November 30, 2004
FLASH: THE BLOGGER CHALLENGE BEGINS!
[Note: In order to get the full effect of this post, you must first open a new window and paste this link. Then return and read as the music plays.]
Alright loyal readers . . .
The Adventures of Chester has had a great pre-season so far, raising $300 for the future of freedom in the Middle East, but now is the time to open the floodgates and let the donations flow!
Remember . . . Chester only receives a hat and tee out of this deal, so don't think I'm in it for anything other than glory!
Think back to World War II . . . the government asked you to ration your food, buy bonds, be a draftee, deal with all manner of sacrifice for the victory of freedom over fascism. Well, today our government asks little of the average citizen in our victory over Islamic Fascism -- little more than a few extra dollars in the national debt.
But you can be a part of it all. Have a decisive role in the future of Iraq and Afghanistan; support the reconstruction efforts of US troops; support the university educations of Iraqi students, and even support grassroots bloggers in Iraq! These are but a few of the many projects that your donation will support.
Be a part of the success of freedom. Make a contribution to the Spirit of America today. Your contribution is tax-deductible.
If this devil dog knocked on your door and asked you to contribute, what would you tell him?
[Tomorrow, to inspire you to donate, The Adventures of Chester will present something never before posted on this site: Chester will tell a bona fide war story from his time in Iraq.]
Pentagon Wages Information Warfare
This is a very intriguing article: Pentagon Wages Information Warfare.
Time is short and I can't react to this as I'd like. Perhaps tomorrow.
Safre and the Iraqi Elections
William Safire's new opinion piece examines the upcoming Iraqi elections. His access provides some unique insight.
Iran fuel cycle suspension is "temporary" move
When Iranian officials make statements likethis,
"The Islamic republic has not renounced its nuclear fuel cycle and it will use it," Hassan Rowhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, told reporters.
. . . it becomes harder to listen the logic of leftists like this.
The Iranians want to temporarily suspend their fuel cycle and "the suspension will only last as long as the related negotiations go on."
Are they trying to buy time? Is diplomacy a stall? Do they know better than us that our dithering at the UN gave Saddam time to hide, destroy and shuffle his weapons programs, and time to plan a guerrilla war?
Perhaps. Seems to make sense. But . . . if the Iranians intend for their suspension to be temporary, why would they announce it?
Maybe they are signaling that the price for their nuclear forbearance is higher than has yet been offered. Perhaps they are trying to get more concessions out of the West.
Rowhani said Iran had obtained a great success in recent nuclear negotiations, stressing that the United States had been frustrated on its attempt to refer Iran's nuclear case to the UN Security Council.
The thinking of the Iranians: Stall the US from going to the Security Council. Divide the west between Europe and the US. Continue with our covert program while this is happening. Get more concessions while they wring their hands and begin their planning cycle. Reach the no-return point before they can act.
Iran 1, US 0.
More here at the Christian Science Monitor:
At the same time, Iranian leaders are under intense domestic pressure to maintain the country's nuclear ambitions and to stand up to international pressures. That was evident yesterday when demonstrators in Tehran burned a British flag and tried to storm the gates of the British Embassy.
Acknowledging the Iranian public's strong identification with the nuclear program, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted on state television saying, "Iran will never halt its nuclear activities under any circumstances, and this is our red line."
And in words suggesting the world has not heard the end of Iran's nuclear ambitions, government spokesman Andollah Ramazanzadeh was quoted by Reuters announcing at a weekly press conference: "We are not fully satisfied with the resolution ... but for the time being it was [beneficial] for Iran to accept it."
Hmmm. If the legitimacy of the regime is tied to a single weapons program, eliminating or severely hampering that program might do a good bit toward destabilizing and delegitimating the regime.
A "reconstruction assault" on Fallujah
I ran across this article at work the other day. From a definite non-mainstream source.
Top General Warns Iran Not to Underestimate US Military
Wow! This is pretty candid for the Commander of Central Command. Iran is really coming to the front in every possible way.
"We can generate more military power per square inch than anybody else on Earth, and everybody knows it," Abizaid said. "If you ever even contemplate our nuclear capability, it should give everybody the clear understanding that there is no power that can match the United States militarily."
When we read this, we think something like, "Yes. That's true. We have the strongest military in the world."
But . . . is there a message being sent here? If a Chinese general made a statement like this, would the US interpret it as an allusion to a first-strike? Will the Iranians interpret it in the same way?
(From the above mentioned article, scrolling down past the Kerry bit:)
Of course, the official PRC outlet failed to mention the fact that General Xiong Guankai, deputy chief of staff for PLA intelligence and second in command of all PLA forces threatened the U.S. with nuclear war.
"He wanted to turn Los Angles into radioactive glass," stated William Triplett, author of "Year of the Rat" and defense analyst. "He threatened the United States with nuclear weapons. He is not a nice guy."
The official PRC statement also neglected to quote Document 1999 65 from the PLA Office of the Central Military Commission. The document noted that the Chinese government is prepared to fight a nuclear war with the U.S. and has sent official messages to back up its threat.
Gen. Abizaid's statement is not quite as blunt, but still could be interpreted in a variety of ways. You rarely hear a US general -- much less a field commander -- openly discussing our own nuclear capabilities. Interesting things afoot . . .
Do you hear angels singing?
I do. It's because three major newspapers wrote editorials today saying that postponing elections in Iraq is a bad idea. Hallelujah!
1. Don't Postpone Elections (washingtonpost.com) offers this:
The most compelling reasons to stick to the January date, however, are practical. Iraq's Shiite leaders appear dead set against any delay, and for the government or the Bush administration to oppose them would invite chaos in the biggest swath of Iraq, which is now relatively peaceful. Delay would be a victory for the insurgents, just when they have suffered an important battlefield defeat in Fallujah. Rather than leading to the negotiations between the government and Sunni leaders that proponents say they want, a postponement is more likely to prompt an escalation of the insurgency coupled with demands that U.S. forces leave Iraq before any vote is held.
Did you hear that? The Washington Post just admitted that "the biggest swath of Iraq" is "relatively peaceful." Is something funny in the air today or what!
2. The Wall Street Journal (subscription-only) offers this:
More than 50 Americans have just died and hundreds more were wounded correcting President Bush's decision to allow Iraqi insurgents a Fallujah safe haven back in April. So it's more than a little disheartening to hear the sudden talk of postponing by six months or more the scheduled January 30 elections, for which the second Battle of Fallujah and other recent operations were designed to pave the way. . .
The argument for postponement, of course, is that the insurgency in Iraq will make holding elections difficult. Of particular concern is the Sunni Triangle, and the possibility that an organized boycott or low voter turnout there will make reconciliation between Iraq's Sunnis and the resulting government more or less impossible, leading to a permanent Sunni insurgency or escalation to civil war. . .
Over the weekend Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih summed up the bottom line nicely, saying that while it would be a real challenge to hold elections on time, delay would be worse because it would have "serious ramifications to the political process" and bolster the Baathists and terrorists. As for Iraq's Sunnis generally, the way to get them on board is not to cede them effective veto power but to give those among them who want to participate the prospect of a real legislative presence. Any elected Shiite majority will be able to succeed only if it recognizes minority rights, which the Kurds as well as the Sunnis will be demanding. . .
In our view, two of the largest U.S. mistakes in handling post-Saddam Iraq were ceding insurgent safe havens, and gambling recklessly with the allegiance of the majority Shiites by delaying democracy and dabbling in re-Baathification. We got a second chance to deal with Fallujah. But one more delay in moving to a democratically legitimate government could set in motion events from which we might not recover. A January 30 (or thereabouts) vote, however imperfect the conditions, is the most responsible option. . .
3. The LA Times: Ballots, the Insurgents' Enemy has this:
It seems certain that not every eligible Iraqi will have the opportunity to vote in January. Troubling as that is, if a majority of possible voters do get to choose a generally representative national assembly, and it succeeds in writing a permanent constitution, millions of Iraqis will acquire a stake in their country. The election would also lay the groundwork for eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces, whose presence both angers Iraqis and reassures them that all-out civil war will not occur.
The LA Times manages to advocate elections while still sounding incredibly pessimistic. What is life like in these newsrooms? A bunch of nihilist neurotics perpetually pessimistic about everything that matters -- when they shed their irony long enough to feign concern. But they still endorse January elections!
Another Iran Analysis
A Nuclear Iran in the Weekly Standard discusses Iran's nuclear program. Interesting, but I don't think there is anything particularly ground-breaking (to loyal readers here anyway) . . .
THE KIND OF DIPLOMACY spearheaded by Germany, France, and Britain is unlikely to lead to a successful dismantling of Iran's nuclear weapons programs, Russell contends. Sanctions would hurt the Iranian people more than the Islamic regime and could undermine U.S. efforts for regime change. America could offer formal diplomatic relations, economic aid to modernize Iran's oil industry and the release of frozen Iranian assets, but making sure Tehran was using the aid for its intended purpose would be nearly impossible, Russell contends. Likewise, the military option is not without significant risk. An airstrike would involve hundreds of targets; invasion would require more forces than the U.S. has to commit: "The United States now has a significant portion of its total ground forces committed to Iraq and would be hard-pressed to mount a comparable or larger operation simultaneously against Iran."
None of the options are perfect, Russell argues, but some things are sure: Iran will continue its nuclear weapons program until it obtains the bomb once and for all--it is seen as a matter of military necessity and the key to Tehran's influence in the region--while hiding behind ambiguity and concealment. A nuclear Iran, however, cannot be tolerated. Iran is well known for its sponsorship of terrorist organizations and has conducted a foreign policy of violence by proxy. The risk that Iran will transfer its nuclear technology to groups such as Hezbollah, whom Iran supports with an estimated yearly stipend of more than $100 million, is great. Additionally, a nuclear-armed Iran would be emboldened to strong-arm America's regional allies into pulling away from the United States or run the risk of an atomic attack by terrorist proxies.
If there are any Alert Readers out there who would like to contribute to the upcoming post on Iran's capabilities, please email me links.
Attacks Dropping Fast
Hat tip to PoliPundit.com for noting Attacks on Troops Plummet After Fallujah Rout, an article in Newsmax. The article does a good job of calling out the mainstream media on burying these statistics in the rears of their papers. (Reminds me of an old Late Night Top Ten: Top Ten Stories on the Last Page of the New York Times. One of them was "Canada Massing Troops on the Alaskan Border." Anyway . . . )
An Alert Reader emailed me the other day and asked if there is a site that tracks attacks on US troops. I don't know. The New York Times publishes a graphic every now and then that routinely shows attacks skyrocketing, as is the insurgency, the level of herpes, the number of hangnails per capita, halitosis and general bad manners throughout Iraq. I usually ignore these charts.
We used to track attacks in several ways: attacks on camps, attacks on convoys, attacks on infrastructure, then cross-reference them by method: indirect fire, ground assault, IED, etc. Something like that. It was a good method to find patterns. I'm sure they still do the same thing, and on behalf of all of my readers I will email the CentCom press office and see if they will tell me.
If this is true then it dovetails with what we discussed yesterday in Cleaning out "the worst place in the world" and is good news of course. Shows that the whole idea of Fallujah being the key node or even the center of gravity of the insurgency had something going for it.
Emailing CentCom now . . .
Don't forget the Friends of Iraq Blogger Challenge!
Loyal Readers, don't forget to make your contribution to the Friends of Iraq Blogger Challenge!
Do your part to support democracy in the Middle East! Let it not be said that you were delinquent in the cause of freedom!
[Thanks to Bill Roggio at the fourth rail for hosting the image in the sidebar. The Fourth Rail is an excellent site, and you should visit.]
Is the clock ticking?
[Alarmism is not the goal of this post; just pattern-spotting.]
Oct. 6, 2002: A taped voice said to be bin Laden's threatens to attack U.S. economic interests if attacks on Arab and Muslim countries do not stop.
2002 (Oct.): Boat crashes into oil tanker off Yemen coast, killing one.
Nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia, killed 202, mostly Australian citizens.
Sept. 10, 2003: A videotape shows bin Laden and al-Zawahiri walking in mountains. A voice, reportedly al-Zawahiri's, calls on Iraqis to attack American forces and for the Palestinians to resist Israel on an audiotape.
2003 (Nov.): Suicide car-bombers simultaneously attacked two synagogues in Istanbul, Turkey, killing 25 and injuring hundreds.
2003 (Nov.): Truck bombs detonated at London bank and British consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, killing 26.
(See Suspected al-Qaeda Terrorist Acts for the chronology of attacks.)
And, bin Laden's latest appearance on election eve was mainly seen through the lens of trying to figure out which candidate he wanted to win, and which he wanted to lose, and few bothered to think that perhaps a new attack was in the offing, based on the pattern of his past appearances.
Are his messages tied to follow-on attacks? A central part of this question is whether al Qaeda is an organization or a movement. Like the dual nature of light -- as both photons and waves -- al Qaeda seems to possess both the requisite centralization to perform detailed planning and attacks, and the necessary decentralization to provide mere logistical and moral support for other subsidiary and aligned Islamic movements. So it is difficult to tell which attacks are organized and carried out by those acting under al Qaeda's orders, and those simply inspired by bin Laden.
Some analysts saw the content of his most recent message as showing that al Qaeda is an organization on the run, and being effectively marginalized. The most cogent case for this argument is not surprisingly made by Wretchard at Belmont Club.
But an alternative analysis lingers. In Terrorists turn up the dial in global PR war, the Christian Science Monitor notes that al Qaeda's propaganda campaign is detailed, lively, and interesting to Muslims -- and a new audio or video tape has been released every 6 weeks since September 11th.
Could the seeming weakness on display in Osama's latest video be misinformation? I offer no answers here -- just wish to ask questions . . .
In today's Jerusalem Post, Yossef Bodansky states that a WMD attack against the US is in the works:
"All of the warnings we have today indicate that a major strike – something more horrible than anything we've seen before – is all but inevitable," he said.
Bodansky, here for the second annual Jerusalem Summit, an international gathering of conservative thinkers, added that "the primary option" for the next al-Qaida attack on US soil would be one that would use weapons of mass destruction.
"I do not have a crystal ball, but this is what all the available evidence tells us, we will have a bang," Bodansky said.
He said that al-Qaida has not carried out a second major attack on the US until now for internal psychological and ideological reasons, but after the reelection of President George W. Bush, it has gotten "the green light" to do so from leading Islamic religious luminaries, as well as from "the elites of the Arab world."
According to Bodansky's reading of Osama bin Laden's mind-set, after the elaborate attacks of 9/11 there was no need for the "bin Ladens of the world" to carry out a second major attack in the US, both because the target audience of the attacks – the Arab and Islamic world – had gotten the message that America could be penetrated, and because a second attack would necessarily have to be more grandiose.
Following the attacks and the US-led war on terror, a debate started within the operational arm of the organization over the potential use of weapons of mass destruction, Bodansky said.
If, in pre-9/11 days, the theme used by bin Laden was that perpetual confrontation and jihad against the US was the only way to protect Islam, the argument now used is the ability to punish American society, Bodansky said.
"Just as the West was challenging the quintessence of Islam by means of the globalization era, there was a parallel need by Islamic extremists to strike at – and hurt – the core of American society, this time with weapons of mass destruction," Bodansky said.
