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Thursday | April 03, 2003

Is the US Plan working: A Russian View

In contrast to the "GRU" stuff on Venik, these articles in the Moscow Times offer a different view:

Military Strategy in the Fog of War

By Vitaly Shlykov

Von Clausewitz defines the destruction of a country's armed forces not as their physical extermination, but as "reducing them to a state in which they can no longer fight." The United States has not given up on the idea of inciting the Iraqi army to remove Hussein from power. U.S. commanders have therefore ordered few airstrikes on regular Iraqi army units.

This strategy largely explains the limited Iraqi losses of men and materiel. Hussein, for his part, is in no rush to send his regular army troops into battle, clearly fearing that they will prefer capture to almost certain death in combat. The Americans have also gone easy on the regular Iraqi army so as not to force them to hide behind "human shields" in the cities.

Hussein, on the other hand, would rather concentrate the army in the cities, where they could be forced to make a defensive stand under the "supervision" of loyal Republican Guards and Baath Party operatives. This is why coalition forces are focusing their bombs and missiles on Iraq's military and government installations, Baath Party offices and the Fedayeen, units of irregulars loyal to Saddam Hussein's elder son, Uday.

The U.S.-led coalition is also making steady progress in the occupation of Iraq. Keep in mind that Iraq is a large country, 1 1/2 times the size of Italy. Its 27 million people are concentrated in the cities, such as Baghdad (5 million), Basra (1.3 million) and Nasiriyah and its suburbs (600,000).

U.S. and British forces are presently unprepared to assume the burden of providing essential food and services to the residents of these cities. As a first step, the allies are therefore putting in place the infrastructure that will allow the occupation force to assume full control of Iraq. They seized Iraq's only deep-water port, Umm Qasr, with its facilities for loading oil tankers, and immediately began sweeping the harbor for mines. They also seized Iraq's major oil fields and refineries before Hussein could sabotage or destroy them. Oil exports will finance the purchase of food and medicine for the Iraqi people once the Hussein regime is overthrown. The coalition has also secured a number of strategic bridges across the Euphrates River as well as the Tallil airfield outside Nasiriyah.

The coalition's third and perhaps most difficult objective is to break the Iraqis' will to resist, or put simply, to prevent Iraq from becoming another Palestine. Without an appreciation for the importance and difficulty of this task it is impossible to understand the nature of this military campaign. U.S. and British forces are doing everything they can to avoid civilian casualties, even at the risk of incurring heavier casualties themselves. Rockets fall on the markets of Baghdad from time to time, of course, but the Americans have not tried to justify these mistakes as military necessities.

What's more, civilian losses are roughly equivalent to allied losses from friendly fire. Statistics show that friendly fire deaths are common in any major armed conflict. During World War II, some 20 percent of all American casualties resulted from friendly fire. In Vietnam, that figure rose to 40 percent. As reports of the current military operation make clear, friendly fire has accounted for most allied casualties, while Iraqi troops have inflicted only minor losses.

This could mean that coalition forces have been slowed not by Hussein's forces, but by other, less obvious factors. Perhaps they are trying to lure the Republican Guard into the open country outside Baghdad with the objective of routing them before they can take cover in the capital. It's also possible that the Americans are shoring up the rear in preparation for a decisive attack on Baghdad. Other scenarios are also possible.

U.S. and British forces will have little trouble defeating Hussein's army. They hold an overwhelming military advantage, and they will dictate the pace and the terms of further military engagements. The only way that Saddam Hussein could "have his say" in this scenario would be to use weapons of mass destruction, which he almost certainly has at his disposal. That would definitely be his final word, however. And I am confident that coalition forces are prepared for this possibility.

....................

A Disinformation Strategy

By Pavel Felgenhauer

In his famed book "The Art of War," Chinese general Sun Tzu wrote 2,500 years ago: "War is all deceit. If you can do something, make the enemy believe you cannot; if you are close, pretend you are far away." Last week in Iraq both sides were playing Sun Tzu to the limit: The allies faked weakness and disarray, the Iraqis faked strength and confidence.

It's easy to understand why Hussein and his cohorts were claiming victory was at hand. Their only hope is to coerce Iraq's army and people to continue a senseless resistance and hold out while growing casualties fracture U.S. moral.

The 1993 withdrawal of U.S. troops from Somalia after an unsuccessful encounter in Mogadishu (the story told in the movie "Black Hawk Down") is still very much on everyone's mind. Americans are soft and afraid of close encounters: If more than Mogadishu's 19 soldiers are killed, the American public will press for an end to hostilities. After Sept. 11, this it is not so, but that notion has not yet sunken in.

The U.S. and British allies also had a good reason to cheat. By faking weakness and portraying an inability to make a decisive push for overall victory without weeks of preparation and reinforcement, the U.S. military command apparently hoped to trick the Iraqis into keeping their best units in the field rather than withdrawing immediately to Baghdad, where defeating the Republican Guard would come at a higher cost.

All last week, the authorities deliberately fed the press and pundits with fake stories of the campaign plan gone wrong, of Iraqi resistance having "bogged down" the troops. There were constant reports that the allies had too few solders to win the coming battle for Baghdad and that crucial reinforcements would arrive only in three to four weeks.

The most outrageous piece of strategic disinformation released last week was that U.S. forward units were out of food and that restocking would take more than a week. Perhaps the intelligence officer who invented that yarn was reading some account of the American Civil War, when food rations arrived by mule.

Uh, the US units were out of food. The military will lie about a lot of stuff, but the US Army takes great pride in feeding their troops in the field. The MRE is a great source of pride to the Army's scientists. So, they would lie about progress, lie about fuel, but food? Unlikely. One MRE a day is not starvation, and the reports came from privates in the field.

Not enough men? Well, if the Iraqi military collapses, no. If they fight in a city of five million? There's a real problem.

I can see Russian indifference to the odd, angry shot, but the issue is the Arab world and they are taking each error hard. Of course, we're not carpetbombing Baghdad, but the Iraqis know how accurate our weapons are as well and they don't like the errors.

Beating Saddam is the easy part, if we do it. Running the country afterwards.....

Posted April 03, 2003 02:54 PM | Comments (0) | Trackback (0)