March 08, 2007
|Worst Case Scenario||Global Guerrillas Iraq|
Rolling Stone convened a panel of experts and asked them about Iraq. All agreed that the war is lost. The only question is how bad is it going to get. The experts: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard Clarke, Nir Rosen, General Tony McPeak, Senator Bob Graham, Ambassador Chas Freeman, Paul Pillar, Michael Scheuer, Juan Cole.
Best case scenario: Civil war in Iraq and a stronger al Qaeda. Most likely scenario: Years of ethnic cleansing and war with Iran. Worst case scenario: World War III. A few quotes:
Graham: I believe the chance that the chaos in Iraq could bring countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia into the mix is in the forty to fifty percent range. The big danger is what I call the August 1914 Syndrome. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo — what would have been in the scale of history a minor event — set in motion activities that turned out to be beyond the ability of the Western powers to control. And they ended up in one of the most brutal wars in man's history by accident. If the Saudis come in heavily on the side of the Sunnis, as they have threatened to do, and the Iranians — directly or through shadow groups like Hezbollah — become active on behalf of the Shiites, and the Turks and the Kurds get into a border conflict, the flames could spread throughout the region. The real nightmare beyond the nightmare is if the large Islamic populations in Western Europe become inflamed. Then it could be a global situation.
Rosen: Iraq will be the battleground where the Sunni-Shia conflict will be fought, but it won't be limited to Iraq. It will spread. Pandora's box is open. We didn't just open it, we opened it and threw fuel into it and threw matches into it. You'll soon see Sunni militias destabilizing countries like Jordan and Syria — where the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood is very strong. It took about ten years for the Palestinians to become politicized and militarized when they were first expelled from Palestine. You're likely to see something like that occurring in the huge Iraqi refugee populations in Syria and Jordan. King Abdullah of Jordan is resented for being an American stooge and an accomplice with Israel. I'm convinced that the monarchy in Jordan will fall as a result of this, and Israel will be confronted with a frontline state on its longest border with an Arab country.
Scheuer: I can't help but think we've signed Jordan's death warrant. The country is already on a simmering boil because of the king's oppression of Islamists. It could turn into a police state like Egypt, or an incoherent, revolving-door-type government like Lebanon is becoming now.
Rosen: You're going to see borders changing, governments falling. Lebanon is already on the precipice. Throughout the region, government officials are terrified. Nobody knows how to stop it. This is World War III. How far will it spread? Anywhere there are Islamic movements, like in Somalia, in Sudan, in Yemen. Pakistan has always had Sunni-Shia fighting. The flow of Iraqi refugees will at some point affect Europe. [...]
McPeak: This is a dark chapter in our history. Whatever else happens, our country's international standing has been frittered away by people who don't have the foggiest understanding of how the hell the world works. America has been conducting an experiment for the past six years, trying to validate the proposition that it really doesn't make any difference who you elect president. Now we know the result of that experiment [laughs]. If a guy is stupid, it makes a big difference. [Emphasis added]
Too bad generals don't speak that frankly before they retire.
In some ways, they may be underestimating the dangers. People still tend to think in terms of nation-state actors, but globalization melts borders. Globalization supports a free flow of people, funding, ideas, ideologies, techniques and technologies (including techniques and technologies for guerrilla war), and it weakens people's loyalty to the nation-state. More and more, people identify with their religious, ethnic, or tribal group. So on one level, globalization unites the world, but, paradoxically, it atomizes it at the same time. All of this is a recipe for a decentralized, entrepreneurial, "open source" form of war by what John Robb calls "global guerrillas" not acting on any nation-state's behalf. As in Iraq. August, 1914 may not be the best analogy. More like, Lord of the Flies.
Pandora's box, indeed.