February 2003

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Pro-war people in the blogosphere and elsewhere have been warning that letting aggressive evildoers have their way in hopes of appeasing them is foolishness. They will take what we give them and then demand even more.

Point 1: Before the last Gulf war went hot, President Bush and his advisors were concerned that Saddam would back down. This would have been a huge problem because one of the reasons for going to war was to permanently reduce Saddam’s war-making capabilities. Just before the war started, Saddam gave in and started withdrawing troops. President Bush responded by moving the line in the sand and saying that removing the troops wasn’t good enough after all, they also had to leave all their equipment behind in Kuwait.

Point 2: I’ve heard, although I can’t find a reference, that when the allies called a cease-fire in the last Gulf War, Saddam Hussein’s reaction was one of jubilation:  "We’ve won!" It didn’t matter how many Iraqi soldiers had died, or how many of their tanks had been destroyed. From Saddam’s point of view, as long as he was alive, he was winning. I believe that as in the last war, the coming battle is not about Iraqi sovereignty, it’s about Saddam’s survival.

Point 3: We’ve been fighting Saddam for years. Our air force has been blowing stuff up for so long that Saddam doesn’t even bother to complain about it anymore.  Again, I believe he doesn’t care because the destruction of a radar installation in southern Iraq doesn’t affect him personally.

Put all this together, and it looks like it’s Saddam Hussein who’s following a policy of appeasement.  We’ve been flying over Iraq and bombing stuff for the last twelve years, and we’ve probably had special forces in Iraq for weeks now.  Heck, the Strategy Page reports that there’s an obvious U.S. airbase already built inside Iraqi borders. Part of the reason all this is possible is that the bulk of the Iraqi ground forces have been withdrawn to the capital and are arrayed in two rings around Baghdad. Saddam has essentially already conceded all the rest of Iraq to U.S. forces.

My proposal is that we follow a strategy of encroachment. We just slowly keep creeping into Iraq, building air bases and fuel dumps, military hospitals, roads, bridges, rail links, civilian aid stations, and whatever else we can think of until we control 90% of Iraq without firing a shot.

What about Baghdad? Saddam is trying to force our armies to fight a gritty urban street battle against prepared positions if we want to defeat his forces in the capitol. How do we overcome that? Simple: we don’t. We take the whole rest of the country, isolate his troops in Baghdad, and then wait for them to either attack us on our terms or run out of fuel. We can play that game a lot longer than they can.