Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

No Exit



In June of 1944, when Field Marshal von Rundstedt, the German commander in France, was told that the Allies were landing in Normandy, he knew exactly what to do. He went out into the garden and pruned his roses. Von Rundstedt knew that in war, early reports, regardless of whether the news is good or bad, are usually misleading. Reacting to them with “instant analysis” merely makes the problem worse. That is as true for the war in Iraq as for any other war. For now, we need to wait. Only time can offer clarity.

What we can do now is discuss possibilities. I see three broad, possible outcomes to this war. None of them is good.

The first and worst is that our current advance on Baghdad proves to be a trap. We get there, our 350-mile single supply line is cut, and the 3rd Infantry Division, which is the spearhead, is forced into a desperate retreat or even surrender. Could it happen? Yes. As the Iraqi leadership seems to understand, a modern defense does not try to keep the enemy out.

Rather, it seeks to suck him in, then cut him off. This type of defense was first developed by the German army during World War I (early critics called it the “let them walk right in defense”), and it was the standard German defense during World War II. The key element, the counterattack by armored forces, will probably be impossible for the Iraqis because of air power.

But there are other ways to cut a supply line.

This outcome is disastrous in both the short and long terms. Short-term, we lose an army. Long-term, the Islamic world gets what it might see as its biggest victory since the Turks took Constantinople in 1453. It would be an enormous shot in the arm for every Islamic jihadi, and would lead to a collapse of America’s position throughout the Islamic world, and perhaps elsewhere as well.

The second broad possibility is that we take Baghdad, replace Saddam with an American-approved pro-consul, then watch Iraq turn into a vast West Bank as non-state elements take effective control outside the capital city. This is what has happened in Afghanistan, and in Iraq too we would quickly find that our state armed forces do not know how to fight non-state opponents in Fourth Generation war. This outcome is good short-term but — as Israel can attest — a bloody mess in the long-term.

The third possibility is what the adventurers who now run American foreign and defense policy seek: we take Baghdad, liberate Iraq and turn it into a modern, peaceful democracy. The probability of this happening makes a snowball’s chances in Hell look pretty good, but even if it does, it too is a long-term disaster.


First, because democracy in the Islamic world probably means the election of people like Bin Laden, whose campaign slogan would be, “Death to the Christian and Jewish dogs!” Second, because what the American Establishment means by “freedom and democracy” is Brave New World. And third, because the adventurers, emboldened by success, might then go on to wage war against Iran, Syria, Libya, and possibly North Korea. If their goal is American world hegemony, that goal is certain to drive everyone else into a coalition against us, state and non-state elements alike.

In short, so long as American policy remains what it is today, the war in Iraq offers us no exit. If the adventurers were replaced by sober men, could we find a way out? Perhaps. It just might work if we took Baghdad, overthrew Saddam, and then immediately turned Iraq over to the Arab League or the U.N. to run, while making it very clear to the rest of the world that America’s quest for world hegemony is over, finished and done. A good way to put it might be, “a republic, not an empire.”

Meanwhile, let us all pray that possibility number one does not come to pass, and that our friends over there doing the fighting — and I have many come home to us whole, safe, victorious and soon.

WILLIAM S. LIND is Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation.

Yesterday’s Features

Pablo Mukherjee
Watch Their Lips

David Krieger
Shock But Not Awe

Linda Heard
Winning Hearts and Minds Bush-Style

Imad Jadaa
The Beautiful Face of America

Adam Engel
Buckets of Blood

Patrick Cockburn
Kurds Unimpressed

David Lindorff
POWs, Torture and Hypocrisy

Robert Fisk
The Coup That Didn’t Happen

April Hurley, MD
A Doctor’s Outrage in Baghdad

Gloria Bergen
Chretien’s Shame

Reema Abu Hamdieh
The Smell of Death Surrounds Me

Website of the War
Iraq Body Count

Keep CounterPunch Alive:
Make a Tax-Deductible Donation Today Online!

home / subscribe / about us / books / archives / search / links /

WILLIAM S. LIND, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 25, 2016
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation wasted $32.2 million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians