Van Creveld on the Iraq War: The Other Side of Connectivity

(Via John Robb) Martin Van Creveld, military strategist who foresaw the raise of non-western warfare (e.g. War on Terrorism) to the shrinking of the tradition role of states, has written in Forward Newspaper (Major Jewish-American publication) an gives his pessimistic analysis on the War on Iraq:

[A] divided, chaotic, government-less Iraq is very likely to become a hornets’ nest. From it, a hundred mini-Zarqawis will spread all over the Middle East, conducting acts of sabotage and seeking to overthrow governments in Allah’s name.

While coming from one of the brightest minds in military thinking, Van Creveld’s opinion is neither unique nor shocking. But what struck me was how John Robb headlined that particular excerpt above: “Iraq in turn destabilizes the region as global guerrillas spread out.”

In the words of Thomas Barnett: Its about Connectivity, Stupid!

As mentioned in a paper I wrote, the principal argument I had made on supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom was that “U.S. intervention aiding in the creation of a liberal democratic Iraq is key in bringing not only liberalism to the region, but in essence exporting a new regime of strategic security to the Middle East.” In short, a liberal Iraq would reach out and bring economic connectivity to the stagnate Middle East region and with it a new security regime.

On the opposite end…One of the more saner arguments against the war, as Van Crevald said, was that the intervention would ultimately fail, launching hundreds of mini-Zarqawis and min-Bin Ladens all over the Middle East.

But in essence, these two arguments are the one and the same and I agree with both:
1. A free, liberal and democratic Iraq can act as a hub to further economic (and maybe even political) connectivity in the region stimulating economic growth and with it regional stability.
2. A divided, failed Iraqi state can act as a hub (a “bazaar of violence” in John Robb’s term) that will reach out to export instability to neighbouring countries while also attracting many to join Al-Qaida-related groups in Iraq.

Its about all connectivity, but different sides of the same coin. Thus, as made time and time again by many – the question is not if we will withdraw from Iraq, but as the Economist puts it “Not whether, but how, to withdraw“.

The War in Iraq is about connectivity. Originally, it was under the idealistic impression that the only connectivity possible was the championing of liberalism in the Middle East, but in the current sobering reality – we know that connectivity cuts both ways.

What connectivity will the New Iraq ultimately bring to the Middle East?

One thing for sure is, if we withdraw unilaterally now, we’ll surrender the chance for liberal connectivity.



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One response to “Van Creveld on the Iraq War: The Other Side of Connectivity”

  1. DE Teodoru

    From the day of his inauguration, I strongly supported
    President Bush’s leapfrog of West Europe to rebuild
    NATO around East Europe and then link it to the
    preexisting Western NATO. I also strongly supported
    his surround China strategy as you bring it into the
    world market. My first questioning of Bush
    Administration policies came after 9/11 when, to my
    despair, it decided to kill the alQaeda snake by
    stomping on its middle, allowing the head to bite us
    again. It was not able to bite us again because its
    leaders would not allow its operatives to do anything
    less than had its 9/11 shahids– something they were
    not able to do. So alQaeda did strike instead our
    European allies several times.

    Late in 2001 I thought that with numerous powers out
    to outmaneuver America– particularly China– we
    should have kept in mind what constitutes deterrence,
    a concept that kept us safe through the first half of
    the nuclear age. What that is can be appreciated by
    looking at Medieval Japan. Then, the samurai kept
    others in line, not with the sword, but through the
    aura of their standing. This was derived from a
    triplet of dignity, authority and power. Should a
    samurai have cause to draw his sword on a commoner, he
    would have to commit Hari-kari because he had
    disgraced himself by losing his dignity and authority,
    having to resort to his power.

