bitter sanity

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Wednesday, April 07, 2004

[posted by jaed at 12:29 PM]
A thought about proxy war
At Roger Simon's site, commenter Peony makes the following point:
Ted Kennedy is correct to the extent that Vietnam was a proxy war between China and the US and later the Soviet Union and the US. Iraq is very much a proxy war between states (Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia) masked behind an ideological movement and the US.
This wasn't the case a year ago, of course, but it seems largely true of the current stage of conflict. The Saddam Fedayeen seem to have quieted down after Saddam's capture; he might or might not have been directing them, but I suspect he was paying them. But the "spectaculars" aimed at Iraqi civilians have continued at about the same level, and those are Saudi tactics; and the Iraqis themselves say these are due to foreign Arabs. Now, with Sadr, the Iranians have made their move. The current situation, yes, can be analyzed largely in terms of a veiled war with Iran on the one hand and Saudi Arabia with the other.

Which raises some immediate questions. One reason proxy wars are fought is because it's too dangerous to fight the actual enemy. (See: Cold War. Direct war between two nuclear-armed powers being a bad idea, the Cold War, when hot, was fought out in other countries. See also: Vietnam, where no one thought war with China was a good idea.)

This factor can also make a proxy war impossible to win. ("Winning" the Vietnam war would necessarily have involved reuniting the country, but going right up to China's border was too dangerous again. So the Vietnam war was a holding action, continued until we decided to cut our losses. Our problem in Vietnam was not the lack of an exit strategy, but the lack of a victory strategy.)

It's dangerous to fight Iran and Saudi Arabia, and there are good strategic reasons for waiting (in the case of Iran, for the possibility of an internal Velvet Revolution; in the case of Saudi Arabia, until Iraq can take up the slack for disruption in Europe and Japan's oil supply). But is it more dangerous than what's happening now?

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