Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Real First Gulf War

I forgot but the 25th anniversary of the First Gulf War (aka the Iran-Iraq War. Desert Storm would then be the Second Gulf War; 2003 could be the Third Gulf War) was September 22nd. In 1980, Saddam's forces invaded revolutionary Iran thinking they could end the perceived threat from Iran by humiliating revolutoin-wracked Iran with a short and victorious war.

So what lessons are appropriate for today?

One, wars rarely go according to plan and hoped-for limited wars can spiral out of control. Defeating your enemies and not just teaching them a lesson and hoping they will come to terms should be the objective when you go to war.

Two, fanatics can be stopped if you kill enough of the fanatics. Fervor in the end falls to firepower if firepower is ruthlessly applied until the enemy breaks. In Iran's case, Iraq had to kill Iranians for eight years before the Iranians broke and agreed to end the war.

Three, offensive action is required to cement victory. The Iranian military bled to death at Karbala V at the winter of 1986-1987, but the Iranians hung on until the Iraqi offensives in the spring of 1988 hammered home the fact that Iran's ground forces were broken in spirit. Had Iraq not attacked, the Iranian military would have eventually recovered. Of course, the Iranian government that broke in 1988 was not eliminated and so it recovered and is back in the aggression and terrorism business big time.

Four, half-measures against fanatical states do not work. Fanatical states can't be taught a lesson--they will keep trying to kill you if they are not eliminated.

Five, Iran did not close the Strait of Hormuz because they need oil exports as much as their enemies and need imports to keep functioning. Despite years of provocation by Iraq, Iran was able to restrain the suicidal impulse to threaten the West and invite in Western intervention. By 1987-1988, Iran did lose it and trigger US-led Western intervention but Tehran restrained themselves for years until defeats on the main front could not settle them down.

Six, When Iran sees a threat to the west out of Iraq, they will go hammer and tongs at that threat to try and defeat it. Again and again, Iran launched "final offensives" to break the Iraqi lines.

Seven, Iraq can survive as a unified state even under extreme pressure.

I worry that Iran will strike us in Iraq using conventional, massed forces against Basra and possibly Kuwait. If they do, they may well try to win on the ground while keeping the Strait of Hormuz open for their trade. The Iranians will accept heavy casualties to win this battle. Iraq can endure this hit and not shatter, and we must kill lots of Iranians to hold them off. If the Iranians hit us and we manage to absorb the initial blow, we must go on to destroy the mullah regime. Do not let the Iranians go home intact where they will gear up for another blow.

We must make sure that a Fourth Gulf War is the last one and that we win it.

NOTE: I updated the link to my old paper on 18 JAN 11.