USS Clueless: Strategic Overview

The purpose of this document is to provide a high level strategic

view of the cause of the war, the reason that the United States

became involved in it, the fundamental goals the US has to achieve to

win it, and the strategies the US is following, as well as an

evaluation of the situation as of July, 2003. Most of what is here

has been explored in far greater detail in numerous posts made on

USS Clueless (

The original version of this outline can be found at I have copied the whole document for future reference below. See Blogdex,Technocrati

for commentary. Steven de Beste responds to his critics.

  1. What is the root cause of the war?
    1. Collective failure of the nations and people in a large area which is

      predominately Arab and/or Islamic.

      1. Economically the only contribution they make is by selling

        natural resources which are available to them solely through luck.

      2. They

        make no significant contribution to international science or engineering.

      3. They

        make little or no cultural contribution to the world. Few seek out their

        poetry, their writing, their movies or music. The most famous Muslim

        writer of fiction in the world is under a fatwa death sentence now and

        lives in exile in Europe.

      4. Their only diplomatic relevance is due

        to their oil.

      5. They are not respected by the world, or by


    2. Since this is a "face" culture, shame about this this has led to rising but unfocused discontent, anger and resentment.
    3. Some governments in the region have tried to focus it elsewhere so as to

      deflect it away from themselves. (The "Zionist Entity" is a

      favorite target.)

    4. Ambitious leaders of various kinds of tried to use it for their own


      1. Khomeinei and the Taliban used it to support revolutions

        respectively in Iran and Afghanistan.

      2. Saddam used it to gain support for creation of a united pan-Arab

        empire ruled from Baghdad.

  2. Why is the US fighting the war? Why were we attacked?
    1. American success casts Arab/Islamic failure in sharp contrast.

      Politically, economically, militarily, technologically and culturally we set

      the standard and our accomplishments make their failure look particularly bad.

    2. America is the largest and most important supporter of Israel. Arab

      leaders have used Israel as a scapegoat for their own failure, and part of

      that is to blame us since we refuse to abandon Israel. They have provided

      enough support to the Palestinians to keep the struggle going, so that their

      own people have someone outside to hate, which is why Israel is top of their

      shitlist. But that also causes them to hate us for our support of Israel.

    3. America is secular. Islamic religious zealots have been preaching that

      much of Arab/Islamic failure happens because Muslims have not been

      sufficiently devout. Allah has not been fighting on their side because they

      were sinners who have turned away from the teachings of the Prophet and a true

      virtuous life. The zealots claimed that only by embracing extreme forms of

      Islam could they again gain Allah’s favor and begin to succeed. But the US

      government and the American people do not follow those teachings, and

      America is a success. At the same time, in the nations where the extremists took

      power things got even worse. American success is heresy. In religious

      terms the only explanation for that is that America is in

      league with Satan, and Khomeinei said as much.

    4. American culture and American ideas are very popular with many of the

      people who live in the Arab/Islamic belt in question, particularly among their

      young people. This is viewed with alarm by traditionalists of all kinds. Their

      own people were being seduced away from their traditional culture and extreme

      religious practices.

    5. America has earned a reputation in much of the world as being rich, well-armed, but also cowardly; full of bluster but having no

      guts. Such events as our defeat in Viet Nam, our experiences in Beirut and

      Somalia, our half-hearted and largely ineffectual responses to the attacks

      against us in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and many other episodes contributed to

      the impression that we would not fight back if attacked, and that there was

      little risk in in attacking us, whether rhetorically or even violently.

    6. America is the "top dog" in the world right now, and there was

      prestige associated with attempting to take down the "top dog".

  3. Possible responses, small and large
    1. Some advocated appeasement: reduce our military spending, massively

      increase foreign aid, stop supporting Israel and throw it to the wolves, and

      apologize, apologize, apologize.

