Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The wrong template - DESERT STORM & FOX

I crumpled up Charles D. Ferguson's article "Lessons of Desert FOX" last week and threw it away. I figured that I really didn't want to plow a field others already covered, but I kept running into examples of people just plain getting it wrong.

First DESERT STORM. VodkaPundit puts it quite well:
Quite unintentionally, the way we "ended" the Gulf War demonstrated to the world that the status quo in the Middle East, no matter how illiberal, was just dandy with us. Insane dictator? Not our problem. Oil-soaked sheiks lost their homes? We'll co-sign the mortgage with blood. All this in a region full of lopsided applecarts, all waiting for a good push.

To be fair, seeking UN approval probably wasn't such a bad thing. But out choice of allies was akin to George Washington getting a lapdance from Mao Tse-Tung. I mean, really – was it wise to demonstrate solidarity with Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia? Was "we're standing shoulder-to-shoulder with your oppressors!" the right message to send to the people of the Middle East? Liberals and conservatives alike marveled at GHW Bush's Rolodex, and his ability to call in favors from despots near and far. Fifteen years later, we're still paying for his long distance bill.

Having left Saddam in power, we were also forced to leave troops behind in Saudi Arabia. For that reason, Osama bin Laden declared war on us for Despoiling the Holy Places, or Loitering on the Sacred Loam, or something. That one sure came back to bite us on the ass. In all fairness though, Osama is a clever fellow and undoubtedly would have eventually found some reason to smite us. That new Gillette Fusion, for example, is allowing millions of dhimmi to keep their faces infidel-smooth, and in record time. Nevertheless, our decisions back then handed Osama a loaded gun. In retrospect, it's no surprise he fired it at us.
I cut me teeth in DS as an Ensign. To call it a great victory is to be a bit too focused on the Operational or Tactical. Like I stated in the comments section;
There is a reason that we had to invade in 2003 - we had the wrong Political and Strategic Military Endstate for Gulf War I. The critical lesson, one that many freely talk about now (though has been true for thousands of years), is that for a totalitarian government, you do not defeat them by destroying their military or taking back land - a dictator only defines power by where he is sitting, if his head is still attached to his body, and if he is still has power. Until you take one of those three things away - you have not defeated him.
That is where we went wrong for Gulf War I. Point Final.

DESERT FOX next. In many cases, an extended live fire exercise. Thing is, some otherwise smart folks are simply learning the wrong lessons as they look for options for Iran. Mr. Ferguson puts it well;
Militarily, Desert Fox appeared to be a smashing success. It hit 85 percent of its targets and 74 percent of all strikes were highly effective, according to Pentagon analysts.

Strategically, the military campaign was a blunder and sowed the seeds of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. Unintentionally, the 1998 attack splintered the coalition that President George H. W. Bush painstakingly assembled in 1990 during the lead-up to the 1991 Gulf War. Neither Clinton nor his successor President George W. Bush was able to reunite this large group of nations dedicated to stopping Hussein from getting weapons of mass destruction.
Sad to say, but over at The Officers' Club, John Noonan has 180deg lockoff.
The United States, striking from carriers in the Persian Gulf, bomber bases in Guam, and air bases in Turkey (long-time adversaries of the Iranians) should initiate a 3-4 day air campaign similiar to Operation Desert Fox against Saddam in 1998. The objective would be two-fold: knock the Iranian nuclear capabilities back to the stone age, and sting their military to the point where the Ayatollahs understand that their own bomb "just ain't worth the effort."

Here's why this solution makes sense. Operation Desert Fox was launched with little world opposition, sans the usual suspects (Syria and their ilk), as it was a response to Saddam's refusal to play ball with the UN over weapons of mass destruction. This latest spat between Iran and the UN is quite similiar, as there is global opposition to Iranian nukes. Thus a DF style mini air-campaign would accomplish US objectives without making our often weak-kneed European allies too queasy.
First of all, the TLAM pic is bogus. The first DF TLAM shots were at night. I know, I saw them up close. But lets get to the substance. Iran is not Iraq. Iran has mitigated the ability to have their nuke program knocked out from the air. Like DF, we could make some great video out of it - and we might get lucky and not lose anyone (I wouldn't be on it though) -- but you will only make the problem worse. Everyone needs to face the facts that the only way you will destroy Iran's nuke program is to have some guy with US flag on his shoulder, putting C4 around a door to get access to it. Oh, make that a few hundred guys doing that....supported by a few hundred thousand. If we are not willing to do that - then it is back to the future. My nukes trump your nukes. Pick you choice. A feelgood DF is not a solution.

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