Monday, March 31, 2003

More Iraqi War Analysis


I wrote my friend on Friday, March 28, 2003 to give some observations for the days to come. I'll update this in about a week to see how things have unfolded.

The road ahead...

1. Clearly, the British need to gain control of Basra. This will take several days at least and maybe a week.

2. The US has to secure its long supply line. If reports of supply problems are true that is priority number one and there will not be a big battle this weekend that some news outlets are forecasting. Franks must resist any political pressures to make an attack on Baghdad sooner rather than later. The welfare of his troops must be paramount.

3. With clear weather for the next several days forcasted, air efforts will shift heavily to hitting the Republican guard units south of Baghdad.

4. Chemical weapons... the great unknown.... my fear is that Hussein will order their use. If the winds ever completely quiet down, he will fire them at coalition forces. His calculation is that what can the Coalition do if he uses them?

If they don't work -- the MOP suits protect US troops as well as they are designed to -- then the coalition is going to be under pressure not to retailiate to an infective use of the nerve gases.

If they work, he kills thousands of troops and what can the US really do in retaliation? Will the US use tactical nuclear weapons in retaliation? probably not. Will the US firebomb Baghdad? I don't think so. Would the anti-war demonstrators in Europe stop demonstrating if Hussein uses his chemicals? Would Arab support for Hussein go down if he uses chemicals? It is almost a no-lose situation for the Baathists to use them.

5. Bush and Blair strongly emphasized at Camp David that this is going to take time and will be difficult. This message will continue to be sent at every public statement.

Iraqi War Analysis


I wrote an email to a friend who has a great interest in Foreign Affairs giving my view of what might unfold. The message was sent: Sat, 22 Mar 2003. I've typed in the bold face what the situation looks like today nine days after that email.

My analysis:

1. The Iraqi leadership has probably been disrupted but I suspect enough of the leadership is intact to keep them fighting. The bottom line is not whether Hussein is dead or alive. We know from the UBL story that these bad guys are notriously tough to kill and have a few dozen cubby holes to hide in. So even if Hussein is injured, enough of his inner circle is still alive and sending out orders. These guys will not surrender willingly because they will be torn limb from limb by Iraqis if caught by them or will be tried for war crimes if caught by the USA/UK troops.

Hussein shows up only on tape of indeterminant time frames so his fate remains uncertain. Iraqi TV is still on the air and the level of resistance shows some command and control. But the fact they aren't blowing up bridges seems odd.


2. The only hope for a "coup" will have to come from the lower level people... maybe a low level general or colonal leading a small unit to knock off the leadership.

All that early talk with being in contact with Iraqi military leaders was probably true but they apparently didn't bolt and may have been a deception to buy time.


3. the Baathists are counting on the Siege of Bagdad to cause US casualties and to drive an international frenzy to pressure Bush to stop the war. The resistance thus far has been so miminal that my belief is that Hussein and his cronies are trusting only the most loyal units of the republican guards and those units will be kept in and around Bagdad.

The Peter Arnet incident seems to confirm this kind of plan to use world opinion. Also, rumors that "Blackhawk Down" is Iraqi military's favorite movie means they want a urban battle.


4. Chemical weapons will be used if they believe that international pressure over a siege doesn't end the war. At that point they will feel they have nothing to lose and will videotape and broadcast Jihadist messages and be as fanatical as the kamkazi pilots of
WW2.

This weekend's reports of suicide bombers indicates the increasing despairation of the Hussein loyalists. Chemicals will be next up, unfortunately.


5. The Turkey situation is dicey. Hopefully, their troop movements are only to secure their boarders and set up refugee camps. If they try to kill kurds or lop off territory, Bush/Blair will be forced to threaten them and that will NOT be a good situation.

This issue seems to have quieted down. Whew. The 173rd Airborne Brigade has been reported in Northern Iraq and are teaming up with special forces and the Kurdish rebels.


