Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Friday | January 17, 2003

Baghdad nightmare for US forces

From the very beginning I've had two major practical arguments against a Gulf War II. 1) The US doesn't have solid logistics line into Iraq, and 2) Saddam will abandon the desert and force the US to fight his forces in the cities.

I'll avoid the first issue for now, though it's interesting that the US is still having trouble finding any routes into Iraq outside of Kuwait.

Instead, let's look at the nightmare of urban warfare. The easy way to understand the problem is to buy or rent Black Hawk Down -- which chronicles the misadventures of elite US forces in Mogadishu.

But, as this Christian Science Monitor article makes clear, the US could face far worse in Baghdad:

Inside Iraqi cities, military operations would be vastly more complicated. Buildings constrict troop and tank maneuvers, interfere with radio communications, and limit close air support from helicopters and gunships. Dense populations make airstrikes - even precision ones - costly in civilian lives. From sewers to rooftops, cities are multilayered, like three-dimensional chessboards, creating endless opportunities for ambushes and snipers. Worse, Iraqi forces defending the cities could try to halt invading troops by shelling them with chemical weapons.
The prospect of urban warfare is one that the US military is increasingly more likely to face. Thus, as this article notes, the US Army is focusing more and more of its training on urban tactics. Yet even the best trained units take massive casualties in an urban environment. In the excercise witnessed by the reporter, US forces took a small town, but at the cost of dozens of its own soldiers. It's a sobering and eye-opening piece. But not surprising, throughout history, urban warfare has been the great equalizer -- it allowed Somali warlords to fight the US to a standstill. It allowed the Chechens to make a mockery of the better equipped Russians. And so on.

Americans have become increasingly spoiled by bloodless wars in Serbia and Afghanistan. This is extremely unlikely in Iraq. Americans will die -- lots of them. As will allied troops and innocent civilians.

There are times were such death may be justified, but nothing suggests that Iraq is worthy of so much pain and sacrifice.

Posted January 17, 2003 11:18 AM | Comments (97)


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