      1. Historically, appeasement doesn’t work.
      2. Those proposing this generally hold strongly leftist, post-nationalist

        political positions and assumed that since the terrorists evidently hated

        the US as much as the leftists do, that they must hate the US for the same

        grounds. But there’s no reason to assume that al Qaeda or the other terrorist

        organizations that imperil us have any sympathy with what Fonte calls transnational

        progressivism, or that they would cease making plans for attacks

        against us if the US ratified the Kyoto accord or the ICC treaty.

      3. This approach claimed that poverty and American foreign policy

        missteps in particular were the proximate cause of Arab/Islamic anger directed

        at the US. But there’s no reason to

        believe that this is true.

        1. al Qaeda’s original political statement regarding the US did not include

          any such claims. (Later statements sometimes did at least touch on such

          things because al Qaeda was trying to gain support from leftists in


        2. Most of the terrorists who carried out the attack

          on 9/11 came from prosperous families. None of them came from impoverished


        3. There doesn’t seem

          to be any difference in the degree of hostility expressed towards the West

          in Arab nations which are relatively prosperous (e.g. Saudi Arabia) and those which are less well off (e.g. Syria).

        4. Arab and Islamic hostility towards the US even in nations relatively

          unaffected by American foreign policy is far greater than in nations which have

          suffered far more at our hands, such as Viet Nam (which has been trying

          for years to reestablish normal diplomatic and commercial relations).

      4. If the true root cause was anger and resentment caused by Arab shame

        at lack of Arab accomplishment, massively increased aid would not help. You

        do not make a man proud by giving him charity.

      5. Irrespective of any other arguments against this approach, it wasn’t

        politically possible in the US. The vast majority of Americans (especially

        America’s Jacksonians) were in no

        mood to accept such a solution. The domestic reaction to those who advocated

        this solution was nearly uniformly hostile.

    2. The microscopic solution was to respond "proportionally" with

      a token counter-attack, and then deal with the situation as one of

      international law

      enforcement, by attempting to find and arrest those who were implicated in the

      plot so as to put them on trial for it after extradition.

      1. That’s what we tried to do in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and it failed. bin Laden

        was already under indictment for previous attacks against us, and all

        diplomatic efforts to gain control of his person for trial over a period of

        several years had failed.

      2. This policy in the 1980’s and 1990’s was part of what established our

        reputation in the Arab world as being cowardly.

      3. Doing this after an attack as devastating as the one on 9/11 would have further reinforced our reputation

        for cowardice. It would have raised the reputation of all terrorist groups by

        showing that terrorism was a valid (and successful!) way of striking back.

      4. Such a response would have encouraged further attacks against us which

        potentially might have been far more devastating, if the terrorists had

        managed to gain access to some sort of extreme weapon.

    3. The small solution was to assume that al Qaeda was the entire problem,

      and to eradicate al Qaeda and all others who could be shown to be directly

      involved in the attack in September of 2001.

      1. If we had concentrated exclusively on al Qaeda it would have left

        intact other similar movements, equally dangerous but not directly

        implicated in the attack against us. al Qaeda launched the attack against us

        but were not the only ones who had the ability or will to do so, and other

        groups had been and had every intention of continuing to launch such attacks

        against other targets (e.g. Bali, Israel, the Philippines, Kashmir).

      2. This would have been a case of treating the symptom, not the disease.

        It would have left the deep discontent and frustration of the "Arab

        Street" intact, as fertile ground for the next demagogue to come along

        wishing the plant the seeds of jihad against the West.

    4. The large solution is to reform the Arab/Muslim world. This is the path

      we have chosen.

      1. The true root cause of the war is their failure and their resentment

        and frustration and shame caused by that failure.

      2. They fail because they are crippled by political, cultural and

        religious chains which their extremists refuse to give up. The real causes of their failure is well described by Ralph

        Peters. Most of the Arab nations suffer from all seven of his critical

        handicaps, and the goal of reform is to correct all seven, as far as


      3. If their governments can be reformed, and their people freed of the

        chains which bind them and cripple them, they will begin to achieve, and to

        become proud of their accomplishments. This will reduce and eventually

        eliminate their resentment.

