1. Numerous “Strange Attractors” and many “Odd repulsers”
Science shows us that all dynamic systems which have fallen into a state of “deep chaos” face two essential outcomes – those of disintegration and the disappearance of the entity as it was formerly known or regeneration from inside that re-establishes a order from disorder on a new qualitatively different level. The first is characterized by bifurcation or “multifurcation” – the centrifugal splitting away and disintegration of the elemental parts and their reconstitution at separate lower levels or their incorporation into other more stable, but dynamic entities. The second is characterized by the rather mystical appearance of what is termed a “strange attractor.” This is a trajectory which emerges from within the deep chaos and has the centripetal force to draw behind it all the disparate and conflicting elements into a new form of relative stability. Detailed scientific study has shown these processes to be true of whole range of dynamic systems from weather fronts, to outbreaks of diseases, economics and stock market movements, traffic flows, human organisations and biological systems, as well as the workings of the human mind. It is also true of international relations and of the development of nations.
With regard to the exceptional “deep chaos” in Iraq, the most like perspective is the first – disintegration. The centrifugal forces of “repulsion” are far stronger than those of “attraction”. There are so many different “strange repulsers” and/or competing “strange attractors” such as to have the effect of nullifying the potential the emergence of one single unifying trajectory, that could pull the country together and re-establish a form of new order and stability. The US cannot play this role externally as a force of attraction for a new order. Indeed, if anything, its continued presence fuels the centrifugal forces of disintegration.
Furthermore, dynamic systems essentially reorganize themselves from within in order to find new stability and order and in general external forces only tend to pervert or retard their evolution. That is not to say that they cannot have exceptional effects, but at the end of the day all dynamic systems are governed by internal laws of self-movement and self-generation. This is why the aim to establish a model regime in Iraq through invasion and to change the regional order in the Middle East region is doomed to failure.
The term “strange attractor” is given this unusual name precisely because of factors which are not clearly understood in the self-generating process, where too many complex interactions give rise to a powerful new trajectory. Since chaos theory was originally one of mathematics, even the most advanced mathematicians, with most power computers, are able to predict just exactly what and how these multiple factors will be or how they turn out. Prognosis can be only relative and general. A simple example is the incapacity of meteorologists to give any accurate forecast of the weather’s “trajectory” for more than just a few days in advance, because the number and powers of variables coming together to form it, are simply to complex to compute. The point here is that with human beings and social systems the same problems exist. Therefore, in working out any perspectives one can only at best be general in the specific and specific in the general. This is very true of Iraq where the situation has become so complex that prognoses can change on a weekly or daily basis.
The Maliki government has never been able to become the “strange attractor” capable of offering a realistic trajectory for the country or the ability to pull the nation together up onto a new higher order of stability. Its electoral success was really just a vote for democracy rather than for the people standing for election. Moreover, elections can be just a snapshot of the mood of the people at any particular moment. With a backdrop of swift and dramatic events these moods unfold more like a movie and the past actors increasing fall behind with the script, to be replaced by new players.
The question we have to pose is that given the information at our disposal, who and which are the forces which are acting as the most powerful attractors now and whether they appear set to maintain their advantage. Here we have to look at which have the most powerful internal self-motivating and self-generating engines of development and which coincide with those in society in general. In all times of violent change, such as revolution and civil war or wars of national liberation, it is the next generation who are the standard bearers and trail blazers powering the strange attractors and social events.
To use the old cliché, youth are the future and he who has the youth has the future. The youth are always the most dynamic, radical, self-sacrificing section of society in period of war, civil war and revolution. In Iraq today, the two main organisations which appeal to the most dynamic sections of the youth are the Mehdi Army on the Shia side and al Qaeda on the Sunni. But alongside them respectively are the Badr Corps and the Baathists. These two latter organisations have stronger historical roots than the former two, and do, nevertheless attract layers of the young, to whom traditions can be simultaneously attractive and important alongside radical and revolutionary ideas. Such are the dialectical complexities of these processes. At some point, one of these groups in each camp must come out as the dominant strange attractor. This will then give us a clearer idea of the trajectory and future form of any new order and level of stability that would arise if they were successful. And although, the Mehdi Army and Al Qaeda appear to be the militarily stronger and more dynamic contenders at the moment, the Badr Corps and Baathists cannot be ruled out. Much will depend for them on how they react to events and whether their traditionalist roots find expression in conservatism and/ or opportunist conciliationism, which would undermine their appeal among the young.
