Here in the UK, I've often found myself wondering what is the purpose of a proposed war with Iraq? We do not seem to be given any information about this, rather we are just presented with spin concerning 'weapons of mass destruction' and the 'war on terror.'
However, a friend sent me this article, which explains things very succinctly. I think it's well worth a read if you're interested.
Smoke and Mirrors: The United States, Iraq and Deception
In any war, deception is a strategic necessity. However, the
"bodyguard of lies" surrounding plans for a U.S. attack on Iraq -
- vital to building an international coalition of support --
could be confusing the American public and endangering political
support for the war effort. The operational and tactical levels
of the war now appear to be clearer than the ultimate goal. That
is because baldly stating the strategic necessity for an attack
on Iraq - the ability to station U.S. forces in the heart of the
Middle East - undoubtedly would endanger the fragile war
Surprise is essential to war, and deception is the foundation of
surprise. During World War II, Allied planning was protected by
what Winston Churchill referred to as "a bodyguard of lies."
Those lies, it could be persuasively argued, were what made
Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, successful. That
bodyguard of lies hid the basic operational plan from German
eyes. The strategy was known to everyone: At some point, the
Allies would carry out an amphibious assault on the French coast.
The Germans also knew that an invasion could be expected at any
time. What they did not know -- due to a plan called Operation
Fortitude -- was that plans for a U.S. 3rd Army attack at Pas de
Calais were fictional. The real invasion was to take place at
Normandy, involving other forces. Because of Operation Fortitude,
the Germans knew that an invasion was coming and roughly when the
invasion would occur -- but they were so wrong about where it
would take place that they held their armor in reserve to protect
the Pas de Calais, rather than hurl it at the attackers in
Operation Fortitude offers two lessons. The first is to use all
means necessary so as to confuse your enemy. The second, not
nearly as frequently discussed, is that commanders must never
allow themselves to become confused as to what the real plan is
and -- just as important -- that the deception not extend so
deeply and broadly that neither the troops nor the home audience
are genuinely confused as to what is going on. At the broadest
level, there was no confusion among the Allied troops and public
as to the goal: unconditional surrender of the Axis powers. Many
have criticized this goal, and others have said it was an
unfortunate necessity designed to ensure Allied unity. It is
frequently forgotten that the simplicity and the elegance of the
goal kept Allied troops and the public from falling into cynical
doubts about their leaders' true intentions. It was understood
that the goal was unconditional surrender; the means were an
invasion of France, an alliance with the Soviet Union and a
strategic bombing campaign, and that the rest was best not
In Iraq, a very different "bodyguard of lies" has taken control
of war planning. The operational and tactical levels of the war
appear to be clearer than the war's strategic shape or even its
purpose. It is unclear precisely why the war is being fought and
what outcome is desired. There are two possible reasons for this
confusion. The first is that the leaders might in fact be
confused, but that is difficult to believe. The team around U.S.
President George W. Bush not only is seasoned and skilled, but
are haunted by Vietnam -- a war in which the strategic goal never
was clearly defined. It is hard to believe that they would commit
the error of the Johnson administration -- lack of clarity on
strategic goals and, thus, inability to create operational
The second reason is more persuasive. The United States always
has operated in the context of coalition warfare. In World War
II, the coalition was strengthened by strategic clarity and the
simplification of goals. At root, the one thing the Allies could
agree on was the destruction of the Nazi regime and the
occupation of Germany. U.S. grand strategy still is built on the
idea of coalition warfare -- of burden-sharing -- but the
coalition the United States would like to construct for the
upcoming war, something like what existed during Desert Storm,
has such diverse and contradictory interests that there is no
simple declaration of strategic goals that would unite the
alliance. Quite the contrary, any such statement of goals would
divide the allies dramatically -- indeed, it would make alliance
impossible. Therefore, the United States is searching for a
justification that is persuasive, not true. In the process,
Washington is neither building the coalition nor maintaining
popular and political support for the war at home.
In a strategic sense, there is a very good and clear explanation
for the war: Al Qaeda attacked the United States on Sept. 11,
2001. There is no reason to believe there will not be additional
and more intense attacks in the future. Fighting al Qaeda on a
tactical level -- hunting them down on their own turf, team by
team -- is not only inefficient, but probably ineffective.
Certainly, given the geography of the Islamic world, even
reaching into the militants' networks has been impossible.
However, attacking and occupying Iraq achieves three things:
1. It takes out of the picture a potential ally for al Qaeda, one
with sufficient resources to multiply the militant group's
threat. Whether Iraq has been an ally in the past is immaterial -
- it is the future that counts.
2. It places U.S. forces in the strategic heart of the Middle
East, capable of striking al Qaeda forces whenever U.S.
intelligence identifies them.
3. Most important, it allows the United States to bring its
strength --conventional forces -- to bear on nation-states that
are enablers or potential enablers of al Qaeda. This would
undermine strategically one of the pillars of al Qaeda's
capabilities: the willingness of established regimes to ignore al
Qaeda operations within their borders.
From a U.S. standpoint, this is the strategic rationale for a war
with Iraq. Or, to be more precise, if this is not the rationale,
the purpose is the one thing a war's strategic goals should never
be -- a baffling secret.
This is not the explanation that has been given for the war's
strategy. The Bush administration's central problem has been that
it has not been able to tie its Iraq strategy in with its al
Qaeda strategy. At first, the United States tried to make the
case that there had been collaboration between al Qaeda and Iraq
in the past, as if trying to prove that a crime had been
committed that justified war. The justification, of course, was
strategic -- not what might have happened, but to prevent what
might happen in the future. The administration then settled into
a justification concerning weapons of mass destruction, creating
the current uproar over whether an empty rocket could be
construed as a justification for war.