    At the end of the Cold War America was exhausted. This
    exhaustion began with the end of the Vietnam War.
    America no longer wanted to invest in its power. But
    it also no longer wanted to invest in its intelligence
    services. Seeing the CIA as an operational agency
    rather than an eye on the rest of the world, many
    sought to disband it after the demise of the USSR. It
    was not realized that, despite the CIA myth
    popularized by mass media culture, America’s dignity
    and authority were augmented by its ability to know
    and understand what’s going in all over the world,
    despite bungled CIA operations (ops) in a number of
    places. Our Vietnam failure was blamed on poor CIA
    intelligence (Intel) rather than Presidential
    strategy. Assuming the CIA ops to be the beginning of
    American entanglements in wars abroad, many urged
    disbanding the Agency.

    While America saw little to be gained from Intel,
    alQaeda did not. When its operatives saw that, despite
    our resolution to make the pilot’s cabin impenetrable
    because of many skyjackings in the 1970s, we didn’t
    they planned and executed 9/11. When the Jihadists
    forced us out of our isolationism, we focused on our
    military, sending troops on special ops Intel blind

    To my dismay, I saw President Bush responding to 9/11
    “from the gut,” instead of recognizing that it could
    only happen because of our irresponsible unwillingness
    to accept the cost of protecting our airliners.
    Instead of then focusing on our Intel services to
    better understand the enemy, he responded with hubris
    and bravado, making a childish Cowboys-and-Indians
    game out of getting binLaden “dead or alive.” We thus
    sent in our forces Intel blind. Thus exhibiting our
    power, we sacrifices our dignity and authority, losing
    our allies and needlessly bogging ourselves down in
    the one secular Middle Eastern nation that in no way
    participated in the Jihad, Iraq. Seeking to become
    known as the “war president” with an eye to
    re-election, Mr. Bush exposed the upper limit of our
    military capacity for all others to see. This samurai
    not only depleted his dignity and authority in his
    show of force but also exposed the upper limits of
    that force. I consider it nothing short of criminal
    negligence to allow our weakness, both in Intel and
    ops, to be so exposed sending in our troops Intel

    I had hoped that the Bush doctrine would have
    established that there is no such thing as a stateless
    Jihadist war of terror. The Jihadists would not have
    been able to carry out their operations without the
    active or passive support of a number of states. It
    was incumbent on Mr. Bush to recognize that 9/11 was
    our own fault, but then to declare that, should the US
    again come under assault, our forces would totally
    retaliate against those states that made it possible.
    Now binLaden is still at large sending threatening
    audiotapes and now we fear an alQaeda nuclear strike.

    Thus began my opposition to Mr. Bush’s re-election;
    and, it intensified when he failed to exhibit the
    Kennedyesque vision and courage to declare that
    America would marshal all its technical expertise to
    make itself independent on Middle East oil within a

    Now, Mr. Bush sits helpless watching Iran develop
    nuclear armaments. Because of our obvious exhaustion
    in Iraq he cannot mount a credible threat that would
    stop Iran. It has seen the upper limit of our “new”
    military. Consequently, we are now where we started.
    All President Bush can do is accept Iran’s
    nuclearization and warn that, should America undergo
    nuclear attack, we know where it would come from and
    we will respond with all our thermonuclear capacity.
    Mr. Bush has bungled his way full circle. I can only
    hope that this time he gets it right as we pull out of
    Iraq and return to reliance on our deterrent capacity.

    The lesson may be that, in showing the courage to
    accept Iran’s nuclearization as defensive, he regains
    the dignity and authority America lost to date. The
    implicit power with which he gets the Iranians to go
    after alQaeda would quickly be self-evident. In the
    meantime, the American people must realize that good
    intelligence is a game of patience, not action. Every
    Predator missile at best destroys the pathology we
    seek to understand, making impossible for us to know
    the next threat on the horizon.

    The Bush Administration should also return its focus
    on Eastern Europe, as Secretary of State Rice would
    have it do. It belies America’s weakened position to
    allow Putin and the Russian remnant of the USSR to
    tweak America’s nose intimidating our East European
    NATO allies and its South Asian neighbors.

    Daniel E. Teodoru

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