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
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Geoffrey McDonald
Obama’s Overtime Tweak: What is the Fair Price of a Missed Life?
Brian Cloughley
Hypocrisy, Obama-Style
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Renee Lovelace
I Dream of Ghana
Colin Todhunter
GMOs: Where Does Science Begin and Lobbying End?
Ben Debney
Modern Newspeak Dictionary, pt. II
Christopher Brauchli
Guns Don’t Kill People, Immigrants Do and Other Congressional Words of Wisdom
S. Mubashir Noor
India’s UNSC Endgame
Ellen Taylor
The Voyage of the Golden Rule
Norman Ball
Ten Questions for Lee Drutman: Author of “The Business of America is Lobbying”
Franklin Lamb
Return to Ma’loula, Syria
Masturah Alatas
Six Critics in Search of an Author
Mark Hand
Cinéma Engagé: Filmmaker Chronicles Texas Fracking Wars
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Patrick Hiller
The Icebreaker and #ShellNo: How Activists Determine the Course
Charles Larson
Tango Bends Its Gender: Carolina De Robertis’s “The Gods of Tango”