A subsequent theological debate emerged within the organization, and its supporters in the Arab world, he said, over whether the mass killing of innocents is permissible.
While bin Laden and his associates argued that by virtue of their participation in US democracy, US citizens were enabling their rulers to fight, other Islamic luminaries contended that this does not permit such massive attacks, Bodansky said. The reelection of Bush in November, he said, was viewed by bin Laden and his cohorts as a decisive answer to this deliberation, with Americans now "choosing" to be the enemies of Islam. In bin Laden's mind-set, he said, the stage was set for a non-conventional attack.
Bodansky said that while there may still be some vestiges of debate and doubt within Islamic circles, he believes that planing for such an attack is finished. "They got the kosher stamp from the Islamic world to use nuclear weapons," he said.
Does Osama really require the permission or tacit acceptance of Muslim clerics to use an atomic weapon in the United States?
What was the objective of the 9/11 attacks? Was it to induce the US to leave the Arab world and pay no attention to its affairs, while at the same time, killing the maximum number of Americans? If so, then it was only a partial-success: Al Qaeda misjudged the US reponse to an attack on its soil . . .
. . . doesn't planning a nuclear attack misjudge the American response again? Rather than forcing the US into a cocoon, wouldn't a nuclear attack on the US strengthen the likelihood of an overwhelming and decisive US response? Would Americans be content to fiddle while Manhattan burned, or would they demand blood, in even greater numbers and louder voices than before?
In the days after 9/11, William S. Lind, one of the thinkers behind the doctrine of maneuver warfare, published an article calling for the immediate launching of a nuclear strike against Afghanistan. Such a tactic seems too harsh -- but what level of violence would see it become justifiable to the majority of Americans?
[Later this week The Adventures of Chester will examine the rightist critique of the War on Terror, in addition to posting Part V of the Iran series, which will focus on what Iran brings to the table in a fight.]
November 29, 2004
Cleaning out "the worst place in the world"
W. Thomas Smith Jr. makes a case for the impending defeat of the Iraqi insurgency today on National Review Online.
Col. Ron Johnson, commander of the 24th MEU, tells NRO that the operations have been seamless and effective. "We can tell by the reaction of the enemy," he says. "We can tell by the increase in their activity, for example the fever pitch at which they're laying IEDs [improvised explosive devices]. We're starting to suffocate them, and they're panicking. We have a large target list, and we're going to continue to stay after them."
Another NRO contributor, Victor Hanson, has warned over the past few months that the final battles of a given campaign are often the bloodiest -- and these final battles often take place while the participants don't realize that their cause is nearly realized.
Says Capt Nevers, the spokesman for the 24th MEU:
"This fight requires patience and persistence, and we have it in abundance. Time is on our side, not the enemy's. With each passing day, the Iraqi security forces get stronger and the day the Iraqi people are in full control of their destiny draws nearer."
Perhaps the vast majority of the world thinks about elections in the wrong way. Sunni politicians, Kurdish politicians, the Arab League, the Europeans, even today, the Wall Street Journal, all see elections as some sort of reward to be bequeathed to an already stable society, rather than viewing them as a stabilizing influence on a society that could either move toward modernity or sink back into the dark ages. More than likely, the truth is that elections can have either effect -- stabilizing when properly conducted and supported, and fractious when a mere half-hearted effort is applied on their behalf.
If that is the case, then we have much to look forward to: Statements like Capt Nevers' above show that the United States' dual political and military strategy for securing and stabilizing Iraq will use the election as a powerful tool to fight the insurgency. Rather than the destabilizing death knell or the panacea that critics are tempted to find, the US will ensure that elections are the political embodiment of a 22-month military campaign: the war continued by other means, to turn Clausewitz on his head.
The Adventures of Chester predicts that the Iraqi elections will not be postponed.
Changes to Army Recruit Training
After being shocked by the performance of its 507th Maintenance Company soldiers suring the invasion of Iraq -- among whose number was Jessica Lynch, the US Army now plans to train every recruit in combat skills during basic training. See today's LA Times story, Every Enlistee First a Warrior.
Preparing your troops to fight, either offensively or defensively, should be a no-brainer, given the tenets of maneuver warfare, which the US does not monopolize -- insurgents follow them as well: don't reinforce failure, reinforce success; aim for enemy weaknesses, not strengths; attack critical nodes -- the most important of which is known as the center of gravity -- via critical vulnerabilities in the enemy's overall makeup and composition.
Non-combat troops who expect to never be involved in a firefight could easily be a critical vulnerability -- especially when they are given weapons and told to defend themselves anyway -- though they have little or no training for such situations. They can in fact become dangerous to their own forces at that point, as their lack of skill translates into friendly-fire.
A close look at this article is required and I'm inserting it, along with my comments in brackets below. Readers will forgive me if I cannot help but to look at this issue from the viewpoint of a Marine -- I'll try to remember that the Army is a much, much larger force with differing goals.
Los Angeles Times
November 29, 2004
Every Enlistee First A Warrior
In a dramatic overhaul, boot camp goes beyond the old basics, training even those in normally noncombat jobs to fight in a new kind of war.
By Faye Fiore, Times Staff Writer
FT. BENNING, Ga. — The soldiers from Echo Company sit in a noisy chow hall, tired but on the brink of a milestone. In two days, they will complete basic training as grueling as the Army has ever dished out. And in a matter of weeks, many of them will be on the ground in Iraq.
"My wife said, 'Don't join the infantry,' and I promised her I wouldn't," said Army Spc. Jonathan Hernandez, 29, a former history teacher from Niceville, Fla. "Now I realize it doesn't matter. The enemy doesn't care if they are firing at a financial specialist or somebody in the infantry."
[Is Specialist Hernandez still in basic training? If so, why is he already a Specialist? How can he be an E4 already? Bizarre.]
Today's casualty lists are riddled with cooks, mechanics, mail clerks — all theoretically noncombat jobs. But yesterday's boot camp did not prepare soldiers for the cities and deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq, where the theater of battle is all around.
[The author attacheds too much importance to geography and the particulars of our current war here. ANY place where the US is engaged in a long war will be more dangerous for our non-combat troops -- because long wars mean more non-combat troops are needed. The same issues of the fluidity of the battlefield that are supposedly so vexing to the Army non-combat forces would have also existed in any number of past engagements, had there been untrained non-combat forces involved -- take Somalia for instance.]
As a result, combat training is undergoing its most dramatic overhaul since Vietnam. And as the war in Iraq forces America's military to change, the storied rigors of boot camp have become ever more rigorous.
"Whenever you go into a combat environment, there are going to be challenges you didn't foresee," said Col. William J. Gallagher, commander of the Basic Combat Training Brigade at Ft. Benning. "We are fighting a smart, adaptive enemy. They have technology and they have money and they are going to come up with ways to get us that we didn't expect."
But as a downsized, undersupplied force strains to fight a stubborn insurgency, it does not have the luxury of time. The Army finds itself with much more to teach its combat-bound recruits, and the same 63 basic training days to teach it.
[Would the author prefer no war were being fought now? Or would he prefer we had a much larger Army, and even more money were spent on supplying it? My guess is that he would complain either way. Cramming all of this into the basic course of nine weeks doesn't seem like it will be incredibly effective. It takes much longer to make a Marine: 13 weeks of basic training, then a full month of nothing but combat skills for non-combat Marines, then they go on to their specialty schools.]
So today's new soldier averages five hours of sleep a night instead of seven. The day still begins at dawn and lasts past dinner, but core training pushes further into the night, eating into time once used for review and reinforcement of the day's lessons. Sundays, once set aside for worship, laundry and phone calls home, are no longer guaranteed "light."
["The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war." -- Patton, I think.]
"If I said I wasn't tired, I'd be lying," said Hernandez, who was so determined to serve he lost 110 pounds to qualify for enlistment.
The March 2003 ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company from Ft. Bliss, Texas, was a wake-up call for American armed forces. Eleven combat-support soldiers were killed and six more captured — including Pvt. Jessica Lynch — lending urgency to the need to train every volunteer as a warrior.
After the 507th ambush, a task force spent a year brainstorming ways to avoid another such catastrophe. The members came up with a set of new tasks and battle drills considered essential for survival, and suggested adding an extra three weeks of training to teach them. But each day of added training meant a decline in the number of soldiers available for combat. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker ordered the command to find a way to fit the new curriculum into the existing nine weeks.
Instructors prioritized. The traditional marching competition was dropped, and protocol lessons were shortened. Standard courses were made more relevant to today's war. Basic radio communications now includes ways the enemy uses cellphones to detonate bombs.
[A quick opinion I have felt strongly about for awhile: marching, or drill, is very effective for building esprit de corps within a given unit, but that is about as far as it goes. When Washington was in Valley Forge, he found the biggest patch of grass there and marched his Army for weeks. A good idea, as this was how they fought back then. Now we fight in very different and more complicated ways, and I have always felt that the time spent marching would be better spent on other tasks. I am probably in the minority on this one.]
Gallagher believes instructors have struck a balance, maximizing every available moment without stressing soldiers to a point of diminished returns.
For the recruits, it wasn't exactly what they expected when a bus deposited them at the gate nine weeks ago. The plan for many had been to learn an Army trade, to make an important contribution and still keep a safe distance from enemy lines. Instead, before they knew it, they were learning to avoid landmines, survive an ambush and spot roadside bombs disguised as cans of Coke.
[Why is it not what they expected? If we recruit civilians with promises of seeing the world, getting into college, or making a better life for themselves, we will end up with recruits with a sense of entitlement for a variety of benefits -- though of course most will perform superbly. If we recruit based on the concepts of honor and desire to fight, then we will get a better force. Admiral Stockdale had similar comments in a book he wrote in the 80's, I think.]
"They go from being a high school kid to a soldier on the ground in Iraq, and if they get ambushed, they have to know hand-to-hand combat," said retired Army Gen. Randall L. Rigby, a former deputy commandant in charge of training. "The old chestnut that only the infantry takes the blows is gone."
Many of the thousands of new recruits who file into Ft. Benning every year are as young as 17 or as old as 35. Some of them are still fighting acne, others middle-aged paunches. But they all are presented with the same stark odds: Half will deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan as soon as 30 days after completing initial training. The rest can expect to go sometime during their first enlistment.
The infantry soldiers — those who specialize in combat — complete their course in 14 weeks. The combat-support troops train for nine weeks before learning a specific job. But under the Army's new philosophy, they all must be warriors first.
[Why separate the combat and non-combt forces for basic training? Why not keep them all together, then send them to their separate specialty schools? The answer, young Jedi, is gender. Stop right now and go read the book "A Kinder, Gentler Military," and you will see why a force that has integrated gender basic training cannot then also have basic training integrated with combat and non-combat specialties. Such are the issues we must discuss if we are to improve our Army.]
"When you land in Baghdad International Airport and get in a convoy to go someplace, you are in your first potential combat right then and there," Gallagher told a group of about 200 fresh volunteers, so new their hair was shorn to the scalp and their running shoes were still white.
The road signs into Ft. Benning caution motorists to limit their speed to 15 mph to protect soldiers up and out before dawn. At 5:30 one recent morning, Charlie Company was setting off on a three-mile run and Bravo was on the ground, doing sit-ups in the dark.
If the volunteers have little in common when they enter, they share a good deal by the time they leave. Reflexively, their eyes dart across the landscape, looking for anything out of order — a truck parked askew, a lump under a blanket. They can fight hand-to-hand combat, move under live fire, clear a house on a mock Iraqi street.
To get them there, instructors are encouraged to be creative. They plant mock explosives along running trails and under rucksacks. One brought in his 7-year-old son — innocent one moment, cradling a dummy grenade the next — for a field exercise illustrating when to shoot and when to hold fire.
The total time in the field — spent in the woods that spill into Alabama — has been expanded from three days to 14. It is there that the trainees face their biggest challenges. They confront simulated ambushes. Sleep is interrupted. Food is not always available. (In one scenario, the dinner truck is blown up by a suicide bomber, and no one eats that night.)
[Good, good, good.]
They become proficient with their M-16s, carrying them everywhere except the chapel and the clinic. But — in another new feature of basic training — now they are also taught to load, clear and shoot just about any weapon their unit might carry.
"If the machine-gunner is hurt or killed, they can lay down fire against an enemy," said Col. Kevin A. Shwedo of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command in Virginia. "You don't have to be real good at it to have one hell of an effect."
The training regimen is constantly responding to lessons learned on the ground. When insurgents began to ambush convoys, the Army beefed up convoy instruction, teaching soldiers, among other things, to sit facing the street, rather than with their backs to it.
Information about roadside bombs, once a mere mention, is now a formal course. First-aid training is more extensive. Soldiers practice with tourniquets in an attempt to minimize the wounds that have sent thousands home as amputees.
The greatest challenge for Army trainers is not figuring out what to teach, but what to leave out. "It's a constant effort to prioritize," Gallagher said. "I can always think of 10 new things to do."
Resources remain a problem. The Army decrees that today's new soldier wear body armor, shoot while using night-vision goggles and handle a machine gun. But all the available equipment is needed overseas, leaving little or nothing for hands-on training.
[Shouldn't matter if you are creative. Was it George Marshall who trained the US Army with broomsticks, or Omar Bradley? Sometime in the 30's.]
"It's a process," Gallagher said. "We are on a glide path to being fully resourced on everything we need. The Army hasn't stiffed us."
But some training instructors and military experts say there ought to be enough to go around.
[Well who will argue about that? But again, when the DoD budget is increased by another 20%, will the LA Times write an editorial praising this move?]
"When you have a nation at war, you might want to take a look at your priorities," said Rigby, a retired three-star general.
The average cost of nine-week basic training averages $14,500 per soldier, but is expected to rise significantly as more training and equipment is added.
A formal study is planned early next year to measure the effectiveness of the training. Meanwhile, reports from commanders in the field suggest soldiers are hitting the ground well-prepared, officers said.
"They seem more motivated, more confident," said Sgt. 1st Class Darrell Smith, a drill instructor here. "Soldiers are different now."
The new training has been more than many soldiers expected, but not more than they could manage. Sitting in the chow hall over trays of today's Army fare — meat patties swimming in a Spanish sauce — several Echo Company soldiers talked about the likelihood of going to Iraq. Some were eager to take their skills to war, others resigned to the fact they might have to. But all said they felt prepared.
"Pay attention to details; focus on your surroundings. I am very alert," said Pfc. Donyval Coley, 22, a former massage therapist who enlisted because of the Sept. 11 attacks. Reciting lessons learned in training, he said it would be "just a matter of time" before he was asked to use them.
Derek Gonzales, 18, who graduated in June from Tipton High School in Missouri, grew up in the little town of Syracuse, population 172, and joined the Army in part because his father thought it would be good for him. Gonzales didn't figure on actually landing in Iraq when he enlisted, but he is resigned to the possibility.
"I'll do this because it's my duty that I have to serve the country and everything, but … " He stopped without finishing the thought.
The cars began to file through the gate at 8 a.m. for Family Day, a pregraduation ritual held to hand out awards of excellence and give soldiers their first free day in weeks.
Parents and spouses mingled outside, waiting for Echo Company to arrive. The Army has made it clear that these new soldiers will go to Iraq and fight this war. But the message does not seem to have registered beyond the boundaries of the base.
