Winning: August 25, 2005

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Heres a question for all you Armchair Generals. Who are the most likely enemies that the United States will face in the near future? This is a question often discussed in the Pentagon, but there is always a reluctance to name names. Often countries are given codenames (colors or imaginary names) so as to avoid diplomatic difficulty. So, how does one assume who the likely enemies are? Past experience and public statements are two ways used to figure it out. Another way to do so is through intelligence gathering. With all of this in mind, who is on the list of potential adversaries?

First, lets look at those in the news. Venezuela is one of the countries in the news due to some ill-considered comments by Pat Robertson concerning Hugo Chavez. To be fair, the Venezuelan dictator has often gone out of his way  insult at President Bush and his Secretary of State, has been accused of sponsoring terrorist activities, and has openly sought alliances with Iran, China, and Saddam Hussein (when he was still running Iraq). Recently, the Venezuelan dictator has cut military ties with the United States, and has expelled the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. There is a chance that this will result in formal sanctions against Venezuela, making relations even worse.

Another potential enemy in the news is Iran. Relations with Iran have gone downhill since Iranian religious fanatics  stormed of the American embassy in 1979, and took the staff hostage. The fact that Iran is a major sponsor of the terrorist organization Hezbollah (responsible for the 1983 bombings of the Beirut embassy and Marine barracks) did not help matters, either. Nor did the mining of the frigate Samuel B. Roberts in 1988. That resulted in the last real major naval engagement the United States Navy took part in, Operation Praying Mantis, in which two Iranian ships were sunk. In July, 1988, the USS Vincennes was engaged in a battle with Iranian Boghammers, and during that battle, accidentally shot down an airliner. Since then, the United States has warily watched as Iran bought a lot of Russian weapon systems (including Su-24 Fencers, MiG-29 Fulcrums, and Kilo-class submarines).

Syria is another potential enemy in the Middle East. Like Iran, it has supported Hezbollah, along with Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations. It is also allegedly providing support for some of the insurgents fighting in Iraq. These allegations have been vigorously denied by Syria, and Syria has shown some signs of cooperating (like turning over some suspects). Syria is also developing chemical weapons.

China is another potential enemy. The big issue is Taiwan. China considers it a renegade province, and wants the option to get it back using force. The United States is committed to defending Taiwan. In the past decade, two Chinese generals, Xiong Guangkai and Zhu Chenghu, have threatened the use of nuclear weapons against the United States. The Chinese have been carrying out a major buildup of their navy (acquiring new guided missile destroyers and submarines from Russia, while building their own destroyers and submarines) and air force (buying Su-27s from Russia and building the J-10 fighter).

North Korea could also be a potential enemy. It has a small nuclear program, and has violated at least one deal that involved cessation of its program. North Korea also has a pattern of aggressive conduct, including the kidnapping of  South Koreans, the seizure of the USS Pueblo and downing of an EC-121 in 1968. North Korea also fired a missile over Japan in 1998. Kim Jong-Il has shown to be very unpredictable. It also should be noted that the current conditions in Korea involve a cease-fire, not a lasting peace.

These are the most likely enemies of the United States. It should be noted that war with these countries is not inevitable. At the same time, it is quite possible with these countries given their conduct and in some cases, rhetoric. The rhetoric might be hot air, but theres always a chance it might not be. Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com) 

 


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