Sunday, April 30, 2006

Iraqi Perspectives Post

The Iraqi Perspectives Project report is fascinating. I highly recommend it. I'm about two-thirds of the way through. I think I will leave this post as a place to add random and not comprehensive commentary on the report. I'll update this and post links to this post as time goes on. This may take weeks or months--or, if I get the flu and sit in front of the computer all day home from work--some five-hour period. [Oh, here's a post based on the report that I forgot about.]

Let me offer one comment here to start. On page 4 we have the comments of Saddam himself reported on his plans for dealing with his Arab brothers in Kuwait after the conquest in August 1990:

Saddam: We will divide the [Iraqi] tribes into groups. Each group will be assigned to liberate a certain area of Kuwait and allowed to take any spoils they find there.

Minister: What kind of spoils?

Saddam: Spoils like buildings and stores. Also the chief of the tribe will take full control of the areas his tribe has liberated-though the chief and tribe must obey my orders without arguing. I ask the security services to kill any rebellious individuals they find, their children as well.

Minister: Your Excellency, what if we find that some of the rebellious ones have little brothers and sisters that may one day avenge them?

Saddam: Kill them all.

Well that's lovely. Yes, we could do business with this man, as Kofi Annan so famously asserted, eh?

The idea that we should have put sanctions on Iraq over Kuwait rather than invade and expel him would have condemned many brothers and sisters to death. Violence as a last resort only makes sense with opponents who are rational as you are. When dealing with thugs like Saddam, saving violence for the "last resort" just gives the thug time to kill them all.

It is also an intersting insight into how Saddam used the tribes of Iraq to subcontract his dirty work. We have been fighting that system for three years now, in Iraq.

UPDATE (03 MAY 06): What with all the talk about how we can just deter thug states (ignoring the morality of leaving them to "just" kill their own people. Hey, I have no problem with that if it is in our national interests, but I thought liberals were supposed to be the caring ones), beginning on Page 12 and going to the next page, we have an interesting observation on the result of Saddam's announcement in October 1994 that he was going to invade Kuwait again. Some of Saddam's minions said great. Others said it was folly. Saddam would go:

Saddam told them that their thinking was faulty since they saw war in terms of numbers of losses, whereas he saw it as a "spiritiual battle." ... In the event, war was averted when the Iraqi build-up was detected and tens of thousands of American soldiers poured into Kuwait.

Interesting, eh? Our overwhelming power did not deter Saddam. Our forces over the horizon on the periphery did not deter Saddam. He thought that if he could just seize his objective, he could still defeat us. It was only when we put forces on the ground in his way that he backed off.

Remember that nutcase dictators are not rational actors as we would calculate. Saddam thought we could be defeated. And if we hadn't reacted quickly and forcefully, we would have had another war only three and a half years after stomping Saddam in 1991.

UPDATE (18 MAY 06): As we debate how to word our demands in the UN to issue to Iran over their nuclear ambitions, it would be useful to see how another thug, Saddam Hussein, reacted to words. From page 14 of the Iraqi Perspectives report, we read of Saddam's reaction to the 1994 issuance of UNSC Resolution 949, which condemned Iraq's massing of troops for another go at Kuwait:

It is really something, four nations, among them two of the greatest nations of the world: Russia and America. I mean, they have nuclear bombs, missiles and so on ... and England and France. They came to me and handed me a memo. They gave me a warning and timing. In case we would not abide by it, we would endanger our existence.

As the report analyzes Saddam's reaction:

Saddam found the world's response contemptible. He was prepared to launch a war and all the world could do was send him a "memo."

Remember, not everyone in the world is terrified of a Bolton finger wagging. Some even look with scorn on such diplomatic niceties when their own preferred method of dealing with problems involves, eventually, killing the problems until the problems stop complaining. Kind of like a "the beatings will continue until morale improves" management philosophy gone horribly bad.

UPDATE (03 JUNE 06): On page 42, the extent of the deception in Iraq is astounding. I was highly skeptical that scientists would lie to Saddam given the price in blood that people faced for even being suspected of disobedience--for themselves and for their families. The report shows that everyone lied at every level in order to prevent bad information from reaching Saddam.

The lying was so widespread that telling the truth was actually far more dangerous because scores of others would claim you were lying to preserve their own lies! (That's my conclusion, BTW, not from the report) Truly, "people lied and so people died." But with all sources within Iraq lying, if we had better human intelligence within Iraq prior to the war, they would have simplly reinforced what our CIA and every other major intel player in the world believed--Saddam had WMD and active WMD programs. Given the raw materials that the UN concluded was missing, more intel and more inspections would not have found the stocks or programs, but they sure would have uncovered a lot more information that the weapons and programs were well hidden.