Andrea Denoncour, 23, found even the relatively brief separation from her husband, Jacob, 22, harder than she expected. He joined the Army to pay off his college loans and to use the $6,000 signing bonus to furnish their apartment. But that plan seemed pointless to her now, and the idea of him going to war too painful to fathom.
[See comments above about incentives to enlist vs. desire to fight.]
"Now I don't even remember why we decided he should do this," she said, picking up their 2-year-old daughter, Lillian, and trying not to cry.
Her father-in-law moved to comfort her. "He's regular Army, not infantry. I don't worry about him going to Iraq as much," Joe Denoncour, 50, a postal worker from Epping, N.H., tried to assure her.
The chant of cadence rose in the distance, growing to a thunder as the new soldiers marched in. The slumped posture and undisciplined gazes of nine weeks ago had yielded to straight backs and eyes front. They donned their black berets for the first time, then fell out, into the arms of teary mothers and anxious wives.
Retired Lt. Col. Sion Harrington II of Erwin, N.C., had come to see his son-in-law graduate. He stood and observed the scene, remembering his own deployments.
"I can't help wondering how many parents understand what their son is getting into," he said.
A few yards away in the parking lot, Becky Price, 49, of Willow River, Minn., held her boy in her arms and cried. He must have looked very different — the hair, the gleaming shoes, the starched green shirt.
"I have faith he'll be fine," she said, certain that wherever he ended up, he would remain safely "on base."
But Pvt. Troy Price, 19 years old, knew better.
[Americans should immediately forget these notions. There is no such thing as safety on a base, and the next time the US engages a well-trained state-sponsored military force, rather than a group of insurgents, we will see.]
[Last question: Is the Army changing officer training as well? Are non-combat officers being taught how to organize defenses or lead counterattacks? Thousands of newly-minted Privates are useless without a command that knows how to employ their battle skills.]
November 28, 2004
Correction: CIA Activities in the Gulf War
An Alert Reader has pointed out that the story of the CIA hiding a virus in a printer bound for Iraq shortly before the Gulf War is a myth. See this: Google Search: Iraqi printer virus "world report". I mentioned it in Part IV of the Iran series.
I was slow to believe him because I was pretty sure that I had read an account of this in a history of the war entitled, "Triumph Without Victory," by the staff at US News and World Report, and I figured that their book would be accurate. Guess I figured wrong.
A better book on the Gulf War (Round 1) is "The Generals' War" by Bernard Trainor and Michael Gordon. (We all owe a debt of gratitude to the "Jedi Knights" mentioned in this book -- some of the early proponents of maneuver warfare. I've added an Amazon link in the sidebar.)
The moral of the story is to be wary of US News I suppose . . .
Family obligations have kept the posting light to non-existent over the past three days. They'll still be light for the rest of today -- maybe a couple -- then we'll return full-force tomorrow.
November 26, 2004
Another Update from Ukraine
Here is another update from the Alert Reader in Ukraine. Again, not including his name.
Yesterday, another Alert Reader had quite a different take on events and posted his thoughts in the comments section. We welcome debate here at The Adventures of Chester and appreciate the differing viewpoints.
Personally, while it seems instinctual to support the candidate that is the pick of our own elected officials, if I was a Ukrainian it would certainly be a bit unnerving to hear of so many foreigners interfering in our electoral results, no matter whom I supported. So far though I think the US, while clearly preferring one candidate over the other, is questioning the process and not just transparently trying to change the outcome of a fair election to favor our guy.
Two more thoughts: It would be interesting to find some Ukrainian bloggers . . .
Also, thanks to the Alert Reader who emailed me the Samuel Huntington graphic I mentioned yesterday. I am having trouble displaying it (you may have noticed The Adventures of Chester has never displayed photos or graphics . . . we're working on that).
Here I am at the Marin train station. At least 10,000 more protestors here today than yesterday. Maybe the slightly warmer temperatures are helping with the amount of Yuchenko supporters. Today I actually saw the first
supporter of Yanokovich. Not bad for my seventh day in Ukraine. However, the govt still has the power.
Yuchenkos supporters whom I will call the yellows have surrounded all the main govt buildings in Kiev and big cities such as Simferopol, Lvov, and now in Dneipperprotrosk. The only big city where they appear not in the majority is the home of Yanokovich which is Donesk in the east the coal and industrial heart of Ukraine. The supreme court of Ukraine will look into this matter on Monday. Whether the yellows can hold out that long depends a lot on the weather. I will be
back in Germany by then and in a warm bed, warm house and good job, not like my Ukrainian friends.
Call and email your congressmen about these terrible riggings of an election by a common thief who is a puppet of Putin.
Sen Lugar and a couple of U S Congressmen are here with the American Ambassador in Kiev. Colin Powell and the EU is putting up a lot of pressure.
Yesterday I saw Lech Walessa of Poland in the square cheering on the Yuchenko supporters in Independence Sq. Lots of singers are giving free concerts to get the people dancing and warming themselves up. Riding the subway is a near disaster with so many people from outside Kiev in town. Remind me to never encourage Ukraine to have a Rose Parade. Not
enough hotels. So far I have seen a few people beaten, but have never had an interpreter with me to find out how they were hurt. Check and verify is my motto.
Hopefully the airport will remain open through Sunday.
November 25, 2004
Fallujah Atrocity Slideshow
Thanks to Wretchard at Belmont Club for including this link in a post -- a slideshow of insurgent violations of the Law of War, atrocity and torture houses, videos of beheadings, etc. This seems to be a slideshow produced by the US military -- an excellent idea. In "The Soul of Battle" Victor Hanson notes that General Patton ordered his commandrs that every single man in the 3rd Army would visit Nazi atrocity sites so that each would have a story to tell about the evil of the enemy, and would be able to counter the arguments of those who doubted in the future. Says Patton, in a press conference in April, 1945:
"If any of you haven't visited the charnel house near here, you should go. It is the most horrible sight I have ever seen. We had as many soldiers as possible visit it, so as to know what kind of people they are fighting. I think they were duly impressed and I told them to tell their friends.
And then, in a remark to his Chief of Staff, about Buchenwald:
The scenes witnessed there are beyond the normal mind to believe. No race except a people dominated by an ideology of sadism could have committed such gruesome crimes . . . It is a shame that more people cannot see these things, particularly politicians, who, after all, bring on wars, and doubly a shamethat they cannot be seen by those people back in our country . . . No race and no people other than those which are strictly sadists could committ crimes like these.
I MEF should continue to allow as many reporters as possible to visit these scenes in Fallujah -- and soon enough no doubt similar scenes will be on view in the Triangle of Death as well.
On-the-ground Update from Ukraine
One of the regular readers of The Adventures of Chester finds himself in Ukraine, observing the events there. This is his report. I am removing his name until he gives me permission to use it.
Quick thought: In the book "The Clash of Civilizations" by Samuel Huntington, there was a map of Ukraine included showing the voting patterns of the populace during a recent election. If I remember right, made our red-blue split look silly. In one half of the country, 70-80%+ plus voted for one candidate, and in the other, the opposite. If anyone has a copy of this book and can point us to an image of this map, we would be most appreciative.
Let's hope the Ukrainians have something big to be thankful for this time next year . . .
I have been here 6 days, yet today is the first day I went into the center of Kiev, ie Krischiatek Blvd. Now I think I know a bit about crowds having grown up in Pasadena and seeing between 1-2 million people on the 1st of January for the Rose Parade,but this dwarfs Pasadena. The People are packed in on Krischieatek \Blvd for a solid 5 km. THis street is one of those
wide Soviet era streets which is usually 200 meters across when you count the walking areas, I estimate about 1 million here alone supporting of Yuchenko. At each stop on the metro you see 1000s more milling about outside.
There is one phrase for this "Controlled Rage". People are offended that there was so much vote rigging and destroying of
For those of you in the dark, Yuchenko is an economist with an Ukrainian/American Wife. He is pro west, but realizes ties to Russia.On the other hand, Yanokovich is a thug. A rapist, a thief who was arrested twice during Soviet times. He is supported by Russia and Putin. He is 50 years old and ran a gang of thieves in the Donesk region. I have taken many photos but will send them when I arrive back in Germany. Hopefully I will get out on Sunday, as I have to teach at the American School on Monday. These people in Ukraine have had 12 extra years of tyrants running their country. When I was here in the summer, Rumsfeld, McCain, Bush Sr, Rice, and many other high profile American diplomats were here. They sent a message,
if Ukraine has honest elections, EU membership, stronger financial ties with the west and possible NATO base in Odessa are all on the table. There are several American Senators currently here in Kiev. I just returned from Krischiatek with my good friend Alexander Bogart who runs a Reformed Seminary here in Kiev. He was my translator. When people heard him and his wife telling me what was happening in Kiev many rushed around us curious as to who I was. Then they started telling stories of election abuse in their regions of Ukraine. Some had friends in jail. I told them that Americans have always been sympathetic towards those abused by tyrants, and strongly encourage democracy and peaceful demonstrations.
So far all demonstrations are peaceful. It is overwelmingly for Yuchencko. Current President Kuchma with his appointed successor are SCARED as the Presidential Palace is surrounded by tens of thousands of additional Yuchenko supporters. There is a deal in the making of having a third election in order to ease the tension in the air so thick you could cut
it with a knife.
In the center, it is Tent city, they have even run lan lines to communicate in fear of telephones and cell phones being jammed. Pretty well organized resistence if I do say so myself. Lets hope that democracy wins. I hope to give a daily update till I leave.
[name withheld] Former Marine and U S Dept of Defense Educator here in Kiev Ukraine on Turkey day
P S: feel free to pass this on to others in America not aware of these abuses of basic human rights of voting
UPDATE: [From the same reader]
By the way returning the AP news report, it says that Yanokovich supporters have the colors of Blue and White flags. I am yet to see ANY of them in Kiev. Only the orange of Yuchenko.
Thanksgiving Part III: President Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation
[Courtesy of The Federalist Patriot]
'Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor....
'Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the Beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
'And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplication to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our national government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
'Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, AD 1789.'
Thanksgiving Part II: And the Fair Land
The Wall Street Journal has published these editorials annually since 1961.
Thanksgiving Part I: The Desolate Wilderness
[Sporadic posting will continue through Sunday. Check back frequently as you digest your turkey.]
November 24, 2004
More on exploiting seams . . .
Last week, The Adventures of Chester posted a Quick Thought on Exploiting Seams.
Two examples of this phenomenon are taking place:
1. The Triangle of Death: Since Saddam was deposed last spring, US units have had varying and different areas of operations (AOs) throughout Iraq. The First Marine Expeditionary Force for example, started the stabilization period in the southeast part of the country, basically from not far outside Basra all the way up to Al Kut and the Tigris in the north, and Najaf and Karbala in the west. Now, on its second deployment, I MEF is assigned al-Anbar province, and parts of Babil province in the central and western portions of the country.
Usually an entire Army division is responsible for Baghdad, and -- I believe -- often reinforced with an armored cavalry regiment or other attachments.
The point is this: The Triangle of Death, currently the focus of our attention for Operation Plymouth Rock, lies right along the boundary between whatever division is occupying Baghdad (1st Cav Div?), and I MEF to the southwest. The Triangle of Death straddles a seam -- a unit boundary. This has likely been the case for the entire war. Could this have something to do with the unpacified nature of the area?
When responsible for a given area of operations, it is easy to concentrate on what is in the center, and not the periphery. This is human nature. But much interesting activity can take place on the periphery. Take the US-Mexico border region as one example. These hybrid areas in international borders are where much conflict and trade take place. The same activity levels can be observed in the borders of an area of operations of a given military unit -- though not always.
If Babil province, or northern Babil province, now makes up 70-80% of the AO for the 24th MEU, then this problem has been recognized. Dedicating an entire unit to the policing or defeating of the forces that exist along one seam -- and then reinforcing it with at leat two battalions of attachments -- is a sign that our commanders are aware of these issues.
2. With the upcoming rotation of military forces into and out of Iraq, we find an example of a time-based seam (for those worried about opsec, don't worry, this is pretty basic stuff):
As they launch their second large-scale rotation of troops for the war in Iraq, U.S. commanders are trying to minimize the upheaval that the first changeover caused a year ago--a tumult critics say puts more troops at risk while contributing to the loss of U.S. control over several important Iraqi cities. . .
Others say the changeover last January contributed to the loss of important cities that once had been relatively calm and even showed promise of supporting the American effort and the interim Iraqi government. That's because the incoming troops did not have the time to absorb from their departing counterparts what tactics worked best, critics say.
Mosul, for instance, was quickly stabilized by the Army's 101st Airborne Division shortly after the spring 2003 U.S. invasion. Officers there helped stage early local elections and launched ambitious reconstruction projects.
As the 101st neared its departure date in late 2003, however, violence began to escalate, and it grew worse as the 1st Infantry Division took command of the area . . .
Much the same happened in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province. It was tense but generally under control a year ago. But with the departure of the 82nd Airborne Division and the arrival of Marines last spring, the city experienced escalating violence . . .
When one unit replaces another, it can create a time-based seam in defenses, or even in aggressive offensive operations.
A final quote, from Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 1: "Warfighting":
As the opposing wills interact, they create various fleeting opportunities for either foe. Such opportunities are often born of the fog and friction that is natural in war. They may be the result of our own actions, enemy mistakes, or even chance. By exploiting opportunities, we create in increasing numbers more opportunities for exploitation. It is often the ability and willingness to ruthlessly exploit these opportunities that generate decisive results.
Declaration of Independence banned at California School
I am tempted to break out of my normal programming topics and offer a screed on this, but instead I will just draw your attention to it.
"Among the materials . . . rejected . . . are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, George Washington's journal, John Adams' diary, Samuel Adams' "The Rights of the Colonists" and William Penn's "The Frame of Government of Pennsylvania."
FLASH: CHESTER TO BE INTERVIEWED ON HUGH HEWITT SHOW, 5:30PM CENTRAL
See station listings at HughHewitt.com.
Plymouth Rock Continues . . .
U.S. Expanding Iraqi Offensive in Violent Area is a New York Times story detailing a few aspects of Operation Plymouth Rock. Here are interesting tidbits:
The operation began with 11 simultaneous early-morning raids in Jabella, west of the Euphrates River and about 40 miles south of Baghdad, said Col. Ron Johnson, commander of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is leading the effort.
. . .
"We know that some of them headed in our direction before the Falluja battle," he said, citing intelligence reports. "We're going to try to isolate them. Then we're going to bounce all over. We're not going to hit just one area. We're going to hit a multiplicity of targets so that they have no safe haven that they can go to."
Military officials in the province said nearly 250 insurgents had been captured there in the past three weeks, including 32 on Tuesday in the Jabella raids.
. . .
Asked how the American-led forces would proceed differently this time, Captain Nevers said that with the recent addition of the Black Watch and Iraqi forces, they would be able to "squeeze the insurgents into a tighter box."
. . .
Although the offensive, called Operation Plymouth Rock, partly in deference to Thanksgiving, is largely military in nature, Colonel Johnson has emphasized the sway of local crime families in the area. He said that both raids and undercover operations would focus on decimating those families.
Wow! 11 raids at the same time! Decimating the crime families! A cordon around the area! Great stuff!