6. Without the Turkish northern front, the 4th division is being re-routed to Kuwait for deployment. I'm sure Franks was counting on sending the 4th division in from the north to take Kirkuk. Instead, my guess is they will be used it in the siege of Bagdad by late april. If the Bagdad falls before that then the 4th will relieve the 3rd division in peacekeeping operations.

Reports are that the 4th ID equipment is transiting the Suez Canal and that its troops are leaving their US bases bound for Kuwait.


7. So far the British units will probably keep an eye on Basra and the right flank and the supply line. The 1st Marine division will probably advance on Bagdad along the Tigris. The 3rd division will advance along the Euphrates. I'm not sure where the 101st will be deployed. I think Tommy Franks is holding them in reserve to reinforce should the Republican guard units decide to fight.

Basra is tying up the British units and aren't available for the drive on Baghdad. Looks like the 3rd ID pretty much stayed on the West bank of the Euphrates and didn't cross over until Najef. The 1st Marine crossed the Euphrates at Nasayria. The 101st has some units at Najef to clear things up and some other units working with the 3rd ID to hit Republican Guard units south of Baghdad.


8. There were lots of rumors the 101st was going to go north but i don't think so. The supply line would be too long. Since the bulk of the Iraq oil is in the Rumalia oil field near Basra, that is the bigger priority. I think Franks had no choice but to write off the north for now. He may have special forces there to help the kurds. Obviously if the Iraqis decide to attack the Kurds, Franks will have to alter his plans to counter that move. But he is counting on the airstrikes in the north to freeze in place the
Iraqi forces.

Kurds are moving with coalition special ops forces. They went east to hit the terrorist camps on the boarder with Iran. Air power is hitting Iraqi positions but so far there hasn't been a move to take any on the major cities in the north. The 173rd Airborne Brigade has airdropped to secure an airfield and are being reinforced.


9. To be honest, I think Franks would have liked to have at least one more division to deal with any surprises. As it is, he is now TWO divisions short because the 4th isn't going to be in place for another 3 to 4 weeks.

This past weekend, there have been leaks about arguments during the war planning that more forces should have been committed. For now the high level Pentagon officials are sticking to the message that everying is going according to plan. The post-war "tick-tock" book writing will definitely focus on this internal debate.


In any case, I'm still hoping for the "coup" to occur and the signal to come from Bagdad to all the units to drop their guns. Unfortunately, the most loyal units might not. My feeling is that those people who thought this thing would be over in a week are too optimistic and misunderstand the Gulf war. The Gulf ground war lasted 100 hours but the mission was to get the Iraqis out of Kuwait. So they had a place to retreat back to. This time, they are cornered. Hopefully, they won't fight to the last man but if they do, it is going to be very bloody.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Lt. Col. Collins' message to the Royal Irish battle
group

Saw this item on Hugh Hewitt's site.


As Quoted in a 'Times of London' Commentary


Mar. 23, 2003 -- Maintaining morale among troops facing combat is one of the greatest responsibilities -- and challenges -- for military field commanders. A commentary by Ben MacIntyre in the Times of London this weekend quoted a battlefield speech given by Lt. Col. Tim Collins, a 42-year-old commander of the Royal Irish battle group. Just hours before his troops went into battle, Col. Collins said this:


"The enemy should be in no doubt that we are his Nemesis and that we are bringing about his rightful destruction. There are many regional commanders who have stains on their souls and they are stoking the fires of Hell for Saddam. As they die they will know their deeds have brought them to this place. Show them no pity. But those who do not wish to go on that journey, we will not send. As for the others, I expect you to rock their world.


"We go to liberate, not to conquer. We will not fly our flags in their country. We are entering Iraq to free a people, and the only flag that will be flown in that ancient land is their own. Don't treat them as refugees, for they are in their own country.


