The Beginning of Phase 3

by WILLIAM LIND

An article in the Friday, March 29 Washington Post pointed to the long-expected opening of Phase III of America’s war with Iraq. Phase I was the jousting contest, the formal "war" between America’s and Iraq’s armies that ended with the fall of Baghdad. Phase II was the War of National Liberation waged by the Baath Party and fought guerilla-style. Phase III, which is likely to prove the decisive phase, is true Fourth Generation war, war waged by a wide variety of non-state Iraqi and other Islamic forces for objectives and motives that reach far beyond politics.

The Post article, "Iraq Attacks Blamed on Islamic Extremists," contains the following revealing paragraph:

In the intelligence operations room at the 1st Armored Division’s headquarters (in Baghdad), wall-mounted charts identifying and linking insurgents depict the changing battlefield. Last fall the organizational chart of Baathist fighters and leaders stretched for 10 feet, while charts listing known Islamic radicals took up a few pieces of paper. Now, the chart of Iraqi religious extremists dominates the room, while the poster depicting Baathist activity has shrunk to half of its previous size.

The article goes on to quote a U.S. intelligence officer as adding, "There is no single organization that’s behind all this. It’s far more decentralized than that."

Welcome to Phase III. The remaining Baathists will of course continue their War of National Liberation, and Fourth Generation elements have been active from the outset. But the situation map in the 1st Armored Division’s headquarters reveals the "tipping point:" Fourth Generation war is now the dominant form of war against the Americans in Iraq.

What are the implications of Phase III for America’s attempts to create a stable, democratic Iraq? It is safe to say that they are not favorable. First, it means that the task of recreating a real, functioning Iraqi state–not just a "government" of Quislings living under American protection in the Green Zone–has gotten more difficult. Fourth Generation war represents a quantum move away from the state compared to Phase II, where the Baathists were fighting to recreate a state under their domination. The fractioning process will continue and accelerate, creating more and more resistance groups, each with its own agenda. The defeat of one means nothing in terms of the defeat of others. There is no center to strike at, no hinge that collapses the enemy as a whole, and no way to operationalize the conflict. We are forced into a war of attrition against an enemy who outnumbers us and is far better able to take casualties and still continue the fight.

We will also find that we have no enemy we can talk to and nothing to talk about. Since we–but not our enemies–seek closure, that is a great disadvantage. Ending a war, unless it is a war of pure annihilation, means talking to the enemy and reaching some kind of mutually acceptable settlement. When the enemy is not one but a large and growing number of independent elements, talking is pointless because any agreement only ends the war with a single faction. When the enemy’s motivation is not politics but religion, there is also nothing to talk about, unless it is our conversion to Islam. Putting these two together, the result is war without end–or, realistically, an American withdrawal that will also be an American defeat.

Finally, the way the war is fought will gradually change its character. Fourth Generation forces, like the Baath, will fight a guerilla war. But religious motivation will gradually introduce new elements. We have already seen one: suicide bombers. We will start to see others: women and children taking active roles, riots where the crowds force "coalition" forces to fire on the people and create massacres, treachery by Iraqis who we think are "friends" (we are already seeing that among the Iraqi police), and finally an Iraqi intifada, where everyone just piles on. That could happen as early as this summer, at the rate things seem to be going. If it does, American forces will have little choice but to get out of Iraq as best they can.

Nor is it just in Iraq that American troops are now facing Fourth Generation war. They have their hands full of it in Afghanistan, in Pakistan (by proxy), in Haiti, and in Kosovo. So long as America continues on the strategic offensive, intervening all over the world, the list will grow. In each case, the root problem will be the same: the disintegration of the local state. And in each case, the attempt to recreate a state by sending in American armed forces will fail.

As Clausewitz said, "But it is asking too much when a state’s integrity must be maintained entirely by others."

William S. Lind is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman
Peter Lee
Making Sense of China’s Stock Market Meltdown
Paul Craig Roberts
Wall Street and the Matrix: Where is Neo When We Need Him?
Kerry Emanuel
The Real Lesson of Katrina: the Worst is Yet to Come
Dave Lindorff
Why Wall Street Reporting is a Joke
Pepe Escobar
Brave (Miserable) New Normal World
Ramzy Baroud
‘Islamic State’ Pretence and the Upcoming Wars in Libya
Paul Edwards
Capitalism Delenda Est
Norman Pollack
The Political Culture of Rape in America: Further Thoughts on the St. Paul’s School Case
Stephen Lendman
The Monied Interests That Run America
Pedro Aibéo
Democratizing Finance (With Bitcoin?)
Alfredo Acedo
Climate Change and Capitalism: Challenges of the COP21 Paris and Climate Movements
August 26, 2015
Paul Street
Overworked and Out of Time: a Democracy Issue
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Behind the Market Crash: the Smoke and Mirrors of Corporate Buybacks
David Mihalyfy
Reform Higher Ed? Treat Badmin Like Bankers
Ruth Hopkins
Police Shootings in Indian Country: Justice or Else!
Gary Leupp
ISIL Advances While Its Foes Cannot Unite
Fred Gardner
The Psychiatrist’s Bible: Defining ‘Marijuana Use Disorder’
Yorgos Mitralias
The Catastrophic International Consequences of the Capitulation of Syriza and the Criminal Responsibility of Mr. Tsipras
Walter Brasch
Katrina: a 10-Year Review
Jim Connolly
Seven Questions and Seven Answers: a Sandernista Makes Reasonable Predictions About the 2016 Contest for the Democratic Presidential Nomination
Pedro Aibéo
Selling Austerity to Finland
Franklin Lamb
Heritage Destruction in Syria is a War Crime
Binoy Kampmark
Tourism’s Disaster Temptation: the Case of Nepal
Jeffrey D. Pugh
Trial by Fire for Ecuador’s President Correa
Vacy Vlanza
A Palestinian Novel Par Excellence
Alvaro Huerta
Confessions of an ‘Anchor Baby’: Open Letter to President Donald Trump
August 25, 2015
Gary Leupp
Why Donald Trump is So Scary
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Thug at the UN
Steve Early
How “Brother” Bernie is Making Labor’s Day
Carl Finamore
An Affordable Housing Victory: High-End San Francisco Development Implodes
Henry Giroux – Chuck Mertz
The Spectacle of American Violence and the Cure for Donald Trump
Robert Eisinger
Trivializing Anti-Semitism
Brian Platt
It is Time We Discussed Abolishing the Police
Alexander Reid Ross
Trump the Fascist
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Mohammed Allan at the Door of the Israeli Supreme Court
Ted Rall
The United States of Stupidity
Heather Gray
A Message to American Mothers About Sex in the Military
Jo Leinen – Andreas Bummel
How to Democratize the UN
Lawrence Davidson
The Iran Agreement and Israel’s Claim to Speak for the Jews
Mark Hand
A Well Pad Next to Every 3-Car Garage: Suburban Sprawl Collides with Texas Frack Jobs
John Laforge
U.S. Bows Out After Plowshares Conviction is Vacated: Appeals Court Ill-Informed on Nuclear Overkill
Norman Pollack
Gender Freedom and Sexual Liberation: The St. Paul’s School Case
Kathy Kelly
Let It Shine