Thursday, August 21, 2003

Keegan on Iraq: Laying the neocon groundwork for more troops?

Telegraph | Opinion | Iraq is not another Vietnam, but the coalition needs more men

Keegan is a military historian favored by the Neocons. He makes a persusasive case that Vietnam was militarily a greater challenge than Iraq is today. Vietnam was a truly monstrous quagmire.

On the other hand the techniques of terrorism are more advanced nowadays, and the goals of the "insurgents" are varied. They do not appear to be so "rational" as the North Vietnamese. Some seem to be Islamic fundamentalists, who wish to destroy secular society in Iraq by creating maximal disruption of the foundations of a technologic civilization. Others are Baathists, who may hope to rule a portion of Iraq after the Coalition retreats and the country is partitioned. In both cases turning the Iraqi population against the Coalition is a prerequisite. That can best be done by terrorizing both the local populace and the Coalition, and increasing Coalition killings of incidental non-combatants.

I found parts of Keegan's article I found a bit condescending, and his ending statement of "The anti-war element in the Western media will be doing a service to no one, least of all the Iraqi people, if they allow their pleasure at the spectacle of post-war disturbance to undermine the coalition's efforts to establish a lasting peace" really degraded the quality of his essay. That parting comment is a cheap piece of rhetorical mud slinging. It's so lowbrow and irrational that it makes me question the rest of what's otherwise an interesting analysis.

Bush's mishandling of the UN and Turkey, and the failure of the neoCons to listen to listen rationally to the CIA and the State Department, has really put the US behind the 8 ball. On the other hand, I don't think things are hopeless, and I'm pretty sure the UN alone won't be able to patch things up; if the US/UK leave Iraq the country will be partioned. (I suspect Rumsfeld's strategy was always to partion Iraq between the Turks/Kurds/Iran and Kuwait, leaving a central Sunni portion without oil revenue.)

I don't know enough to say what should be done, other than the obvious (troop rotation, more troops, better relations with the UN, lean on Syria, etc). Keegan also calls for more troops. I wonder if he's laying the groundwork for the UK to press the US Neocons to ask for another Division.

The single thing that I'd like to see is Rumsfeld to be pushed aside. He had more than his chance and he blew it. Time to get someone who's bit less persuaded of their omniscience.

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