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<nettime> The War of Time
bc on Sat, 4 Jan 2003 14:18:25 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> The War of Time

// recently having written a few thoughts on the mention
// of a two-front war, as mentioned by US Secretary of
// Defense Rumsfeld, it is interesting to see questioning
// by those with expertise in the military/intelligence field.
// a point i tried to make about Mr. Rumsfeld's comments
// was that 'Afghanistan' should be considered front #1,
// Iraq #2, Korea #3... etc., to eventually include 'homeland'
// and other theaters of potential battles (if chaos ensues).
// interesting is 'the control of time' and the thought of power
// in the ability to use time as a strategy, which reminds me
// of Virilio's work, and also the recent physics experiments
// showing that lightspeed can indeed be slowed-down and
// sped up (faster than light), thus 'speed' itself is not constant.
// whether this is true for 'vector' awaits its realm of definition.

// what seems clear enough is that 'time' is almost on-hold in
// the USA, with the economy, the mindset (actually, backward
// time-travel is required to conceptualize what is going on),
// the abuse of power through uncritical media and language,
// and other aspects leave very little- except time. time to wait,
// to wait it out, if possible. to wait for the charade and its very
// carefully set stage to start to collapse from its grand illusion,
// for the 'Republican Worldview' to be seen as the privatized
// 'Suburban Super-Estate' it is, as ideology/mass psychology.
// time. all crumbles. active are the aggressions on every front,
// many more than two- dismantling this and that US protection
// of civil society, this and that public cohension, and trust- until
// there is only a void, and time, and a guess of how many there
// are, like those who falsely-believe their own worldview is the
// world's view... and those, who plainly experience deterioration
// so vastly expansive, inflationary, deeply debilitating to every
// existing structure- a type of wanton destruction that only a
// type of extreme idiocy or guarded disregard for shared life
// could ever conjure up in nightmare scenarios truly believed.
// accidental fascism, fascism by stupidity, by default. time awaits.
// tick tock another second on the new year's clock, here we go...

The War of Time
by Dr. George Friedman


The United States is perceived as being overly aggressive against
Iraq and in the war on al Qaeda in general. However, a look at
events of the past year shows that since major action in
Afghanistan concluded, Washington has been relatively inactive.
The illusion of aggressiveness covers a reality of caution.
Though there was good reason for caution, Washington's extended
focus on preparing for war in Iraq has created difficulties:
Other crises such as North Korea and Venezuela, which would have
been readily managed prior to Sept. 11, are increasingly
unmanageable in this context. Therefore, Washington now feels
pressure to bring the Iraq campaign to a rapid conclusion.
Whatever the operational realities in Iraq, the global situation
calls for a rapid onset of war and rapid victory.


Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States has played a long,
deep game. Following the reflexive attack on Afghanistan -- and
contrary to the claims of most of its critics -- the United
States spent the next year biding its time. It built up its
covert capabilities around the world, it collected intelligence
and, on occasion, it acted. Washington decided that its next move
would be to invade Iraq and, having decided that, it waited. The
difference between the reality and the image of the United States
since the Afghan campaign is striking. The image has been of an
uncontrolled unilateralism; the reality has been a year-long
process of coalition building and of cautious buildup for its
next campaign.

The roots of this paradox can be found in the origins of the war
against al Qaeda. Pearl Harbor stunned the United States, and it
took a year for a strategy and capability to emerge. During that
time, the United States tried to compensate for weakness through
an apparent bellicosity unsupported by power. Raids like the
Doolittle raid, speeches by Gen. Douglas MacArthur and real if
unintended battles like Coral Sea, Midway and Guadalcanal laid
the groundwork for a systematic offensive. In a similar sense,
Sept. 11 took the United States by surprise. Washington had
neither the strategy nor the force needed to wage the war. It
substituted bellicosity for coherent action -- to keep the enemy
off balance -- while fighting real, if not wholly intended or
planned, engagements around the world.

As in 1942, 2002 was consumed by debate about strategy. Following
Afghanistan, the issue was: What next? Attention immediately
focused on Iraq. There are three reasons to attack Iraq:

1. Saddam Hussein is unpredictable and potentially a powerful
ally for al Qaeda. Whatever the relationship in the past, the
threat of a relationship in the future requires the elimination
of Iraq's regime.

2. All wars have a psychological component. There is a real
perception within the Islamic world today that the United States
is incapable of fighting a war to a definitive conclusion. The
United States must demonstrate both its will and ability. Iraq
serves the purpose well.

3. Iraq is an extraordinarily strategic country. It touches
Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. An occupied
Iraq would give U.S. forces the ability to wage covert and overt
war throughout the region, setting the stage for the direct
engagement and liquidation of al Qaeda, with or without the
cooperation of regional governments.

There was never a debate within the Bush administration about
whether the next campaign would be in Iraq. There was a serious
debate over how and when -- and while that debate raged and
forces were prepared, the United States created a sense of
inevitability of both war and victory that substituted for what
Washington in reality was able to do at the time.

The debate was between two factions. One, rooted in the Air
Force, Joint Special Operation Command and Defense Department
civilians, argued for an early war, using primarily air power and
Special Operations troops along the Afghan model. The other
faction, rooted in the regular army and State Department, argued
for a more systematic buildup of heavier forces, which would be
available should the opening gambit of USAF/JSOC prove
insufficient. Secretary of State Colin Powell led the campaign
for a conventional option. Since this option required coalition
partners for basing and logistic support, he also argued for a
period of systematic coalition building. In the end, Powell won
the fight -- not against a war with Iraq, but for a more cautious
and time-consuming strategy. That strategy has been unfolding
since last summer; now the needed forces are nearly in place and
the coalition is almost secure.

