Operation Peaceful Envelopment

Posted: Feb 18, 2003 12:00 AM
Ralph Waldo Emerson's observation, "The field cannot be well seen from within the field," never applied more apply than in Iraq. We need to get above the field to see how to deal with Iraq. If we keep our wits about us, stay strong militarily, follow the Golden Rule and provide enlightened but firm leadership with the Arab countries, this could be the pivot point in the war on terrorism and perhaps the dawning of an age of peace and reconciliation among ancient enemies. The president has always said war in Iraq is not inevitable, but there appeared to be only two possible alternatives: 1) the threat of war followed by Saddam Hussein's abdication or disarmament; or 2) all-out war followed by prolonged U.S. military occupation. The president may, however, be heading in a different direction. Call it "Operation Peaceful Envelopment." The first strategy was to convince Iraq that the United States was so serious about going to war that Hussein would capitulate and save himself, making war unnecessary. The second strategy - aggressively pushed from the beginning by the "war hawks" - consists of a crushing military attack followed by occupation and military rule of Iraq. This strategy sounds good until viewed in operation from the top row of the bleachers, where it becomes clear that invading and occupying a Muslim country portends political and social turmoil across the Middle East and escalating terrorism around the world. The war hawks' scheme is the first step in a much larger, ill-considered foreign-policy gambit to try and remake the entire Middle East through U.S.-induced chaos - a strategic nightmare. It seems to me the president has been somewhat uneasy and rather put off by the war hawks' manipulation of the Iraq situation since 9-11 to implement their agenda of drastically altering American foreign policy - turning the United States into a global imperial power starting in the Middle East. The president seems to have given the appearance of going along with them because their strategy offered the perfect opening gambit for what I believe is his preferred peaceful envelopment strategy, and it also provided a fallback position should the peaceful envelopment strategy fail to get off the ground. This wiser approach now under consideration continues to rely on a highly credible threat of war but doesn't depend on Hussein's throwing in the towel before movement of the military is set into motion. The purpose of Operation Peaceful Envelopment is not to conquer and rule over people but to control territory temporarily to ensure order, root out any proscribed weapons and get a provisional government established. Allied military forces would be replaced as quickly as possible by a temporary U.N. force. This would be no Operation Barbarossa. The military's objective would be to envelop Iraq as peacefully as possible in a security mantle and escort a caretaker governor into Baghdad. Action would not begin with aerial bombardment or involve lightning attacks on Iraqi military installations or strikes on civilian infrastructure. Overwhelming military presence would be established in Iraq but unleashed selectively only if Iraqi forces resist. The military would enter the country in the north, west and south and move forward toward Baghdad. Rules of engagement would be "don't fire unless fired upon." They would tighten the ring around Baghdad, allowing civilians free passage out of the ring and permitting any Iraqi military personnel free passage out also if they surrender their arms and immediately report to new Iraqi military units that would begin forming up as soon as allied forces entered the country. For this strategy to succeed, we need the cooperation of the United Nations going in. The people of Iraq also need to be fully aware in advance of what's going to happen, which means taking out Iraq's capability to jam outside radio and television signals. The head of the provisional government must be someone who can enjoy support among Iraqi citizens and the rest of the Arab and Muslim world, which means he must come from outside the ranks of the various exile groups that have their own agendas. The most highly regarded name that comes to mind is that of Hashemite Prince Hassan of Jordan who could be an effective nonexecutive "chairman" of a provisional government as Hamid Karzai is in Afghanistan. He has visibility and respect and is an acknowledged ecumenical Sunni leader who hopefully would be acceptable to the Kurds and the Shia community. He could serve temporarily until the Iraqi people choose another form of parliamentary government, or, if they choose, he could remain in place as the head of a constitutional monarchy. I believe King Abdullah of Jordan will see the wisdom of this choice. The Saudis may resist the idea of returning a Hashemite prince to Iraq, fearing a plot to encircle them with dynastic enemies who could displace the Saudi royal family. Here is where leadership by George W. Bush comes in. The choice for the region is now stark: Accept someone like Hassan who might be seen as a "second-best" alternative and prevent war, or confront the whirlwind of war, which could unleash chaos throughout the Middle East. Emerson also said that "with every precaution you take against an evil, you put yourself into the power of the evil." Peaceful envelopment is a way to rise above the field in Iraq and to transcend the evil we confront there without risking chaos in the Middle East and without putting America into the power of that evil.