Another Perspective

Shock and Flawed

Just how successful is our struggle for democracy in the Middle East going to be?

By 1.11.06

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More than four years after 9/11, what's the balance sheet regarding the war on terror, or more precisely, what's the score on the Bush Doctrine in relation to the ongoing war between Islamism and Western civilization?

On the plus side, Syria's President-for-Life, Bashar al-Assad, has pulled his troops out of Lebanon, Mad-as-a-Hatter Ghadafi has pledged to dismantle Libya's WMD programs, Pakistan's nuclear smuggling network has been exposed and dismantled, Palestinians are voting, Saddam's on TV in his weirdo jail-underpants, and the Taliban is out of power in Afghanistan.

On the downside, the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq continue (as I'm writing this, the breaking news is that a roadside bomb in Iraq has killed another five GIs and Taliban insurgents have decapitated an Afghan headmaster in front of his wife and eight children because his school was educating girls), Wahhabi clerics in Saudi Arabia are still telling young Saudis that suicide bombing is godly behavior, the administration's failure to successfully prepare for a post-invasion Iraq has exposed the limitations and vulnerabilities of the American military, and the bonehead regimes in North Korea and Iran are developing nukes.

More specifically, Iran's hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, soon to be wielding nuke-tipped missiles according to most intelligence reports, declared in October that Israel should be "wiped off the map." More recently, he proclaimed that Israel should be moved to Europe, or perhaps Canada or Alaska, as opposed to being reduced to instant ashes.

"If European countries claim that they have killed Jews in World War II, why don't they provide the Zionist regime with a piece of Europe," Mr. Ahmadinejad told Iranian television. He uses the word "claim" because he denies that the Nazi holocaust ever happened: "They have created a myth today that they call the massacre of Jews."

Mr. Ahmadinejad's non-nuclear solution: "If you," i.e. Europeans, "committed this big crime, then why should the oppressed Palestinian nation pay the price? This is our proposal: Give a part of your own land in Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska to them so that the Jews can establish their country."

None of this craziness, of course, was supposed to be now happening. The Bush administration's war planners thought the so-called "Shock and Awe" invasion of Iraq, preceded by an easy knockout punch to the Taliban, would persuade the world's jihadists to turn in their beheading knives and create a Massachusetts-style democracy, sort of like the Japanese after Hiroshima.

Harlan Ullman, one of the authors of the Shock and Awe concept, explained the strategy to CBS correspondent David Martin. "You have this simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but in minutes," he said, referring to how a gigantic barrage of precision guided weapons can destroy an enemy's will to fight. "You're sitting in Baghdad and all of a sudden you're the general and 30 of your division headquarters have been wiped out. You also take the city down. By that I mean you get rid of their power, water. In two, three, four, five days they are physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted."

We could order a pizza, in other words, and turn on the TV and watch the fireworks over Baghdad, watch how high-tech weaponry in the hands of the good guys can be a joy to see, not unlike the fun of zapping wackos in a fast-action video game.

Unfortunately, Shock and Awe was mostly hot air, as was obvious on TV the next morning. Instead of Hiroshima and peace, there was regular morning traffic, people were driving around to pick up their pita bread, and there was nothing much to stop the Baathists from getting together to plan an insurgency.

And so, at this point, it's unclear how the story ends. We could lose it there, or lose it at home, or win. What's clear is that our top planners are about as efficient in war strategy as they are in cleaning up the bribes in government or fixing Social Security.

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About the Author
Ralph R. Reiland is the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise and an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.