Troops Hit Sites South of Baghdad is a Washington Post article detailing the actions. Here are some tidbits:
The raids that began Tuesday were carried out by troops already stationed in the area, and military commanders suggested that the brunt of the fighting may still await the dispatch of armored reinforcements from other regions in coming weeks.
"We see that as a place we can go and have tremendous impact on the security situation in Baghdad because the enemy is using that as a sanctuary right now," one senior U.S. officer said this week. "We just haven't been able to get enough force down there to go and find the [weapons] caches, then stay down there and get the police up and running."
. . .
Senior U.S. officers have talked about the possibility of sending a large armored Army force into the largely rural area, drawing troops from the 1st Cavalry Division, which is responsible for the region around Baghdad. But with a sizable segment of the division still tied up in Fallujah, the Marines and the British force were ordered to proceed Tuesday. A U.S. Army officer familiar with the operation said that a significant Army force might still be sent there in coming weeks to continue the push.
So it would appear that this offensive is just getting started and will really ramp up over the next few days as more armored units become available. Seems like a great way to use Light Armored Reconnaissance forces because they are so fast and could travel quickly through the desert.
In trying to figure out what will happen next and what the tempo will be, let's not forget that the Black Watch has been told they will only be attached to the Marines near Baghdad for 30 days or so -- or until sometime near the end of November. This can always change but is worth bearing in mind.
More to come around noon . . .
November 23, 2004
The Triangle of Death: The End of Zarqawi?
The Belfast Telegraph has some interesting tidbits about Operation Plymouth Rock, the offensive through the Latifiyah, Mahmudiyah and Yusufiya triangle:
"Lieutenant Colonel Mark Smith, the commander of the 2nd Battalion based at Mahmudiyah, said: "We have insurgents returning home from Fallujah and finding us on the way. With Fallujah over, the action has moved here. This is now the most dangerous place in Iraq. Increasingly, we are coming up against Zarqawi's people; they are better armed and better trained."
"Lt-Col Smith had just returned from an all-night operation, and still had camouflage paint on his face. The raid, on a farm, followed information that Zarqawi was hiding there. They did not find him, but, Lt-Col Smith said, they caught two senior militant leaders."
"We have had lots of engagements and we have killed a lot. We keep on getting reports that Zarqawi is in this area. If he is we shall find him and we shall capture or kill him."
"Lieutenant Michael Loring Mayne, who was involved in the battle at Yusufiyah, said: "What is very noticeable is that we are coming across well-trained fighters. In Yusufiyah they carried out a fighting withdrawal. That is not easy; it needs skill and discipline. We faced some pretty fierce and sustained fire and some of it was at pretty close quarters, some of my guys were pretty badly hurt."
The 2nd Battalion mentioned is probably 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, a reserve unit from the midwest, apparently attached to the 24th MEU. The battalion landing team for the 24th MEU is 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, from Camp Lejeune, NC.
Here's an in-depth piece on Col Ron Johnson, the Commanding Officer of the 24th MEU. Interesting, but of course, the anti-war tone is ubiquitous in the British press, and this story is no exception.
UPDATE: A reader has asked my opinion of the fighting withdrawal. This is referring to a tactical withdrawal, not an operational one. For example, the relocation of a large group of insurgents from Fallujah to the Trianlge of Death could be termed an operational movement (displacement, or withdrawal). But this context implies an insurgent defense of a particular piece of terrain, followed by a fighting withdrawal to another piece of terrain, or town nearby. The fact that they are fighting while moving means they have more skill than average; the fact that they are moving means we are hurting them enough to make them do so, certainly good news.
Triangle of Death 2
Wretchard at Belmont Club suggests that the insurgency could be hoping to adopt the Taliban model of opposition:
"The appeal to their jihadi comrades in Afghanistan and Pakistan is intriguing because it suggests that the Taliban's style of fighting may now be viewed as the relevant model by the Iraqi insurgents. From their previous position of pre-eminence, the Taliban have been forced to adopt a very dispersed and low intensity fight against a US force allied to an increasingly established government. It is a position which the Sunni insurgents, unless they can reverse their fortunes, may soon find themselves in."
If the insurgency is forced to adopt this model by our actions, not only is it a sign of their increasing problems after the Battle of Fallujah, but this type of opposition is untenable on its face. The survival of the Taliban in Afghanistan is a result of the country's favorable terrain. An insurgency of this sort will not survive in the desert of central Iraq, even around the vegetated areas adjacent to the Euphrates -- the terrain favors the attackers, not the defenders. If they are isolated and cut off within the triangle, they will be destroyed, and probably rather quickly. Such is not the case when isolated in the mountains of the Hindu Kush.
The options are shrinking for the Iraqi insurgency, though as Wretchard reminds us,"it would be unwise to conclude that the insurgents are on the run without further collateral evidence because effective disinformation is often pitched to what we want to believe." A good point. We'll have to look for confirmation elsewhere -- though reading between the lines will of course be necessary given the generally poor reporting.
Threat Scenarios and the Quadrennial Defense Review
[the last of the Early Bird posts for today . . .]
I'm posting this article in its entirety as the website, though free, requires registration. There is much here to discuss. My comments in brackets between paragraphs.
November 22, 2004
US Revises Threat Scenarios
Will Guide Military Restructuring, Weapon Choices
By Jason Sherman
The Pentagon is building a classified catalogue of new planning scenarios that will play a central role in restructuring the U.S. military and determining weapons and technology are needed for the war on terrorism in coming years.
Dozens of scenarios that the U.S. military must prepare for — such as the collapse of a government possessing nuclear weapons — will be narrowed down in coming weeks.
Eventually, these new “irregular, catastrophic and disruptive” scenarios will have a place alongside traditional war plans — such as potential conflict with North Korea, China or Iran — in guiding the agenda for the 2005 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), a sweeping assessment of U.S. military strategy, force structure and equipment.
[Good that they are revising planning from mere invasions and invasion-defense. There is too much going on to just rely on those plans.]
Overseeing this effort is James Thomas, deputy assistant secretary of defense for resources and plans.
[Couldn't find this gentleman's bio on the DoD website, which is highly unusual. Perhaps they keep him locked in the library making strategy.]
A concerted effort was launched this spring to identify a bundle of new scenarios — between five and 20, according to one defense source — to deal with a wider range of threats identified in the classified 2004 Strategic Planning Guidance.
This policy calls for U.S. forces to better prepare for a wider range of challenges, including “irregular, catastrophic and disruptive” threats.
[They've used "irregular, catastrophic, and disruptive" twice without defining yet -- poor reporting.]
“What we’re looking for is greater variability within the scenarios we consider to make sure we are cross-preparing our force so that it remains highly adaptable as things pop up,” a senior defense official said. “We want to make sure we’re not just balancing risk against the things that are familiar, but also considering things less familiar and increasingly likely.”
Key to the effort is to avoid tilting the U.S. military too much toward any given scenario.
The United States is well positioned to deal with only one of these emerging threats — countering an enemy that attacks with conventional air, sea and land forces — and Pentagon planners admit that scenario is unlikely.
More likely, according to sources familiar with the classified planning guidance, are attacks that aim to erode U.S. power in unconventional ways, such as the irregular warfare of the insurgency U.S. forces now face in Iraq.
[Compared to many of the options to erode US power that are on the horizon -- like critical infrastructure attacks, bio-tipped cruise missiles, etc -- the "unconventional" and "irregular warfare" of the insurgency looks pretty darn normal to me.]
Less likely, but of growing concern, are “catastrophic” threats that aim to paralyze U.S. leadership and power with surprise attacks on symbolic and high-value targets, as with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Pentagon officials believe a ballistic missile tipped with a chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological weapon could deliver such an attack with devastating results.
[There is something very important to be said about all of this, but I'll wait for the end of the article.*]
The challenge that presents the least likely threat — but that, if realized, could render the United States most vulnerable — is from “disruptive” technologies. These include new breakthroughs in sensors, information technology, biotechnology, miniaturization on the molecular level, cyber operations and directed-energy weapons — capabilities so spectacular they would quickly give an adversary an edge.
[So basically, "disruptive" means, a technology that a rival develops and employs faster than we are able to even conceive of it and mitigate against it. They must have all of the immigrant talent that attends our research universities and then returns to their home countries in mind.]
“There’s a feeling that the scenarios the Pentagon has come up with — Korea, China, Taiwan, the Persian Gulf — are the old tried-and-true, comfortable scenarios,” another defense source said.
The size and structure of the force, weapons programs and mix of capabilities will not change if these standard planning scenarios don’t change, he said.
“There are a lot of scenarios that are quite plausible and are quite demanding … that need to be addressed [and] would lead to very different kinds of force structure requirements” than those now envisioned, the source said.
One such scenario being considered, according to sources familiar with these efforts, is the challenge of dealing with a failed nuclear state — possibly Iran in the future, Pakistan in the near term or even North Korea and Russia at some point.
“You would have some peculiar requirements that just don’t get addressed in these other generic scenarios, requirements that would be critical to protecting our security. Those are the kinds of scenarios that Jim Thomas is trying to put into the mix,” the defense source said.
[Note that they don't say what these requirements are. That means either they don't even know, or more likely, they don't want to let the cat out of the bag.]
The current framework for designing the size and shape of the U.S. military, as well as the mix of weapons and technology, was outlined in the 2001 QDR.
That review set the foundation for the “1-4-2-1” national military strategy, shorthand for: defending the United States (1); maintaining forces capable of deterring aggression in Europe, Northeast Asia, Southwest Asia and the Middle East (4); being ready to simultaneously combat aggression in two of these regions (2); and maintaining a capability to “win decisively” in one of those conflicts (1).
Clark Murdock, a defense strategy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the unorthodox planning scenarios the Pentagon is developing could be the basis for abandoning the current national military strategy.
[Abandoning the current strategy would be a poor decision. Enhancing it to include many possibilities is a better one.]
“This is a way of looking at something to replace the 1-4-2-1 construct,” Murdock said.
Frank Hoffman, a research fellow for the Marine Corps, also feels the Pentagon needs to plan for scenarios that are much more complex than conventional battles on the books.
“The operational environment for future scenarios is more than just military forces, and involves a more integrated approach, and not just in the so-called ‘post-conflict phase,’ “ Hoffman said.
[Bingo! Wouldn't you know that the Marine advisor is the one to pre-empt my major comment coming below.]
“The next QDR needs to get beyond just a Defense Department approach,” he said. “We need to master multi-agency operations in very complex scenarios. Tomorrow’s contingencies present a much more complex situation with a wide range of hostile, friendly and neutral players.”
[Ahem . . . "jointness" anyone? This is the wave of the future, and we need to paddle out and shred it, not get caught inside -- to use some surfing analogies.]
To win support from the services and Joint Staff for moving in a new direction, new defense planning scenarios must be vetted through a process dubbed the “analytic agenda,” which involves the Joint Staff and other parts of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Several new scenarios already have worked their way through this procedure. But some on the Joint Staff wonder if there is enough time for the more radical — and controversial — scenarios to be considered before the high-level meeting planned for Jan. 27 in which the 2005 QDR agenda will be set.
[Answer: no, there is not enough time. You all move too slowly. Faster in everything please.]
While many in the services are eager for a new strategy, some of the new scenarios call into question the relevance of some of the core capabilities the U.S. military has spent decades and billions of dollars building pre-eminence in.
[Which might these be? If they are truly irrelevant, then we shouldn't do them. Make some bold adjustments, gentlemen!]
Still, Michele Flournoy, another defense strategy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former Pentagon official in the Clinton administration, said the military is keen for a new strategy.
“The services are fairly eager for some new guidance to assist in making choices about where to place emphasis versus where to take risk because they cannot do everything equally well across the waterfront,” Flournoy said. “Even with a $400 billion-plus budget, they are going to have to make choices about where to take risk.”
Here's Chester's big thought for today:
As I've mentioned in the context of making intelligence agencies work together more cohesively, "jointness" is what is needed in an interagency way as well.
Consider that the War on Terrorism (or against Islamic Fascism) is not merely a military operation, as has been mentioned numerous times by many thoughtful people. But there are few ways to get the various agencies that have key roles to work together in anything other than an ad hoc fashion. We should fix this problem now before even more complex security challenges reach up and bite us you know where.
Here are some of the agencies necessary to fight a war against terror:
-the remainder of the intelligence agencies
-hundreds of local law enforcement and emergency personnel
-The Dept of Energy
-The Dept of the Treasury
-the CDC and other such agencies
-of course the State Department
These agencies are not used to working together. When they do so, they fail as often as they succeed. "Jointness" as a concept, mandated by clear legislation, is necessary to our national survival.
I'll be developing this thought over the coming months. Last fall I sat down and wrote out a pretty long outline about the whole topic and would like to explore it further in these pages.
Experts fear nuke genie's out of bottle / Arms technology spreading beyond Iran, North Korea is an article from today's San Francisco Chronicle and provides an assessment of the state of nuclear weapons programs worldwide. The gist of the article is:
"The concern is that legitimate facilities, built to develop what is called the nuclear fuel cycle, could be used to increase the concentrations of enriched uranium or for processing plutonium to make weapons-grade fuel. Not only is the technology for these processes widely available to countries rich and poor, but some of the equipment needed for the job, such as high-powered computers and precision machine tools, can now be purchased easily, experts say."
What to make of this? Is it possible for a new diplomatic initiative or agreement to halt what seems to be a tipping point of proliferation?
Will the Bush Administration's Proliferation Security Initiative be able to stop the shipment of nuclear and weapons materials? Sharing intelligence among the member countries of the initiative would seem to be a big stumbling block . . .
On another nuke note, yesterday I mentioned the idea of small-yield bunker-busting nukes, and my hope that we are rapidly developing them.
My hopes have been dashed.
Dumb, dumb, dumb move.
[See more on nukes here.]
Iraqi Forces Seasoned in Fallujah
This Time, Iraqis Fought a Good Fight in Fallouja is an article from the LA Times this morning about the US assessment of the Iraqi troop performance. Of course, with a few of the stock phrases you would expect from the LA Times thrown in.
The progress of the Iraqi forces will definitely be slow. Comparing them to US forces is misleading and unproductive. The fact of the matter is that most of the military forces you find in the 3rd world are quite capable when it comes to slaughtering innocents, stealing, or just generally inducing chaos. But when it comes to fighting against another military, most of them are less than competent in many of the most basic tasks.
The yardstick of comparison for Iraqi forces should be the militaries of other developing nations. The grapevine tells me that our Green Berets often cite the Jordanians as the most professional armed forces in the Middle East. Our question then should be, how do the Iraqis stack up in comparison? They are getting a level of training and interaction with the US military that is no doubt the envy of many of our developing nation allies. Surely, one of the main reasons so many countries have sent contingents to Iraq is not just to assist us in the war, but to get interaction with US forces for their troops. At the Basic School, each company of Marine lieutenants generally has 3 or 4 exchange officers from other countries. Their commitment for being sent to a Marine school is often years and years and years of obligated service. I heard a story once about an exchange officer from Latin America at the Naval Academy for four years. His commitment to his service was a 20-year career as repayment.
Back to the subject: it will take time for the Iraqis to develop a large-scale, cohesive, disciplined force. Signs are pointing in the right direction, but let's be clear about whom they should be judged against, and not jump to the conclusion that just because they aren't as good as Marines, they are failing.
