28 Mar 03. As the Iraq conflict grinds into its second week the armchair pundits around the world are leaping to the TV screens giving their words of wisdom as to the outcome of the war ranging from a pull-out of the US forces to an end in 10 days. Simon Jenkins predicts gloom in the Times saying Baghdad will become a Stalingrad and others quote Moscow and Grosny.
The ‘Shock and Awe’ tactics reminiscent of Bomber Harris’s area bombardment of Berlin have failed in their objective, as always, of destabilising the regime and the population and the expected warm welcome of the aggressors has failed to materialise. As we said last week, history states that a population will fight more aggressively when invaded on its own territory, the History Channel broadcast the story of the Reichswald battle where one battalion of US soldiers disappeared without trace following an engagement with German forces. The 1991 Gulf War was waged mainly in Kuwait and it may have been the worry of the current outcome that stopped General Schwarskopf from the final assault on Baghdad with tired and stretched forces. Certainly the failure of Turkey to allow the 4th Infantry Division access from the North has stymied a quicker victory. The first U.S. political casualty is that of Richard Perle whose resignation as chairman of the Defense Policy Board has been accepted by Donald Rumsfeld but he has been asked that he remain as a member (See U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ACCEPTS PERLE’S RESIGNATION).
However all wars reach a point after the start, like the Falklands, that the doom merchants predict a catastrophic failure but as General Patrick Cordingley said on the BBC, “We have not used the full force of our armies”, and that criticism has been levelled at the current plan that full force needs to be used to ensure a swift victory. An interesting insight was given into the Falklands last week, again on the History Channel, where Admiral sandy Woodward stated that the fleet could only remain at sea for another five days just prior to the attack on Stanley. This clearly demonstrates that war is not an easy task and every campaign hangs in the balance until the final shot is fired.
Once the 4th Infantry Division and the 1st U.S. Cavalry are both deployed, both these are fully digitized, the war will move quicker. It is likely that the coalition will concentrate on the liberation of Basra which will have a knock-on effect on the citizens of Baghdad. Once this happens the British 7th Armoured Division will move North to support the U.S. 3rd Infantry, which may be relived by air in the near future by elements of the 4th Division once airfield are established.
It is unlikely that the coalition will risk an assault on Baghdad without further reinforcements, a concern expressed to Pentagon planners prior to this event, particularly by General Shinseki. Both President Bush and Tony Blair have said that the war will take longer, possibly hinting on a delay to the final assault with the expectation of a surrender. General Eisenhower steered away from an assault on Berlin allowing the Russians to take the expected 500,000 casualties and the Japan problem was solved by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki devastation.
The Arnhem-like dash up the road has caused a logistical nightmare for the planners moving tons of equipment up the road with continuous attacks from Iraqi militia. However this may be alleviated by the opening up of airstrips. The sandstorms and harsh weather have made helicopter flying virtually impossible and made some advanced equipment unusable.
The advantage the coalition has is in numbers, unlike Vietnam and Korea where the opposition had huge reserves of reinforcements of troops from China and Russia, Iraq has a finite reserve of troops fighting for a dictator who holds on to power by fear and repression. Both the US has already announced increased troop deployments of 100,000 to Iraq.
As to the failure of the Shia uprising in the South?