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BOMB DAMAGE ASSESSMENT: The Elections in Iraq

As of this writing, the elections in Iraq are four days away. I'll update this section as the results come in. But ahead of the elections, let me make a few predictions and observations:

The coalition of secular Shi'ites and Sunnis, led by former prime minister Ayad Allawi, will be the ruling coalition that will try to form a government. This coalition best reflects the Iraqi population. The more religious pro-Iranian Shi'ite parties will have a significant voice as well--Ahmed Chalabi, leading this pro-Iranian party, might be named prime minister in order to get his party to join the ruling coalition.

The Sunnis will still complain that they are not being represented, although much has been done to give the minority Sunnis a louder voice. They will turn out in big numbers to vote, and they will win a lot of seats in the new parliament. Their complaints will cause the insurgency to continue and may even be more deadly, targeting the newly elected parliament members. But eventually a government will be formed and recognized.

The next sound you hear will be the rush to the exits for the American military.

Representative John Murtha's resolution last November, although going down to a very lopsided defeat, was a wake-up bell for the entire country: America's mission in Iraq is all but over. With a newly elected government in place, America will be strongly encouraged, both in Iraq and here at home, to start removing its troops so Iraq can get on with the business of rebuilding itself.

They will gladly accept American money and a division or two nearby to help keep things under control, but the new government will insist that it is in charge now and American forces can go home. President Bush cannot declare the mission over--the new Iraqi government has to be the ones to do it.

The insurgency will still exist, but it will eventually die out as the Iraqi Army gets stronger and the government executes more captured insurgents. It may take a Saddam-like police apparatus to put the finishing touches on the insurgents, but by then it will be an Iraqi problem, not ours.

(Of course, the U.S. will be criticized and blamed for allowing any sort of repression by the new Iraqi government, even against foreign insurgents. The Democrats will not let any opportunity to criticize the Bush government slip by.)

The sooner all this happens in 2006, the better it will be for President Bush and the U.S. military. The war on terror has been interrupted by the insurgency in Iraq, and with the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq, we can get back to the task of hunting down more al-Qaeda terrorists and shutting down that global terror network.

If a hard-line pro-Iranian Shi'ite government wins the parliamentary elections and forms a government, the insurgency might intensify and a civil war is a very likely outcome. This situation will be the most dangerous for the U.S. because not only will U.S. troops have to remain to try to keep the peace, but every faction inside Iraq will be at war--and the possibility exists for Iran to become directly involved in the Chaos. Jihadists will be fighting Sunni moderates and Ba'athists, with the Kurds nervously waiting to see what happens to their plans for a self-governed enclave; moderate Shi'ites will be battling conservative Shi'ites; the U.S. will oppose any activities by any pro-Iranian personalities or forces.

But I believe the real Iraq will step forward after the elections--a moderate Shi'ite government not ruled by the mullahs, but not cowed into submission by a repressive Sunni minority either. The military will be tightly controlled and kept small to prevent a military coup, such as what brought Saddam to power. Islam will have a much more powerful influence in the country, but not enough to make Iraq a vassal of Iran. The United States will keep forces in Iraq and in neighboring Kuwait and Bahrain.

A victory in Iraq may not directly translate to Republican victories in 2006, however. The Republicans may hang onto a majority in both the House and Senate, but it will be a much smaller one, and that will be perceived as a great loss even if the Republicans maintain control. President Bush may tackle a few hot issues such as keeping tax cuts, and some not-so-hot button issues such as eminent domain and stem cell research, but major reforms in areas such as Social Security, tax reform, gay marriage, and abortion will go nowhere. Politicians like Hillary Clinton, who wisely moderated their views on the war in Iraq and expertly straddled the fence, will rise in popularity and attention.

The U.S. military will feel the effects of not winning in Iraq. Transformation will be tougher to implement, even though transforming the military from a large armor-heavy Cold War force to a quick, highly mobile, highly adaptable force is exactly what's needed now. The luster on America's military armor that everyone proudly saw after Operation Desert Storm is most definitely tarnished now. The perception will be that we didn't lose Iraq, but we definitely didn't win it--we simply held out long enough to fight to a standstill. Weapon systems that didn't deliver in Iraq--heavy armor, major warships, and air superiority fighters--will be drastically cut. The guerrilla war in Iraq will be considered the first example of the kind of war America needs to fight and win in the future, and if it didn't participate in Iraq, it won't survive the budget axe.

The war on terror will continue--the results of Operation Iraqi Freedom simply will drive that war deeper underground. We won't invade Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, or Iran, but we will exert massive pressure on them to cooperate. We will step up surveillance, special ops, and covert intelligence-gathering missions in those countries, and in other areas such as the South China Sea and Polynesia, and we will deal harshly--in diplomatic, economic, and political terms--with any nation that doesn't cooperate.

We will have been substantially weakened as the world's last remaining superpower, but our domination in the world will not be tested. There is still no force on Earth that can challenge the United States of America, even a shadowy one such as al-Qaeda. We may not have the ability to threaten nations such as Iran or North Korea with a "Desert Storm"-like threat, but the dogged pursuit of al-Qaeda throughout the world and the enormous economic and political pressure we can exert on other governments will be force enough. Until the next major regional conflict erupts, political and economic pressure will do just fine.

As of 12/22/05:

Still no election results from Iraq, although the talk is that the more fundamentalist Shi'ite groups are ahead. Results won't be in until early January.

Calls from Sunni groups that the elections were flawed and should be recast--not just recounted--went nowhere. The Sunnis are soon going to start really feeling the effect of being the minority in Iraq. Even with growing American support--necessary because of the very real fear that complete pro-Iranian Shi'ite control in Iraq could make Iraq an Iranian province--the Sunnis will be marginalized, possibly to the extent that they will continue to support an insurgency.

More news next month. Stay tuned!

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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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