More on Intel Reform
[Next few posts will reference articles found in the Early Bird]
An article in today's New York Times (Bush Wants Plan for Covert Pentagon Role) is filled with good news for the war on terrorism.
Bush has essentially given orders to the Pentagon, CIA, and FBI that he wants clear updates from them by early next year on several key issues:
"President Bush has ordered an interagency group to devise a plan that could expand the Defense Department role in covert operations that have traditionally been the specialty of the Central Intelligence Agency, administration officials said Monday."
CIA and FBI
"The separate directives on the intelligence agency and the F.B.I. laid out an accelerated schedule for the leaders of those agencies to report to the White House on their operations, including areas the Sept. 11 panel and Senate Intelligence Committee have sharply criticized in recent reports."
"For the bureau, the directive acknowledges that it has made significant changes but orders it to produce in 90 days "a comprehensive plan with performance measures including timelines for achievement of specific measurable progress in analysis, products, sources, field intelligence operations" and other activities that produce information for the president."
Chester says: Transferring covert operations and paramilitary operations from the CIA to the DOD, or figuring out a way for the two agencies to work better on this is part and parcel of the ideas behind the jointness concept we discussed on Sunday.
One major issue, briefly touched in the article, is the legal aspects of paramilitary forces. Whenever a military member operates with no uniform, or within other certain regulations, he is violating the Geneva Convention and the Law of Armed Conflict. This is one big stumbling block. There are probably ways around this that we are unaware of here, but it is a sample of the issues arising when you combine CIA paramilitary types and active duty US personnel.
[I don't think I've yet mentioned on this blog that the Geneva Convention is completely obsolete. Doesn't mean we shouldn't follow it, but there are some serious changes needed. Many are probably being figured out domestically within our own judicial system via all of the war-related cases currently taking place. We'll touch on the Geneva Convention more in a future post.]
Top Commander Captured?
Another one bites the dust in western Anbar province. The article doesn't specify whether the captive is an Iraqi or just a Sunni from another country. Probably a former high-ranking officer of the regime.
The Defeat of Northern Babil Province: Operation Plymouth Rock
A new battle in the campaign to pacify the Sunni triangle has begun.
Wretchard has an excellent summary over at Belmont Club, and I won't mimic it, since he got the jump on me.
However, I would like to draw your attention to The Mesopotamian, an Iraqi blog, where Alaa, the author, pointed out the problems in the northern Babil provincial area back on November 14th, naming the Latifiya-Iskandariya-Yousifiya triangle as an area of lawlessness and criminality.
The Mesopotamian might be a good blog to keep an eye on . . .
Al Qaqaa is also near this triangle. Just pointing this out.
From a Marine near Fallujah
An Alert Reader has forwarded me the below email from a Marine officer near Fallujah. Written before the Battle of Fallujah. Good insight. A couple of stories you won't hear elsewhere. I have not edited so blink your eyes really hard if any profanity offends you. I love his description as Fallujah being like Detroit on steroids at Halloween -- after the basketball brawl this weekend, I heard Rush on the radio today calling Detroit "New Fallujah, Michigan." Hilarious.
Hump Day All, Hot! Unbelievably hot! Unbelievably freakin' hot!!! |
Helpedsome of my Marines move ammunition crates the day before yesterday at Ali
Al Salem Air Base. It was 137 degrees. That's right sports fans, One
Hundredand Thirty-Seven degrees. Felt like my damn hands were actually cooking
inthe heat. Completely soaked through with sweat all the time. The camel
spiders are disgusting, damn things are all over the place at Al-Assad.
They look like something out of "Aliens", but they can't hurt you, got
mouths like a daddy-long legs, can't break the skin.
Checked in to the new AO we are taking over, got a good area recon and
lookat our ground. Walked into the COC. Wham! Wham! Wham! Three mortar
rounds,courtesy of our distinguished enemies lands about 100 meters away. The
unit we're relieving says "No big deal, this is the third night in a row,
and they can't hit anything." My boss says "BS." The Colonel looks over at
meand says, "Nick, take care of that right away." WTF? I hadn't even had
a chance to drop my gear yet. I said, "Okey, Dokey sir" (a non-doctrinal
Marine Corps response.) I ordered up a counter-battery radar set a
couple of hours later. Also some other surprises. Next night, same, same. Hit
about 0130, 60mm stuff, so we know they're firing from relatively close,
probably not more than 2-3 clicks out. Our counter-battery fire worked well, we
now have two 81mm mortar fire-capable 24/7. Rounds go out. Nothing further
heard from Hadji tonight. Nothing heard for the next eight nights, as a
matter of fact. Patrols running well,quiet sector.
Motorized patrols on the MSR and the town's going well, counter mortar
patrols we are running are aggressive and appear to be effective. Ninth
night: Wham! Big stuff, 82mm and 122mm dropping all over. I think about
12-15 rounds total into our FOB, can't give you an exact count, due to
the fact that I was holding onto my butt with both hands during the
explosions. Bad guys suck! Gotta give Hadji credit, he does strike back when he
can,it just took him over a week to get re-supplied with bigger weapons.
Surprise number one: in addition to our 81's,we now have a platoon (3 guns) of
155mm and 198 howitzers at the FOB. Two of the puppies are fire-capped 24/7
also. Our counter-battery/mortar fire is quicker than hell. Four rounds from
each weapons system, 81's and 155's.Ouch, that's gotta hurt on the receiving
end. Too bad, so sad for Hadji. Should've picked another | damn neighborhood
to screw with, not mine.
Hadji is using Somali-like tactics, small trucks, shoot and scoot. Fire
2-3 rounds and try to leave the freakin area. This crap looks really
familiar. I think they lease their vehicles from the same dealers as in Somalia. |
Think all these freakin' dirt bag terrorists wannabe's read from the same
Surprise number two from Nick's bag of tricks: A C130 Spectre gunship
in DS of my Battalion, doing figure eights all night, just waiting for his
chance.They target on the impact of our mortars and 155's. A
four-second burst from the Spectre, all weapons systems. That's it, just a
four-second burst. Not a sweeter sound in the world. That makes it game, set,and
match! Hadji don't want to play nor more tonight.Only a four-second burst from
the AC130, remember?
Took a patrol out a few hours later, the ground from the rounds
impacting, especially from the Spectre, looked like a damn tornado went through
there. Beautiful sight. Pieces of two small Nissan trucks, mortar parts,
mortar rounds, and body parts all over the area. Pro-activity is a wonderful
thing. These bastards are dangerous, but they are also lazy as hell. They set
patterns worse than anybody I have ever seen operate. Keep your eye on
Fallujah. We is going to be going back in there full force.
Small things, dude for when you get here: wear the ballistic goggles,
drink water all damn day (the camelbacks are great), I'm drinking probably 5
gallons of water per day, and it ain't enough. Helmet and Flak Jacket
worn at all times when you are outside, it sucks, but it saves lives. Wear
both the throat protector and the groin protector. Perforated eardrums are
common, get and wear the anti-blast ear plugs. I wear them whenever we're
in a vehicle,just in case of IED's. Purell hand sanitizer is a good piece
of gear also. We've got them everywhere for the Marines to help keep
clean. This whole freaking country is a dirty shit house. It's weird flying on
the helos at night. In some places they can only fly at night, due to SA's
and RPG's. At night it is scary as hell, because you're just watching those
damn green tracers all over the placed,waiting for one to turn and reach
toward the helo you're on. Dude, when we fly,I'm also sitting on top of two
flak jackets, valor be damned, I don't want to get shot in the butt or
worse. They were giving me crap about it at first, but now everybody is doing
it. I swear to god, Fallujah is like Detroit on steroids during Halloween.
It's time we just need to clear that whole damn city in zone. Just waiting for
My Battalion HG, COC, and ALOC are in an old chicken factory from
Saddam's days. Good facility, strong structure, we have hardened it with wood,
metal and sandbags all over the place. Has taken two direct mortar hits with
no effect. That's gotta be pissing Hadji off. Main job is keeping the
MSR's open for convoys; checkpoints and combat outposts at each bridge and
overpass. My brother, the US army scares my guys more than the bad guys
Every time an army convoy gets hit going through our zone, they fire in
every direction, 360 degrees. No fire discipline. My guys in a bunker
were taking .50 cal fire on their sandbags last week. Now we're making each
army convoy that comes through stop at each of our checkpoints to check in
and find out who is in charge. Has reduced their nervousness. Don't mean to
ping on you army guys (even though I do it all the time) but the small unit
discipline is the issue.
This is truly a Sergeant and Corporal's war. Tell you what Bro, these
younger Marines of mine are nothing short of amazing. They are
thriving, living on the edge of the adrenaline rush the whole damn time. The code
word for every day is "Trouble." Ever time I get into a vehicle, I ask the
driver "What are we looking for today?" Every one of them answers "Trouble,
Sir!" Trouble for hadji is what they mean, if the bad guys want to attempt to
screw with us.These so-called "insurgents" are the worst kind of
freakin' cowards I have ever seen. I thought the Somalis were bad, but at least
they had some drug-induced courage.
The battalion adjacent to us had a hit on a damn school bus in the AO
the other day, targeting elementary school kids of junior new Iraqi govt
officials. Their Ops Officer told me the Marines were having to pick up kids
arms and legs from off the tops of buildings. Bet you're not seeing
this crap on CNN? The ops Officer also told me that his Marines are truly
pissed, because they are deadly quiet as all hell right now, not loud
as usual, but quiet and focused, looking for some real payback. The day is
coming. Gotta run, this was a long one, lot going on. Got some more to
send in the next couple of days."
S/F - Mud
November 22, 2004
The Future of the Iranian Nuclear Program, Part IV
This part of the Iran series will consist of reactions to reader comments. The original plan was to cover in Part IV each of the military options mentioned in Part III. But responding to reader comments will foster lively discussion. We'll still cover each military option in-depth, and we'll still look at the hand that the Iranians hold as well. All in good time.
We asked for comments from readers in Part III and received 30 comments here on the blog and a couple of dozen more via email. All were great contributions.
Some general observations:
Many readers were very pro-spec ops use. Special operations forces are a powerful asset and we should all be glad that they are on our side. But they are not a pancea for our current dilemma. If a military campaign does kick off, special operations troops will surely be heavily involved, but they won't be the only ground forces. The Afghanistan campaign may have looked like nothing but special forces with a smattering of conventional troops, but Iran is quite a different situation. In Afghanistan, the country had been in a civil war for several years. The Northern Alliance was a veteran military force, regardless of their sophistication or training. All the US had to do was give them some guidance, and integrate their use with the combined arms power of air assets and they were able to roll right over the Taliban.
In Iran, on the contrary, while there are democracy movements, and opposition to the government is supposedly high, there is no organized military force that Green Berets could join and co-opt or assist. Depending on how bad the police state really is, there may be little or no political organization amongst the opposition either. Training an opposition force would probably take months -- and would be hard to keep under wraps.
Several readers also took the route of covert action, wherein the CIA in some way would undermine the government and support the opposition. While this is entirely plausible, there are many issues with pulling it off. First, this is a long-term strategy. If the CIA has been mixing things up, building relationships, gaining footholds and whatnot for the past 3 or so years, then perhaps an option like this could work -- and even then as part of some larger military campaign. But if we're going to ask the CIA to overthrow the Iranian regime and they are starting from scratch tomorrow, it's just not going to happen within the time frame that we've established for ourselves (12-18 months). I think it best to completely discount the possibility that the CIA could engineer a coup, plan for something else entirely, and then if they do pull it off, it'll just be a bonus for all of us.
Other readers mentioned the idea of sabotaging the nuclear sites somehow. This is an excellent idea, but many of the above-mentioned caveats about CIA action still apply. Before the first Gulf War, the CIA managed to have a virus installed on a large printer that was destined to be shipped to Iraq via Jordan and used in Iraq's air-defense system. The virus was then triggered somehow and made the air-defense network go haywire right as our F-117s were beginnng to hit Baghdad. An excellent example of sabotage --but this meant: infiltrating the networks of arms dealers and computer companies who would sell this type of equipment, making sure that it would be used, getting the virus right, etc, etc, etc. "Keep it simple stupid" applies to everything you are doing against an enemy with an independent will, and precise acts of covert sabotage have many, many key points at which they can fail if just one thing goes wrong.
Other readers mentioned the possibility of new bunker-buster weapons that are still classified. This is entirely possible. Every time I hear Bush talk about the need for a smaller bunker-busting nuke, I keep hoping that we've already built one and he's just getting us ready for its debut. Still though, best to discount this, and assume we don't have anything like it. [Whatever happened to the AGM-154A Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW)? Perhaps someone out there could answer. Still not a total solution though.]
One reader pointed out that Iran has an elected government, and that it is just undermined by the religious clerics. We could remove the religous aspects of the government and let the elected government remain. This could be one way to skin this cat, but what is happening to the nuke sites and materials while we're doing it? And would a new Iranian government composed of many of the same folks totally give up nuke development? This option would have to be employed with others. Good point though.
Some final thoughts, not in reaction to any particular readers comments, but inspired by them:
In Iraq, there were Sensitive Site Exploration teams, whose job was to occupy and examine all manner of suspected Iraqi WMD facilities. But they were too little too late. Perhaps if they had had both strategic and tactical surprise, they would have found more. As it was, whatever had been there had been moved by the time they arrived. Sure there was some evidence of a weapons program, but all the sexy headline-making stuff was gone.
I think the keys pieces to this puzzle are going to be the answers to three questions:
What facilities of the nuclear program need just plain old destruction? That is, once hit, they are useless.
What are the key components of the program that cannot be allowed to be moved elsewhere or slipped into the hands of another country or a terrorist group? Where are these components? Like enriched uranium? Seems that these will need more than just bombing -- they'll need to be physically captured, and possibly transported back to the US for safeguarding.
Can the US act with strategic surprise? If our blow is telegraphed, the Iranians will have time to mitigate the effects of our strike by moving equipment, possibly giving nuclear materials to terrorists, or to have an on-call counterattack with their cruise missiles at the ready, etc. So, it seems whatever the US is to do must be done with little or no warning to keep the Iranians off balance. Strategic surprise is incredibly difficult in a democracy . . . and as I've said before, when it comes to large-scale troop movements, you cannot hide the logistics . . .
Completely thinking out loud now . . .
If our goal is to bomb 300-500 targets over a period of a week, you could precede that campaign by seizing the three or four top-priority sites, where the nuclear material is, with a relatively small number of US troops -- a MEU or two, a large special forces footprint and maybe the ready brigade of the 82nd Airborne. I bet security at the various sites is not that great. Underground sites would be more difficult to seize . . . a troop size that small would have to be in and out pretty fast too, and have massive air cover in addition to the bombing campaign . . .
Part V will be later this week.
The Motley Fool Selects Charities for Foolanthropy 2004 Campaign
Guess which charity supported by The Adventures of Chester has been selected by the Motley Fool as one of its Foolanthropy 2004 campaign members?
Read about Chester's involvement here.
Read more about the Friends of Iraq Blogger Challenge here.
Make a donation here.
Looks like the number of participating blogs has doubled or tripled since The Adventures of Chester signed up on Saturday!
You can always contribute via the link in the sidebar, right below my profile.
