The War After Iraq - Is it better for a prince to be loved or feared?

Ralph Johansen michele at
Thu Dec 26 14:09:04 MST 2002

Fwd by Gerry Cavanaugh:

>>                                STRATFOR
>>The War After Iraq
>>For the United States, fighting and winning a war against Iraq
>>has become a strategic imperative. Although it is true that this
>>war could engender greater support for al Qaeda among the Islamic
>>masses, the consequences of not attacking Baghdad -- from
>>Washington's perspective -- could be worse. But even more
>>important, a victory and U.S. occupation of a conquered Iraq
>>would reshape the political dynamic in the Middle East. The
>>United States would be in a position to manipulate the region on
>>an unprecedented scale.
>>The current struggle over the soul of the weapons inspection
>>process in Iraq must not divert attention from the primary
>>strategic reality: The world's only superpower has decided that
>>the defeat and displacement of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's
>>regime is in its fundamental national interest. That superpower
>>prefers that its allies and the United Nations concur with its
>>position, but this preference should not be mistaken for a
>>Washington is prepared to wait a reasonable length of time to
>>procure that support -- particularly since its own military
>>strategy dictates that operations should not begin until January.
>>Nevertheless, regardless of the stance the U.N. and U.S. allies
>>have adopted, there is little doubt that the United States will
>>press forward and, in all likelihood, will defeat and occupy
>>There are some negative reasons for this. It is no longer
>>politically possible for the Bush administration to abandon its
>>quest. By this, we do not mean "politically" in a domestic sense,
>>although that is a consideration. Of far greater importance are
>>the political consequences the United States would incur in the
>>Islamic world if it did not carry out its threats against Iraq.
>>Many have pointed to the potential consequences of waging a war -
>>- namely exciting greater support for al Qaeda among the Islamic
>>masses -- but public debate has neglected to consider the
>>consequences of inaction.
>>Al Qaeda persistently has argued that the United States is
>>fundamentally weak. From Beirut in the 1980s to Desert Storm,
>>Somalia and now the Afghan war, the United States, the argument
>>goes, has failed to act decisively and conclusively. Unwilling to
>>take casualties, Washington either has withdrawn under pressure
>>or has refused to take decisive but costly steps to impose its
>>will. Al Qaeda has argued repeatedly that the United States
>>should not be feared because, at root, it lacks the will to
>>Should the United States -- having made Iraq the centerpiece of
>>its war-making policy since last spring -- decline engagement
>>this time, it would be another confirmation that, ultimately, the
>>United States lacks the stomach for war and that increasing the
>>pressure on Washington is a low-risk enterprise with high
>>potential returns. In other words, at this point, the political
>>consequences of failing to act against Iraq might reduce hatred
>>of the United States somewhat but will increase contempt for it
>>Machiavelli raised the core question: Is it better for a prince
>>to be loved or feared? He answered the question simply -- love is
>>a voluntary emotion; it comes and it goes, but it is very
>>difficult to impose. Moreover, it is an emotion with
>>unpredictable consequences. Fear, on the other hand, is
>>involuntary. It can be imposed from the outside, and the behavior
>>of frightened people is far more predictable. This is the classic
>>political problem the United States faces today. Washington
>>cannot possibly guarantee the love of the Islamic world.
>>Therefore, it cannot guarantee that if it does not attack Iraq,
>>Islamic hatred for the country will subside. But it is certain
>>that if it does not attack, fear of the United States will
>>decline. According to this logic, the United States cannot
>>decline war at this point.
>>War is the issue; voluntary regime change is not. It is not only
>>important that Hussein's government fall, it is equally important
>>that the United States be seen as the instrument of its
>>destruction and the U.S. military the means of his defeat. Given
>>the logic of its strategy, the United States must defeat the
>>Iraqi army overwhelmingly and be seen as imposing its will. It
>>must establish its military credibility decisively and
>>The reasons go beyond transforming the psychology of the Islamic
>>world. The United States has direct military reasons for needing
>>to defeat Iraq in war. From Washington's viewpoint, any outcome
>>must allow the United States to occupy Iraq with its own military
>>forces. This is not because it needs to govern Iraq directly,
>>although demonstrating control over a defiant Islamic country
>>would support its interests. Nor is oil the primary issue,
>>although this would give the United States some serious
>>bargaining power with allies. The primary reason is geography.
