RateWatch #429 Iraq

October 16, 2004 by Dick Lepre

What's Happening

There was a large amount of economic data on Friday and the results are decidedly mixed.  PPI is +0.1% overall and +0.3% core.  There has been a tendency for PPI gains to not seep into CPI in subsequent months but common sense dictates that this cannot go on forever. U Michigan Consumer Confidence (predisposition to spend) is down.  This flies against Retail Sales which were +1.5% (-0.2% previous, +0.7% consensus).  Industrial Production was +0.1% (prior -0.1%, consensus +0.3%), Capacity Utilization was 77.2%.

I want to repeat something that I mentioned last Friday because it is important.  In the last Presidential debate Bush was asked about jobs and his answer had, mainly, to do with education.  Kerry retorted something to the effect, "See, you asked him about jobs and he turned the topic to education."

From last Friday's BLS Employment Situation Report
(see: stats.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t04.htm)

- people with less than a high school education have an unemployment rate of 8.8%
- high school graduates with no college have an unemployment rate of 4.8%
- people with some college have an unemployment rate of 4.0%
- people with a bachelor's degree or higher have an unemployment rate of 2.6%.

The jobs market in the U.S. has changed.  Now, more than ever, education is required for the jobs which are here.


In the context of a Presidential election, discussions about Iraq have been politically polarized.  The problem is that, collectively, the media has not served well to put what has happened into a proper military context.

The true conflict part of this operation is over (and has been for a long while) and what we are now in is a political struggle in Iraq.

I would like to try to explain here what the basis, in military thinking, is what the methodologies of the present war in Iraq are, what is right with it and what is wrong with it.

At the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom we heard the expression "shock and awe". That was from the title of a book published in 1996 "Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance." If you want to understand the "shock and awe" concept think of the scene in "Crocodile Dundee" when Paul Hogan is threatened by the gentleman with the switchblade.  Hogan says, "That's not a knife", draws out an enormous Bowie knife, looks at it and says "THAT's a knife." He slashes the would-be mugger's jacket.  What happened in that scene is the very concept of shock and awe.  Shock, because the mugger was not expecting to have Hogan pull out such and enormous knife and awe because he knew that since his weapon was no match for Hogan's, the battle was over.

After the end of the Cold War and the end of Desert Storm, decisions were made at the highest
levels to reduce total U.S. military force size. The concept was that we could fight battles with
much smaller forces because we had such extraordinary weapon systems.

In addition to the smart bombs we had very fast armored vehicles and new logistics.  Web-based
methodologies that Amazon.com used to get books from the printer to you were used to get parts
and supplies to troops.

The equipment and logistics added an element of speed to our forces.  "Speed" means not merely
moving quickly but being able to change direction quickly. This concept had previously been exploited by General George Patton in the tank battles of World War II.  Thus the military adage, "Speed kills - the enemy."

The concept of rapid dominance achieved through shock and awe is that if you attack the enemy
and quickly remove his ability to access his infrastructure and military responses he will wind up like the gentleman in "Crocodile Dundee" - if he is lucky.

In the present Iraqi conflict we attacked with a much smaller force that in Desert Storm. The Iraqi army was much smaller but the task much larger.

Without rehashing the details, the conflict part of the plan worked with spectacular success.  Initial media dissing of the plan proved unfounded.  It should be noted that not just the media but even experienced people like Colin Powell were dubious that the conflict part of the battle could be won with the force suggested by CENTCOM.

The strategy underestimated the size of the force that was necessary to keep the peace once
the initial military operation was concluded. We have learned that post-conflict ground
security forces need to be larger than the ground force for combat operations. The changes that were made by the Defense Department in its last quadrennial review need to be revised.

One of the outcomes that was delineated by Tommy Franks in his presentation of pre-war
planning was what he called "catastrophic success".  By that he meant a situation where the enemy was so overwhelmingly defeated that infrastructure and the very vestiges of government were destroyed and, in the worst case, civil war broke out among the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis; in
the best case, local governance is so depleted that the normalizing forces of society do not function.  The rapid disintegration of the enemy force and government creates a vacuum into which chaos flows. In the present case terrorist events happen with regularity.  President Bush has used this expression (catastrophic success) in a Time magazine interview and rated it as his greatest mistake in office.

The point is that the military has learned quickly from this error. Future planning will account for larger post-conflict forces. There was also intelligence failure here. We did not understand Iraq adequately enough to predict the behaviors of their military and political forces.

The present situation is really in the hands of the Iraqis themselves.  If they want to retake control of their destiny, a combination of the stabilizing forces of their religious leaders and the constabulary forces of the U.S. will provide them the opportunity, even in the context of insurgency.  The present struggle is much more political than military.  Car bombings and beheadings are political statements designed to use the media to erode the will of the U.S. and its allies. The media become a tool of the insurgents.

A difficult topic for discussion is the role of other coalition nations.  The Rapid Dominance doctrine cannot be applied uniformly to forces that do not have the equipment and logistics to move as quickly as the present U.S. Army.  There is a role for such forces but it is not as a spearhead.

Perhaps an ideal would be conflict forces provided by the U.S., Great Britain, and Australia with
U.N. peace-keepers deployed closely behind the forces of Rapid Dominance.  I would rate
this as the ultimate version of the "good cop, bad cop" game.

The present Iraqi conflict seems to have been poisoned from the onset by the fact that other
nations - three of which are permanent Security Council members - were involved with the
Baathist government in a scheme of accepting bribes (Oil for Food).  The fact that the
United Nations may have been at the heart of expediting, for personal profit, the gaming of
their own sanctions is a topic for investigation by forces that currently do not exist. Until the United Federation of Planets comes along, oversight of the U.N. will prove difficult or impossible.  The problems of the U.N. may not merely be the responsibility of Kofi Annan but are more likely systemic. The U.N. has become a bureaucratic nightmare where individuals care more for their personal power and accretion of wealth than they do about uniting nations.

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