      4. Their governments would then cease needing scapegoats.
      5. Their extremists would no longer have fertile ground for recruitment.
      6. This is a huge undertaking; it will require decades because it won’t really be complete until there’s a generational turnover.

        But ultimately it is the only way to really eliminate the danger to us

        without using the "foot-and-mouth" solution (which is to say, nuclear


      7. The primary purpose of reform is to liberate individual Arabs. This is a

        humanist reform, but it isn’t a Christian reform. There will be no

        attempt to eradicate Islam as a religion. Rather, Islamism as a political

        movement, and as a body of law, and as a form of government must be

        eliminated, leaving Islam as a religion largely untouched except to the

        extent that it will be forced to be tolerant. The conceptual

        model for this is what

        we did in Japan after WWII, where only those cultural elements which

        were dangerous to us were eliminated, leaving behind a nation which was less

        aggressive, but still Japanese. No attempt was made to make Japan a clone of

        the US, and no such attempt will be made with the Arabs.

  4. Short term strategy in response to the 9/11 attacks
    1. al Qaeda had to be eliminated, or at least drastically crippled.
    2. In order to reduce the immediate hazard, we had to change the

      perception that we were cowards who could be attacked with impunity. In the

      short term, it was not possible for us to make the "Arab Street" love us, but we could convert its contempt into fear.

      Though not

      ideal, that had the dual merit of being feasible and effective. (Respect and

      friendship ideally would come later.)

    3. The international web of finance which supported the terrorist groups was

      vulnerable; their resources needed to be trimmed as much as possible to reduce

      their ability to operate against us.

    4. The purpose of all of this was to give us breathing room, to stabilize

      the situation for a few years so that we could carry out longer-term and more

      effective strategies. It was not, however, sufficient on its own.

  5. Stage 1: Afghanistan
    1. al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan, politically protected by the Taliban. It had

      operated there with impunity for years. The majority of its membership was

      organized into relatively normal military formations which had been fighting

      on behalf of the Taliban in the ongoing Afghan civil war. It also had training bases for terrorists, and most

      of the leadership of al Qaeda was located there, beyond the reach of

      international law enforcement.

    2. Even after the 9/11 attack, the Taliban refused to cooperate, and

      continued to protect al Qaeda. We now know that this is because al Qaeda

      controlled the Taliban. Omar was the nominal head of government but bin Laden

      pulled the strings.

    3. Thus the Afghan war, fought by us mainly with air strikes, special

      forces and bribery.

    4. The goal was to drastically reduce al Qaeda’s ability to use Afghanistan

      as a base of operations and eliminate the government that had been protecting


    5. Elimination of the Taliban would be an object lesson for other governments who had

      been protecting terrorist organizations.

    6. "Nation building" in Afghanistan was not an essential part of the

      operation there, except to the extent needed to make sure that Afghanistan did not

      again become a large al Qaeda stronghold in the short run (3-5 years). Anything beyond

      that was inspired by humanitarian impulses, but did not further any strategic goals.

  6. Stage 2: Iraq
    1. Goal of Stage 2: we had to conquer one of the big antagonistic Arab nations and take

      control of it.

      1. To directly reduce support for terrorist groups by eliminating one

        government which had been providing such support.

      2. To place us in a physical and logistical position to be able to apply

        substantial pressure on the rest of the major governments of the region.

        1. To force them to stop protecting and supporting terrorist groups
        2. To force them to begin implementing political and social reforms
      3. To convince the governments and other leaders of the region that it

        was no longer fashionable to blame us for their failure, so that they would

        stop using us as scapegoats.

      4. To make clear to everyone in the world that reform is coming, whether

        they like it or not, and that the old policy of

        stability-for-the-sake-of-stability is dead. To make clear to local leaders

        that they may only choose between reforming voluntarily or having reform

        forced on them.