>>If we look at a map, Iraq is the most strategic country between
>>the Levant and the Persian Gulf. It shares borders with Jordan,
>>Syria, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait and, most of all, Saudi Arabia. If
>>the United States were to occupy Iraq, it would be there by right
>>of conquest. Unlike any other country in the region, the United
>>States would not have to negotiate with an occupied Iraq. It
>>would have ample room for deploying air power in the heart of the
>>region. More important, it would be able to deploy a substantial
>>ground force capable of bringing pressure to bear within a 360-
>>degree radius. Within a matter of months, the United States would
>>become the most powerful military force native to the region.
>>Consider some of the consequences. For example, the Saudi royal
>>family currently is caught between two fears: the fear of al
>>Qaeda sympathizers inside and outside the family and fear of the
>>United States. On the whole, officials in Riyadh fear al Qaeda
>>sympathizers somewhat more than they fear the United States. They
>>will attempt to placate the United States, but they are not
>>prepared to make the kind of fundamental, internal changes needed
>>to act meaningfully against al Qaeda sympathizers.
>>With several U.S. armored divisions on the nation's borders,
>>however, the Saudi calculus must change. When Iraq deployed
>>forces against Saudi Arabia, Riyadh relied upon the United States
>>to protect its interests. If U.S. forces deploy on its borders,
>>who will come to Saudi Arabia's aid then? Riyadh's assumption
>>always has been (1) that the United States, concerned about Iraq
>>and Iran, could not turn on Saudi Arabia and (2) that the United
>>States lacked the military means to turn on it. All of that is
>>true -- unless the United States has occupied Iraq, has control
>>of the Iranian frontier and perceives Saudi Arabia as a direct
>>threat because it has failed to control al Qaeda. The Saudi fear
>>factor then would change dramatically and so, one suspects, would
>>its actions.
>>Similarly, the threat to Iran from U.S. ground and air forces
>>also has been extremely limited. Iran's western frontier has been
>>secure since Desert Storm, and the country has been relatively
>>insulated from U.S. power. Domestic affairs have developed in
>>relative security from the United States or any external threat.
>>If the United States occupies Iraq, the Iranian reality will be
>>fundamentally changed. This does not mean that Iran will become
>>pro-American -- quite the contrary, it might retreat into
>>rigidity. But it will not stay the same.
>>Following a war in Iraq, the United States would become the
>>defining power in the Middle East and Persian Gulf. It is
>>difficult to imagine any coalition of regional nation-states that
>>could emerge either to oust or control the United States. Even in
>>the event that a tide of anti-Americanism ripped the region
>>apart, the objective strategic equation would not permit a
>>coalition of regional forces to mount a substantial challenge to
>>the United States. To the contrary, Washington would be in a
>>position to manipulate the region on an unprecedented scale. It
>>also would be able to mount operations against al Qaeda
>>throughout the region much more effectively than it can today
>>and, we should add, without requesting permission.
>>The downside of this strategy is obvious and much-discussed.
>>Hatred and resentment of the United States will run deep, and
>>this undoubtedly will generate more recruits for al Qaeda, at
>>least in the short run. Certainly, al Qaeda will continue its
>>strategy of striking at U.S. targets where and when it can. If
>>the United States attacks Iraq against European wishes, the
>>Europeans potentially might withdraw intelligence collaboration,
>>thus increasing U.S. vulnerability. These are not trivial
>>concerns, and Washington takes them seriously.
>>But ultimately, Washington appears to believe that the upside of
>>an occupied Iraq trumps the downside.