Another lesson that we should learn is that when you give an enemy time to prepare, the danger is that they might just use it. Our long-telegraphed "rush to war" prior to our March 2003 invasion gave Saddam's regime time.

And as we faced an insurgency based on Baathist-controlled forces that bought time for local Sunnis and imported jihadis to fight a religious-based fight against Majority-Shia rule, we should contemplate what happened inside Iraq in the months before the invasion. Saddam's training camps for terrorist cycled a lot of foreigners through them. Shut down in the summer of 2002 (perhaps in fear of what we had just accomplished in Afghanistan?), they were not abandoned (see paged 54):

But these training camps were humming with frenzied activity in the months immediately prior to the war. As late as January 2003, the volunteers participated in a special training event called the "Heroes Attack." This training event was designed in part to prepare Fedayeen Saddam commands to "obstruct the enemy from achieving his goal and to support keeping peace and stability in the province."

Saddam took advantage of the time we gave him. I thought we should have struck Iraq in the fall of 2002 after the heat of summer was done and after we had time to rebuild stocks of precision weapons used in Afghanistan. Instead, we spent the fall and winter trying to get yet another UNSC resolution.

And the resistance that these Baathist-led and-trained terrorists bought time for foreign jihadis to come in and for local non-Baathist hyped-up Sunnis to join in the fight.

And though these terrorists paved the way for the insurgency and terrorism campaigns we face now, the nature of the fight the Baathists expected is instructive in the above section. They were to obstruct us from achieving our goal and support keeping the peace and stability in the province. It seems that they were intended to harass our troops and once they won, keep the Shias in line. Read the following from the same page of the report:

Less than 30 days prior to the start of the war, the Directorate of General Military Intelligence's Special Mission Unit took charge of the training of a group of Fedayeen Saddam volunteers. They were to form "small kamikaze combat groups, equipped with weapons, and munitions suitable for use behind enemy lines and on the flanks, by causing additional damage in the enemy's armor and helicopters."

Clearly, this plan was not about accepting conquest in come clever move to suck us in to an insurgency as some anti-war people have claimed. Talk of "enemy lines" and "flanks" assumes a conventional war with a front that Saddam's people hold and behind which the Saddam government ruled what our forces did not conquer.

And they expected to win this fight, watch us march out of Iraq with the Russians and French (an maybe Chinese) holding the door for us in the UN where they'd apply pressure to condemn our attmpted liberation. And then the thugs would keep the peace and stability in the south--unlike the chaos that erupted in 1991 the last time we marched out of Iraq.

Which is another lesson in itself: when you strike a king, kill him. Have we learned these lessons of granting an enemy time and seeking only limited victories against enemies who hate us and will not give up as long as they live and rule?

UPDATE (9 JUL 06): On page 57 of the report, I was astounded to read:

Coalition planners considered the Special Republican Guard the elite of the elite; and by logical extension, their commander would surely be the best Saddam could find. This piece of conventional wisdom was wrong.

Well, yeah. This amazes me. I never ever assumed the SRG were elite fighting formations. Indeed going back to 1990 and 1991, it had annoyed me that the Republican Guards were described as elite. They were competent combat units. Nothing more. They evolved from a brigade that was a palace guard at the time Iraq invaded Iran, to the fire brigade of the front line regular units, and then was expanded into two corps in time to provide a mobile striking force since the line infantry units were good for trench warfare only essentially. Using the term elite implied skills and expertise that just weren't there.

As the Republican Guards became the real army within the army, Saddam formed the Special Republican Guard to become what the Republican Guard had been--the palace guards. At the time of the invasion, I had no idea whether the SRG would fight or fold. All I knew was that they were pampered and loyal. But being willing to kill civilians for Saddam did not mean they were ready to fight tough soldiers and Marines bearing down on Baghdad. When a friend asked how the Iraqis would react, I said 90% of the regular army would not fight; half the Republican Guards would fight us; and I had no idea what the SRG would do--they could wet their pants when they heard the first tank approach or die in the bunkers.

In the end, of course, the SRG wet their pants and ran rather than fight our troops.

So when people refer to some foreign force as "elite" don't assume this means good troops. Especially in Third World states, assume they are the pampered body guards of the local president for life. They are perfectly capable of terrorizing the local civilians. And they definitely have the best looking uniforms. But they are not likely to be good troops.

I was definitely shocked that Coalition planners made this basic mistake.