Monday, April 28, 2003

The Road From Here-Part I-Us and the Axis of Evil- We’re beginning to see the end of the Iraq war and how politics and geopolitics are going to play out. The last year has had the Iraq war hanging out there; now it’s over, largely on good terms. The casualties were light and the war was short; not as short as some of the Shock and Awe advertising would have led us to believer, but short nonetheless. Saddam is AWOL at the moment, but we find more key Baathist leaders, documents and WMD finds each day. What we’re finding largely confirms what the hawks have been saying; Iraq was hiding a WMD program, including an active nuclear processing program and chemical warfare capabilities. The links to al Qaeda were stronger than I anticipated. The French and Germans were playing more of an anti-US role than their public obstinance let on and the news that a leading British anti-war activist was on the Iraqi payroll makes the hawk’s case even stronger. The transition to a new government has been awkward, but it shouldn’t have been expected to be a cakewalk. The US is taking things methodically, working with local leaders fairly free of Baathist taint to start setting up local governments and trying to avoid the warlordism that marked Afghanistan. We’re going to see a lot of calls for an Islamic state from Shia militants, but that is natural once the Baathist lid is taken off the political system; I’m reminded that some of the Founding Fathers, including Alexander Hamilton, floated the idea of an American monarchy, so the idea of less-than-democratic models being popular shouldn’t be surprising. General Garner seems to be playing things pretty much by the numbers. He’s not going to be a miracle worker, and will have to firmly and tactfully tell the militants where to stick Sharia. However, the American plan seems to be working, albeit with some expected snags; starting things from the bottom up creates some inconsistencies that will have to be ironed out, as in the lack of kids in school when the schools were reopened. The question becomes “Who’s next?” Syria is on a lot of people’s radar; if the US can pinpoint who the Syrians are hosting and what goodies from the Baathist’s Going out of Business Sale the Syrians picked up, then they can firmly ask them to hand them over or risk the US having a Road to Damascus moment that has nothing to do with Saul of Tarsus. I think a few targeted strikes or special operations could take care of things if Syria refuses to cooperate; I’m not envisioning a trip to Damascus and Beirut, for if we’re going after the Syrians, we have to get rid of their hegemonee to the west. I don’t think Iran will be the next to be invaded. I think the pro-reform movement will do the lion-share of the work for us. However, I could envision a nightmare scenario where the conservative mullahs do some anti-US, anti-Israel terror campaign as a way to rally the people around the Islamic Revolution as they’re on the way out. In that case, a preemptive strike against Iran, Syria and Lebanon (for we’d likely need to root out Hezbollah {the spellchecker wants Ebola, almost as bad} in Lebanon as well) would be needed to pull that off, and that would be doggone close to WWIII; if we were ever going to have the mythical Arab Street rise up, that would be the time. What about our friends in North Korea? That’s the toughie. I think we may have to go to war at some point; but the North has had bouts of saber rattling in the past and hasn’t made any major moves. If they make any significant hostile action against the US, as in attacking planes or ships in international waters or make a border incursion into the South, then we’d be within our rights to take out their air force, navy and nuclear facilities, essentially duplicating our Iraq war. The question is whether the Dear Leader wants to pick a fight with the US. If we wind up calling his bluff and not back down from their bluster, then they have two choices: either back away from the bluster or go to war. Would the North Koreans prefer a lower WMD profile an survive a while longer on their own or do the risk war by making provocative actions? If they try the later, the US has shown the ability to take them out. If they try the former, they will lose face but may live to survive a few more years until their dysfunctional economy becomes non-functional. Things are more positive than the nay-sayers seem. People tend to be somewhat rational and all but possibly the Iranian leaders would be better served by avoiding a confrontation with the US. The Iranian mullahs might decide to try for their 72 virgins rather than leave the scene quietly, but the others could be persuaded that messing with the US isn’t a cool career move.

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