      5. To make a significant long term change in the psychology of the

        "Arab Street"

        1. To prove to the "Arab Street" that we were willing to fight,

          and that our reputation for cowardice was undeserved.

        2. To prove

          that we are extraordinarily dangerous when we did fight, and that it is

          extremely unwise to provoke us.

        3. To defeat the spirit of the "Arab Street". To force them to

          face their own failure, so that they would willing to consider the idea that reform

          could lead them to success. No one can solve a problem until they

          acknowledge that they have a problem, and until now the "Arab

          Street" has been hiding from theirs, in part aided by government

          propaganda eager to blame others elsewhere (especially the Jews).

      6. To "nation build". After making the "Arab Street"

        truly face its own failure, to show the "Arab

        Street" a better way by creating a secularized, liberated,

        cosmopolitan society in a core Arab nation. To create a place where Arabs

        were free, safe, unafraid,  happy and successful. To show that

        this could be done without dictators or monarchs. (I’ve been referring to this as being the pilot project for "Arab

        Civilization 2.0".)

      7. Not confirmed: It may have been hoped that the conquered nation would

        serve as a honey-pot to attract militants from the region, causing them to

        fight against our troops instead of planning attacks against civilians.

        (It seems to have worked out that way, but it’s not known if this was a

        deliberate part of the plan. Many of the defenders who died in the war

        were not actually Iraqis.)

    2. Neither Afghanistan nor Iran would serve the political goals. The

      conquered nation had to be one generally thought of as being Arab.

      1. The human and cultural material we needed for reform did not

        exist in Afghanistan.

      2. The "Arab Street" would not have

        been impressed by successful reform in Afghanistan or in Persian


    3. Why Iraq?
      1. Already a problem
        1. The existing sanctions process against Iraq (including patrols over

          the "no fly" zones) was a failure and was unsustainable. One way

          or another the status quo was going to end soon. Lifting the sanctions and ceasing

          to enforce the "no fly" zones without removing Saddam from power

          was too risky.

        2. Saddam represented a substantial long-term threat. He had demonstrated

          utter ruthlessness and viciousness in two external wars and uncountable

          internal repressions. He showed no sign of abandoning his ambition to

          develop nuclear weapons irrespective of how long it might take or how much

          it might cost or what political sacrifice might be required.

        3. Saddam had been providing immense support for terrorist groups, both

          monetarily and in other ways. There were known terrorist training bases in

          Iraq and he had been providing money and arms. It appears that little of that support went to al

          Qaeda. Most of it went to various Palestinian groups such as Hizbollah.

        4. Saddam had placed a bounty on Israelis by stating that he’d pay a lot of

          money to the families of any successful suicide bomber, no matter what

          group the bomber came from.

        5. Saddam had developed and used chemical weapons against Iranian troops

          and on Iraqi civilians. Left to himself there was a non-trivial chance of

          his giving such weapons to terrorists. After the war in 1991 and 12 years of

          Anglo-American enforcement of sanctions, Saddam had a grudge against the US,

          and the chance of him surreptitiously aiding terrorist attacks against us

          simply out of spite was too great to ignore. It’s a matter of record that he attempted to have

          the senior George Bush assassinated. (George Bush Sr. had been President

          during the 1991 Gulf War.)

      2. Military feasibility
        1. The leaders of Kuwait feared Saddam and owed us a big favor from

          1991, so Kuwait could be used as a base from which to launch an invasion of


        2. NATO ally Turkey shared a northern border with Iraq and it was expected

          that a second invasion force could be massed there. (As it turned out, this

          didn’t happen.)

        3. Iraqi terrain between Baghdad and the Kuwaiti border was well suited for mass armored assault.
        4. Because of ongoing low-level combat in enforcement of the southern

          "no fly" zone, it was possible to do most of the essential air

          preparation slowly over a period of months before combat began.