This is a truly worthwhile cause!
More on the elections in Iraq
Last Tuesday I promised front-page coverage to anyone who could find info about the upcoming Iraqi election process.
"Someone" discovered this post on an Iraqi blog, listing all of the approved political parties. Isn't it amazing how quick and willing people are to use their freedom when they've been denied it so long? Reminds me of an old political cartoon I saw during the breakup of the Soviet Union, showing a peasant family breaking off and declaring themselves to be the independent republic of Vladimir and Olga, or some such . . .
"chthus" found this article which details the plans the Shi'ites are laying to make sure they receive a majority of the parliamentary seats in the upcoming election.
"chthus" goes on to offer this:
"I don't have an article currently, but here's some information. As the reader aboved linked, Fayrouz tells us 24 of more than 50 parties that have applied have been approved so far, with more likely to follow. January's elections are not for a president/leader (executive branch), but to fill the 275 member National Assembly (legislative branch). Each eligible party will offer up a ranked list of candidates (1, 2, 3...). For each 1/275th of the vote the party receives, their top candidate become a member. For example, a party that gets 5/275ths of the vote (1.8%) would get it's top five listed members on the assembly."
"This assembly is then charged with drafting a constitution at a spring convention, shooting to have one drafted by August 15th or so. This will then held to a referendum of popular vote by October 15th or so. If it passes, elections as provided under the constitution are to be held by Dec 15th, 2005, with the elcted govt taking over by Dec 31st, 2005. If the referendum should fail, National Assembly is dissolved and Dec 15th, 2005 will be for electing a new National Assembly, with the whole thing starting over again."
So today we learn that elections will take place on January 30th. 10 weeks to go!
Finally, I found this story on Arab ministers' view of the elections to be downright hilarious.
"Iraq had somewhat upstaged a major international conference in Egypt on its future by announcing the date for the first post-Saddam Hussein elections a day before the meeting opened."
"But not everyone was impressed by its confidence.
"Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit, hosting the conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh said the meeting would be deciding whether the vote could be held on time, adding that "the question needs to be re-examined".
"The debates that will take place ... are very important because they will look at the question of the elections and decide on whether they can take place on the date envisaged or whether it needs more reflection."
Wow! Isn't that rich stuff! All of a sudden, the timing and possibility of Iraqi elections are subject to the whims and approvals of the Arab ministers. This makes sense of course given their incredible support for the war and all of the gallons of blood their people have spilled in its prosecution.
The problem, my despot friends, is that those gallons were spilled on the losing side.
Of course they want to take a good, hard look at how they can stop the elections! Elections in Iraq will mean doom for these has-beens who govern by diktat. How long will it be after successful Iraqi elections before the Egyptians are wondering why they've never had true electoral freedom?
"In Syria, the state-owned daily Ath-Thawra said that the Sharm el-Sheikh conference represented "the best chance for the international parties to affirm the importance of the United Nations and neighbouring countries" in organizing the elections."
"But it also warned: "The elections must take place on all Iraqi territory and not on 75 percent of the country as the United States hints at due to the insecurity in regions where resistance actions are taking place."
Please allow me to be the first to point out that 75% of a country having an election is exactly 75% greater than the 0% of Syria that has ever had a fair election. Syria is not a democracy. All of a sudden, the Syrians are experts in elections.
Don't you love it? The Iraqis were smart to pre-emptively name the day for elections before this conference could try and talk them out of it.
A Successful Failure (Intel Reform)
While we're on the topic of the Early Bird, and since I wrote about intelligence reform yesterday, here is an editorial from today's Wall Street Journal that agrees with the National Review about intelligence reform. I believe it is subscription-only so I'll post here. It's short. Thanks to the Early Bird for including it.
Wall Street Journal
November 22, 2004
A Successful Failure
Congress wrapped up its weekend lame-duck session without passing intelligence reform, and you will no doubt be reading outraged editorials and political moans that the country is now less safe. Don't believe it. The opposite may be closer to the truth, since the proposed reshuffling of the intelligence bureaucracies would have taken months, if not years, to carry out -- and certainly would have turned some of our spy agencies' attention away from the actual collection and analysis of intelligence.
The proposal at hand was the pet project of the 9/11 Commission and was rushed nearly to passage because no one was politically brave enough to say no in an election year. That includes President Bush, who reverted to his farm bill/McCain-Feingold/Medicare drug bill negotiating mode of indicating he'd sign anything just to get the issue off the table. This is one of Mr. Bush's least appealing leadership, or shall we say non-leadership, traits.
Credit goes to a few House Republicans, notably California's Duncan Hunter, who were willing to resist the pressure to surrender merely so the Beltway political class could declare a 'victory,' no matter the future unintended consequences. Some Members are still lobbying for one more lame-duck push next month, as if waiting a few more months will make a huge difference. If this reform is really so vital, it will get done, but better to do it in more considered fashion next year."
Changes Afoot at the Early Bird
A quick note here about the Early Bird's Current News Service, in case any military readers of this blog are interested.*
The Early Bird has made two changes:
1. The Main edition is now available 7 days a week.
2. The Supplemental edition has been scrapped completely.
While making the Main edition available on weekends is nice, I think scrapping the Supplement is a mistake. The Main edition is filled with stories from the major newspapers -- NY Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles, etc. These papers make up around 60-70% of the content of the Main edition. The Supplement on the other hand always had stories from local papers, foreign papers, and not just papers, but magazines and journals as well. The Supplement also carried stories that were behind-the-scenes and more in-depth, as opposed to the headline-grabbing stuff you see in the Main edition. The result is that the stories in the Main edition are nearly always told from the same angle or reporting slant, whereas those in the Supplement were varied and much more interesting (I once read a translated interview with Donald Rumsfeld from the French press in the Supplement -- very enlightening). The bottom line is that the Supplement was an outstanding repository of open-source news about defense issues, whereas the Main edition is just a wave-top view of current headlines, with all of the predictable left-media spin.
I know this is irrelevant to many of my readers, but you never know who in the Pentagon might read my blog. Maybe they'll change their minds.
*quick background for the unfamiliar: the Early Bird is a news service put out by the Department of Defense every weekday morning at 5am or so eastern time. It compiles defense-related news from major news sources' stories during the night. Access is limited to military personnel, and other members of the federal government. As a member of the Individual Ready Reserve, I still retain my access.
Good News from Iraq
November 21, 2004
Nuclear Blast Resources
RealClearPolitics has linked to this story in the SF Chronicle about the likelihood of a nuclear attack in an American city in the next ten years. Excerpt:
"The gravest danger, however, and the one requiring the most urgent attention, is the possibility that terrorists could obtain highly enriched uranium or plutonium for use in an improvised nuclear device," according to Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, and former Sen. Sam Nunn, now head of the nonprofit Nuclear Threat Initiative."
"This new nuclear nightmare was summoned up in the presidential campaign last month, when Vice President Dick Cheney warned in a widely reported speech:"
"The biggest threat we face now as a nation is the possibility of terrorists ending up in the middle of one of our cities with deadlier weapons than have ever before been used against us -- biological agents or a nuclear weapon or a chemical weapon of some kind, to be able to threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans."
Hmmmm . . . enriched uranium? Perhaps this is why the Persians are so high on the short-list for headlines these days.
The next Part of the Adventures of Chester's Iran series will be tomorrow, but we haven't determined its topic yet. It may be a look at Iran's capabilities. Or it may be a response to the many reader comments from the last post. Although the series has stalled a little, you readers should be proud because you've caused me to question the form of my analysis thus far (though not the content). Suffice it to say that we'll continue discussing Iran in one way or another, so feel free to make more comments in the post for Part III,or to add more comments here. (That six-page post on intelligence reform took up a good bit of my day. Please don't miss it.)
Some other nuclear blast resources:
The Nuclear Files | Video Library contains footage of US nuke tests and is rather sobering.
Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe is the website for the new book by Harvard's Graham Allison (who was an observer in the Atlantic war game that kicked off our Iran discussion last week).
Part of the book website is entitled Nuclear Terrorism - Blast Maps and shows the blast effects for a 10-kiloton weapon anywhere in the US -- you just enter the zipcode. Also very sobering. See what would happen to your neighborhood.
Until tomorrow . . .
Bush Grabs His Secret Service Escort
You may have heard this story, but The Daily Recycler has the video. Talk about a snafu on the part of the Chileans!
Tension rises as China scours the globe for energy
Yet another Alert Reader has drawn attention tothis article about China's ravenous appetite for energy.
We would be interested to hear the thoughts of you readers who are in Taiwan or Hong Kong on this issue . . . if you are still reading!
One of the problems I have with the media is the simplistic way in which they describe world energy markets and the actors therein. Even the most basic understanding of the way the vast energy market works is adequate to debunk such statements as, "The US is only in the Middle East for oil."
If oil is what "we" need, then "we" can buy it, and forego bloody and expensive wars. I add quotations to the "we" because this too is a problem in most of these stories: no differentiation is made between the US government, the US economy, and the multi-national corporations that supply energy to world markets. The result is the idea that somehow all of these three categories of varied actors with varied agendas are under the control of one single, unitary "we." This is just not the case.
Having said that, the idea that there is a "they" representing "China" is much more plausible given the number of Chinese firms, both energy-related and otherwise, that are state-run enterprises, and not private entities.
Just something that bothers me about a lot of these types of articles.
UPDATE: I meant to bring up the mention of Iran in this story . . . certainly doesn't bode well for a multi-lateral diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuke problem.
About the Iranians . . .
Thanks to an Alert Reader for directing our attention to this article about the love-hate relationship the Iranian people have with the United States.
Figuring out the relationship between the Iranian government and its people, and the people's perceptions of the US is one of the more important factors in determining how the US is going to stop Iran's weapons program.
An Email from Dave . . .
Dave is a Major in the Marine Corps and in this email to his father describes the Battle of Fallujah. Great stuff.
More on heroism in the War on Terror . . .
An Alert Reader has directed our attention to this site, which lists the names and citations of all the warriors who have received the Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, or Air Force Cross in the War on Terrorism. Motivating reading!
UPDATE: More . . . on two warriors nominated for the Medal of Honor.
The Failure of the Intelligence Reform Bills
(. . . or why "jointness" is a good idea . . .)
On the face of it, the failure of the Congress to pass intelligence reform legislation seems like an unfortunate development.
But let’s not be quick to judge. The holdouts who refused to change their minds on how to integrate the House and Senate versions of the bill quite possibly have a good point.
“Reps. Duncan Hunter and Jim Sensenbrenner, chairmen of the Armed Services and Judiciary committees, raised objections. Hunter, R-Calif., worried that provisions of the bill could interfere with the military chain of command and endanger troops in the field.”
“"In my judgment, this bill, without strongly reaffirming the chain of command, would render that area confused to the detriment of our Americans in combat so I will not support it," Hunter said.”
“Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., wanted additional provisions dealing with illegal immigration. "Unfortunately, the Senate has refused to consider many of the provisions, tagging them as extraneous or controversial," he said.”
Unfortunately, the AP did not decide to examine what exactly they are talking about, instead choosing to refer to them as “rebellious Republicans,” since the bill was supported by Bush. Moreover, the AP spins the story as signs that all of the public debate about the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations will have been for naught if a bill isn’t passed this year:
“If lawmakers fail to pass legislation this year, they will render moot three months of hearings and negotiations that started with the commission's July release of its report studying the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Lawmakers would have to start from scratch next year - if they even pick up the issue again.”
Can we honestly be expected to believe that there is not some value to the public debate that has taken place over the last three months? Even if no agreement has been reached, surely the positions taken and the points of view aired will have value in crafting legislation in the future?
The Editors at the National Review had quite different thoughts on this bill about a month ago.
They first take issue with the conclusions of the 9/11 Commission -- namely that “our failure to anticipate and prevent September 11 stemmed from a system-wide, analytical failure to "connect the dots." It attributed this malfunction to the lack of control exerted by the Director of Central Intelligence over the intelligence community's 15 agencies and organizations.”
Instead, National Review says,
“Unfortunately, since the commission's diagnosis of what ails our intelligence is wrong, its cure is, at best, irrelevant, and at worst, dangerous. One of its suggestions, for instance, is to transfer most of the military's intelligence-gathering assets to the CIA. But that agency has always performed poorly when analyzing military issues, be they the size of the Soviet ICBM force, Soviet defense spending, Chinese military modernization, or Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction stockpiles. In such a scenario, our intelligence assessments might actually become shoddier, not better.”
“The key problem is the failure to penetrate either rogue regimes, such as Iraq or Iran, or pan-national terrorist organizations, such as al Qaeda. In recent decades, largely owing to legal constraints and bureaucratic culture, U.S. covert-action capability has been allowed to atrophy, obliging intelligence agencies to focus more on doing analysis in the office than on spying in the field. Regrettably, in this area, neither the commission nor the congressional bills offer much of anything, and so, much of painful current wrangling over the details of the NID is beside the point.”
National Review goes on to take the side of the House version of the bill:
“On the domestic-security front, the House version contains important reforms to tighten the immigration system. It would make passports the only foreign document acceptable to enter a federal building or board an airplane, i.e., Mexico's illegal-alien I.D. card would no longer be accepted; illegals who have been here less than five years would not be allowed to appeal deportation decisions unless they applied for asylum; it would encourage national standards for drivers' licenses in an effort to keep illegals from getting them; it would provide for additional visa officers, border-patrol agents, and interior immigration agents.”
There is certainly something to be said for this point of view. Will the establishment of a National Intelligence Director truly reform the system? Will it lead to better intelligence? It seems more likely that the NID will be a much clearer scapegoat when mistakes are made and when world events overcome the US (which will happen of course – infallible intelligence is impossible) than he would improve any products the intelligence community has to offer. Moreover, though the fragmented nature of the US intelligence community is often cited as poorly managed, isn’t it equally true that this fragmented nature allows independent thinking and varied opinions to be expressed much more often than if the agencies are all integrated under one top-down hierarchy? From a management perspective, integrating all of the functions and agencies under a single director seems to make sense. But from a corporate culture perspective, it seems disastrous.
Think of the intelligence community as needing to be filled with risk-taking, creative, brilliant individuals who are not afraid to lay it all out on the line and make a prediction, or an opinionated analysis, or to undertake a risky venture in covert operations. At the same time, the management of the agencies makes sure to guide their creativity and enthusiasm, channeling it into the proper purposes and making sure it is not frittered away on trivial tasks or missions.
What other sectors of the economy does this sound like? Fragmented? Creative individuals? Risk-takers?
The entertainment industry? Hollywood?
Yes. Don't believe it? Where do you see the most effective red-cells for trying to figure out ways Al-Qaeda or other enemies could attack the US? Take Tom Clancy -- certainly a card-carrying member of the entertainment industry. In Debt of Honor, he wrote of a hijacked airplane used to attack the capitol building. Debt of Honor was written in 1994. In The Sum of All Fears, he wrote of Islamic terrorists obtaining a nuclear weapon and detonating it at the Superbowl. The Sum of All Fears was written in 1991. (The complete botching of its screen-adaptation maybe the subject of a future post, if readers are interested.) Far-fetched at the time, right? But isn't this the kind of creative thinking -- creative paranoia you might call it -- necessary to interpret patterns of data?
But in what sector of the economy does the intelligence community reside?
