Maj. Gen. J.F.C. Fuller, Britain’s leading military thinker of the 20th century, wrote that the object of war is not victory, but peace. A war that fails to achieve clear political objectives is merely an exercise in violence and futility.

In its headlong rush to invade Iraq, the Bush administration is violating Fuller’s simple yet immensely important strategic dictum. Britain’s Prime Minister Anthony Eden committed the same grave error in 1956 when he launched an ill-conceived invasion of Egypt which, like modern Iraq, had the audacity to defy a great power. The Suez operation was a military success that turned into a political fiasco.

The Bush administration is clearly obsessed with Iraq, but it has no clear plan on what to do with this Mideast version of ex-Yugoslavia once America’s military might overthrows Saddam Hussein’s regime. Nor is there understanding of how invasion and occupation will affect the Fertile Crescent, America’s client Arab regimes, Turkey, indeed, the entire Mideast.

There is also the dearth of reliable political information on Iraq from human sources that has long plagued U.S. Mideast policy. Much of the Bush administration’s current view of the region has been fashioned by neoconservatives, who hold key policymaking positions in White House, Pentagon, and vice president’s office. Equally significant, the administration’s non-electronic human intelligence on the Mideast and terrorism relies heavily on self-serving data supplied by foreign intelligence services and Iraqi exile groups.

The ideologues and Pentagon hawks driving administration policy recall the Roman senator Cato, who ended every oration with, “Carthage must be destroyed!” Few of these armchair warriors have even been to Iraq; less have ever served in U.S. armed forces, yet all are eager to send American soldiers to fight a potentially bloody war whose benefits to the United States are doubtful.

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