Along the Tracks

Friday, March 28, 2003
 

Bogged down?


The assumptions being made, almost universally, concerning our present pause are a) Iraqi resistance is stiffer than expected and hampering our progress; b) our supply lines have unexpectedly failed to keep up with our troop advances; c) commanders are second-guessing their war plan and now holding pat until they work out a new idea on the fly.

All three of these are ridiculous. First, Iraqi resistance is not only not more determined than expected, it has been less so. My evidence? The present pause itself. We raced to Baghdad in the swiftest ground advance in history, and, frankly, outran our supply, because we faced almost zero effective resistance. It’s hard to stop your momentum in such an advance, and if there is no strategic danger to continuing the drive, it continues. Once supply started getting thin, we paused - timed conveniently during a sandstorm, when a further drive would have presented larger than acceptable risks to the front lines.

Want more evidence? The arrival of the 4th Heavy Infantry’s equipment in Kuwait, and the 10-day prep time before those forces are able to advance, should tell observers something. Remember, that force was originally coming in from Turkey. But after the Turks refused to allow passage, was there a big rush to get the 4th to Kuwait? No. In fact, the soldiers are just beginning to deploy from Texas now. That tells me these forces were not expected to be needed until the second week in April - whether they came from the north or the south. They’re the “urban warfare” contingency, so their timing tells me we don’t plan to enter a inner-city Battle of Baghdad until we absolutely have to, which is not for at least a couple weeks.

Also, does anyone recall hearing something about Iraq preparing to use chemical and biological weapons? Why exactly would we charge headlong into those weapons? We are obviously trying to soften up the units which might use them, not only to avoid dangers to our own troops, but the far more likely scenario that thousands of innocent civilians are killed by such attacks. We apparently learned about a “red line” around Baghdad inside which the Republican Guard will fire its weapons of mass destruction, and now we’re sitting firm outside it. That makes a lot of good sense to me.

Sure, we hoped to crack the regime quickly with “shock and awe,” or the threat of shock and awe. But we didn’t simply expect it, only to be left floundering if it did not occur. There is a larger plan at work here, with a lot of contingencies based on what goes on out in the desert and in the cities. That’s what are military strategists are supposed to do, and they’re doing it.

Let’s remember: The former military men, present military men, and assorted other experts are being asked questions based on the above assumptions and from a pessimistic assessment of the present situation on the ground. If one cuts through the “fog of media” and actually considers the explanations and descriptions from a neutral point of view, observers may find the above analysis pretty close to the mark.

I predicted a month-long war from the get-go (before the get-go, if you count my column from last July). I’m sticking to it.


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