Idea Of The Day

Back to Iraq

So, what next for the war against terrorism? Will the United States invade Yemen, or will it be Somalia—two other countries thought to be spawning grounds for al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations? Or will the next target be Iraq, whose murderous leader Saddam Hussein is capable of all manner of wicked activities? Judging from the press, a campaign against the Iraqi leader seems near inevitable. Newspapers and magazines are awash with all manner of advice for the Bush administration on how to achieve this goal. In this week’s New Yorker, Seymour Hersh chronicles previous attempts to topple Saddam, while in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Robert L. Bartley explains how to foster a popular Iraqi uprising.

And there’s some evidence that suggests the Pentagon may indeed be planning for just such an operation. On Dec. 9, the Washington Post’s Susan B. Glasser reported that Lt. Gen. Paul Mikolashek, head of the U.S. 3rd Army, was sent to Camp Doha, a U.S. base in Kuwait. According to Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, Mikolashek’s new duties will be to supervise U.S. Army Forces Central Command operations in Afghanistan. As Glasser writes: “Quigley said the transfer did not signal a growing U.S. ground operation. ‘That’s not necessarily the case,’ he said, but he added that commanders do not rule out the possibility of more troops being moved into Afghanistan. ‘It’s been our pattern, if we find we have a need, we’ll move to send people who have that capability.’ ” Perhaps those troops (and many more) may also move into Iraq.

Last week, Jane’s, the well-respected military journal, suggested that the arrival of Gen. Mikolashek in Kuwait might indicate rather more than just further operations in Afghanistan. Under the headline “Gen. Mikolashek takes US 3rd Army HQ to Kuwait” Jane’s says of the commander’s career:

An infantry officer, General Mikolashek was commissioned in 1969 and served in combat in Vietnam with the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry, and as an advisor with MACV Team 73. Since then General Mikolashek has commanded units at every level and has been employed in a number of high-profile staff appointments, including Chief of Operations and Contingency Plans Division, Headquarters, Department of the Army; and as the Assistant Division Commander, 82d Airborne Division. He has also served as Chief of the Office of Military Co-operation in Kuwait.

Jane’s then goes on to explain the recent history of the U.S. 3rd Army.

During the 1991 Gulf War the US 3rd Army’s order of battle included two corps headquarters (the XVIII Airborne Corps and the VII Corps), with nine divisions under command including the 82nd Airborne, 101st Air Assault, 24th Infantry (Mechanized), 1st Infantry (Mechanized), 1st Cavalry, 1st Armored, 3rd Armored, 1st British Armoured, and 6th French (Light) along with two armoured cavalry regiments (the 2nd ACR and 3rd ACR). Third Army’s mission during the war was to close with and destroy Iraq’s Republican Guard.

A decision to topple Saddam Hussein may not have been made, but if the destruction of Iraq’s best troops must be part of this mission, as seems very likely, then the 3rd Army would presumably be reassigned to the task it began in Kuwait and southern Iraq just over a decade ago. Why mess with success?