Much is being made about our “failures” in this new ground campaign. Apaches are being forced away, the Brits had to pull out of parts of Basra, we don’t hold 50,000 POWs, the last war was over in four days, etc.
Take a deep breath. Calm down. Relax. No, not you — the press.
Last time around, the goal was to expell the Iraqis from Kuwait, destroy as much of the Army and Republican Guard as we could, and wait for the (ahem) inevitable coup against Saddam.
The first two goals we accomplished, although twelve years later, we’re still waiting for the coup. Any day now, really. Or not.
This time the goals are different, and so is the battlefield.
The goal now is liberation and reconstruction. We don’t want to destroy the regular Iraqi Army. We’ll need help in policing the New Iraq, and there’s no love lost between the Army and Saddam. He sold them out in ’91, he’s starved them of food and equipment, and he brutally purges their officers with an almost banal regularity. Played right, the Iraqi Army can become an ally in the post-war period.
In 1991, the big battles were fought in the open desert. The only real exception was the battle for Kuwait City, but that was hardly a battle at all. Cut off from resupply and escape, the Iraqis ran to their doom on the famous Highway of Death. The main action, however, was to the north and west, where VII Corps made its famous “left hook,” and shattered what little resistence was left at the Battle of 73 Easting. Open desert, open battles, quick victory.
Today we’re fighting in Iraq, itself. It’s a big, metropolitan country. Cities, rivers, farms. Imagine a war in Ohio, but with worse weather. And the enemy is playing differently, too. Having learned they cannot stand and fight and expect to win, the Republican Guard is doing all those awful things we’ve been reading about all weekend: Sniping, pretending to surrender, hiding in plain sight in civilian clothes, etc.
So, yes, there are going to be small setbacks behind the main lines. But our eyes — and fists — are still on the prize: Baghdad. In my last post, we looked at the map of Iraq, and where our forces are. The Western Desert is locked off, and we’ve already found two missile sites. The north is mostly in the hands of the Kurds and our Special Forces. From the south, 3ID is making stellar progress towards the capital.
This is a different war, with different goals, strategies, methods — and problems, none unique in military history. Don’t worry about the minor setbacks in the rear areas; the real event is in Baghdad, and the pieces are moving quickly into place.