Scheduling War - By Michael T. Klare
Source Ralph Johansen
Date 03/02/13/09:06

Scheduling War
By Michael T. Klare

Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at
Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., and the author of Resource Wars: The
New Landscape of Global Conflict (2001 Owl Books / Henry Holt).

For months, the attention of much of the world has been focused on the
diplomatic contest at the United Nations over the wording of Security
Council resolutions on Iraq and the scope of UN weapons inspections.  This
has led many observers to conclude that the pace and timing of the coming
showdown with Iraq has largely been determined by the dynamics of diplomatic
debate in New York.  But nothing could be further from the truth: from the
very beginning, the timing of the war with Iraq has been set by the evolving
character of the American war plan.

It is now apparent that the White House gave its initial approval for a war
with Iraq some time ago, well before President Bush uttered his "axis of
evil" statement in February 2002.  By the spring of 2002, the
Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), General Tommy R.
Franks, was well advanced in early preparations for a war, and was meeting
regularly with senior Pentagon officials in Washington to develop the basic
plan of attack.  By this point, senior American officials were also meeting
with military and government leaders in friendly Middle Eastern countries to
secure permission to deploy U.S. troops on their territory in anticipation
of an assault on Iraq.

But this is when an internal Pentagon struggle over timing and tactics
arose.  Many senior officials in Washington, led by Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, favored an
innovative plan of attack that would require a relatively small invasion
force of approximately 50,000-75,000 U.S. combat troops.  This plan, modeled
on the war in Afghanistan, would have relied on the heavy use of American
airpower combined with the extensive use of U.S. Special Forces and "proxy"
armies made up of anti-Hussein Kurds and Shiites.  This plan was
particularly attractive to many Administration officials because it could be
implemented quickly, by the early fall of 2002, thus reducing the risk that
international diplomacy and domestic protest would be able to erect any
barriers to a U.S. attack.

The "Afghanistan Redux" plan was opposed, however, by many senior military
officers -- uncomfortable from the beginning with the idea of invading Iraq
and occupying Baghdad -- who feared that the small American invasion force
would be chewed up by Iraqi armored divisions.  They lobbied instead for a
more conservative plan, entailing the deployment of about 200,000 American
combat troops, backed up by a powerful armada of ships and planes.  This
plan, sometimes called "Desert Storm Lite," would have required an
additional several months to put into motion, pushing the theoretical
starting date for a war into February 2003.

All last summer, senior Administration officials fought over which of these
plans (or variations thereof) should be adopted.  On one side in this debate
were the Administration "chickenhawks" (so called because they had largely
avoided military duty over the course of their careers) like Rumsfeld,
Wolfowitz, and Douglas Feith (the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy); on
the other side were career military officers, led by General Franks of
CENTCOM.  According to some reports, Franks was repeatedly sent back to his
headquarters in Florida to redesign the attack plan because his proposals
were considered too conservative (i.e., too slow) by the chickenhawks in

From what can now be determined, it appears that President Bush finally
made a decision on which of these invasion plans to follow in late August or
very early in September.  Possibly fearing the political fallout of a
battlefield disaster, should a lightly-equipped U.S. invasion force confront
heavily-armed Iraqi forces, Bush selected the more conservative plan favored
by Tommy Franks.  At that point, the countdown to war began in earnest as
preparations got underway for the deployment of some 200,000 U.S. combat
troops to the Middle East.

But no matter how eager the chickenhawks were to go to war, it is not
possible to move 200,000 troops and all their equipment to a battlefield
8,000 miles away overnight.  It takes time: six months at a minimum.  So,
when President Bush gave the go ahead in late August, the earliest starting
time for the initial attack automatically became late February or early
March of 2003, some two to three weeks from now.  So, since, early
September, everyone in the know in Washington has been aware that the war
will break out sometime around March 1st, give or take a few days.

It was only after these decisions had been taken that President Bush went to
the United Nations in New York and pleaded for one last effort to disarm
Saddam Hussein through vigorous UN action.  Because his forces would not be
ready to strike for another six months, Bush evidently concluded that he had
nothing to lose by giving the UN more time to act, even though he clearly
believed that UN action was pointless.  At the same time, going to New York
and asking for UN action allowed him to quiet those domestic critics
(including some senior Republicans) who felt that a veneer of international
support was necessary to lend a degree of legitimacy to the planned U.S.

All last fall, it appeared that U.S. diplomats led by Secretary of State
Colin Powell were in agony over the slowness of deliberations at the UN
Security Council.  But while there is no doubt that Powell genuinely sought
international backing for the attack, he was never quite as anxious about
the pace of events as he appeared to be because he knew that the fighting
could not begin until February 2003, at the earliest.  It is only now, with
the onset of battle but weeks ahead, that Powell is truly concerned about
the tempo of diplomatic action  hoping, it appears, to obtain a second UN
resolution authorizing the use of force before the troops commence their

Clearly, it has been the pacing of U.S. war preparations and not the
political environment at the United Nations that has shaped Administration
strategy over the past few months.  Until now, the White House has been able
to conceal this underlying reality because so many eyes were focused on
developments in New York.  Once the fighting begins, however, the outright
cynicism and deceitfulness of the U.S. strategy will quickly become
apparent, further turning world opinion against the United States.

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