The Beginning of Phase 3


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.

October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?
Ben Debney
Guns, Trump and Mental Illness
Pepe Escobar
The NATO-Russia Face Off in Syria
Yoav Litvin
Israeli Occupation for Dummies
Lawrence Davidson
Deep Poverty in America: the On-Going Tradition of Not Caring
Thomas Knapp
War Party’s New Line: Vladimir Putin is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
Brandon Jordan
Sowing the Seeds of War in Uruguay
Binoy Kampmark
Imperilled by Unfree Trade: the TPP on Environment and Labor
John McMurtry
The Canadian Elections: Cover-Up and Steal (Again)
Anthony Papa
Coming Home: an Open Letter to 6,000 Soon-to-be-Released Drug War Prisoners From an Ex-Con
Ramzy Baroud
Listen to Syrians: The Media Jackals and the People’s Narrative
Norman Pollack
Heart of Darkness: A Two-Way Street
Gilbert Mercier
Will Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite Militias Defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq?
John Stanton
Vietnam 2.0 and California Dreamin’ in Ukraine
William John Cox
The Pornography of Hatred
October 07, 2015
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Witness to a Troubled Saint-Making: Junipero Serra and the Theology of Failure
Luciana Bohne
The Double-Speak of American Civilian Humanitarianism
Joyce Nelson
TPP: Big Pharma’s Big Deal
Jonathan Cook
Israel Lights the Touchpaper at Al-Aqsa Again
Joseph Natoli
The Wreckage in Sight We Fail To See
Piero Gleijeses
Cuba’s Jorge Risquet: the Brother I Never Had
Andrew Stewart
Do #BlackLivesMatter to Dunkin’ Donuts?
Rajesh Makwana
#GlobalGoals? The Truth About Poverty and How to Address It
Joan Berezin
Elections 2016: A New Opening or Business as Usual?
Dave Randle
The Man Who Sold Motown to the World
Adam Bartley
“Shameless”: Hillary Clinton, Human Rights and China
Binoy Kampmark
The Killings in Oregon: Business as Usual
Harvey Wasserman
Why Bernie and Hillary Must Address America’s Dying Nuke Reactors
Tom H. Hastings
Unarmed Cops and a Can-do Culture of Nonviolence
October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War