- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 9, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 9 (UPI) — Will the looming war between the United States and Iraq go as quickly and easily as almost all media pundits assume? Or could it contain some — or even a lot — of unpleasant surprises for the American people and the Bush administration? And can we apply any instruments of analysis that can guide us to answers superior to simple wild guesswork?

One of the most important things military theory offers is a framework developed by the late U.S. Air Force Col. John Boyd, who was arguably the greatest military theorist America ever produced. Colonel Boyd said that war is fought at three levels: moral, mental and physical. The moral level, he taught is the most powerful, the physical level is the least powerful, and the mental level is in between. The American way of war has traditionally been extremely straightforward and physical: "putting steel on target," as our soldiers like to say. And that means it has always been fought on the third and, according to Colonel Boyd least important level.

But how does the coming war with Iraq look at the moral level? Here, the United States seems to be leading with its chin. Why? Because the Bush administration has yet to come up with a convincing rationale for why the United States should attack Iraq.

The argument that Iraq, a small, poor — it didn't used to be, but it is now — third-world country halfway around the world is a direct threat to the United States is not credible. Yes, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein probably has some chemical and biological weapons. But few tyrants are bent on suicide, and the notion that he would use them to attack the United States, except in self-defense and backed into a corner, makes no sense. Nor does it seem likely he would give them to non-state actors like al Qaida-again, except in self-defense. The reason for this is that non-state forces, particularly Islamic ones are as much a threat to him as to us.

It is of course true that Saddam is a tyrant. His model, by the way, is obviously Josef Stalin, not Adolf Hitler. But historic Mesopotamia — the geographical location of Iraq —has been ruled by tyrants since before history began, and it will be ruled by tyrants long into the future as well. The last U.S. president who tried to export democracy tot he far reaches of the world on American bayonets was Woodrow Wilson. And that is one of the reasons he counts as one of America's worst presidents, ever. Very few people, in America or the rest of the world, wish to see us revive the practice.

Most importantly, the real threat the United States and the American people now face is non-state players such as al Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah and the like who have been grimly effective pioneers of non-state and extra-state forms of conflict that I and other military analysts have termed Fourth Generation warfare. They can only benefit from a U.S. war waged against Iraq — regardless of how it turns out.

If we win, the institution of the state is further discredited in the Islamic world, and more young men will give their allegiance to non-state forces that the U.S. military with its current configuration and extremely weak human intelligence assets will find exceptionally hard to defend against. And if Saddam wins, their own governments will look even less legitimate, because they failed to stand with him against the hated American neo-Crusaders. A recent cartoon showed Osama bin Laden, dressed as Uncle Sam, saying, "I want you to invade Iraq!" Undoubtedly, he does.

So what is the real reason for this war? Oil? Revenge for Saddam surviving the first Gulf War? Israel? The ordinary Americans I know are wondering, because the reasons stated by the administration just don't add up.

Military theory says that, in a democracy, a government cannot successfully wage war unless the war has popular support. In turn, a war cannot obtain popular support if the people do no understand why it is being fought. Today, the people, at home as well as overseas, do not understand why America wants to go to war with Iraq. That is an ominous though so-far disregarded omen for President George W, Bush and his senior advisers. It means they are losing this war before the first bomb is dropped.

(William S. Lind is Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at

the Free Congress Foundation.)

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide