraqi Kurdistan, without even beginning to grasp its nettle of a message... that the Kurds are ready and able to be a pro-Western state now, and neither keeping Hussein in power, nor a simple "regime change" for another minority Sunni autocrat is ever going to satisfy or protect them:

The Kurdish regional government, to be sure, is not a Vermont town meeting. The leaders of the two parties, Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, are safe in their jobs. But there is a free press here, and separation of mosque and state, and schools are being built and pensions are being paid. In Erbil and in Sulaimaniya, the Kurds have built playgrounds on the ruins of Iraqi Army torture centers. "If America is indeed looking for Muslims who are eager to become democratic and are eager to counter the effects of Islamic fundamentalism, then it should be looking here," Salih said.

Read it in the context of Robert Wright's increasingly interesting new series in Slate, where he argues now, I believe, for America to have a more principled and moral foreign policy abroad, to win over peoples instead of dealing with rulers. The same short sighted defensive moves that will have led to temporary peace in Afghanistan may also produce a temporary peace in Iraq... but the long-term vision that could produce real non-autocratic, pacific countries in the Middle East, is sorely lacking.

You want "good instability"? You want to bring the Arab World into the 21st century? Recognize Kurdistan.

Posted by BruceR at 12:36 PM