2004 July 26 Monday
Will US Military Operations In Iraq Rise After Election?

Jim Hoagland argues that the Bush Administration has dialed back US military operations in Iraq until after the election is over.

If recent events are a guide, Iraq's civilians will bear the brunt of the low-intensity war that rages in their country while U.S. troops avoid seeking pitched battles over the next three months.

Three developments that came in quick order in April raise that possibility and may have changed the course of the war in Iraq, at least until Election Day: U.S. troops were ordered to storm Sunni and Shiite rebel strongholds to halt the spreading insurgency. U.S. military deaths climbed significantly, reaching 134 that month. And U.S. public support for the war as expressed in opinion polls began to drop sharply as battles in Fallujah, Karbala and Najaf dominated news coverage.

Hoagland points out that part of the reduction in US offensive operations is due to the Allawi government's veto power over US operations. But the Bush Administration had already decided to pull back from wiping out the insurgents in Fallujah well before Allawi's government gained sovereignty.

Anyone want to bet whether the US casualty rate will be higher in December, January, and February than in August, September, and October? The answer depends in part on whether the Iraqi government can develop better means for fighting the insurgency on its own. Currently the Iraqis are suffering a much higher casualty rate than the American forces. Will a new Bush or Kerry Administration face demands from the Iraqi government for higher rates of US offensive operations against insurgent strongholds? Will the lower rate current rate of US military operations allow the insurgents to build up strength in the mean time? Or will the Iraqi government, with its greater knowledge of the players and a greater willingness to be cutthroat, bribe and assassinate the insurgent leaders into giving up the fight?

In a separate article Hoagland also argues that alliances are shifting as a result of different nations fighting together in Iraq.

Durable alliances are held together not by ink on treaties but by the blood that soldiers from different nations shed for a common cause. The sacrifices and hardships that soldiers (and today many civilians) endure together provide anchors for relationships that are inevitably buffeted by the passing diplomatic and political tempests of the day.

World War II did that for the United States and Britain, which have again solidified their "special relationship" in Iraq. The Cold War did the same in different ways for NATO. New anchors will be formed in Iraq as well, even if many governments joined the coalition out of calculation as much as conviction -- that is, even though they may have sent forces to strengthen their political and economic ties with Washington rather than out of a great zeal to be in Iraq.

But how long-lasting will these alliances turn out to be? The Cold War alliance was long-lasting out of necessity. The alliance of forces in Iraq will likely not last very long. We have to look at the various state actors and ask how these alliances will play out.

South Korea's troop contribution to Iraq is probably going to help South Korea keep the US committed to defending South Korea even as South Korea follows a policy of appeasement toward North Korea. Japan also gains renewed US committment toward helping Japan stay out of China's orbit of influence. Though if China continues on its path of long term economic rise then at best Japan will have helped to buy a delaying action.

With the European participants in Iraq the long term effects are even more doubtful. European allies in Iraq such as Italy and Poland could easily decide to pull troops out as a result of an election just as Spain has done. Berlusconi in Italy is already on weak political ground and Tony Blair's positioned is weakened in part due to British involvement in the Iraq invasion. Also, unless the new European Union constitution fails to be ratified the expansion of the EU is gradually going to take away member-state freedom to pursue separate security. In the future the majority of EU states will probably oppose involvements such as in Iraq.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 July 26 11:14 AM  Mideast Iraq


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