Vox Populi
A Letter to the Editor

Does Mr. Berg-Andersson Support or Oppose a War against Iraq?
Tuesday, March 4, 2003

by Henri-Paul Bolineau

I was very interested to read what Mr. Berg-Andersson had to say in his response to Aram Attarian's 3 March 'vox Populi' ('How Many Angels can Dance on the Head of the Skeptics?') in which he once again mentioned his 26 February response to me and reiterated his contention that a " 'speed-up' [of the timetable re: the United States going to war] might actually increase the chances of making military mistakes once war might be underway".

It occurs to me, as I have carefully read what he has written so far on the topic of possible war with Iraq (both in his Commentaries and responses to 'vox Populi'), that I cannot figure out whether Mr. Berg-Andersson supports or opposes a war against Iraq, so I want to ask him- assuming he'd be amenable to answering this-

1. is Mr. Berg-Andersson for, or against, the United States of America going to war against Iraq- either with or without a United Nations resolution authorizing this or other significant support from outside the U.S.?

If that one happens to be an uncomfortable question for him to answer, might I then ask, instead:

2. does Mr. Berg-Andersson think it is more likely, or less likely, that America will soon be at war against Iraq?-- and, if so, how soon? (I ask this because I have been seeing reports recently that the vote in Turkey last weekend has forced the postponement of any invasion of Iraq by at least two weeks [from mid-to-late March to the end of March or even on into April]).

Henri-Paul Bolineau

Mr. Berg-Andersson responds:

As to Mr. Bolineau's first question: if and when (and only if and when!) I deem it most appropriate to do so, I might very well- in a future Commentary on the subject- discuss my own personal views, merely as Rich Q. American-Citizen, on whether or not the United States of America should be attacking the Republic of Iraq militarily, given what we can best discern re: the veracity of the facts surrounding the arguments both for and against. As I once wrote, in a completely different context (in response to a 'vox Populi' not having anything at all to do with the Iraq situation back on 4 October 2002): "[M]uch of what I do here on this website is often along the lines of playing 'devil's advocate' by presenting possible alternatives and options to a given line of legal thinking or a given example of political activity" (the "political activity"- in the current series of recent 'vox Populi' and my responses to same- being the political aspects of a decision by the Bush Administration to go [or, for that matter, not go] to war against Iraq, including what might be behind the arrival at a given policy determination itself as well as its potential political ramifications [whether positive or negative]).

I don't honestly think it would at all be helpful to my so being able to play "devil's advocate" re: what I might write about this particular topic for this website in future were I to now "muddy the waters" by stating an opinion on the issue at hand when, frankly, I cannot understand why anyone would give the proverbial "rat's left [bleep]" about what I might personally think about my country's armed forces soon going to war (or not going, as the case may be)!

As to Mr. Bolineau's # 2...

it is more likely that America is going in... here are four basic reasons why:

1. the political calculation I have already discussed elsewhere: the Bush Administration cannot afford to wait beyond the next few weeks (though, yes, "few" might come to mean more like 4 or 5 weeks than 2 or 3, because of the Turkish decision, as well as the situation in the UN Security Council) or else the anti-war side will be able to begin peeling away that "soft underbelly" of the American supermajority in support of war before the war even starts (this is even more likely if a second UN resolution is vetoed by one of the Permanent Members on the Security Council or a second UN resolution is adopted that is far too "watered down" for the Bush Administration's tastes, thus giving the anti-war side the "lack of strong international support" card for it to play in the resultant political debate here in the United States).

2. simple military logistics: there are- just to take one obvious example- a half-dozen or so aircraft carriers (along with all manner of associated naval vessels that make up part of various U.S. Navy "Carrier Groups") either already in (what could soon be) Theatre or on their way to same. They all cannot be kept out there forever! Moreover, some of these- by definition- simply have to be naval assets normally assigned to the Indian Ocean and western Pacific (so, what if the situation between America and North Korea [we have already had the recent escalation engendered by North Korean fighter jets "buzzing" an American spy plane over international waters adjacent to the Korean peninsula] continues to deteriorate, for instance, and some of these assets would then have to be pulled away from possible use in a war against Iraq?) We're coming up on "use 'em or lose 'em" time-- again, in a matter of mere weeks, not months!

3. climatological concerns: I am obviously not privy to the planning going on in the Pentagon as well as in Command HQ re: the possible Theatre of War. What I am hearing, as I watch the media commentators on military matters (and, meanwhile, also apply my own admittedly amateur take on matters military to simple geography and other related factors), is an initial campaign of a few days to a few weeks (at most) to get into the outskirts of Baghdad- depending on the unknown factor of resistance vs. surrender (that is: how many Iraqi units will surrender without much of a fight? how many Iraqi officers will defect, along with their units, once they see our progress on the ground [and can then presume that Saddam will soon be "toast"]? will there be Iraqi units armed with- and, more importantly, willing to use- chemical or biological weapons [which would have a negative effect on our progress and, hence, a positive answer to the first two questions]?, etc.)- and then- well, who knows how long at that point? mere days? a few more weeks? the better part of a month?- to achieve such Baghdad-based objectives as making sure Saddam's regime actually collapses fully, the country is then stabilized/pacified, etc. So, we're probably talking about a base timeline from invasion to "regime change" running from a week/10 days at most optimistic to a fair number of weeks within the "bell curve" of likely outcome (and, if things go wrong, it might be even longer!)- but it would seem to me that the thinking is that this should take no more than a month or so, two months at the outside. Now, no one wants to be fighting it out in the Syrian Desert going into May! This means the first wave of an invasion of Iraq has to be underway, almost by definition, no later than earliest April, at the latest, or else you are losing an important "ally" in terms of local meteorology (with concomitant increase in the length of time it will take to achieve the military objectives).

4. Finally, as the admittedly overused phrase "between Iraq and a hard place" (and, yes, I myself have used it recently on this very site- so sue me!) implies, that is where the Bush Administration is now at. We have been talking about going after Saddam so long now (since last Summer, and especially since Bush spoke before the UN General Assembly now going on half a year ago [my own first Commentary on this site on the topic actually predates that speech and will be six months old this coming Saturday (8 March)!]) that, so I am sure, the Bush Administration feels it cannot afford to not go to war, no matter the difficulties created by such things as potential French Security Council vetoes and Turkish reluctance.

The Administration- so I would have to imagine, given the rhetoric as it has been coming out of the White House of late- has made the calculation, whether it be right or wrong in the end, that not going after Saddam in the very near term (keep in mind that "no go" would entail actually having to noticeably "stand down", given all the military assets already deployed in the potential Theatre of War [not to mention those still on the way, as noted above]) will be seen, around the globe, as a victory- not only for Saddam himself, but also for Al-Qa'eda (which- assuming that the most recent Osama bin Laden audio tape is legit- very much wants this shooting war between a Muslim country and what Al-Qa'eda calls "the Crusaders" [which, in turn, brings me to another concern of mine: that the near-religious rhetoric re: both our pursuit of international terrorists and disarmament of Iraq emanating from the President himself, no matter how sincerely it might reflect his own personal religious beliefs, is only serving to exacerbate this and, thus, well play into Al-Qa'eda's hands: if we- however inadvertently- change the march music of this possible war from singing 'my country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty' into 'Onward, Christian soldiers', we truly will have turned this whole thing into "Worlds in Collision" (as in Western World vs. Islamic World) instead of Civilization/Rule of Law vs. Weapons of Mass Destruction/Al-Qa'eda... how much more stupid can we be?!])


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