ON WAR # 1
Can A Government Wage War Without Popular Support?
By William S. Lind
January 28, 2003
Beginning this Tuesday, January 28, 2003, I will offer an "On War" commentary each week until the Iraq business is over and done. I suspect that may be awhile.
Who am I? At present, I am a center director at the Free Congress Foundation. But in 1976 I began the debate over maneuver warfare that became a central part of the military reform movement of the 1970s and 1980s. The U.S. Marine Corps finally adopted maneuver warfare as doctrine in the late `80s (I wrote most of their new tactics manual).
In 1989, I began the debate over Fourth Generation warfare—war waged by non-state entities—which is what paid us a visit on September 11, 2001. The article I co-authored then for the Marine Corps Gazette was formally cited last year by al Quaeda, who said, "This is our doctrine." My Maneuver Warfare Handbook, published in 1985, is now used by military academies all over the world, and I lecture internationally on military strategy, doctrine and tactics.
In this series, I propose to look at what is happening—with Iraq, North Korea, Afghanistan and other outposts of the new American imperium—from the standpoint of military theory. Hopefully, that will enable us all to make sense out of the bits and pieces we get each day as "news." One of the most important things military theory offers to this end is a framework developed by Col. John Boyd, USAF, who was the greatest military theorist America ever produced. Col. Boyd said that war is fought at three levels: moral, mental and physical. The moral level is the most powerful, the physical level is the least powerful, and the mental level is in between. The American way of war, which is Second Generation warfare—there will be more on the Four Generations of Modern War in future commentaries—is physical: "putting steel on target," as our soldiers like to say.
But how does the coming war with Iraq look at the moral level? Here, the U.S. seems to be leading with its chin. Why? Because the Administration in Washington 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 U.S.A. is not credible. Yes, Saddam 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, makes no sense. Nor does it seem likely he would give them to non-state actors like al Quaeda—again, except in self-defense—because non-state forces and Fourth Generation warfare 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 Stalin, not Hitler). So what? Mesopotamia has been ruled by tyrants since before history began, and it will be ruled by tyrants long after North America is once again tribal territories. The last President who tried to export democracy on American bayonets was Woodrow Wilson. That's one of the reasons he counts as America's worst President, ever. Very few people, in America or the rest of the world, wish to see us revive the practice.
Most importantly, the real threat we face is the Fourth Generation, non-state players such as al Quaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc. They can only benefit from an American war against Iraq—regardless of how it turns out. If we win, the state is further discredited in the Islamic world, and more young men give their allegiance to non-state forces. If Saddam wins, their own governments look even less legitimate, because they failed to stand with him against the hated 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 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 and overseas, do not understand why America wants to go to war with Iraq. That means the Administration is losing this war before the first bomb is dropped.
(MG) Lind appears prescient, from my advantage, with the benefit of hind sight.
(MG) So, why isn't Lind secretary of defense? Clearly, the man has fore sight.
(MG) There are many other voices who saw the same thing coming down.