I have been reading with great interest the recent reports on the front pages of the New York Times and (today) the Wall Street Journal, outlining our government’s plan to invade Iraq in considerable detail.
Presumably there are many people in Iraq, up to and including its dictator, doing the same. It must make for even more interesting reading over there.
Has a war plan ever been quite so brazenly run up the flag pole in full view? What’s really going on here?
There are only a handful of credible scenarios:
(1) This “war plan” is bogus. Our military leaders are planting disinformation in the media. This would be an entirely appropriate tactic on their part; what’s astonishing is that the Pentagon correspondents reporting on the plans do not seem ever to mention the possibility that they are being used.
(2) The “war plan” — which involves a blitzkrieg-like “war of effects” to paralyze the enemy’s command structure with precision-guided attacks — is a deliberate intimidation effort, a chess move on the part of the Bush administration to avoid war entirely by convincing the Iraqis that resistance is futile. In such a scenario, there’s a different kind of disinformation at work — an inflation of the potency of American forces to persuade the enemy to fold. Again, it seems amazing that the reporters who may be serving as a conduit for this propaganda game do not ever raise the possibility that this is their role.
(3) The “war plan” is real, and the administration doesn’t want it revealed, but the Pentagon reporters are just so good at their jobs that they got the story anyway. This is certainly possible, but unlikely, given the extremity and effectiveness of the Bush administration’s press-management techniques.
(4) The “war plan” is real, and it is being intentionally leaked to Pentagon reporters by officials who are so confident of our might and so certain that everything will go as planned that they do not mind letting the enemy in on their playbook. In a way, this is the scariest of the possibilities, because it suggests a troubling level of hubris on the part of our leadership.
Yes, the American military is unmatched in the world today. Yes, we have technology that is several generations ahead of our opponents. But war is hell; the fog of war is real; happenstance and chaos remain powerful players on the battlefield. If the big Iraq attack doesn’t go exactly as planned, this kind of overconfidence may come to look costly and foolish.