From the beginning, the administration fell into the trap of
treating a war as a criminal investigation. Imagine that after
Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had made a speech
declaring that he would hunt down every pilot who had attacked
Pearl Harbor without warning, and bring him to justice. In the
ensuing insanity, the emphasis would have been on avoiding harm
to innocent Japanese and others and implementing judicial
procedures to make sure that only those directly involved in the
attack were punished. When the United States made plans to land
on Guadalcanal, it would be pointed out that the innocent people
on Guadalcanal had done nothing to deserve the death and
destruction that would rain down on them. Washington, rather than
explaining the strategic rationale for the Guadalcanal operation,
would charge the islanders with aiding the Japanese and then
photograph a meeting between an islander and a Japanese agent in
Prague. Officials then would claim that Guadalcanal possessed
weapons that threatened the United States, and an inspection
regime would be put in place.
The Guadalcanal islanders were infinitely less deserving of
punishment than Saddam Hussein or the country he rules, but that
completely misses the point. Wars are not about punishment; they
are not legal proceedings. They are actions by nations against
other nations designed to achieve national goals. The virtue of
the Guadalcanal islanders was not the issue, nor the guilt of
individual pilots at Pearl Harbor. Nor, indeed, was the war about
whether the Japanese were the aggressors or, as they claimed, the
victims of aggression. War is war, and is carried out by its own
The Bush administration knows this, and it has excellent
strategic reasons for wanting to conquer Iraq. The government has
chosen not to enunciate those motives for a simple reason: If it
did, many of the United States' allies would oppose the war.
Washington's goal -- the occupation of Iraq -- would strengthen
the United States enormously, and this is something that many
inside Washington's coalition don't want to see happen.
Therefore, rather than crisply stating the strategic goal, the
government has tried to ensnare its allies in a web of pseudo- legalism.
Rather than simply stating that Iraq, like Guadalcanal,
is a strategic prize whose occupation will facilitate the war, it
has tried to demonstrate that Hussein has violated some
resolution or another. Hussein, no fool, has succeeded in
confusing the issue endlessly. The point -- that invading Iraq is
in the U.S. national interest regardless of whether Hussein has a
single weapon of mass destruction, is lost. This is about
strategy, not guilt or innocence.
This has led the United States to deal with the current problem:
what if Hussein leaves under his own steam? As Washington has
allowed the issue to be defined, that should go a long way toward
satisfying U.S. goals. From a strategic standpoint, of course, it
would achieve nothing, unless the United States was allowed to
enter Iraq and base substantial forces there under its own
control, to be used as it wishes.
The downside of all of this for the United States is that
American public opinion, rather than buying into a strategic
vision that has not been expressed, has accepted the public
justification offered by the Bush administration. As recent polls
have showed, the overwhelming majority of the public oppose a war
if weapons of mass destruction are not found in Iraq. That,
obviously, can change, but the price of building a coalition on a
legal foundation is that it makes public support conditional as
There is an upside as well: The confusion over motives and
intentions must baffle Iraq, too. Consider one example: The
United States has indicated some interest in a settlement based
on Hussein's resignation -- what else could Washington say? This
also would indicate something that Hussein fundamentally believes
-- that the United States is not eager for war. The more interest
Washington shows in a deal, the less interested Baghdad will be,
although he certainly will play it out for as long as possible.
Consider other examples from the operational level. U.S.
officials said last week that they wanted five carriers in the
Persian Gulf before beginning the war, yet only two are there now
and it will take up to a month for the rest to arrive. British
officials said recently that that the British 7 Brigade -- the
Desert Rats -- would not be ready to participate in the war on
time, although Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon later announced that
nearly 30,000 troops, including the Desert Rats, would be
deployed "over the days and weeks ahead." The United States is
trying to survey Turkish air bases with which it already is
familiar. From where we sit, the United States appears to be
nowhere near ready to go to war. In fact, the entire buildup
seems completely uncoordinated.
From Baghdad, Hussein sees all of this and might conclude that he
has time -- time to delay, time to move forces back into Baghdad,
time to launch preemptive chemical attacks. From where he sits,
it might look as if U.S. strategy is not genuinely committed to
war and U.S. operational capabilities are so out of kilter that a
war cannot be launched before summer.
The deception campaign at the operational level well could be
working perfectly. Hitler thought he knew where the attack was
coming from but was utterly wrong. Hussein might think that he
knows where the attack is coming, but it might be that he thinks
he has more time than he has. Deception on the operational level
is a vital weapon.
However, deception on the strategic level is a double-edged
sword. Particularly in a democracy, where the von Metternichs
must consult the public as well as the emperor, strategic
deception can confuse the public as much as it confuses the
enemy. Moreover, in coalition warfare, the inability to clearly
state war goals because coalition partners don't share them might
mean that the coalition is the problem, not the solution. Indeed,
in creating illusory justification, the Bush administration might
be denying the fundamental reality -- that the U.S. goal and
those of the allies are incompatible, and that decisions need to
If Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the only rational
solution is the one the Israelis used in 1981 -- destroy them. To
allow officials in Baghdad time during an inspection crisis to
possibly complete their fabrication makes no sense. To have
allowed the WMD issue to supplant U.S. strategic interests as the
justification for war has created a crisis in U.S. strategy.
Deception campaigns are designed to protect strategies, not to
trap them. Ultimately, the foundation of U.S. grand strategy,
coalitions and the need for clarity in military strategy have
The discovery of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq will not
solve the problem, nor will a coup in Baghdad. In a war that will
last for years, maintaining one's conceptual footing is critical.
If that footing cannot be maintained -- if the requirements of
the war and the requirements of strategic clarity are
incompatible -- there are more serious issues involved than the
future of Iraq.
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