- Uncertainty. Can we leave in five years or next year? Is the Iraqi government worth fighting for? Will Iraqi troops ever be good enough to fight on their own? Is the insurgency growing or collapsing?
- Menace. Will US troops continue to die at the current high rate? Will the conflict devolve into a civil war with US troops caught in the middle? Will the conflict spread?
- Mistrust. Did Bush lie about the reasons for going to war? Are the Democrats playing politics with the war? Is the opposition treasonous?
The decline in US moral cohesion is a natural consequence of the isolation of US decision makers from the external reference environment. Instead of making connections, we severed them (for a complete analysis of why this occurred, read my earlier brief on "Boyd on al Qaeda's Grand Strategy"). This isolation (across mental, physical, and moral vectors) drove:
- Bad decision making. The willingness to accept flawed intelligence on Iraq's WMD capabilities. The failure to stop the looting after the invasion. The decision to disband the Iraqi military. The failure to send enough troops.
- Ad hoc planning and strategy development. The lack of a plan to win the peace in the Iraq. The plethora of different military plans since then: build Sunni militias (Fallujah), stability for elections and a political solutions, aggressive counter-insurgent sweeps, clear-and-hold (oil-spots), etc.
- False or corrupt internal dialogues. An internal: Are you with us or against us? Democracy throughout the Middle East was the real goal of the US invasion. This is another Vietnam.
The end result of this break-down in moral cohesion will be the following:
- A withdrawal within the next three years. The inevitable result of a collapse in US moral cohesion is a quick withdrawal. The pressure to leave will only increase.
- A reliance on "loyalist" paramilitaries. Despite the claims that Iraqi troops are capable of independent action, they aren't. While some few may be able to lead an engagement, they don't have any of the support systems necessary to sustain an army in the field (from medical to supply to air power). This support capability won't emerge before we leave since it takes many years to develop. This means that we will rely on Shiite and Kurdish paramilitaries to enforce the peace (we got a taste of what that means when the US raided the Badr Brigade's/Interior Ministry's torture chambers in November).
- The collapse of the Iraqi state and the spread of the conflict. The withdrawal of US forces will cause the Iraqi state to split. The Kurds will be the first to leave. An independent Kurdish state will inflame regional tensions through the activation of guerrilla groups in Turkey, Iran, and Syria. A slow burning war between Shiites and Sunnis will draw in regional powers and cause substantial instability in the Gulf Monarchies with large Shia populations. Finally, as Iraq's global guerrillas return home from the Iraqi training grounds, they will bring disruption with them.