        5. Though the Iraqi military was large and had a reputation with the

          "Arab Street", in fact it was deeply crippled and likely to be

          much less formidable than many expected.

      3. Political feasibility
        1. A casus belli existed that could be leveraged to justify

          conquest in certain international fora.

          1. This related to Saddam’s failure to abide by the truce

            terms signed in the aftermath of the war in 1991, particularly in

            cooperating with international inspections to eliminate Iraqi chemical,

            biological and nuclear weapons and development programs.

          2. Saddam’s

            possession or intent to acquire such weapons represented an indirect and

            long term threat, but were not the primary real justification for the


        2. There had been substantial support by American voters since 1991 for

          military operations to remove Saddam from power. There was far less support

          for invasion of Iran and no support at all for conquest of any other nation

          in the region.

      4. Strategic suitability
        1. Iraq is centrally located with borders on Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia

          and Jordan. It has major ports through which supplies and troops can move.

          Thus if we occupied Iraq, it would be ideal as a potential base of military

          operations against any of those other nations later, should that become


        2. The governments in the region know it. Having American troops on their

          borders, or even the threat to move troops there, was guaranteed to get

          their attention.

        3. If the military victory over Iraqi forces was overwhelming, that

          would make the threat even more impressive. The military forces of the

          other nations in the region were even less formidable than that of

          Saddam’s Iraq.

        4. This

          would make diplomatic threats against them far more effective and inspire

          much more cooperation from them than had been forthcoming to that point.

      5. Potential for Reform
        1. Among the major nations of the region, Iraq before Saddam had been relatively

          mercantile, relatively secular, and had originally had a relatively

          well-educated and cosmopolitan population.

        2. Iraq had a history of democratic government, albeit not very


        3. The Kurds had already established a government similar to what we needed

          to create.

        4. Iraq’s oil wealth could be used to offset much of the cost of

          rebuilding after the war, as well as making the nation economically viable

          and prosperous and helping to finance diversification of its economy.

      6. Symbolism and propaganda value
        1. Saddam had become a hero to the "Arab Street". He was

          thought of as a strong Arab leader who was standing up to the West. Though

          Iraq’s military had been decisively defeated in 1991, Saddam survived

          politically and

          this actually enhanced his reputation. He hadn’t won against us, but at

          least he’d tried, which was better than anyone else seemed to be doing. The

          "Arab Street" was proud of him for making the attempt. (This

          involves a lot of revisionism, such as ignoring Saddam’s earlier invasion

          of Kuwait, or the participation of large Arab military forces in the

          coalition army which fought against Iraq.)

        2. Iraq’s military had the reputation of being the largest, best armed

          and most dangerous of any in the region. If it could be decisively crushed it

          would be psychologically devastating.

        3. Baghdad historically was one of the great capitols of classic Arab

          civilization. Having it fall to outsiders would be symbolically important.

      7. Other factors
        1. We owed the southern Shiites a moral debt for not supporting their

          attempted revolution in 1991, and for our failure to make any attempt to

          prevent the retaliatory slaughter inflicted on them by Saddam afterwards. (I

          consider this the most important and most shameful lapse by the US since the

          end of the Cold War.)

        2. The Kurds had prospered under the umbrella of the northern "no

          fly" zone. If the sanctions against Iraq had ended and we had stopped

          enforcing the northern "no fly" zone, the Kurds would

          then have been crushed, in a repeat of the 1991 slaughter inflicted on the

          southern Shiites.

        3. Without invasion, reform in Iraq was impossible. The sanctions had

          failed, and after the debacle of the 1991 Shiite uprising, there was no

          further possibility of revolution. Removal of

          Saddam and beginnings of reform in Iraq could only be imposed

          from outside by military force. Thus invasion of Iraq would be necessary

          eventually even if it wasn’t the first target.

