This Is The Way The World Ends (Scenario Planning)

James Rogers jamesr@best.com
Mon, 17 Mar 2003 13:06:28 -0800


> - FLASHPOINT #1:  We move on Baghdad this week.  Saddam=20
> Hussein leaves=20
> the country for parts unknown, leaving multiple regional=20
> chains-of-command in place with redundant command and logistical=20
> systems.  The US is drawn into an urban warfare scenario that=20
> will take=20
> much longer than expected and have much higher casualties.  All the=20
> while, Hussein continues to direct the action from off-stage.


Highly improbable.  The US has a demonstrated ability to thoroughly =
disrupt
the Iraqi C3I infrastructure at will.  The force structure of the Iraqi
military is heavily dependent on C3I to be effective, far more than the =
US
military in fact.  Because of this, there is good reason to believe the
Iraqi military force will collapse very quickly.

There may be a few bloody urban skirmishes very early on, but I don't =
expect
them to last.  It may take us a little while to get Saddam, though.  =
Over
the last 6-8 years, the US military has focused almost the entirety of =
its
training effort on urban warfare.  At this point in time, it is probably =
the
most thoroughly competent urban warfare force ever deployed in warfare =
and I
expect the intense doctrine focus on urban warfare to payoff in the =
field.

=20
> - FLASHPOINT #2:  At some point Iraq launches a missile=20
> attack, perhaps=20
> with chemical or biological weapons, on Israel.  Israel and U.S.=20
> independently retaliate with tactical nuclear strikes on suspected=20
> weapons sites in Iraq.  This enrages the Syrians, who have=20
> been looking=20
> for an(other) excuse to attack Israel for decades.  Syrian=20
> tank forces=20
> roll into Israel;  conflict escalates.  The US is too engaged in Iraq=20
> to provide more than cursory assistance to Israel.  As the conflict=20
> drags on, Egypt and Saudi Arabia will join Syrian forces;  this=20
> conflict potentially goes nuclear.  Conflict escalates into Pan-Arab=20
> vs. U.S. / Israel conflict.


The first part has plausible probability, but the rest of this doesn't
follow.  In level conflict it is doubtful that the Syrians (even with =
the
help of Egypt) could take Israel; Iraq does not have the WMD capability =
to
seriously incapacitate the Israeli military even if they could do a lot =
of
damage to the civilian population.  Egypt is not currently in a position
diplomatically where they would want to involve themselves in any Syrian
military adventures involving Israel.  Saudi Arabia wouldn't involve
themselves either for similar reasons.

Also, I don't think the Syrian military would be too keen on engaging an
Israel that just blithely nuked targets in Iraq. =20

=20
> - FLASHPOINT #3:  Enraged by Musharraf's complicity in the=20
> "infidel's"=20
> war against Iraq, Islamic fundamentalist elements in Pakistan - some=20
> within the government mainstream - organize and launch a coup.  This=20
> coup attempt is not immediately successful, but the country is thrown=20
> into chaos.  The U.S. is too occupied by the Iraqi war to give more=20
> than token assistance;  U.N. forces are deployed to restore order. =20


Improbable.  As bad as it sounds, we "own" that country.  We have a lot =
of
SpecOps units in that country making damn sure things stay exactly the =
way
they are.  This is Musharraf's insurance policy.  The covert SpecOps
missions are cleaning house in Pakistan so that a few years down the =
road,
when we lessen our covert ops footprint in that country, it has a fair
chance of standing on its own.  Any destabilization that is possible =
would
almost certainly happen a few years from now, but not contemporaneous =
with a
war in Iraq.=20

=20
> FLASHPOINT #4:  North Korea's Kim Jong Il, feeling left out,=20
> decides to=20
> take advantage of the chaos and distraction elsewhere and=20
> invades South=20
> Korea, then rattles nuclear saber at Japan.  U.S. cannot provide more=20
> than token assistance.


Possible, but the US could and would provide more than token assistance.
Despite its massive military, the North Korean military is circa 1960's
technology and will suffer severe casualties despite its superior =
numbers.
Swift application of US military technology in the region would be
sufficient to let the smaller but equally hard South Korean military =
engage
the onslaught.  A very bloody war for certain, but the primary advantage =
of
the North Koreans is numbers, not quality.  The North Koreans would lose =
air
superiority almost immediately, which would leave their "massive wave" =
troop
formations very vulnerable.

This is also one of the areas where you would most likely see the US use
tactical nuclear weapons, and provides nearly optimal battlefield =
conditions
for such use.

=20
> FLASHPOINT #5:  China, unnerved by events in the peninsula and=20
> elsewhere, moves forces into Taiwan to "help ensure regional=20
> security."=20
>   Days later, Chinese ground forces move into Siberia to=20
> capture Russian=20
> oil fields.  Chinese threaten nuclear retaliation if U.S. becomes=20
> involved in either theater.  Russian army deployed en masse - such as=20
> it is - to Siberia.  Nuclear brinksmanship begins.


Improbable.  China does not currently have the ability to successfully
project force like this, and won't for several years.  Taiwan could be a
problem in the not too distant future, but on a scale of several years; =
I
expect it to turn into a run-of-the-mill diplomatic quagmire.  The =
Chinese
would not engage the Russians, who could still clean the clocks of the
Chinese militarily, something the Chinese most certainly understand.  =
The
best weapons in the Chinese military are second-hand Russian production, =
and
the Chinese let much of this weaponry fall into disrepair.

=20
> FLASHPOINT #6:  Malaysian and Indonesian Islamist forces revolt. =20
> Entire region thrown into conflict.


Possible.  Nasty, but nothing that would bleed over on a large scale.  =
India
would be extremely interested in containing the problem, and they have =
the
ability to project force in the region.  The US would also be working in =
a
containment mode.  Messy, but without global implications.

=20
> FLASHPOINT #7:  Violence inside the U.S. escalates,=20
> eventually reaching=20
> the level of conflict previously seen in Israel.  We see suicide=20
> bombings, etc.  Within 12 months of initiation of conflict in Iraq a=20
> western U.S. city will be hit with one or more nuclear or sub-nuclear=20
> "dirty" bombs - provenance unknown - killing tens of thousands of=20
> Americans.
=20

The escalation of violence to this level is improbable.  Large-scale
sporadic attacks are not improbable.  At worst I would expect the =
escalation
of terrorist violence to reach that of Europe, which has certainly =
managed
just fine for many years.  Populations adapt and become desensitized to
terrorism.  I simply don't see it escalating beyond a nuisance level in =
a
geopolitical sense.

I see something big and nasty happening to an A-list city as being
inevitable and have for years.  In many ways, the new posture of the
American intelligence services will impede this, but it will still =
happen
eventually.  But then, this was true regardless of the geopolitical =
actions
of the US and has been a long time in the making.

=20
> If even a few of these things happen, we've got wholesale global=20
> conflict.  Shouldn't take long for the alliances to solidify and the=20
> players to make their moves, then we've got a totally chaotic and=20
> difficult to re-stabilize geopolitical nightmare.


I think you are over-reacting.  You won't have wholesale global conflict
because there is too much geopolitical inertia that would effectively
contain these problems even if more than one happened at once.  The =
nastiest
potential mess is North Korea, but it isn't remotely a threat to world
stability.  At worst Kim Jong Il could trash his own neighborhood but =
either
way the problem would be fixed.

Actual short-term possibilities with geopolitical implications:

- Kim Jong Il pops his cork and makes a mess.
- Islamic fundamentalist overthrow of a SE Asian country.
- Israel giving Iraq a retaliatory nuking.


Cheers,

-James Rogers
 jamesr@best.com