Thursday, August 21, 2003

The War in Iraq has only just begun

The truck bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Iraq this week underscored a fact that has been becoming increasingly clear:

The war in Iraq, as both Saddam Hussein and the White House have said, is not over. Indeed, the prospect of a long, drawn-out and bloody conflict costing hundreds if not thousands of American, Iraqi and peacekeepers' lives looms darker on the horizon every day.

World In Conflict had an incisive post on this last week:
Thinking about the Iraqi resistance

We now have sufficient information start drawing some conclusions about the Iraqi resistance to U.S. occupation. It's a mess. It's been a mess ever since the Iraqi National Congress became a front for U.S. policy interests. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. The sad thing is the facts were all out in plain sight -- but U.S. intelligence and military establishments were too busy playing up to domestic political interests to do their job in an honest and workmanlike manner. Shrewd.

Paul de Armond, aka Warbaby, goes on to explore the chronology of the resistance so far. What his analysis reveals is that the Iraqi resistance may well not be the amorphous, uncoordinated product of remaining pockets of Ba'athists -- but rather, it may be only the beginning of protracted guerrilla conflict being coordinated by Saddam himself. This casts Saddam's videotaped warning of July [see link above] in entirely different, and decidedly ominous, light.

One of the key points to remember is the ease with which American forces took Baghdad and conquered the fleeing remnants of Saddam's army -- even at the time, many in the military thought this was "surprising." What has become self-evident since then is that it will be impossible to guard both the power lines and the pipelines that are essential to getting Iraq back up and running.

The picture of conflict that is beginning to emerge now suggests that this may have been Hussein's strategy all along: Draw the invaders in and let them believe they have conquered easily. Spread out and hide your forces. Then begin a steady trickle of guerrilla warfare. Attack the infrastructure, which will force the invaders to spread out their forces and thin them. When they become vulnerable, distracted and complacent, strike back and drive them out.

This is not a fantasy scenario: It has occurred before in the Arab world:
The Retreat from Kabul

Almost 17,000 people left the cantonment that dark day. About 700 were Europeans, both soldiers and civilians, another 3,800 were Indian soldiers and more than 12,000 camp followers.

Exactly one man survived.

Oh, and has anyone noticed that things aren't exactly going so well in Afhanistan, either?

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