      8. Potential problems
        1. Saddam might use nerve gas or biological agents against the invading force.

          The possibility existed that the cost of the war in casualties could be

          extremely high.

        2. Iraq isn’t really a single nation; it is at least three, depending on how

          you count. Creating a unified nation out of it faced problems due to ethnic


        3. It also included both Sunnis and Shiites, who generally felt about each

          other the way that the Catholics and Protestants feel in Northern Ireland.

        4. It could be expected that neighboring nations would try to support

          factions inside Iraq to work to prevent creation of a democracy there. Iran,

          in particular, was certain to try to inspire the majority Shiites to

          establish Iraq as another Khomeinite Islamic Republic.

    4. Preparing for war
      1. Development of a "coalition of the willing".
        1. NATO was a

          hopeless waste of time, especially since some NATO members sided with Saddam

          and tried to use the mechanisms of NATO to prevent our attack.

        2. The

          British and Australians openly sided with us. The British in particular

          could offer substantial military and diplomatic assistance. Australian

          assistance was smaller but no less welcome.

        3. Canadian opposition was a major unpleasant surprise.
        4. Other nations were willing to help,

          though in some cases they didn’t want to admit it publicly until the last minute.

      2. It was necessary for Congress to pass an authorization for war.
        1. The one

          passed in September of 2001 (under which we had fought in Afghanistan) could not plausibly be interpreted as

          authorizing war in Iraq unless the Bush administration claimed that

          Saddam’s government was directly implicated in the 9/11 attack, and no such

          evidence existed. There’s no reason to believe that Saddam was directly


        2. An attempt to try to use the one passed in 1991, or to go into combat

          without one using the 60-day clause in the ‘War Powers Act’, would have caused a constitutional crisis. 

        3. It would have been wrong to try to bypass Congress.
        4. It was vital that the Congressional authorization for war in Iraq not include any provision

          that would give hostile foreign nations (e.g. France) the ability to veto the war.

          Thus it was vital that it not require UNSC authorization or NATO approval

          or participation.

      3. We had to attempt to deal with the UN.
        1. Tony Blair required UN approval (or an "unreasonable

          veto") for domestic political reasons. In the British system, a

          decision for war is made by the cabinet, but if Blair had done that

          without any attempt to gain UN approval it would have led to a party


        2. It was clear that the UNSC would never actually grant permission for

          armed invasion. By going to the UN in September, it had become abundantly clear by

          October that the UN wasn’t going to cooperate, so Congress defeated all

          attempts to include a requirement for UNSC approval in its authorization.

        3. Wrangling with the UN ended up covering the primary period of troop

          deployment in Kuwait and restraining Saddam from a preemptive attack

          against us before we were ready. (Not yet known if this was deliberate or

          fortunate side effect.)

      4. Dealing with the UN required arguing the case on the basis of Iraqi

        failure to comply with previous UNSC resolutions, and to concentrate on

        the issue of inspections and WMD disarmament. This was not the real issue

        for anyone involved.

      5. All negotiations at the UN happened on two levels. Speeches and

        announcements all talked about Iraq. The real issue was the fact that

        the French feared the US more than Iraq. It was a keystone of French

        foreign policy to use all possible means to restrain US military power and

        diplomatic influence.

      6. After Congress passed an authorization for war without requiring UNSC

        approval, and after the Republicans won the November election and gained

        a majority in the Senate while keeping control of the House, European

        opponents of war were chastened and permitted Res 1441 to pass. It started one "last chance"

        opportunity for Saddam to cooperate with inspections, and was ambiguous

        as to whether war would automatically be authorized if the inspections

        failed. The US claimed it did; the French that it did not.

      7. To no one’s surprise, the new inspections were a joke.
      8. After Saddam yet again failed to really cooperate with inspections,

        the US and UK introduced one final resolution in the UNSC that

        effectively would have authorized war. Those opposing the US, in

        particular the French, continued to oppose this. The debate became

        surreal because the true French position was to oppose the US

        irrespective of the merits of the situation.