Much of what is now unravelling in Iraq would probably have happened had Saddam Hussein been overthrown from within. However, the outside “surgical” intervention of the US led to a butchering of the process. Much of this was the result of their total inanity towards the culture of the Middle East. This together with the underlying immoral motivations of their designs upon the region will have far-reaching consequences for the whole world, including the US domestically
As many have already predicted, the consequences will not be limited to the geographic region of Iraq. Violent social unrest will break out around the Middle East, demonstrations of millions will take place worldwide, and be accompanied probably by new terrorist attacks on US and Western targets globally. In the US, too, Vietnam-type movements can arise. Bush may face calls for indictment or resignation. It is quite possible that he will be “stood down” in some way even before the 2008 presidential election. US troops will be forced to withdraw and may, indeed, find some difficulty redeploying to the territories of allies in neighbouring countries, because of the opposition and unrest of their local populations towards America.
2. The “Haifa Hiatus?” – a harbinger of certain things to come?
All dynamic systems are made up of fractal formations which can be represented on computer screens by transfer of their data. Fractals have unlimited numbers of fractals within fractals, a little like Russian dolls. These represent different layers of development. On close inspection one can find differences between the similar forms, which represent new trajectories formed during periods called “phase transitions”, where the dynamic systems has moved through a period of “deep chaos” and established a new fractal similar, but qualitatively new in its overall features from the past.
Trajectories also have trajectories within trajectories just like the fractal formations from which they emerge. These sub-trajectories often stand out and give us some indications of the character of the coming phase transition, even if only showing one aspect or side of the process. In the womb of the old there is always the embryo of the new. During “phase transitions” or critical periods and at turning points in processes, one can usually find certain manifestations of some of the novel and unique developments to come. Nature seems to have a way of indicating to us how things will unfold. These pointers are never exact, but mostly general in character, and often come in the form of unusual events, images and signs, as well as sometimes through the utterances of quite unlikely participants.
Such was the case with the events on Haifa Street in Baghdad’s city centre during the week of the 4th to the 12th of January. Just a few days before President Bush was to justify his troop surge by warning of “mass killings on an unimaginable scale,” which would tear the country apart, and bring the government down, a battle erupted in heart of Baghdad that was a small foretaste of the future inferno which awaits us. For more up to 12 hours a day for almost a week around 1,000 US and Iraqi troops were fought to standstill by Sunni insurgents in a fire fight of a character and intensity not normally witnessed before.
Unlike most previous insurgent attacks, which are characterized by swift, hit and run tactics, opportunistic sniper fire or roadside bombs, this was a sophisticated, well-commanded and coordinated assault by up to a dozen different Sunni insurgent groups, collaborating together. It was evidently a well-planned and implemented operation with the express intention of engaging large scale US and Iraqi forces in persistent, relentless and tenacious, close-quarter, urban combat.
Although the old guerrilla tactics will continue to be employed by insurgents, the battle for Haifa Street may turn out to be the symbol of a qualitatively new phase in the Iraqi war. It is not accidental that it comes on the eve of the new effort to secure Baghdad. And while the “new” US strategy is little more than a repetition of old, failed methods, the fact should not be overlooked that the new tactics employed by the insurgency are likely to be a harbinger of the fact that, in the next phase, the insurgents will prove to be one step ahead of events and ready to escalate and diversify tactics in ways which will surprise and wrong foot the US forces. If this is a foretaste of things to come, then the new attempt to secure Baghdad will be far more costly and humiliating a defeat than all the previous debacles.
Militarily, the battle at Haifa Street was important from a number of standpoints. Firstly, the combined efforts of US and Iraqi forces were unable to defeat the insurgents. The 500 US troops engaged there could neither contain nor crush what was probably at most 100 insurgents. Moreover, the 400 members of the Iraqi Army involved would clearly have been routed if they had faced the assault alone. Should similar mini-uprisings be repeated and coordinated, at the same time, across the city, it is highly unlikely that US forces would be capable of winning, even with the new influx of troops. With only around 8,000 deployable troops available at any one time, less than 10 such simultaneous assaults would at best totally overstretch them and at worst lead to some serious defeats and large scale US casualties. (part 2 to follow)