Understanding stategery in Iraq

The modern ethos tends to not only impugn war but does so by simplifications that tend to focus on individual horrors. What gets neglected is why wars are fought and how they are won. Strategy Page has an interesting description of the Iraq war that provides a broader, strategic, explanation. (The U.S. Army Gets Transformed By Accident)

The real changes came when it was decided to bait the Islamic terrorist enemy out into the open, by threatening their base; the Middle East. This is one of the oldest strategic moves. When you can’t force the enemy to face you in battle, go occupy something he has to come out and fight for. One of al Qaeda’s major goals was to drive all non-Moslems, especially military personnel, out of the Middle East. So by invading Iraq, the U.S. not only removed one of the worst tyrants on the planet, but forced al Qaeda to man up and step up. They did, and were slaughtered by the thousands. In doing so, al Qaeda destroyed its standing in the Moslem world. That’s because al Qaeda allied with one of their enemies, the secular Baath party. Saddam had used Baath to rule Iraq since the 1970s, and Baath decided that a terror campaign against the majority Shia Arabs would get them back in power. Al Qaeda believed that once the foreigners were driven out, they could take all the credit and crush Baath. But the large number of civilians killed (by Baath and alk Qaeda suicide bombs, or Shia and Sunni death squads), appalled the Moslem world. While it was fashionable to blame the United States, this was Islamic radicalism doing what it does, covered in the media courtesy of the U.S. military (which provided enough protection for the Western media to allow the story to be publicized.)

There are those who ignore the points at issue in the Congressional resolution authorizing the Iraqi invasion, and the UN resolutions, in favor of just one cause: WMD. There are those who use the invasion of Iraq as just another example of Western imperialism, just like colonial Africa. There are those who just see war as killing and destruction, a process and not a product. The primary fault in all of these camps is that they do no discriminate between those values and concepts that set Western Cultures apart from despots and dictators. They are blind to the whole story and to growth and change in society as it learns and adapts. That growth and change is what sets Western Cultures apart from other human cultures and it is also where the hope lies for getting past the miseries of cultures that cannot get past base human behavior.

What Strategy Page points out is how strategy based on ancient concepts can drive modern efforts in guiding strategy that depends upon tactics enabled by modern concepts and innovation. In turn, this adaptation creates organizational and structural changes that have much broader implications for all.

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