"I know men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts. They live with the mark of Cain upon them. If someone surrenders to you, then remember they have that right in international law, and ensure that one day they go home to their family. The ones who wish to fight, well, we aim to please. If there are casualties of war, then remember, when they woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day. Allow them dignity in death. Bury them properly, and mark their graves.


"You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest, for your deeds will follow you down history. Iraq is steeped in history. It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood, and the birth of Abraham. Tread lightly there. You will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis. You will be embarrassed by their hospitality, even though they have nothing... "


And in conclusion, Lt. Col. Collins told his troops:


"There may be people among us who will not see the end of this campaign. We will put them in their sleeping bags and send them back. There will be no time for sorrow. Let's leave Iraq a better place for us having been there. Our business now, is north."

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

More thoughts on the UN

At the moment, the vote counters tell us that Russia, France, China, Germany and Syria are against (5) and that United States, Britain, Spain and Bulgaria (4) are in favor and Cameroon, Chile, Angola, Guinea, Pakistan, Mexico are undecided (6).

What if instead of Germany, Italy "happened" to be on the UN Security Council? And while we are at it, what if Czech Republic held the spot instead of Cameroon? And lastly, what if Kuwait was in a coveted seat in place of Syria?

That would be 3 votes against, 7 in favor with 5 undecided. How do you think the 5 undecided (Chile, Angola, Guinea, Pakistan and Mexico) might vote if the tables were slanted in this direction?

The point being simply this: UN Authorization is nice to have but the vote count means nothing in regards to the rightness or wrongness of military action. If the war is wrong, a UN stamp doesn't make it right. Likewise, if a war is right, a UN red light means nothing.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Did you know?

How many times has the US sought UN authorization for military action in the 50 some odd year history of the UN?

One.

Two, if you count the Korean War when the UN acted because the USSR was boycotting the Security Council when the vote was taken.

Glenn Reynolds cites an article by David Frum written for the American Enterprise Institute. Here below is the Frum paragraphs:

For most of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, Americans dismissed the UN as a basically useless institution. Dwight Eisenhower did not ask it for UN authority before his military actions; neither did John F. Kennedy; ditto Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Neither for that matter did Bill Clinton. The one and only U.S. President of the past 60 years to trouble himself with UN authority for the use of force was George H.W. Bush before the Gulf War of 1991.

The UN's ability to act decisively in 1991 rehabilitated the old talking-shop on the East River in American eyes--and, incidentally, dramatically increased the value of a permanent seat on the Security Council. If the UN fails to act in 2003, its prestige in the United States will plunge back toward its usual level: approximately zero. And the value of a seat on the Security Council will tumble with it.

Why, after all, do French opinions about Iraq matter more than those of, say, Italy or Brazil? If wealth is the measure of national importance, France ranks behind the State of California; if it's military strength, France barely makes it into the top 10, rather behind Israel. Americans are transfixed by French opinions only because the United States submitted its case to a body where, by an accident of history, the French happen to wield disproportionate power. If France wields that power in a hostile manner, no American president will ever return to that body again.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Why now? If not now, when?

Watched the Nightline discussion on the Iraq situation and it was a pretty even panel with 3 in favor of action now and 3 saying we should wait. Wish Claudia Rosett of WSJ was there to speak her mind. Below is an excerpt from her latest column:

Let's do the math. To get even a show of forward motion from Saddam, it has taken 17 failed U.N. resolutions, 12,000 pages of pointless documents from Baghdad, umpteen visits to Iraq by Mr. Blix, the concentrated attention for many months of the entire world, plus--and most important--the deployment to the Persian Gulf of six U.S. aircraft carrier groups and 250,000 troops.

And what have we got to show for it? Saddam as of yesterday had forked over one spare suspected biological bomb and bulldozed two dozen or so missiles he got caught lying about.

Folks, this arithmetic is not going our way. Perhaps if America doubles its troop strength in the gulf to half a million, Saddam will then render up a stray canister of nerve gas, or suddenly remember where he stashed that spare batch of anthrax.