Two weeks and 8,000 missiles into the war on Iraq, things have not gone quite as planned. The much-ballyhooed ‘shock and awe’ strategy has failed to precipitate the quick capitulation of stunned Iraqi forces or an internal overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s brutal dictatorship. Far from throwing in the towel in the first round, Saddam’s men have taken our laser-guided punches and satellite-homed hooks and put up a fight. Not only have we yet to reach Baghdad for the inevitable siege, we have struggled to take Basra, a city a mere hour’s drive north of the Kuwaiti border, and one we were led to believe would welcome our troops with flurries of petals and rice.
There is shock and awe aplenty, but not as was scripted. Set against the backdrop of our heralded ability to minimize ‘collateral damage’ with the awesome precision of our technology-laden arsenal, the waywardness marking some of the missiles fired by our navy from ships in the Mediterranean and Red Seas is notably shocking. U.S. Central Command has reported that some not only failed to hit their targets in Iraq, they completely missed the country! (They landed instead in Turkey and Saudi Arabia.) Needless to say, CentCom has cancelled missile launches from MedRed.
Equally shocking are our intelligence failures. In mid-March, before the order to attack, our top military commander in the Middle East confidently declared that we were ready, that we had enough troops in position to prosecute the war and complete the mission. On the tenth day we scrambled an additional 100,000 soldiers to bolster the 250,000 already engaged in the Iraq ‘theater’. And just hours before the first bombs fell on March 19th, special operations teams were deployed to what U.S. Central Command considered the four highest-priority locations inside Iraq. By now they were to have uncovered stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. They have found none, an outcome that leaves inspectors of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission–Hans Blix’s UNMOVIC–unmoved. The CIA advised that if Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, the sure way to have him use them is to attack Iraq. That probably still holds true, but so far Iraqi weapons of mass destruction have been conspicuous by their absence.
Then, on Saturday, March 30th, there was the most significant shock of all, a grim, forbidding milestone, and a harbinger of hell to come. Four of our finest were manning a Najaf roadblock. A solitary Iraqi in a car, an explosion, five men dead. The war’s first suicide bombing–guaranteed to be the first of many–will no doubt be seen as an awesome precedent by the conscripts sure to swell the ranks of Iraq’s faceless martyrdom brigades.
Our rules of war are based on overwhelming superiority of the force at our disposal compared to that of the enemy. Israel’s experience in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories tells that overwhelming force cannot quell fiery nationalism. And history tells that Iraqi nationalism is as fierce as any. The cost of ignoring that will only mount with time. We will turn to the Israeli military, the world’s most experienced in combating suicide bombers, and adopt their methods. We’ll claim our right to defend ourselves against the retaliation of those we attack. Our presence on their land is what they detest, yet we will see their killing of our soldiers as proof they are the terrorists our presence is needed to wipe out. We’ll force cars to stop at a safe distance and make their occupants approach on foot. Then an Iraqi patriot will shuffle up to marines at a roadblock and detonate a concealed explosives belt strapped to his waist. Our counter-terrorism experts will advise that we force Iraqis civilians to strip to their waists before they approach our men.
The effect, as Israel knows all too well, will be to alienate the indigenous population. Our actions will ratchet up their resentment and intensify their loathing of the foreign military power controlling their lives. The number of Iraqis ready to die to kill anyone sporting a Star-Spangled Banner or a Union Jack will mushroom.
We can win the war, but the peace will enervate us. Welcome, America, to a vicious cycle of violence like that Israel is mired in. In time our nation will yearn to be free from Operation Iraqi Freedom.
TARIF ABBOUSHI lives in Houston, Texas. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org