Iraq: How geography favors Coalition Forces
This may surprise some; however, the geography of the Middle East actually favors our ability to project military force to where it is needed to protect the Westís vital oil interests in the region.
Everyone knows an island is land surrounded on all sides by water; however, the corollary to that simple fact is that whoever controls the waters surrounding an island has de facto control over the island itself.
As Tom Clancy points out in his non-fiction work: Submarine, the 1982 Argentine invasion of Britainís Falkland Islands was doomed to failure because, very shortly, the Royal Navy surrounded the Falklands with its surface ships and submarines. In fact, all the Royal Navy had to do was hint that it had a nuclear attack submarine in the vicinity and the Argentine Navy fled for its home ports, stranding their ground forces ashore.
Of course, the oil riches of the Middle East are not located on an island; however, the Arabian Peninsula will do almost as well.
Washed by the waters of the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, the Arabian Peninsula is a virtual island. There is no point ashore (or, even across the narrow Persian Gulf to Iran), that is not reachable by cruise missiles from our submarines lurking in waters around the Arabian Peninsula. Moreover, our submarines can lay mines which, based on pre-recorded, propeller-noise signatures, could attack unfriendly ships while allowing friendly ships to pass.
It is not in the economic interests of the oil-producers of the Middle East to provoke the U.S. into an act of war, such as undersea mining. But the Islamic fascists might decide to nuke Israel.
That would provoke World War III because just one nuclear weapon delivered (by any means) on Tel Aviv means the end of Israel as we know it. Based on what Iranís President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said at the United Nations, it is clear he wants Islamic Iran to have hegemony over the Middle East, if not the world. But Ahmadinejad should be careful about his wishes because, if Iran develops the ability to vaporize Israel, he could come under irresistible pressure from other Islamic fascists to do so.
Yet, unless Ahmadinejad is completely insane (and, that could be), he has to know what would happen to him and to Iran should Iran launch an atomic attack on Israel. To paraphrase Pope Benedict XVI: Faith must be tempered with the kind of Reason that argues against violence. So while Ahmadinejadís Faith may be telling him to kill Jews and other infidels, Reason should be telling him not to trade an uninhabitable Iran (slightly larger than Alaska) for an uninhabitable Israel (slightly smaller than New Jersey). Or, 68.7 million Iranians for 6.4 million Jews.
Fortunately, in addition to our powerful undersea and surface forces, our other great asset in the Middle East is, once again, geography. Sir Halford John Mackinder, the great British geographer, famously said ďWho rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the heartland commands the World Island; Who rules the World Island commands the World.Ē With the collapse of the USSR, the U.S. and NATO already control East Europe, so now the Heartland of the Westís vital interest has shifted to the oil fields of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the shipping outlets of the Persian Gulf.
Therefore, if Mackinderís theory is applies here, then Coalition Forces need to focus on oil field, pipeline and shipping terminal security rather trying to bring the blessings of freedom and democracy to the people of Iraq. If the Shiites and Sunnis want to kill each other in the cities, so be it. Machiavelli would applaud that; however, the United States does not.
Re-stationed where the oil is, rather than in the cities, Coalition Forces would be out of the Shiite-Sunni crossfire and our battle casualties would be reduced. More on this next week.
William Hamilton, a retired Army officer, was named a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and is a former Research Fellow at the U.S. Army War College. Writing as William Penn, he is the co-author of two novels about terrorist attacks against the United States.
©2006. William Hamilton.