Bunker Mulligan "Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry." ~Mark Twain

September 28, 2004

Strategic Forecasting

Filed under: International — Bunker @ 2:32 pm

I once read StratFor regularly. Sometime a year or two ago, they went to being a subscription service. I check there from time to time to see what kind of analysis they have available for use, as it is generally spot on.

Today I thought I would check to see what they might have in regards to Syria’s most recent moves toward civilization and ran across an analysis of the Najaf standoff with al-Sadr. They were pretty comprehensive in their detailing of Iran’s loss of influence, and Saudi Arabia’s problems which will now grow.

Their conclusions regarding the status of combat in Iraq fits well with mine, however, and not with the doom and gloom we hear from MSM.

The violence will drag on. In all three factions there are diehard elements that are committed to continued resistance. Indeed, as in other countries, it is altogether possible that some level of guerrilla violence will become a permanent feature of the political landscape. Consider the IRA or ETA in Europe, or the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the Philippines. The wars are not strategic. They do not threaten the regimes or even have much opportunity to hold terrain. They are essentially forces of habit, unable to end, having no real negotiating platform, having no purpose, but continuing. The world is filled with such movements and there is every reason to believe this is happening in Iraq. But there is a vast difference between a purposeful, strategic campaign that threatens the survival of the regime and this sort of war by habit: The former makes history; the latter is history.

I think that optimism is well placed. How many suicide bombs have Israelis suffered in the last five years? That government isn’t in jeopardy. And the StratFor analysts see some potential for more movement in the months following our election. Maybe this is what Assad fears in Syria.

If the situation stabilizes in Iraq before elections, U.S. President George W. Bush will be more likely to win. However, win or lose, we must remember that on the day after the election, Bush will be president and will never face election again. He might be president for two months or four years, but he will remain president. In either case, he will be more concerned about his place in history and his own sense of what must be done than in political considerations. It follows that he will try to shape the war decisively in either case.

Al Qaeda will be facing, in either case, a world in which it has failed to ignite the Islamic masses and in which the general political tendencies in the Islamic world have not only not fulfilled al Qaeda’s hopes, but have moved against them. At some point, they will have to assert themselves somewhere. Al Qaeda has political goals and it must generate some movement toward achieving them.

With those two imperatives in mind, the decline in the importance of the Iraqi theater of operations will generate massive forces pointing to further military confrontations after the elections, quite apart from the threat of terrorist actions.

I don’t believe Bush worries about his place in history a la Bill Clinton. In fact, he has said history, rather than opinion, will be written decades from now. And I do believe he will follow his sense of what must be done. Assad has reason to worry.

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