Iraq: The Chosen Battlefield
Today on Brit Hume's Special Report, I actually heard Mort Kondracke allude to the argument that Bush may have invaded Iraq in order to choose the location of the battlefield for the War on Terror. This is an argument I have long maintained since the beginning of the Iraq war. Being able to choose the battlefield is half the victory. We did it to the Nazis in World War II and the Soviets did it to us in the Cold War (in Vietnam in Korea.... See also Marathon, Salamis, Lake Trasimene, Tuteburg Forest, Hattin, Agincourt, D-Day as other examples of the importance in choosing a battlefield).
History tells us that fighting in Afghanistan is a losing proposition. It is now clear from information obtained from the capture of Khalid that Osama wanted the United States to attack him in Afghanistan. A war there would attract all the jihadis from around the arab world and Osama needed another major victory to increase his stature so he could recruit enough follower to achieve his ultimate goal which was rule over parts of or all of the arab world. He needed us to come to Afghanistan because he had beaten the Russians there. Osama was trying to choose the battlefield. The Russians learned quickly that Afghanistan is a terrible battlefield for a modern industrialized army. It is rugged, mountaneous, and full of hiding places. Second it has no sea water port. We could never field a signifcant army in Afghanistan without either having a port or a reliable neighbor. Afghanistan is bordered by Russia, Iran, China, Uzbekistan, etc... none are reliable neighbors. Further, we have no reliable indigenous Afghan allies. We were not friendly with any of the tribes in Afghanistan prior to Sept 11 (i.e. Tajiks or Uzbecks or Pashtuns) These ethnic groups have a long history of being on any side that is convenient. Finally, the Afghan people do not have the wealth to sustain a fight against Islamic fascism. Afghanistan is an impovershed country with no natural resources. American forces would have to stay in Afghainstan for decades to keep the terror camps from being rebuilt.
In contrast, Iraq has everything Afghainstan does not. It does not have the reputation of Afghanistan (the graveyard of armies). It is mostly desert and plains and urban - perfect conditions for the modern army. It has a sea port and is bordered by more reliable allies (Kuwait). We also have a long and friendly relationship with the Kurds, an indigenous Iraqi ethnic group. George W. Bush is the most popular foreign person in Kurdistan (and for good reason). Finally, Iraq has an extended middle class with lots of natural resources. This is probably the most important point about Iraq. It means that we can eventually leave Iraq to allow Iraqis to finish the war on Terror. Further, the Iraq war has drained all the jihadi manpower from the war in Afghanistan. Thus, the war in Iraq allows us to achieve victory in Afghanistan because Al Queda puts no resources into Afghanistan and the proximity of Iraq attracts all the Jihadists and all the MONEY (who would have gone to Afghanistan).
Any strategic planning for the war on Terror would have to have considered where to wage the war.... and Iraq was by far the best and most obvious place.