Friday, March 28, 2003

What About Baghdad?

Reading about the enormously rapid and breathtakingly successful sweep of our forces from the desert of Kuwait into the suburbs of Baghdad, many commentators are predicting a bloodbath when we attempt to take the city by force. I ask the question: do we even have to take Baghdad?

This war has seen the first use of, let me call it, postmodern military tactics. Our army has taken almost no territory, does not attempt to protect its rear, and hardly even tries to protect its flanks. There is no "line" in the usual sense, other than a unit perimeter. We rely instead on a confidence that we can destroy anything that the enemy puts forth to interfere with our operations. Each resupply convoy seemingly operates in a bubble of protection and, once past, allows the locals to have their roads back. This is revolutionary warfare, and the old soldiers, like General McCaffery, scream that we need another division, at least, to cover our flanks and yet another to cover the rear.

But Tommy Franks doesn't listen, and should not. We must resist the impulse to refight the last war. This one is being fought differently, and there is no reason to believe that they will slip back into old habits now, since this new plan has worked so well, so far. So, I believe that we will see no assault on Baghdad.

Then it's a Siege you say. No, I don't think so. Not in the usual sense of a siege. We will not starve them out. In fact, they will eat pretty good. It is bombs and bullets that they will starve for. They move a tank, they lose a tank. They use nerve gas, they will die, not us. (By the way, they will not use gas against us either. It would cause the upending of Saddam's exit strategy, whatever it is, And you can be sure that he does have an exit strategy.) Little by little, their perimeter will constrict, as neighborhoods empty out. Deprived of any options of maneuver, hunted by Hellfire and Bunker Buster, Saddam will just whither away.

This is not an Escape from New York scenario. Although it might become one. But the Iraqi soldiers who are with him behind the wire, those who believe that they can escape a war crimes prosecution, will attempt to get that reward money. Hell, they even tried to assasinate Hitler, who was twice the dictator that So Dumb Insane has turned out to be. But to go house to house, in an urban assault to end all urban assaults, is NOT what Tommy Franks and his boss have in mind. The Arab street and history are watching, and the "compassionate conservative" feels those eyes on him. Baghdad is not a feast to Bush, it is just another flapjack, and he will not be deterred from finishing breakfast.