The criticism of the rapid attack plan was that it was too risky
-- there were no contingencies in the event of failure. The 
current plan includes a range of complex options. It is a war
plan designed to raise the ante if Iraq's forces don't crumble.
Forces will be moving toward the theater of operations even as
the air war beings -- dramatically changing the Desert Storm
model, in which almost all forces were in place before the air
campaign began. This plan seems to call for a systematic increase
in pressure designed to crack the Iraqis, with the expectation
that the crack will happen early and a willingness to allow it to
come later. It is in this sense that the buildup to war and the
war itself can be called a long and deep game. It assumes that
time is on Washington's side and that the war can be executed on
multiple, complex levels simultaneously.

And that is where this cautious war plan is most risky -- not
necessarily in relation to Iraq, but in terms of global strategy
as a whole. The war plan has the United States focusing heavily
on Iraq, with parallel attention on covert operations against al
Qaeda. It also has opened the door -- during this period and
particularly at this moment, when troops are committed but not
yet in action -- for other actors to take advantage of the
situation or for other events to spiral out of control.

There are two major crises on the table now, both of which
involve fundamental U.S. interests and neither of which the
United States is in a position to manage effectively because of
its long Iraqi game.

1. North Korea clearly has watched the U.S. fascination with Iraq
and has calculated that a crisis now could extract for it maximum
advantage from Washington. Pyongyang has gone out of its way to
cause Washington to perceive a nuclear threat, with the
perception quite possibly greater than the reality. North Korean
officials know the United States can't afford a two-front war,
regardless of what its doctrine says. They expect Washington to
make political and economic concessions, calculating that it
cannot engage in confrontation. Pyongyang's calculation is
proving correct. This would not be the case if the Iraq matter
were settled.

2. Venezuela is a major supplier of oil to the United States.
With the Iraq war brewing and oil prices rising, a disruption of
Venezuelan oil is the last thing the United States needs. Yet,
because of a crisis between President Hugo Chavez and a large and
diverse opposition, Venezuela has ground to a virtual halt,
actually importing oil to keep itself going. Normally, the United
States would act aggressively to bring the crisis under control;
now the Bush administration feels that it can't. If Chavez were
overthrown in a coup that could be attributed to the United
States, then Europe would hurl charges of overthrowing a
democratically elected government in Latin America -- redolent of
the Allende assassination in Chile -- and use it as a
justification for staying out of the coalition against Iraq.
Maintaining the anti-Iraq coalition compels the United States to
refrain from action, even as Venezuela collapses along with its
oil exports.

Two major crises now confront the United States. Neither emanates
from the Islamic world or from al Qaeda. Neither can be managed
effectively by the United States because of Iraq.

The situation becomes even more difficult when we consider that
the concentration of forces for Iraq has created opportunities
elsewhere within the Islamic theater of operations. In
Afghanistan, for example, there is a perceptible increase in the
tempo of operations of Islamist forces, which continually are
probing U.S. and allied fortifications with apparently growing
effectiveness. Moreover, in the coming months, al Qaeda will find
opportunities to strike at targets within and without the Islamic
world -- as the recent attack on American doctors in Yemen

Therefore, the United States cannot put off an attack on Iraq
much longer. The peculiarity is not that the United States has
been so eager to attack, but that it has held off for so long
that its flanks are exposed. That exposure cannot end until the
United States defeats Iraq and occupies it. This means not only
that war cannot be put off much longer but also that the war
cannot be allowed to last very long. Therefore, a tension is
building in the U.S. warfighting strategy that will define events
in the coming weeks and months.

The war plan in place allows for a quick air/Special Ops attack
that hopefully will shatter the Iraqi army, force a collapse in
the government and permit a rapid occupation. The war plan seeks
the best but allows for the worst. If there is not a rapid Iraqi
collapse, it allows for a systematic occupation of Iraq from
multiple axes of attack. It is a plan designed to minimize risk
and maximize the likelihood of success. The price embedded in
this plan is time: It trades risk for time under the assumption
that time is one commodity of which the United States has a
surplus. Time is the one thing that is not conserved under the
Powell strategy.

The assumption about time remains true to some extent, but no
longer to the extent it was during the summer or fall, when the
plans were being devised. The U.S. focus on Iraq has generated
problems outside the Islamic world that are not as critical as
those arising within the Islamic world, but which normally would
be of paramount importance to Washington. There is now a pressing
need to conclude the Iraq military campaign and to move to
follow-on operations, while also bringing order to other areas
outside the primary theater of operations.

U.S. power is enormous, but it is not infinite. Therefore, the
United States has the ability to play a long and deep game. It
does not have to shoot from the hip, because enormous power buys
a great deal of time. But because power is not infinite, time is
also inherently finite. The war will begin sometime in the next
four to six weeks and must conclude quickly; otherwise, things
could get out of control on a global scale.

This is something that Hussein certainly understands. His entire
strategy has been a delaying strategy: First, he delayed
diplomatically; then he delayed on weapons inspections.
Inevitably, his war-fighting strategy, if he chooses war over
exile, will be to delay the United States, to impose time
penalties at every point -- to trade lives for time in the hope
that the United States runs out of time before he runs out of
lives. For him, it all comes down to Baghdad and the ability to
force a drawn-out war of attrition. For the United States, it
comes down to smashing Iraq's ability to resist before U.S.
troops even reach Baghdad. Now, Hussein thinks that time is his
friend, and Washington knows it must deny Hussein time.

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