Optimistic Scenario

Jeff Bone jbone@deepfile.com
Mon, 17 Mar 2003 22:38:38 -0600


This is pretty good forecasting, and I pretty much agree with this as a 
best-case scenario...  have a few comments and questions, though.

On Monday, Mar 17, 2003, at 21:47 US/Central, Gordon Mohr wrote:

>   So except for some select command and elite unit targets,
>   we might go easy over most of the Iraqi forces, just dropping
>   a few token bombs as a signal: "It's begun."

So, tangent:  most of the bombs we'll be deploying are going to be 
GPS-guided.  Saddam's been experimenting with GPS jamming technology 
for the last few years.  What do you think the chances are of 
significant (and I mean significant) "unanticipated" collateral damages?

> - That signal will cause a stampede of Iraqis racing to switch
>   sides. Except for a small cadre of Baath loyalists, the country
>   will swap allegiance lightning-fast. Saddam will either flee
>   or be holed up, Manuel Noriega-style, in some fortress or temple,
>   perhaps with hostages.

This is actually the heart of the whole thing, right here.  Earlier 
today, I asked the question of an old friend of mine (ex military 
intelligence in the Gulf War):

>> Are they really supportive of Saddam...  or only scared and 
>> brainwashed?
> Analysis says .5M inner-circle Ba'ath loyalists 2-3 DoS away from SH 
> out of a population of 23M.  Many Takriti, like SH - almost all Sunni, 
> a few exceptions like Tariq Aziz, but closely controlled.  Vested 
> interest in maintaining status quo, believe better off under SH than 
> in populist / democratic state.  Could muck up the op by digging in.  
> Urban conflict if this happens ugly and protracted.  Lots of 
> casualties for the assault force.

I really do believe that's the heart of the whole thing.  The hawks are 
quietly betting the farm on this.  We'll see.  I hope you're right, 

> - A few nerve-gas missiles or artillery shells may be used, but
>   with no more impact than in Gulf War I. Postwar revelations
>   will show ambitious but mostly inept and resource-starved
>   covert Iraqi WMD programs -- the kind of thing that'd be scary
>   if left alone for a few years but no big problem today. (Doves
>   will use this as evidence war was unnecessary; hawks will
>   use this as evidence we acted in time.)

No doubt about the latter.

> - A last-ditch effort to transfer some of their most dangerous
>   materials, technology, and know-how to other rogue organizations
>   will partially succeed. A lot of this dispersal will be tracked
>   and cleaned up postwar, a little won't, and will eventually be
>   used in other varied terrorist attacks. (Doves will blame
>   these attacks on the war resentment and dispersal; hawks will
>   say the attacks would have been even worse had the source not
>   been shut down.)

No doubt about the latter.

> - There will be a postwar feeling of euphoria; Iraqis who've
>   been taught for decades to insincerely kiss up to a brutal
>   government will enthusiastically kiss up to the more liberal
>   occupation regime, at least for a while. Countries that
>   opposed the war will gladly jump on the rebuilding/peacekeeping
>   bandwagon. Even France won't be completely shut out, despite
>   embarassing postwar revelations of dealing around the sanctions
>   that cause minor domestic scandals.

I think this is a bit overly optimistic.  I think it's hard to 
overestimate the depth and intensity of the anti-American sentiment and 
animus we're building.  And the reverse is true, too:

France?  Even if they offer to help, I doubt we'd let them.  I actually 
think more Americans are more pissed off at the French than they are 
Saddam. (Ridiculous reaction, but there you have it.  I've seen folks 
like Bill O'Reilly etc. get more frothy and rabid about the French in 
the last few days than they ever were at Clinton.  Boggles the mind, 

> - There will be continued ethnic violence, terrorist attacks, and
>   on-and-off-again insurrections. Though the pain will be small
>   compared to the nightmare scenarios being shopped about right,
>   the narrative spin will still be, "not as easy as it looked,
>   this could go own forever, are we in a quagmire." The euphoria
>   will fade, but an Iraq that's a little more like Kuwait/Qatar/
>   Jordan/Turkey is still a giant win for the region and the free
>   world.

What about an Iraq that's more like the West Bank?  Or even one that's 
more like a post-Taliban Afghanistan?  This is a country divided, with 
signifant parts of the population being ignorant, repressed, 
militaristic, tribal peoples living in poverty.  That's a bad recipe.  
And there's never been any cultural unity there, aside from that 
enforced by military dictators.  There are deep cultural rifts in its 
population between the Sunni, the Shia, and the Kurds.  It's hard to 
imagine any single political system encompassing the interests of all 
--- the very idea of a unified Iraq is something of a Western artifice 
and always has been.

And what if this ignites the fire that incinerates Musharraf?  Etc.  In 
evaluating the cost / benefit, I think we need to evaluate second-order 
costs (and benefits.)  Banking on the optimistic outcome in this case 
is sort of the equivalent of betting your year's revenue forecast on a 
single big deal in business.  It's a possibility, and it might happen 
--- but it's not really that prudent.

> - A stable, more liberal regime in Iraq will allow the US to take
>   a harder line against the sponsors of radicalism and terrorism
>   in Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran. The economic flurry caused by
>   rebuilding, modernizing, and free trade in oil will be generate
>   envy in some of Iraq's neighbors.

I think this is where the rubber leaves the road --- albeit gently --- 
bro.  It's hard for me to imagine how installing a secular regime that 
will be viewed as our puppet --- or worse, being forced to maintain an 
American or even international occupation government there for a 
protracted time --- is going to increase stability among the 
fundamentalist and other anti-American factions throughout the region.

Nice to hear from you, Gordon! :-)