Watching A Disaster

I wrote this Sunday, then forgot to post it. I left early Monday morning for the US Military Academy (West Point) to deliver a lecture for the Margaret Corbin Forum. After an unpleasant trip back, courtesy less of the weather than of airlines determined to milk every last dollar from their customers, I am digging out, including finding stuff undone… And so this post, written as if it were Sunday.
We are about to enter an entirely different phase of the war in Iraq.
Earlier this week, I received news in private email of absolutely criminal shortages of personal arms and ammunition, as well as criminally inadequate training.
Wednesday, USA Today reported that “The U.S. military is countering a recent wave of Iraqi insurgent attacks on helicopters by limiting the airspace where U.S. pilots can fly.” Of course, the enemy will study where helicopters are and are not and adjust tactics accordingly: the flight paths from any given airbase or into any likely area of operations are not infinite. In World War Two, aircraft were considered a disposable item, along with their air crews: if you made 50,000 in 1943, it was because you expected to lose 50,000 in 1944. Along with their aircrew. In Vietnam, helicopters were also a disposable item. Now, the loss of either fixed or rotary wing aviation assets is national news and every air frame is subject to an autopsy to determine what failed where, and if the failure was catastrophic.
More significantly, restricting flight operations is not a successful tactic: it means that the enemy has succeeded in dictating your operations to you. It also means that the many, many small garrisons, from platoons through battalions, that we have scattered throughout Iraq–which in any garrison they are collocated with Iraqi troops, the insurgency has infiltrated–are increasingly depended upon overland reinforcement. And of course, when the time comes, the roads will be laced with IEDs and multi-part ambushes.
To end the week, the Navy of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), took as prisoners 15 Royal (British) Marines. The IRGC is a separate branch of Iran’s military with its own air, naval and ground forces that is described as having a nationalist (which is to say, Imperial and Persian) ideology. Finally, fighting erupted in Basra in the wake of the British withdrawal, Basra being Iraq’s port on the Persian Gulf and thus the most strategic part of the entire country.
I called a buddy of mine, a retired Marine whose son was just accepted into the Platoon Leader Course, to set up lunch. I offered him congratulations and then we yakked a bit about the war. I said, “Since Korea, it’s been no secret that our strategic thinking is bankrupt, but the myth is that even though Americans lose wars, we never lose a battle. Now we’re walking into something very ugly, and Iran–Persia–is calling the shots.”
My buddy pulled my thoughts and fears out of the air. “Iran is looking for a cut off battalion or company or platoon,” he said. “They’re waiting for sandstorms, and the satellite connectivity to go down. They don’t want a Thermopylae. They want to force a surrender and humiliate us that way, by trampling on the colors, if you will.”
And so now we wait.

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