Implications of a 4-Star Command in Iraq

WoC points out a Jan 10 post on The Braden Files. It seems that the Defense Department is toying with the idea of carving out part of CENTCOM and turning it into an brand-new region. The commander of US ground forces in Iraq, 3-star Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez reports to 4-star General John Abizaid, the CENTCOM commander. Sanchez reports to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Why do this? To try and overpower the civilian leadership in Iraq and the civilian policy makers in Washington?

Not only is this a lot of effort for some bureaucratic gamesmanship, it is also futile. The White House determines who runs Iraq policy. It is a national security issue of the highest order, so slipping an extra star into the deck isn’t going to have much influence. Secretary of State Colin Powell is not likely to buckle at the sight of a four-star general.

Another possibility, which I find much more likely, is the idea that the military is gearing up for more operations in the region, and that CENTCOM, which is also responsible for Afghanistan and Pakistan, might be overloaded if another major campaign is launched. Iraq borders on Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, among others.

In other words, the Defense Department is putting forward the idea of another regional command because it anticipates the possibility of intensifying combat operations throughout the region. The war in Iraq might be coming under control, but from the standpoint of the Defense Department, the end of the Iraq campaign is the preface to follow-on campaigns.

If the four-star is appointed in the spring, he will be able to pull his staff together by summer. That will allow him the fall for planning, which would mean that operations under his command could begin by late 2004. Put another way, a bit more crassly, Baghdad Command will be good to go right after the November elections.

(Emphasis in the original.) Is there anything to this? Maybe. I’ve mentioned before that I believed one of our primary reasons for going into Iraq was to secure basing for future operations in the Gulf region. A campaign against Syria, in particular, would present many options for our planners.

The bases are there. There are a lot of troops there. A new command region would be the icing on the cake. Our military is stretched but still very capable. The only question left is SHOULD WE?

That’s the biggie.