It seems like there is wars just about everywhere these days. just look at the carnage filtered to us from the streets of Tripoli through the front page of the New York Times Monday. Ramzi Haidar's photo of a fallen Lebanese soldiers and his comrades during a firefight with "islamic radicals" was amazing work. Haidar had to get extremely close to get that show - up close and dangerous. It captured a glimpse of battle that few of us ever see. Unfortunately, it gets a quick glance from the hundreds of thousands who read the Times - because so many don;t understand the conflict in Lebanon right now. So many times it's confused with last summer's Israeli offensive. It is really a brewing civil war - taking place within Lebanon's borders between the government and these cleverly labeled - Islamic Radicals - which sounds like a bad 1960's pop band from the Middle East. Is it really just a crackdown on "radicals"? Or is it something more. Perhaps to the radicals it is actually a holy war or even a struggle against on oppressive Lebanese government and their elite structure. For the government, it is clearly a power struggle to maintain order within their borders. Lord knows the Lebanese have their other problems to deal with, Hezbollah, Syria and of course, Israel.
LINK TO story and photo:
What can the U.S. do to influence this situation? Not much, we gave up out foothold in Lebanon two decades ago and have maintained a limited presence since. Perhaps, the State Department could ask Israel to lay off while the Lebanese sort this out. We have little or no communication with Syria and Hezbollah leaders to have them remain out of this conflict - because any support to the radicals could broaden the conflict into a larger war.
On the other end of the Islamic belt - way over in Pakistan - President Musharraf has a loose hold on power in his government and is losing support from the tribal elders in the the Northwest frontier (bordering Afghanistan) down to the country's largest deep water port, Karachi - where rioters killed 42 people earlier this month.
What can we do to affect change in Pakistan. Well, first of all we give them tons of cash - huge military support and contracts for the latest in military technology. Then we turn a blind eye to Islamabad's deals with our enemies in the tribal lands - which likely harbor the remnants of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban headquarters and likely Osama bin Laden - if he still lives.
If Musharraf's government topples, we must follow Sun Tzu's art of war and invade, striking at their weakest moment. In fact, we should have invaded Pakistan when they were weakened by their massive earthquake in September 2005. We had an entire airborne brigade from the 82nd Airborne Division based in eastern Afghanistan. That brigade could have been airlifted from Bagram and parachuted onto airports in Islamabad - other paratroopers could secure Pakistan's few nuke sites. Follow on forces from the Marines and Army could then land and control the city and major roads. From there and from within Afghanistan - U.S. and coalitions forces could squeeze the Taliban from both sides - add a military pressure that would force them to flee of succumb.
That is the only way we could ever show success from our foray into empire building in central Asia. We have fallen to a "classic blunder."
"Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia" - Vizzinni, the Sicilian strategist from the Princess Bride - 1987