Abstract Musings

Documenting the random thoughts of a cluttered mind

After Iraq, What Next?

Ali at Free Iraqi has an insightful post about the relationship of American involvement in the Middle East to the War on Terror.

Any attack on the American soil will only result in the American people asking for justice and favoring an operation similar to what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is what the American administration wish for but can’t find the necessary support inside and outside America. The reaction of the international community would be not very important at such circumstances, but America is expected to get some good support if it’s attacked again. Now the terrorist are stupid and insane people, but their leaders and most importantly their financier are not that stupid when it comes to risking their power and control over their countries. So if the terrorist decide to act alone they would not only lose the support of these dictatorships but also would risk that those regimes might well, hunt them down in their countries and hand all the info they have about the terrorist to America just to prove their innocence and avoid a very probable serious American strike.

Bin Laden realized that his hands are cuffed now and he has lost the initiative and thus came his reactionary speech just before the elections in trying to retrieve some initiative or to excuse his cowardice for other Muslims who might still support him, saying that he’s not Attacking America because now there are two Americas and one of them is friendly! All he could do and all he can do as long as he’s depending on Arab governments in his finance and logistic support is to keep threatining America but he knows that he can never turn these threats into asctions. This makes Bush’s repeated statements that American troops are in Iraq to fight terrorism so that Americans won’t have to fight it in America very true with only slight error.

He concludes with two options that are available to America: focus on solely on Iraq, or broaden our engagements in the Middle East to force democratic change in the region either from within or by force. He believes the latter option is best for Iraq, because it takes the fight off of Iraqi soil, and best for America’s safety and long-term interests.

While I agree with his conclusion, taking such an aggressive strategy might be beyond America’s means at present. A couple areas come to mind:

  1. Politically: How do we engage our nation to undertake military action against another problem regime in the Middle East, when taking on the most vulnerable nation in the region almost proved to be George Bush’s political undoing?

  2. Militarily: Who do we strike next? And how do we strike them? What means are at our disposal to strike the target?

While George Bush has already won re-election and can proceed with impunity, his fellow Republicans in the House and Senate can not. Politically, the Bush Administration would need a solid case to present to Congress and the nation to establish why the next Middle Eastern target is a threat to American security. I would dare say most Democrats in Congress and their supporters won’t go along with the President should he present a case for war elsewhere in the Middle East without some pretext. Even though many Americans support the cause of expanding democracy in the Middle East – I among them – there are a sizeable number of people equally disposed to Kerry-style isolationism.

Gregory Djerejian weighs in on the President’s war-time leadership, albeit from a more international point of view. But the President’s inability to engage our European allies in the Iraq War was a major criticism of him both here and abroad. Communicating the necessity of any military action against another Middle Eastern despot, and how such action will further the security of all democratic nations should be a fundamental task for the President, if he wishes to expand this theater of the War on Terror beyond Iraq’s borders.

Beyond the political issue, some military issues must be considered. First, who to choose as the target of such a strike? Certainly, the Middle East is a target rich environment with Iran and Syria being the obvious front-runners as a next target. And if Seymour Hersh is to be believed, then Iran has already been chosen. (The Bush Administration and the Pentagon have denied this.)

But beyond simply choosing a target, lies the execution of a military strike against any such target. If Iran is to be that target – which seems likely given the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions – such a choice might also provide some political cover for the President. Action against Iran could be framed as an attempt to end the Iranian nuclear program, or to help in the stabilization of Iraq by ending the Iranian government’s support of terrorists operating in Iraq.

So, with our current troop levels and force deployments, it is possible that we could move into Iran, securing or destroying the Iranian nuclear facilities, while also pacifying any insurgency towards the establishment of a democratic government in Iran as we have done in Iraq? At present I’m not sure that the U.S. military is capable of such a task.