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J. David Galland's ... On To Baghdad - Then What? (english)
10 Oct 2002
Mr. Galland's presents analysis on the big picture of involved. Taking Baghdad is only one step. America must be ready to go against Iran, Saudia Arabia, and Syria who also sponsor radical Islamic fundamentalist groups. Prepare for a long haul.

On To Baghdad – Then What?

By J. David Galland

There is no question that the American-led war on global terrorism is both critically necessary and justified. However, our efforts must not lose sight of the broad terrorist threat that still exists 13 months after the 9/11 attacks.

To focus singularly on the threat that Saddam Hussein poses is potentially damaging to the collective war on terrorism. Iraq, and its brutal leader, constitutes only a narrow slice of the big picture.

The strategy to make the world a safe place to live is the driving issue behind the war on terrorism. That war effort will be eroded if our efforts are channeled toward one country and one regime, namely Iraq. The present threat that Iraq unquestionably represents to the world cannot be minimized nor can it be ignored. But Saddam Hussein does not stand alone in this world as a purveyor of terrorist ideology and influence.

Currently the ongoing debate over U.S. military intervention in Iraq constitutes a focus, so narrow, that the forest in effect has vanished in lieu of our concentration on a single tree.

Will the financial cost, and the impact that an invasion of Iraq will have on our already stretched-thin military forces, be as large a blow to terrorism that we envision? Will the world really be a less terrorist-threatened place when the after-action reports are written and the full totals tallied? When will the world declare that terrorism has been defeated?

Significant debate remains over the specific goals we will attempt to achieve by invading Iraq, and the cost of achieving them. The groundswell of eventual military force on Iraq has caused an ominously cold and chilling fissure between European leaders, sans Tony Blair, and the Bush administration.

Both President Jacques Chirac of France and German Prime Minister Gerhard Schroeder have flatly refused to back the concept of military intervention in Iraq. These two leaders have affirmed that none of their soldiers will be participating in what they term a provocative and unjustified incursion. Their position does not come as a surprise.

Their opposition appears grounded not in a disagreement over international priorities in the war against terror, but out of a combination of political cynicism and military inferiority.

Neither France nor Germany fields a large enough or deployable military force that would enable either to undertake an autonomous military action outside the European continent. In fact, Chirac and Schroeder seem to have made a virtue out of this military reality by downplaying external geopolitical issues and focusing on social issues. Trade with Iraq also seems more important than disarming its WMD arsenal.

Meanwhile, these two leaders by their own rhetoric have tolerated – if not enabled – European political disagreement over U.S. policies toward Iraq to escalate into outright anti-American sentiment in Europe.

In any event, such opposition has had no effect on the Bush administration’s intention to march on Baghdad – even if this clearly fails to address the larger problem of global terrorism. The terror network, from al-Qaeda to Hezbollah, from Islamic Jihad to Hamas, and numerous varied Palestinian Liberation Organization sub-groups, is alive and doing rather well despite the campaign thus far.

In addition to Iraq there are unquestionably other states, such as Iran, Syria and even Saudi Arabia, that are in collusion with terrorists.

The most significant of the terrorist states is Iran. In 1979, following the revolution that toppled the shah, Islamic terrorism became reality under the Khomeini regime. Iran fashioned, schooled, sheltered, funded and supported the world’s most deadly terrorist group – Hezbollah. Iran has been a stalwart pillar of support for other terrorist groups, including al Qaeda.

If the United States expects to prevail against firmly entrenched terrorist cells and networks, we must focus on each of those regimes – a truly daunting task. Each one will require a unique U.S. strategy that may not be applicable elsewhere.

One unintended consequence of the United States declaring war on global terrorism has been an increased cooperation among the terrorist networks themselves. It is logical to assume that wherever and whenever we do strike first, those networks will unite in retaliation against us.

Dealing with terrorist states one by one is not an option. If we move against one state, we can expect a wide-ranging regional conflict.

At this juncture it appears that the successful elimination of terrorism will hinge largely on the rollback of radical Islamic fundamentalism worldwide. If such governments could be overthrown from within, terrorism as we know it would diminish if not disappear, and U.S.-backed military incursions into Baghdad and Damascus would be seen as the actions of liberators instead of invaders.

When we move on Baghdad, we will prevail. But simply overthrowing Saddam Hussein will not defeat terrorism.

The hard questions remain unanswered, and mostly undebated: What will be the price in casualties? What will we do after securing a military victory – leave Iraq in chaos or impose a long-term occupation? And what will be our response when the invasion sparks the next terrorist attack on America?

There is much more work to be accomplished and our efforts must ignore no other place.

J. David Galland, Deputy Editor of DefenseWatch, is a retired veteran of over thirty years of service in military intelligence who resides in Germany. He can be reached at defensewatch02 (at)
See also:
Defensewatch Magazine
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