Nearly three months after the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, expectations in Iraq are plummeting.
There has been no jubilant reception of the troops, and basic personal security, civil services, sound administration and democratic representation are virtually nonexistent. Most importantly, the military campaign continues. Americans are dying. American policy is faltering, if not failing. Military victory eludes the coalition forces.
According to Carl von Clausewitz in his 1832 classic On War, victory occurs when the enemy's army is destroyed, there is a formal surrender and, in particular, the enemy's will is bent to your own. He made the further point that this is accomplished by conquest, not by the "hearts and mind" war of "liberation" of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his Pentagon team _ his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas J. Feith and others.
Further contributing to the inability to conquer Iraq was Rumsfeld's decision to adopt a force that was "fast and flexible," consisting of electronic air warfare, special forces and a light ground force. This force of 125,000 was able to win the battle of Baghdad, but just as the former Army chief of staff, Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, anticipated, it would have required a "mass" of 250,000 to bend the Iraqi will and win.
Rumsfeld fallaciously has confused the equipment heaviness of the Cold War-era Army with manpower heaviness and failed to understand the need for a troop "mass" to win wars. The issue is the need for increased speed, not reduction in numbers. The proof of this came April 9, the day Saddam Hussein's statue was toppled in Baghdad, when American forces stood by without orders to shoot looters and watched the destruction of the Iraqi infrastructure just as Rumsfeld praised the precision of the aerial attack in preserving it.
The Rumsfeld team also has substituted wishful thinking for facts. As von Clausewitz further counseled, such wishful thinking by a military commander can create failure on the battlefield. For example, are Iraqi Shiites repressed democrats who could be counted upon to exultantly embrace coalition forces, or are they sincere patriots prepared to resist the American conquerors?
Perhaps most amazing is the recent surprise expressed about the fact that Muslims in the well-known Sunni triangle surrounding Baghdad are engaging regularly in fire fights around the towns of Fallujah, Tikrit and other places to the west and north of Baghdad. These Sunnis were not only the most loyal of Saddam Hussein's supporters, but their well-known tribalism was the basis of Baathist organizational control until 1991. Since then, because of the effect of U.N. sanctions, the government dealt directly with tribal leaders.
Even though the Baathist organization had declined since 1991, the Sunni triangle remains the epicenter of Iraqi nationalism. Therefore, there is a potent combination of strong Iraqi nationalism and tribal solidarity underlying resistance to the U.S. occupation.
Killing by American soldiers of Iraqi fathers at night and building soccer fields during the day for their children as a continuation of a "hearts and minds" policy is not working. When Iraqi demonstrators are fired upon and deaths occur, the perpetrator is viewed as the American invader and the offense is a blood offense that the Iraqi code of honor calls for revenge. This is a formidable military factor resembling the way in which similar tribalism strengthens the Jordanian army.
The Iraq war was fought in near-willful ignorance of such facts. What is occurring now was predictable. Neither those expert on Iraq within the U.S. government (the State Department, the National Defense University and, particularly, the CIA) nor the small group of highly expert American academics have been consulted by the Defense Department, Congress or the media.
Meanwhile, unhappily, the military campaign in Iraq continues, inconclusively. It is already a quagmire because the Americans cannot impose their will, and they cannot rebuild the country until they can impose their will. Until they do both, they cannot withdraw.
And, incidentally, what's happened to reconstruction?
Louis J. Cantori is a professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he specializes in the Middle East. He has been a distinguished professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Marine Corps University, and is a former Marine.
Special to the Baltimore Sun; distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service