Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Holy Roman Empire?

Robert Pape has an article in the Chicago Tribune that I found just wrong in its focus on suicide bombers when I read it earlier today. I decided to just focus on one paragraph rather than hit the whole thing.

So I was most pleased when I went to Real Clear Politics to get the link and found that Reverend Sensing had taken in on. Check it out. Reverend Sensing concludes of Pape's focus on suicide bombers:

Suicide bombing is not the enemy, it is merely a tactic. The nation’s strategy against Islamist terrorists has never been simply to stop suicide bombing, nor should it be so misdirected in the future.

And as a bonus, Sensing did not address the paragraph that bugged me:

Our best strategy is to return to the policy that the United States had for decades. In the 1970s and 1980s, the U.S. secured its crucial interest in oil without stationing a single combat soldier in the Persian Gulf, instead relying on an alliance with Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the presence of naval air power off the coast and land bases to rapidly deploy troops in a crisis. Offshore balancing worked splendidly against Saddam Hussein in 1990 and is again our best strategy for securing our interest in oil, while preventing the rise of more suicide terrorists coming at us.

What is the good professor talking about? In the 1970s, after the British abandoned their stability role "east of Suez," we relied on arming the Shah of Iran with advanced weapons so he could be our policeman of the region. By the end of the decade that didn't work out so well when Iran was taken over by nutball Islamists--you know, the ones who now pursue nuclear weapons and long-range missiles and support terrorism? Good call, eh?

And our so-called alliance with Iraq consisted of giving just enough support to keep the nutso Iranians under Khomeini at bay in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.

Our ally Saudi Arabia was a weak substitute as our proxy enforcer. We led a Western naval flotilla in 1987-1988 to protect the oil shipping routes during the Tanker War and engaged the Iranians on a number of occasions.

As for our ability to rapidly deploy troops, the Rapid Deployment Force that President Carter set up to do this was, as wags put it, much like the Holy Roman Empire: it wasn't rapid or deployable and it wasn't much of a force. And when Iraq finally defeated Iran in the First Gulf War and turned on Kuwait in 1990, we had to rush forces to the Gulf to save Saudi Arabia and reverse the Kuwait conquest. Offshore balancing did not work at all. Our last minute naval demonstration on the eve of the August 1990 Iraq invasion of Kuwait impressed Saddam not one bit. We had to deploy several corps of ground forces to eject him. Not a very good record of relying on naval and air power to preserve our interests in the face of powerful land threats in the region.

As long as there is no land power in the region capable of smashing our friends, standing offshore is wise. Perhaps when we have set up a free and democratic Iraq and have overthrown the Iranian mad mullahs, we will be able to do this. I hope so. But in the meantime our security requires ground forces in the region to fight for our safety. Withdrawing will not end the threats to us.