      9. Chirac ultimately overplayed his hand and gave the US and UK the

        diplomatic opportunity to

        walk away. Tony Blair had as a practical matter gotten his "unreasonable veto".

    5. Despite the setback of Turkish

      non-cooperation (due to another French political maneuver) logistical

      buildup was complete and CENTCOM told Bush that it had sufficient force in

      place and was ready to go. The attack was launched, and we won.

  7. Results. No battle or war is ever 100% effective in accomplishing the

    goals set for it, but this one was very good. To review:

    1. The military operation was rapid, efficient and overwhelming.
      1. American losses were very light.
      2. Iraqi civilian

        losses were also very light, confounding predictions before the war.

      3. As

        a result of a very successful psyops campaign before the war, large

        parts of the Iraqi military deserted. Many of those who remained refused outright to fight.

        Most of the paper strength of the Iraq military never had to be engaged,

        and the remnants of the Iraq air force never made a single sortie.

      4. Iraq’s military was not seen by

        other Arabs as even having put up a good fight.

    2. We now control the territory of Iraq, and have been applying

      substantial pressure to Syria, Saudi Arabia and indirectly to Iran. Syria

      and Saudi Arabia appear to grudgingly accept the new situation. The

      situation in Iran is very fluid and difficult to predict.

    3. Headlines notwithstanding, in most of Iraq the rebuilding process is

      actually going moderately well. There have been mistakes and progress has

      not been as fast as many would like, but most of the resistance has been in

      a small region of Iraq which is dominated by those groups and tribes who

      were the top-dogs under Saddam. The armed resistance remains a concern and

      will continue to be a problem for months, but in the nation as a whole

      progress has been satisfactory. Most of the people of the nation are glad

      we’re there, and their main fear is that we’ll leave too soon, or that the

      Baathists will somehow regain power and reinstitute their reign of terror.

    4. After the war, the true degree of brutality and barbarism of the

      Baathist regime there began to be revealed. This helped shift the

      political discussion internationally, since it became increasingly

      difficult for anyone to argue retroactively in favor of any policy which

      would have left Saddam in power and thus let the horror continue.

    5. When Baghdad fell in just a couple of days, with very few American

      casualties, Arabs elsewhere were totally disillusioned and deflated.

      1. The news reports fed to them during the war had been lies,

        and had told them that the Americans were being badly hurt and that the

        Iraqi army was putting up a good fight.

      2. As a result, the rapid

        fall of Baghdad was like a bucket of ice water in the face; totally

        unexpected and an even more massive shock.

      3. They are now asking

        themselves what other lies they’ve been fed by their governments.

      4. And

        some are asking themselves "why we Arabs always seem to fail? What

        is wrong with us?"

      5. Some

        Arabs are now openly debating the merits of reform.

    6. Anti-American rhetoric is rapidly going out of style in the region.

      It’s no longer fashionable to advocate picking a fight with us.

    7. Irrespective of whether Saddam actually had physical possession of any

      kind of WMD, it remains the case that he had not abandoned his ambitions to

      develop such things. Now that he has been deposed, that is no longer really

      possible, even if he is still alive. He may still have that ambition but he

      no longer has the means. It would be nice if he were captured or

      killed, but removing him from power was the primary goal. (Qusay and Uday

      were found and

      killed; Saddam may also die very soon.)

    8. With Saddam’s defeat, substantial support for Palestinian terrorist groups has

      been cut off, and it’s already beginning to have effects on them.

  8. Stage 3 and beyond: the future
    1. Pacification and nation building in Iraq must continue. This is a

      gradual process which will go on for at least the next year and probably for

      several years at a reduced level. I expect us to have at least some military

      presence in Iraq for the next 30 years.

    2. A new Iraqi army, modest in size but far higher quality compared to the

      old one, will be trained over the next year and will eventually take

      responsibility for most internal security.