The federal government.
Does the federal government strike you as a place where creative, brilliant risk-takers routinely must have the reins pulled on their galloping aggressiveness? No. The image is more of a harsh kick in the sides with a sharp-pointed set of boot spurs, just to get them to leave the stable. Will integrating all of the intelligence agencies under one director lead to more aggressive analysis, or more timid, bureaucratic rear-end covering?
If one problem in intelligence analysis is "connecting the dots," it does not necessarily follow that an integrated intelligence community will be the best way to connect them.
Instead, the fragmented nature of the intelligence community is one of its greatest assets because it encourages independent thinking. The ability to look at a data set and see what a hundred others have missed is what is needed in intelligence analysis. “World-class pattern-spotters,” to quote Herbert Meyer in another National Review article. Meyer served during the Reagan administration as special assistant to the director of central intelligence and as vice chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council. He seems to be in a good position to know what he's talking about.
"For several years, during the Reagan administration, I had access to many of our intelligence services' most closely held secrets. And what I learned is this: The most vital, most actionable pieces of intelligence aren't "secret" at all. They are visible to anyone with a reasonable grasp of politics and economics — and, above all, anyone with a willingness to see the obvious and then articulate it clearly enough, and forcefully enough, so that policymakers cannot possibly ignore it."
He continues this train of thought in other forums, like this piece in OpinionJournal.com:
"The good news is that this country is filled with first-class pattern-spotters with the talent and experience to do this again. You can find them in politics, in business, on Wall Street, at leading think tanks, in the high-tech corridors of Silicon Valley and Boston's Route 128, and in academia. Right now the president has an opportunity to reach out and find the kind of CIA director with the brains and horsepower to make the agency razor-sharp and playing offense. And he needs to move fast." [written between Tenet's departure and Goss's hiring]
[Meyer on CIA reform again., this time back at NRO.]
So instead of creating a new bureaucracy and a new National Intelligence Director and integrating intelligence in an industrial-age hierarchy, why not leave it decentralized and fragmented, AND JUST BE SURE IT CAN TALK TO ITSELF?
There are really three or so issues here:
1. On the operational side, the CIA needs a dramatically improved human intelligence capability.
2. On the analytical side, the CIA needs aggressive, creative analysts who are world-class pattern spotters. One of these should be in charge of the whole shooting match.
3. The federal government needs to improve its methods of sharing information across agency boundaries. The analogy for this should not be the legislation that integrated many different agencies into one Homeland Security Department -- though that was a good solution for that particular problem. The analogy should instead be the concept of "jointness" that was thrust upon the Department of Defense in 1986, with the passing of the Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act. Rather than putting all of the intelligence-gathering and analyzing agencies under one roof, with one director, the Goldwater-Nichols model would have a concept of "jointness" mandated throughout the agencies, such that it would be an over-riding cultural change within all of them. In addition, Goldwater-Nichols preserved the independence of each of the military services, while making the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ultimately responsible for military advice to the president, and at the same time that dissenting opinions among the joint chiefs are legally required to be heard.
(For example, here is one portion of the law: "A member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (other than the Chairman) may submit to the Chairman advice or an opinion in disagreement with, or advice or an opinion in addition to, the advice presented by the Chairman to the President, the National Security Council, or the Secretary of Defense. If a member submits such advice or opinion, the Chairman shall present the advice or opinion of such member at the same time he presents his own advice to the President, the National Security Council, or the Secretary of Defense, as the case may be." See JCSLink: Goldwater-Nichols for more details.)
The legislation created a clear difference between the control of funding for each service, and the operational command of each service. Thus the Commandant of the Marine Corps, for example, is charged with raising, training, and equipping the Marine Corps, in accordance with all of its missions. He is also asked for his opinion on its use in war. But he is never in the chain of command for it operationally. When a Marine unit is sent to war, it is given to the Combatant Commander, such as General Abizaid at Central Command, who then employs it as he sees fit.
Some similar concept of "jointness" should be pursued within the intelligence community. The Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency would still be in charge of funding, staffing, training, and equipping that agency. He would also offer his opinions on how to use the products that it produces. But he would defer to, perhaps, the Director of the CIA, or if absolutely necessary, a new National Intelligence Director, when it came to issues of overall patterns of interpretation.
Goldwater-Nichols implemented the jointness concept through many mandates. For example, in order to be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General, an officer must have served in a command that is deemed a joint command while holding a field grade rank. This means that every general officer in the US military has, while either a Major, Lieutenant Colonel, or Colonel, served in a joint command.
The purpose behind this act was to force the military services to work together better. The purpose behind a similar law for the intelligence community would be for them to EXCHANGE INFORMATION and analytical methods.
Here we find a method for maintaining the independence of each intelligence agency -- an independence of funding, training and culture that is so fundamental to the development of creative analysis. Also, methods could be enacted to ensure that a culture of jointness was spread throughout the intelligence community. And finally, if Congress still thought it necesary, either the Director of the CIA or the National Intelligence Director would be the ultimate advice-giver to the President.
Eighteen years later, the result of the "joint" nature of the US military is abundantly clear. Military forces can use technology in a networked fashion regardless of their service source. More importantly, tactics and philosophies of war have been standardized in a de facto manner that works brilliantly -- and is not the result of any particular legislation dictating the "how" of military operations.
Cerainly, a similar method of inducing cooperation between intelligence agencies, while not sacrificing their unique perspectives, can be legislated?
[This is the first in an occasional series of posts here at The Adventures of Chester, about the concept of "jointness" in military operations, doctrine, and philosophies of war – and the future application of this concept.]
Sunday PM Update
Readers . . . Blogger is being exceptionally difficult. Hard to make posts . . .
I'm typing them out and will post when possible . . . Links in particular are a problem . . .
November 20, 2004
Tomorrow . . .
1. Reactions to news . . .
2. The Iran series continues . . .
3. Afghanistan Unveiled
4. More throughout the day. Mrs. Chester will be working again, so the blogging will be heavy, esp in the afternoon.
About that Mosque Shooting . . .
Oliver North has posted a complete summary of all of the known facts surrounding the mosque-shooting incident. Read more by Owen West and Phillip Carter at Slate. Athena has some thoughts about the whole thing at Terrorism Unveiled.
Announcement: Friends of Iraq Blogger Challenge
Since September 11th and the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, commentators have occasionally bemoaned that the volunteer nature of the US military means that most folks don't have a direct way to contribute to the success of US military operations, and to the success of the establishment of the US' "forward strategy of freedom" in the Middle East.
As a friend of freedom in the Middle East, The Adventures of Chester has joined the Spirit of America's Friends of Iraq Blogger Challenge. The Spirit of America donates all manner of items to support the reconstruction and democratization of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Adventures of Chester has added a link in the sidebar where readers like you can make donations to the Spirit of America to support the future of freedom in the Muslim world.
You can check Chester's page at Spirit of America to track the donations of The Adventures of Chester readers.
Q: Where will my money go?
A: The mission of Spirit of America is "to extend the goodwill of the American people to assist those advancing freedom and peace abroad." They have a number of projects ongoing:
-Marines and Seabees Seek Tools for Iraqi Tradesmen
-Sewing Machines for Women in Ramadi
-Special Forces in Afghanistan: Part Two
-Irrigation for Iraqi Farmers
-Operation Dreamseed in Afghanistan
-Gifts for Iraqi Children
-Support America - Iraq School Partners
-Friends of Democracy - The Iraq Democracy Project
-Arabic Blogging Tool - Viral Freedom
-411th Civil Affairs - Re-equip Universities in Babuqa, Iraq
Chester has designated that donations originating from The Adventures of Chester will go toward the general fund of Spirit of America, so that staffers there can determine how best to use them.
Q: Is my donation tax-deductible?
A: Yes it is, and Spirit of America will send you the necessary documentation with your receipt.
Q: What's in this for you Chester?
A: Aside from the extreme honor of showing that my readers' donations will soundly trounce those of other blogs, if the total donations from The Adventures of Chester reach $100, Chester gets a ball cap and tee-shirt. (See examples in this photo.) That's it.
Q: Have you given any money to this organization, Chester?
A: Yes. I just kicked it off by tossing in $50 myself. The Challenge begins December 1st and ends December 15th, but you can donate anytime.
The Adventures of Chester believes this is a great way to support freedom in the Middle East and wholeheartedly supports this program! Please consider a gift to Spirit of America this holiday season!
Herald Sun: 10 arrested in US anti-terror raid
Looks like another good catch for the FBI.
November 19, 2004
Insurgents directed from Syria?
Thanks to an alert reader for directing attention to this article:
Quick Thought on Exploiting Seams
In maneuver warfare, one of the principles is to exploit gaps in the enemy's forces and positioning. This is of course common sense, and you'll probably find similar principles all the way back to Sun Tzu.
One way to exploit a gap is to find a seam and widen it, enlarge it, or otherwise create a gap.
Seams, though, can exist on many different levels.
There are physical seams:
-Boundaries between forces on the ground.
-Boundaries in the coverage of artillery fans.
-Physical boundaries of political systems, where coordination across them is poor or non-existent.
Seams can be organizational: If it is unclear which organization is responsible for a certain task, in many cases, none will perform it. This task, or the lack of its performance, can become a gap if exploited.
Seams can be in time:
-when two units are conducting a relief, there is the potential for a seam when they are exchanging locations, or exchanging information about new surroundings.
I bring this up just to point out that we are in the midst of an organizational, time-based seam right now. As Bush picks his new cabinet and there are departures, new agendas, and new ways of doing business, there is uncertainty, and therefore vulnerabilities to be exploited.
This could come into play in several areas of foreign policy currently in the news . . .
Just a quick thought.
DoD Management Overhaul?
Articles about the Department of Defense reforming itself are always heartening.
Inside The Pentagon
November 18, 2004
Directive On Wolfowitz’s Desk Promises DOD Management Overhaul
An unsigned management initiative decision on Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz’s desk is expected to bring about sweeping changes in the way Pentagon components are managed and interact with each other, according to defense officials.
The document, known as MID 918, would restructure the Defense Department by dividing its activities into four mission areas: warfighting, business, enterprise information environment and the DOD portion of national intelligence. Each mission area will be governed by a lead organization that will be designated in the document, according to a July 22 Army memo reviewed by Inside the Pentagon.
Based on a draft of MID 918, the memo says the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would take the lead for warfighting; DOD’s chief information officer -- or assistant secretary of defense for network and information integration -- would govern the enterprise information environment mission area; and the under secretary of defense for intelligence would be named the intel area’s lead.
The business mission area, to be led by the Pentagon comptroller, consists of six domains: accounting and finance; acquisition; human resources management; logistics; strategic planning and budgeting; installations and environment. However, some of those are being merged, a Pentagon official said.
The new structure under MID 918, once approved, will impact the various Pentagon components “all the way from the top to the bottom,” Jack Zavin, chief of information interoperability in the NII office, told ITP Nov. 15.
Charters for entities given lead roles under MID 918 likely will be affected, he said. Debate among under secretaries regarding their areas of responsibility is part of the reason the document has not yet been signed and put into effect, he said.
Because MID 918 is “pre-decisional,” Pentagon officials are reluctant to discuss many of the document’s details. However, this week Zavin noted the MID will codify “a rule set” and establish areas of responsibility and working relationships between DOD components. This effort originated in an Office of Management and Budget request for better management by all federal departments, he said.
In 2002, OMB instructed all agencies to submit a five-year restructuring plan aimed at fulfilling President Bush’s “strategy for improving the management and performance of the federal government,” according to the President’s Management Agenda.
MID 918 “codifies how [DOD] is handling the OMB request,” Zavin said. “It’s talking about how the government, in this case the innards of the Department of Defense, are going to interact with each other.” Although the MID has not yet been signed, some defense entities -- including the Army and the under secretary of defense for intelligence -- already are assessing how their policies will be affected, according to documents reviewed by ITP.
“That’s why it becomes very sensitive,” Zavin added, explaining that each lead department is “setting up a mechanism for governing” its respective mission area.
Zavin said he could not say when Wolfowitz would sign the MID, or what changes might be made to the draft before it is approved. However, in a March 22 memo, the deputy defense secretary tasked NII with incorporating new information technology policies “into the DOD Directive System within 180 days.”
MID 918 “is an amplification” of the March 22 Wolfowitz memorandum, Zavin told ITP. The March memo, sent to top defense officials, outlined reforms in the way the Pentagon manages information technology programs (ITP, July 29, p1). Although the March memo specifically addressed information management systems, other lead agencies are expected to unveil policies that will govern their mission areas, a DOD source said.
Management of information technology is integral to all mission areas, Zavin noted. From warfighters in Afghanistan and Iraq to service officials at military installations, everyone throughout the defense community must be able “to discover the information they need to do their job,” he observed. That includes “being able to access it, and then manipulate it, to actually use it to effect mission outcome.”
That might seem simple, but DOD is a huge department, and “those information sources are all over the place,” Zavin said. As an example, he described how it often is easier for him to find a memo distributed by a defense official by searching a commercial Web site than it is to tap into the Pentagon’s information systems.
Such inefficiencies are being addressed by the development of DOD’s Global Information Grid. But for the GIG to be effective, policies and processes must be established for tagging the information uniformly and filing it in libraries for retrieval by the various groups authorized to access it, Zavin said.
“Improved and timely IT investment policies are a cornerstone to enable change throughout the department, assure that we have the right IT capabilities to perform our mission and conduct effective information operations, eliminate outdated ways of doing business and achieve our net-centricity goals,” Wolfowitz wrote in March.
The under secretary of defense for intelligence office is among those that “have refocused on net-centricity,” noted Kevin Meiners, the outfit’s director of intelligence strategies, assessment and technologies. He describes net-centricity as empowering “users with the ability to easily discover, access, integrate, correlate and fuse information and data that support their mission objectives.”
Terms such as net-centricity can be perceived as “fuzzy,” or having different meanings to different people, Zavin said. He explained within DOD information traditionally has been “pushed” in a format “that’s convenient to the pusher, as opposed considering the needs of the end user.”
A philosophical change that will be reflected in the future is “subsumed by this larger vision in the department of being user-centric,” he said. That means DOD entities will no longer find themselves receiving information they did not request, in formats they cannot use, coming at the wrong times.
“There’s been a technology ‘push’ in the department, as opposed to a user ‘pull,’” he said.
MID 918 would establish the enterprise information management mission area and a lead agency to govern such information technology issues.
-- Sharon Brooks Hodge
Insight into Domestic Intelligence Operations
Great read: The New York Times > New York Region > Behind Scenes, Informer's Path Led U.S. to 20 Terror Cases. Provides insight into the recent self-immolation of the Yemeni in front of the White House.
Between cleaning out Fallujah, crushing the takeover attempt in Mosul, and raiding a key mosque in Baghdad today, seems like a good week for the future of Iraq. This article offers several interesting tidbits:
-a number of Muslim clerics have been arrested for inciting terrorism-related violence. This seems a smart move. Get them silent and off the loudspeakers. Make an example for others.
-"Three policemen also were killed Thursday when masked gunmen set up a checkpoint in eastern Mosul and shot them when they displayed identification, Gouran said."
Bizarre. If you came up to a checkpoint manned by masked men, would you show your IDs and attempt to pass? would you if you were a cop?