>>1. It is true that al Qaeda recruitment might rise, but al Qaeda
>>does not have a problem with recruitment now. Not only do its
>>core operations not require large numbers of operatives, but in
>>fact, they cannot use large numbers because they depend upon
>>stealth and security, both of which make large-scale recruitment
>>impossible. It will be difficult to turn intensified hatred into
>>intensified, effective operations. Random attacks in region
>>doubtless will increase, but this will be a tolerable price to
>>pay. Ultimately, al Qaeda already operates at its structural
>>capacity and cannot capitalize on increased sympathy for its
>>2. Any government in the region will have to reassess the
>>fundamental threat it faces. With a U.S. presence in Iraq, Saudi
>>leaders, for example, will recalculate their interests. A pro-al
>>Qaeda government would become the target of a very real U.S.
>>regional power. A neutral government would come under tremendous
>>U.S. pressure, including the threat of attack. Governments -- and
>>not only that in Saudi Arabia -- would find it in their interest
>>to suppress the growth of al Qaeda sympathies, in collaboration
>>with the United States.
>>3. European states will not abrogate relations with the United
>>States no matter what it does in Iraq. Ultimately, al Qaeda and
>>militant Islam are as much a threat to Europe as to the United
>>States. Ending intelligence cooperation with the United States
>>would hurt Europe at least as much as Washington. Moreover,
>>Europe is vulnerable to the United States in a range of economic
>>areas. A successful operation in Iraq, once concluded, would
>>create a new reality not only in the region but globally. The
>>Europeans might accelerate development of an integrated defense
>>policy -- but then again, even this might not happen.
>>The U.S. view, therefore, apparently is that a post-war world in
>>which U.S. forces operating out of Iraq establish a regional
>>sphere of influence -- based on direct military power -- is the
>>foundation for waging a regional war that will defeat al Qaeda.
>>The United States does not expect to obliterate either al Qaeda
>>or related groups, but it does expect to be able to further
>>contain the network's operations by undermining the foundations
>>of its support and basing in the region. Washington also would be
>>able to control the regional balance of power directly, rather
>>than through proxies as it currently must. In effect, the era in
>>which Washington must negotiate with a state like Qatar in order
>>to carry out essential operations will end.
>>What is most interesting here is that, ultimately, it doesn't
>>matter whether the Bush administration has clearly thought
>>through these consequences. The fact is that no matter
>>Washington's intent, the conquest of Iraq will have this outcome.
>>History frequently is made by people with a clear vision, but
>>sometimes it is the result of unintended consequences. In the
>>end, history takes you to the same place. However, in our view,
>>the Bush administration is quite clear in its own mind about how
>>the region will look after a U.S.-Iraq war. We suspect that the
>>risks are calculated as well.
>>1. The United States might get bogged down in a war in Iraq if
>>enemy forces prove more capable than expected and -- facing high
>>casualties in Baghdad -- Washington might be forced to accept an
>>armistice that would leave it in a far worse position
>>psychologically and geopolitically than before.
>>2. The consequences of U.S. occupation might be the opposite of
>>what is expected. A broad anti-U.S. coalition could form in the
>>region, and al Qaeda might use the changed atmosphere to increase
>>its regional influence and to intensify anti-U.S. operations.
>>3. European leaders actually might shift from making speeches to
>>supplying direct military support for Saudi Arabia and other
>>states in the region against the United States.
>>4. Prior to an attack, U.S. public opinion might shift massively
>>against a war, making it impossible for the United States to act.
>>Once again, the superpower would appear to be all talk, no
>>Officials in Washington believe none of these things will happen.
>>This view ultimately will prove either correct or incorrect. But
>>in understanding what is transpiring with Iraq, this must be
>>understood as the core U.S. perception. It is what drives the
>>United States forward. From Washington's point of view, this is
>>the clearest path to taking the initiative away from al Qaeda and
>>reshaping regional power in such a way as to deny it effective
>>sanctuary -- even though this strategy undoubtedly will spawn
>>further hatred of the United States.
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