    3. The process of creating Iraqi self-government got off to the wrong start

      with the wrong concept (top-down) but is now moving in the right direction

      (bottom up). Most of the cities and towns in Iraq now have ruling councils,

      and local elections will become the norm. A national council is in place but

      has little real power, but in perhaps a year there will be the beginnings of a

      process to write a new constitution and to hold real elections, after which

      most power will be turned over to the new government. Then, for a period of a few years, there

      will be "democracy on training wheels" where some of our troops

      remain but largely don’t interfere unless there is a threat of the

      government being taken over by radicals.

    4. Iraqi liberal democracy will represent a threat to the autocratic regimes

      in the region merely by existing, and the US will have to militarily guarantee Iraqi security

      against threats in particular from Syria and Iran, and to a lesser extent

      from Saudi Arabia. We’ll also have to guarantee Kurdish security against

      threats from Turkey. This is another reason why there will need to be a

      significant American military presence in Iraq for years.

    5. There’s going to be low level armed resistance in Iraq for years, and

      that means a ongoing trickle of casualties. This isn’t a problem which can be solved

      in weeks.

    6. Diplomatic pressure will continue on other nations in the region to cut

      support for terrorist groups and to implement domestic reforms, and that will

      be far more effective. Also, as Iraq gets back on its feet, the new-found

      freedom there will serve as both a challenge and an inspiration for others in

      the region. The "Arab

      Street" will begin asking their governments why they can’t have

      the same thing.

    7. There is no way to predict whether any more significant military operations will be

      needed in this multi-decade war to bring about fundamental reform in the

      Arab/Muslim region. We will plan no new major wars there in the immediate future (the next three years), but invasions of Iran or

      Syria or even Saudi Arabia are conceivable sometime in the next 20 years if

      their leaders refuse to cooperate in reforming, or if hostile and activist

      regimes take power.

    8. Punitive or preventive

      bombing, especially of Iran’s nuclear facilities, are entirely possible.

    9. The shadow war against terrorist group finances and against the cells of

      those groups will continue, occasionally popping into the public view when

      there’s a high-profile success ? or a high-profile failure.

    10. The chance of new and devastating attacks against the US and UK now

      appears to be substantially reduced. The risk of attacks against us is not

      zero; there will be more attempts and some may succeed. However, the terrorists now seem to be operating

      inside the Arab world itself (except for ongoing Palestinian operations

      against Israel). That’s

      doubly good, because it’s motivating the governments there to help us more

      than they have been.

  9. We can still lose this war.
    1. If nation building in Iraq fails, we won’t succeed in demonstrating that

      reform can work for Arabs and make them happier and more successful. We will

      fail to show them that reform is a better choice for them than jihad.

    2. If we permit low level resistance in Iraq to drive us out, the Arab street will

      once again conclude that we are ultimately cowardly, and will again feel

      contempt for us. And no nation or group in the region will ever again take

      the risk of helping us in any future operation there.

    3. If other nations in the region don’t implement reforms, their people will

      continue to be angry and will continue to support terrorism and extremism.

    4. If the other nations in the region don’t cut off support for terrorist

      groups, those groups will continue to have the wherewithal to operate, and

      may eventually target us.

    5. If we do not bring about general reform before one or another nation in

      the region successfully develops nuclear weapons, the political situation

      will become vastly more complicated and we will be in extreme peril. It will

      become extremely difficult for us to continue to foster reform in the

      region, and there will be an unacceptably high likelihood that one of our

      cities will eventually be nuked.

    6. It is therefore critical that we continue to be engaged in the region and

      continue to work for reform there, doing whatever we must to prevent

      development of nukes by hostile nations in the region and continuing to work to weaken

      existing terrorist organizations. We are winning the war but we have not won

      it. It will take decades to win, just as the Cold War took decades to win.

      The greatest danger facing us now is that we’ll lose heart and give up

      before we do win.

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