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Re: questions for discussion
by John Till
25 September 2002 17:30 UTC
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Addressing #6: 

Essentially, for a smooth regime change (i.e., overthrow), the U.S. needs the 
Iraqi defenses to crumble quickly, so that they can install the U.S. surrogate 
politicians.  The longer the conflict drags out, the greater the likelihood of 
other unpredictable circumstances, such as a coup in which another general 
takes power for himself, a Tet style suicide bombing campaign or other mass 
uprising in the Occupied Territories, the mobilization of weapons of mass 
destruction (which possibly exist in Iraq, but may take a few days to deploy), 
or mass resistance from the Iraqi civilian population.

It seems, from the retired generals' testimony before Congress, that there is a 
consensus within the military that the overthrow of Saddam can only be 
accomplished by a major commitment of ground troops. The risk of a long-term 
war that I have heard is internal to Iraq: it's that a couple of Iraqi 
divisions could dig-in around Baghdad, requiring Stalingrad-style street 
fighting for the U.S. forces to take the city. It's worth noting that in the 
post-911 interview with Tony Negri (recently distributed on this list) he 
described this in similar terms: as an extremely retrogressive application of 
U.S. military technology/doctrine, a return to the past.  

Street fighting might take weeks rather than days to defeat the Iraqi forces, 
and as one general commented on National Public Radio, this really reduces the 
U.S.'s technological advantage in military superiority: in the air we have 
almost total supremacy and can essentially strike anywhere with near impugnity; 
in house-to-house fighting the tactical level is equal: rather green U.S. 
troops against possibly more seasoned Iraqi troops. And of course, Iraq would 
use its chemical weapons to their advantage: i.e., when they have the greatest 
capacity to concentrate U.S. troops in relatively small areas (such as in or 
just outside Baghdad).

So, while it's entirely possible that the Iraqi regime might collapse quickly 
(and we all know that the post-Vietnam Left constantly overestimates the 
quagmire potential of U.S. armed interventions) the generals at least seem to 
believe that from a purely operational (as opposed to political) perspective, a 
land invasion is likely to be costly and not a quick fix.

John Everett Till 

-----Original Message-----
From: Boris Stremlin [mailto:bstremli@binghamton.edu] 
Sent: Wednesday, September 25, 2002 1:55 AM
Subject: questions for discussion

We have had a very eventful couple of weeks, which have precipitated a
number of issues which should be of some interest to listmembers.  I list
them below in no particular order.

1) Although very slow in coming, there appears to be some Democratic
oppostion to Bush's war plans forming.  It is still highly probable that
the Democrats will support Bush, who will continue to push the war all the
way into the midterm elections in November.  What are the chances that
they will succeed in limiting the scope of the proposed resolution?  Will
it be possible for a Democrat who opposes the war as currently pursued to
lead the Democratic party (I am referring to Al Gore, who became the
champion of this position as of yesterday)?

2) What is the likelihood of US success in getting a favorable vote in the
Security Council?  THe conventional wisdom is that no permanent member
will veto a US-authored resolution.  However, it is possible that the
eventual resolution will be very vague in its wording, which will allow
the US to think that military action is authorized, while everyone else
(except Britain) will think that it is not.

3) Is the UN itself in danger as a global institution.  Kofi Annan says
that Bush's bluster about it becoming irrelevant (unless it conforms to US
wishes) is overstated, but the problem is not just its willingness to
enforce resolutions directed at Iraq.  The increasing US pressure for a
resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, and obvious impotence to
confront Israel's disregard for Security Council resolutions is seriously
eroding UN credibility.

4) Will US failure to rein in Sharon seriously undermine its war plans?
The US did manage to avoid vetoing yesterday's resolution calling for
Israeli withdrawal from Ramallah, but certainly the Arab countries which
pushed for the resolution (it passed 14-0, with the US abstaining) are
putting pressure on the Europeans.

5) Will there be long-term fallout from the tiff between the US and
Germany?  Some commentators suggest that Schroeder has lost credibility
not only with the US, but with other EU contries as well.  On the other
hand, Schroeder's electoral win now makes two in a row for European social
democrats, who prior to their victories in Sweden and Germany had had a
string of losses.  Does Schroeder's break with Bush over Iraq portent an
increasingly confident Germany which will assume a more
outspoken leadership within Europe and bring about the other European
countries (now ruled by conservatives who are more concilliatory toward
Washington), rather than the reverse?

6) Wallerstein has suggested that war against Iraq will be a protracted
one.  I think there may be something to this, but what are the concrete
reasons?  Does it have something to do with Saddam Hussein's defense
plans, which will greatly increase civilian casualties and make the US
more cautious?  Or is it because of the likelihood of the war spilling
over into other countries?

Boris Stremlin

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