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DAY OF THE CHEETAH: The Exit Door Opens on Iraq

At this writing, the elections in Iraq have not yet occurred. But I can make several predictions on what will happen--and all of it is good for the United States.

It is probably too late to cancel the elections, so they will go forward on schedule. Barring some tremendous catastrophe--such as a massive attack by Sunni insurgents or al-Qaeda with weapons of mass destruction--and probably with some reservations here and there, the elections will be certified by the world as legitimate, and a Shiite government will be formed.

Naturally the Sunni minority will squawk, but there's not much they can do about it, and they know it. They brought their downfall upon themselves. They and Saddam Hussein dominated political life in Iraq for too many decades, and the Shiites want payback. The world community will insist on some sort of artificially structured government that gives the Sunnis a greater voice in government, but that won't happen, or if it does it won't be very meaningful.

Will there be civil war? In a sense yes, but not at the level suggested by the Democrats and others who are opposed to the war. The difference between Iraq and other areas of civil unrest in the world such as the Balkans is that the Sunnis and Shiites are all Muslim, all Arabs, and all Iraqis. They are just as likely to JOIN together to fight a common foe--yes, I'm talking about the United States.

The Shiites, who have been very quiet recently since the defeat of Muqtata al-Sadr's Mehdi army last year, will be on the hunt for foreign fighters, kidnappers, and fundamentalist insurgents, not every Sunni with a gun. Forget about the so-called Iraqi army--the Shiite militias will be the ones doing the fighting and the killing. The really deadly Sunnis will be driven underground and eventually hunted down and eliminated as the Shiites ramp up their police and intelligence forces.

At first the United States will support the new Iraqi government, but very shortly after the elections, the new government will politely show America the door--and the United States, after loudly proclaiming everlasting trust, faith, and support for the new government, will gladly exit. U.S. forces will probably maintain bases in the west and in the Kurdish controlled regions to the north--or at the very least re-establish No-Fly and demilitarized zones throughout the country--but our presence in central and southern Iraq will slowly but surely disappear.

Thus Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) will end--not with a bang, like Desert Storm, but with a whimper.

We can't really ask if OIF was a success because the objectives of the operation were not made crystal clear. Was it to take down Saddam? Destroy weapons of mass destruction? The reasons changed depending on whom or when you asked, so there's no answer.

The question to ask is not whether Operation Iraqi Freedom was a success or failure, but this: did Operation Iraqi Freedom enhance American security? Was it worth the lives of almost two thousand troops and thousand more injured?

Unlike many Democrats, I believe OIF helped American security because the world saw what President Bush was willing to do in the aftermath of Nine-Eleven: go anywhere in the world, take on any adversary, and do whatever necessary--including taking down an entire regime--in order to demonstrate its military power and the resolve of its leadership. Other nations will be hesitant to take on the United States, support any faction or power unfriendly to the U.S., or even pursue a policy contrary to the U.S. for fear of similar action.

Is the world a more dangerous place now? If Nine-Eleven hadn't happened, I would have said that launching a pre-emptive attack on Iraq while we already had United Nations sanctions and a No-Fly Zone over the country definitely inflamed our enemies and made the world more dangerous. But we live in a post-Nine-Eleven world. American foreign policy was ALREADY reactionary, haphazard, uncoordinated, and benign, and yet the World Trade Center was attacked TWICE in eight years, and terrorists launched attacks on U.S. embassies and warships throughout the Middle East and Africa.

The world was already pretty dangerous before Nine-Eleven--our actions in Iraq didn't make it more so. In fact, it would have been difficult to make the world any more dangerous than it was during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the Clinton impeachment, and the Bush-Gore elections, where America's attention was definitely drawn elsewhere and our foreign policy consisted of knee-jerk, headline-grabbing swipes at anyone within reach, with vastly more style than substance.

America HAD to react to Nine-Eleven. Afghanistan was the logical target, but Iraq was a BETTER target. If President Assad of Syria was attacking U.S. warplanes weekly for years like Saddam Hussein was doing, we probably would have attacked Syria instead; if Iran sponsored al-Qaeda like they sponsor terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad, maybe we would have attacked Iran.

The Middle East is too important to the United States to simply pack up and leave--and yes, I'm talking about the oil--but neither can we sow the seeds of democracy in a country and then ignore the dangers and, more importantly, the requests of the people of that country to not wish foreign troops on their soil. If the people--the American people and the Iraqis-- want us to leave, we should leave.

But we should make it crystal clear to everyone--Americans as well as Iraqis--that the United States reserves the right to intervene anywhere, anytime, and with any tool in our diplomatic or military arsenal, if any event or regime threatens America's national interests.

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Act Of War (June 2005)

ACT OF WAR introduces a whole new hero and a new conflict to techno-thriller fans around the world.

A series of deadly terrorist attacks in the United States and South America--including a nuclear attack near Houston, Texas--has the entire world on red alert. The attacks appear to be targeting an American energy company, but the terror group that calls itself GAMMA seems to be more than the anti-globalization, pro-environmental activists it claims to be.

Enter U.S. Army Major Jason Richter and his partner, Dr. Ariadna Vega of the Army Research Lab's Infantry Transformational BattleLab. These two young engineers have designed and built a land combat system designed to replace an entire motorized infantry squad: CID, or Cybernetic Infantry Device, a piloted robot with the speed and firepower of a weaponized Humvee, the strength of a bulldozer, and the agility of a special ops commando.

The hard-charging National Security Adviser, Robert Chamberlain, pairs Richter and Vega up with an FBI intelligence expert, Special Agent Kelsey DeLaine, and a veteran special ops expert, Command Sergeant Major Ray Jefferson, to form Task Force TALON, the first joint military-FBI unit charged with hunting down and stopping terrorists anywhere in the world. With CID's speed, power, weaponry, and amazing capabilities, combined with the talents of the U.S. Army and the investigative skills of the world's greatest detective agency, TALON is designed to put terrorists on the run around the globe.

But putting conflicting and single-minded personalities like Richter and DeLaine together is like mixing oxygen and gasoline: do it right and it produces horsepower--do it wrong, and it creates an explosion. Even the National Security Adviser can't seem to control his team. Can Task Force TALON survive long enough to hunt down GAMMA and its secret puppetmaster, the shadowy Consortium, before the next deadly attack?

"The novels of Dale Brown brim with violent action, detailed descriptions of sophisticated weaponry and political intrigue... His ability to bring technical weaponry to life is amazing."
--San Francisco Chronicle

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