Wednesday | February 12, 2003
Follow up on "One war scenario"
Earlier today I wrote about a possible nightmare scenario in Iraq. Here are some followups by readers in the comment sections worthy of extra exposure (since they have obvious expertise on the subject matter).
You should also have mentioned the river crossings indicated on your map. The Iraqis will blow the bridges and they will have to be rebuilt, and I doubt the WWII-era Bailey Bridges will carry contemporary American fighting vehicles. Each bridge will take a couple of days of engineering and construction. They will then have to be guarded full-time.
Your map also suggests another problem, relatively few good roads. Our equipment can move off-road, but after short distances it begins to break down. A tank tread will wear out after about 100 miles. It's roughly 250 miles from Kuwait to Baghdad, probably more like 300 counting the bends in the road, so there will be plenty of maintenance. Or even more tank transporters eating up gas to move tanks without wear and tear. The further from the roads, the more difficult this will be.
On the roads themselves, we can expect massive traffic jams to form up. Thousand sof vehicles will moving both ways, the assault vehicles in the van, essentially moving one way (we hope) and supply trucks bring food, ammo and fuel and then turning back to re-fill and make the run again.
This will not be like well-roaded France in 1944; more like Market-Garden in Holland -- a huge army moving along a single road, except for much longer distances (Arnhem was about 60 miles from the jumping-off point for XXX Corps; less than a quarter of the distance to Baghdad).
Not only will Basra have to be taken, but the many small towns along the roads. Many, perhaps most, won't be garrisoned, but which is which? Uncertainly slows armies down. The column stops and patrols enter the town looking for the enemy....
As for air supply, it took 500 aircraft flights to support the 24 Apaches that were moved into Albania to support the war in Kosovo, helicopters that never got into action.
Perhaps the most ludicrous comparison (most recently made in Newsweek) is to the "campaign" in Panama to take Noreiga. Panama is perhaps 25 miles wide, with no place more than 10-12 miles from sea. Supply was not issue. Panama also did not have army to speak of. Nevertheless, it took two weeks and a lot more destruction than planned to capture the Pineapple.
The only problem is that a brigade of the 82nd is already in combat, in Afghanistan. So they can't deploy the whole division. They might risk deploying the ready brigade, but if North Korea gets hot, all that's left is the 25th and the ready brigade.
The real choice comes with deploying the 10th Mountain. If they deploy it to Iraq, they can't deploy to Afghanistan and the Army will need a lot of leg units when the fighting gets nasty. That's also the problem with deploying the 1st Cav. If if goes to Iraq, it can't go to Korea.
It looks like Third Corps has deployed to Iraq (1st Cav, 4th Infantry) along with elements of the 18th (101st ABN, 82nd ABN, 3rd ID and 10th ID).
The only question is if the 5th Corps (1st Infantry, 1st Armored) are moved in theater as well.
While the 173rd ABN is stationed in Italy, it could be deployed in Northern Iraq, relieving the need to use the 82nd Ready Brigade.
One of the nasty little secrets of the Army is that the Bradleys only hold six infantrymen, three have to crew the vehicle. So if it gets to urban combat, the Army is infantry short. Which is why there is the need for the Marines.
The 101st will probably be moved to seize crossings across the Euphrates, a la Market-Garden, while the Marines heliassault into Basra with the Royal Marine Commandos coming in by sea.
The Iraqis know which fords to mine and contaminate with chemicals. Also, guerillas and mortar fire could make for a very interesting time building bridges.
My bet is that Saddam blows the wells on March 1.
The problem with using helicopters in Iraq is the sea of AAA in the major urban areas.
In 1971, the US Army invaded Laos using helicopters.
The losses to US Helicopter Forces were 65 Helicopter Crewmen KIA, 818 Crewmen WIA, and 42 Crewman MIA. 618 American Helicopters shot up, Downed and Damaged, 20% of which were not expected to fly again - 106 Helicopters lost outright - all from 30 January to 24 March '71. The official end to Lam Son 719 was 9 April 1971
Iraq's air defenses are a lot better than the NVA's in 1971. The reason few helicopters were shot down during the Gulf War was that we outflanked them.
Flying over major urban areas means they will fly right into all kinds of triple A fire. It may be hard to hit US aircraft, and I think that's more deception than reality, Saddam knew what would happen if he made a real effort to shoot down a US aircraft, US helicopters are a different story.
Many will face flying into a wall of AAA and this ain't Somalia, they will be crewed by trained gunners.
It just gets better and better. If the US starts losing men in serious numbers, the only ready source of replacements are the National Guard Infantry battalions. If you're thinking draft, forget it. Six months at a minimum to get a teenager to the front as an infantryman. The NG is where the bodies are.
The point about US supply lines is well taken. Since the Saudis have opted out, we have a very narrow route of approach.
Also, the Kuwaiti military is littered with Al Qaeda operatives and Iraqi spies. I expect serious sabotage efforts at all our bases, including attacks on our ships.
This could get ugly quickly, with Saddam sending out guerrilla teams to attack our rear areas. Or Iraqi units faking surrender and then attacking US troops behind the lines.
There are a ton of good comments on that previous post's thread, so I highly recommend you go back and read it if you haven't done so already. Also, Steven Den Beste has reached the complete opposite conclusion
with the wildly optimistic conclusion that Saddam will be killed within days by a Saddam-seeking missile. But of course he would. No one gets far being a warblogger by predicting mass casualties.
Ultimately, the best any of us can do is look to history and make the best guess possible. Only time will tell who was closer to the mark.
Posted February 12, 2003 06:55 PM | Comments (50)