Thursday, March 27, 2003

RALPHY 'N' RUMMY: Here's some Ralph from a few days back:

I do not doubt our ultimate success. But the impressive television images of tanks charging across the desert mask a numerical weakness for which technology may not fully compensate. One senior officer serving in the Persian Gulf complained to me that had we had sufficient forces on hand to deploy security elements along our routes of march -- the usual practice -- those American POWs who appeared on Iraqi television might not have been captured.

The troops at the front of our attack are performing superbly, but they are operating on adrenaline at this point. Four to five days into any conflict, another division should have conducted a "forward passage of lines" with the 3rd Infantry Division before the final push to Baghdad, giving the 3ID a chance to rest, rearm and reequip before returning to battle. But no other heavy division is on hand in the theater of war to relieve or reinforce our tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. The closest unit is on ships in the Red Sea, at least 10 days away from any ability to influence the battle.

Why did Rumsfeld and his most trusted subordinates overrule the advice of their military planners? For political, bureaucratic and theoretical reasons. Rumsfeld, who is otherwise an inspiring wartime official, was out to prove a point. In his vision of the future -- one shaped by technocrats and the defense industry -- ground forces can be cut drastically in order to free funding for advanced technologies. To that end, Rumsfeld has moved to frustrate the Army's efforts to field medium-weight brigades that can be deployed swiftly to a crisis, which would have been invaluable in this conflict.

This war was supposed to prove the diminishing relevance of ground forces, while shock-and-awe attacks from the air secured a swift victory. Instead, the plan had to be rearranged so that ground forces could rush into Iraq to prevent economic and ecological catastrophes -- you still cannot seize ground, prevent sabotage, halt genocide and ethnic cleansing, or liberate anybody from the sky.

We are headed for victory, but, as the Duke of Wellington observed of Waterloo, it may be a "near-run thing" on the ground.

Some lessons of this war are already clear: Ferocity, skill and determination, not theories, win wars. And our nation will continue to require balanced, adequately funded forces -- in all of our armed services -- for a very long time to come.

Oh, and here's a put-down:

Some things do not change. The best way to shock and awe an enemy is still to kill him. Those who want to wage antiseptic wars for political purposes should not start wars in the first place.


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