Iraq: How Will It Play Out?
Last in a Series of Four
JD Lock, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army (Retired)
17 March 2003
Given that a war on Iraq seems inevitable, what does the future hold for the armed forces of the United States? Well, the best case scenario is that Iraqi forces will disintegrate swiftly before the onslaught of overwhelming American combat power while the rest of the world’s ‘hot spots’ sit on the side line. Post conflict would find the Iraqis quick to become self-governing and the US just as quick to be out of the nation building business.
In contrast, the worst-case scenario is not a pretty one. There is an old adage in the military that even the best laid plans do not survive the first bullet down range. Ominously enough for this war, things may start even before we fire that first bullet. Cornered with no options left, Hussein could feel compelled to launch his own preemptive strike before President Bush even completes his televised remarks telling all foreigners to leave Iraq. Artillery already emplaced along the border would lay down a heavy barrage of chemical and biological rounds on massed US troops in Kuwait before counter-battery and air attacks can silence them. Hidden Scud missiles with chemical and biological warheads would be fired at Israel, almost as an invitation for nuclear retaliation to further complicate the US’s Middle East position and Arab alliances.
While a vast majority of the Iraqi Army will most likely break ranks or surrender, some may take a stand, considering that they are fighting on Iraqi territory as homeland defenders. Blown dams will flood valleys and marshlands hindering movement and subsurface explosives will fire oil wells. Off the shelf commercial jammers will disrupt communications and GPS guided munitions while Iraqi special force troops dressed in US and British army uniforms will fire on their own people to rouse hatred. The Republican Guard will fall back into the cities to engage in urban warfare. The Guard’s tactics will negate enough of America’s technological superiority as to cause a significant number of casualties since our rules of engagement will prevent us from leveling the city, block by block, with massed artillery. And, on the American continent, where homeland defense is basically that in name only, a small number of Iraqi agents would do the previously unthinkable and release a biological attack on an unprotected populace.
In the meantime, as US forces attack Iraq, North Korea will place its army on alert along the 151-mile long DMZ. From out of fortified, underground bunkers, 8,000 artillery pieces and 2,000 tanks will deploy. Then, as US forces find themselves fully committed in close quarters combat on the ramparts of Baghdad, the “tyranny of proximity” will rear its ugly Kim Jong Il head as 500 170mm (6.7”) Koksan cannon and 200 240mm (9.4”) multiple-launch rocket systems let loose with only minutes worth of warning. For an hour, high explosives rain down on a large portion of 37,000 American military personnel and on Seoul only 40 miles away. A small number of the 400-600 Scud missiles range to the southern end of South Korea while one or two of the 100 No Dong missiles reach out, as a warning, to touch Japan. Then, there is silence. No attack across the border, no nuke, no chem, no bio. What is the US to do?
Events begin to brew a thousand miles down the coast line from the North Korean DMZ where newly elected Chinese President Hu Jintao sees a glorious beginning to his presidency. With conventional resources stretched too thin, the US watches hopelessly as a vast armada rapidly assembles on the Chinese coast and makes its way across the Taiwan Strait. Without US intervention, Taiwan is bloodily subdued and quickly assimilated by China.
Back in Iraq, the US has become an occupational army, seeking to bring together a coalition government that has no desire to work together. To the north, the Turks engage in armed conflict against an insurgent Kurdish faction. Periodically, suicide bombers strike against the American infidels. With an infrastructure in ruins and a troubled populace, the US sees no exit in sight, enduring another Bosnia...12 months, 18 months, 3 years...open ended.
Ultimately, let there be no doubt. The Armed Forces of the United States will fight and win, anytime and anywhere. But, should that fight be in Iraq, the US will have lost in the end. During a discussion between two colonels in 1975 about the Vietnam Conflict, an American colonel observed, “You know you never defeated us on the battlefield.” The North Vietnamese colonel pondered for a moment and then replied. “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.” Ultimately, America’s victory on the battlefields of Iraq may also prove to be “irrelevant.” I pray that I am wrong.