Were the policemen armed? What are the rules for them to engage bad guys? A strange story, and certainly more here than is reported.
- "U.S. troops sweeping through the city west of Baghdad found what appeared to be a key command center of terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, along with a separate workshop where an SUV registered in Texas was being converted into a car bomb and a classroom containing flight plans and instructions on shooting down planes."
-what does registered in Texas mean? Did they actually call the TX DMV? Or were there just a bunch of TX license plates laying around? Why would the insurgents have these? if they were attempting to move pre-made carbombs to the US, it seems easier to move them first, then make them into bombs, then steal some license plates.
Meanwhile, in Northeast Asia . . .
Is Kim about to remake his image?
November 15, 2004
U.S. Plans To Sneak Radios To N. Korea
The U.S. government, as outlined in the North Korean Human Rights Act, plans to sneak tiny radios to the country's information-starved citizens
By Tim Johnson, Knight Ridder News Service
SEOUL, South Korea - The U.S. government is preparing to smuggle tiny radios into North Korea as part of a newly financed program to break down the country's isolation.
For the next four years, Washington will spend up to $2 million annually to boost radio broadcasts toward North Korea and infiltrate mini-radios across its borders.
North Korea, probably the most isolated country in the world, has radios that are rigged to capture only broadcasts lionizing the nation's Stalinist leadership. The broadcasts also blare from outdoor loudspeakers.
The American plan to smuggle small radios into North Korea is outlined in the North Korean Human Rights Act, which President Bush signed into law on Oct. 18. The sweeping act provides money to private humanitarian groups to assist defectors, extends refugee status to fleeing North Koreans and sets in motion a plan to boost broadcasts to North Korea and get receivers into the country.
North Korea's Kim Jong Il regime says the tiny radios will air ''rotten imperialist reactionary culture'' to undermine the country.
The human rights act, in its broad scope, also has encountered opposition from President Roh Moo-hyun, South Korea's center-left leader. Officials under Roh say the act will stiffen Pyongyang's resistance to the outside world and hinder already-stalled talks to get North Korea to abandon its efforts to build a nuclear arsenal.
They scoff at the U.S. plan to smuggle in radios, saying it's a good-hearted idea but one that will worsen the plight of North Koreans. Anyone captured with a radio, they said, might face imprisonment.
Supporters of the tactic argue that it offers a ray of hope to a populace that's hungry for news amid food shortages and an acute humanitarian crisis.
''There's an incredible desire among North Korean people to know what's going on,'' said Suzanne Scholte, the head of the Defense Forum Foundation, a nonprofit group in Falls Church, Va., that focuses on American policy toward North Korea.
Small numbers of clandestine radios are already in the country, sent in by helium-filled balloons deployed by South Korean religious groups or brought in by traders across North Korea's Chinese border.
''Some people listen to South Korean broadcasts under their blankets,'' said Lee Gui-ok, a young North Korean mother who fled to China in 1999 and later moved to Seoul.
Lee said the plan was worth carrying out -- even if it endangered some people -- because it would offer hope to North Koreans that the outside world cared about them.
The plan takes a cue from previous U.S. efforts in other parts of the world. In 2001 and 2002, American diplomats in Havana passed out more than 1,000 shortwave radios so Cubans could tune in to the Florida-based anti-Castro radio station Radio Martí. The radios were taken to Havana in diplomatic pouches.
That wouldn't work in Pyongyang, because the United States and North Korea have diplomatic ties.
How to smuggle the radios in remains to be worked out. Legislators may keep operational details of the program classified to prevent North Korea from countering them, said a Capitol Hill staff aide who's active in shaping U.S. policy on North Korea, speaking on condition of anonymity.
''I don't see radios in balloons as particularly tenable,'' the staff aide said. During most of the 1990s, the South Korean military deployed balloons to send propaganda leaflets, rice and radios into North Korea but suspended the practice in late 1999 under former President Kim Dae-jung's ''sunshine policy'' of opening contacts with Pyongyang.
Since then, Seoul has sought to stop even private groups from airlifting radios with balloons. In March 2003, police blocked a Korean-American pastor from Artesia, Calif., Douglas E. Shin, as he and colleagues prepared to send 700 radios across the border slung from 22 helium-filled balloons.
''Everybody wants the radios,'' Shin said. ``If a regular farmer or worker gets caught, they get slapped on the hand, and the guy who confiscates it keeps it because he wants to listen to it.'
Wall Street Journal
November 15, 2004
Japanese Pursuit Of Chinese Sub Raises Tensions
Incident Was Most Serious Since World War as Two Vie For Sites in East China Sea
By Martin Fackler, Staff Reporter Of The Wall Street Journal
TOKYO -- The three-day chase by Japanese warships and planes of a Chinese submarine discovered in Japan's waters marks an escalation of tensions between the two Asian powers over competing claims to the strategically important East China Sea, experts say.
Last week's military confrontation is the most serious between the two Asian giants since World War II. It began Wednesday, when the submarine was detected cruising underwater just off Japan's Miyako island, about 1,100 miles southwest of Tokyo, Japanese officials said. Japan responded with an unusual display of strength, pursuing the intruder with two destroyers and sub-hunting P-3C aircraft. Japanese forces followed the submarine hundreds of miles as it fled apparently toward the northern Chinese navy base of Qingdao, before ending the chase Friday.
On Friday, Japanese officials lodged a protest with the Chinese Embassy about the entry of the submarine into Japan's territorial waters -- an incident Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi called "extremely regrettable."
A Japanese official said the sound of the submarine's propellers, picked up by microphone-carrying buoys, showed it was a Chinese Han-class nuclear attack sub. Each type of submarine emits a unique sound that can be used to identify it.
As of yesterday, Beijing had refused to confirm or deny the sub was Chinese.
In recent years, Tokyo repeatedly has accused Chinese warships and research vessels of violating waters it claims in the East China Sea, which lies between the two countries. China has disputed some of Japan's claims, saying these areas are open ocean. Waters claimed by Japan sit between some of China's biggest ports and the open Pacific Ocean, frustrating China's ambitions to become a full-fledged naval power.
The dispute also extends to huge natural-gas deposits locked beneath the East China Sea. China already has begun building drilling platforms to tap these deposits, a move Tokyo has protested. Talks last month in Beijing failed to reach a compromise.
But last week's sub chase was the first time the tensions have taken an overtly military turn. In the past, Japan had shunned such confrontations for fear of reviving memories of its brutal World War II march through Asia. Experts said Japan's new willingness to show force reflects a growing public consensus that the country has to stand up to its increasingly powerful neighbor.
"The Japanese are sending a warning shot across the bow that they will not be ignored," said Michael Auslin, a professor at Yale University specializing in Japanese diplomacy. "They're worried about China's longer-term dominance in the region."
November 18, 2004
The Future of the Iranian Nuclear Program, Part III
[Note: Have been consumed with non-blogging domestic issues. Light blogging tonight, but will return full force tomorrow afternoon for a few hours.]
Analyzing all military options in one post is far too unwieldy, and would be sloppy. Therefore, the remainder of this series on Iran will be broken down into much smaller parts. This part is a group task.
Before diving in to analyzing specific US military options vis a vis Iran, The Adventures of Chester would like to request a group brainstorming session. Using the power of distributed intelligence, we ask you, what are the range of MILITARY options (not diplomatic, not economic, not informational)? Let's see what ideas get tossed out on the table and then we'll look at a number of them, or combinations of them. Readers will forgive the use of editorial privilege in deciding which to consider and which to combine.
We've developed these so far:
Limited Political Objective: Destruction of Nuclear Infrastructure
1. Aerial raid or campaign to destroy WMD infrastructure.
2. Ground-based raid (heavier raid) to destroy WMD infrastructure..
3. Ground-based sabotage (lighter raid) to destroy WMD infrastructure.
4. Combination of aerial raid/campaign and ground-based raid to destroy WMD infrastructure. For example:
a. Aerial raid on majority of infrastructure, seizure of key installations via ground or over the horizon, in order to perform intelligence exploitation, or to capture existing facilities intact.
b. Man-hunting operation designed to find and capture key members of the scientific community, possibly combined with aerial raids on a number of their locations.
Still Limited, but Expanded Political Objective: Destruction of Nuclear Infrastructure, Weakening of Regime Power (a "punitive campaign")
1. Aerial raid on WMD infrastructure, aerial raids on critical vulnerabilities of regime power.
2. Aerial and/or ground raid against WMD infrastructure, aerial/ground raids on critical vulnerabilities of regime power.
3. Aerial/ground raids on WMD infrastructure, ground raids on critical vulnerabilities of regime power, fissure of the nation into a zone of Iranian control, and a zone of US-backed resistance control.
Unlimited Political Objective: Destruction of Iranian Nuclear Infrastructure; Removal of Iranian Regime
1. Aerial raid on WMD infrastructure, small-scale and singular aerial decapitation attack against key individuals, institutions, and symbols of Iranian regime.
2. Aerial raid on WMD infrastructure, rolling aerial campaign against all regime targets: political, economic, military.
3. Aerial/ground raids on WMD infrastructure, aerial/ground campaign against entire Iranian regime. Continued occupation of WMD infrastructure. No alternate government created by US forces. Quick exit of US forces from majority of country.
a. Same as 3, but with extensive use of local Iranian resistance.
b. Same as 3, but with overwhelming US ground force.
4. Aerial/ground raids on WMD infrastructure, aerial/ground campaign against entire Iranian regime. Creation of US-supported government zones. US long-term occupation of these zones. Slow attrition of remaining regime power. Could be lighter, or heavier than option 3.
5. Aerial/ground raids on WMD infrastructure, aerial/ground campaign against entire Iranian regime. Creation of US-backed government. Long-term US presence in Iran.
Some Other Wild-Card Options (these break the rule of military-only actions, as they are truly combinatory in nature)
1. Encouragement of aerial strike by proxies (Israel) on WMD infrastructure (military + diplomatic)
a. Can include logistical or other support.
2. Support of internal rebellion; ground raids on WMD infrastructure in conjunction with opposition groups (miliary + covert/CIA)
What say you, readers? Please offer your thoughts and we will have a robust discussion. The tempo and content of the responses will dictate the timing of Part IV.
Remember, the goal is to imagine all unique options, not to critique them in-depth at this point. And likewise, not to be repititious.
UPDATE: Fri, 1:25pm: Excellent comments, readers! Please keep them coming. Remember, the goal at this point is not to critique different actions yet, or to examine the Iranian side, though we will do that too, but instead to offer unique solutions that have yet to be mentioned. I have strong opinions on many of the actions proposed thus far, but will hold back for awhile to let more flow in.
The best comment thus far, which offered an idea completely unique from any others, was posted by "tdbedilion" and involved "military option to squeeze the Iranian economy at its pressure points" to destabilize the regime. Other good comments continue . . .
Sporadic posting throughout the afternoon has begun . . .
November 17, 2004
The Future of the Iranian Nuclear Program, Part II
In Part I yesterday, The Adventures of Chester attempted to show, among other things:
-That confrontation with Iran is looming because of Iran's weapons program.
-That the US must make its decision to act within the next 12-18 months.
GOALS OF US ACTION
The key to unraveling and predicting the steps which the US will take with regard to Iran lies in deciphering what the American political goals will be. A word on strategic goals, from Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 1-1, "Strategy":
"Despite their diversity, political objectives in war can be labeled as either limited or unlimited. The distinction is fundamental. An unlimited political objective amounts to the elimination of the opponent as a political entity. A limited political objective on the other hand, is one in which the enemy's leadership can survive and remain in power . . .
"An unlimited political objective, then, may embrace anything from merely deposing a particular leader to physically exterminating an entire people or culture. Ideological revolutionaries, would-be world conquerors, and both sides in most ture civil wars tend to seek unlimited political objectives. Occasionally, defensive alliances seeking to eliminate a habitual aggressor will also pursue an unlimited political objective.
"Conversely, a limited political objective includes anything short of eliminating the political opponent. It is envisioned that the enemy leadership will remain in control after the conclusion of hostilities, although some aspects of its power (influence, territory, resources, or internal control) will be reduced or curtailed. Limited political objectives are the characteristic of states seeking better positions in the international balance of power, clans vying for political position within a larger society, mafias or street gangs battling for "turf", and reformist political movements. "
Examples of each:
Limited Political Objectives:
(opposing political leadership survives)
-cause change in policy
-reduce enemy miliary capacity
-take slice of territory
Unlimited Political Objectives:
(opposing political leadership is removed)
-change form of government/ruling class
What will the goals of US action in Iran be, with regard to its weapons program? There are many possibilities, but two are distinct:
1. Limited Political Objective: Remove the Iranian nuclear weapons program.
2. Unlimited Political Objective: Remove the Iranian nuclear weapons program and the Iranian regime that created it.
Many variations of these two goals exist, but these are the most fundamental. For example, a tangential goal could be stopping Iranian support to the Iraqi insurgency. Moreover, there are varying degrees of action for each goal. Removing the Iranian regime could involve simply that and no postwar stability operations at all, in a distinctly realist fashion. Or the removal of the regime could be accompanied by a US goal to create a free and democratic replacement -- an ideological goal, a la Iraq or Afghanistan.
Tomorrow, in Part III, The Adventures of Chester will begin to examine different operational campaigns to accomplish either of the above political objectives. A series of alternatives will be examined for each objective, and each one analysed against the criteria of:
-Possibility of accomplishing the given political objective
-Constraints in time, space and material
-Reinforcement of overall national strategy against Islamic Fascism (the War on Terror)
Useful Iran Links
An Alert Reader and frequent poster, "USMC_Vet", has drawn attention to the below resources for keeping abreast of developments in Iran.
FREE IRAN NEWS seems to be a little hyperbolic, but you never know.
IRNA-Islamic Republic News Agency is the official state print journalism organ.
I don't know if Tehran Times is state-sponsored or not.
Iran Daily is another newspaper.
Netiran is both a news and an information portal, not just a news source.
This excellent graphic from the BBC News displays the convoluted power relationships in the regime.
Iran News: more news.
IRIB News Network is the site for the Republic of Iran broadcasting.
Iran News seems to be another news organization.
Iran's Security Policy in the Post-Revolutionary Era is a RAND study about Iran and looks extremely promising.
Iran, Iran, Iran
An Iranian exile group claims that Iran bought blueprints for a nuclear bomb and obtained weapons-grade uranium on the black market. This is the same group that brought the secret Natanz facility to the attention of the West.
An Alert Reader draws attention to the fact that the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve is
at 96% capacity and rising, by order of the President, way back in 2001.
Just let the information wash over you . . . it will all come in handy down the road.
Marine and Navy Engineering
What will the role of US military engineering be in reconstruction in Fallujah? As a former combat engineer officer, I'll offer a few thoughts:
The primary purpose of any US military engineering units in Iraq is to support US military forces, not to reconstruct Iraq. For that, civilian contractors, either Western or Iraqi, are much more effective.
US military engineering units focus on building roads, building camps, providing water and other hygiene services, providing electricity, building airfields, fortifying camps, and so forth. These units are capable of limited humanitarian assistance, but what assistance they can provide is primarily temporary in nature. The more robust the engineering force, the more reconstruction assistance can be provided. Large-scale reconstruction projects or humanitarian assistance projects require detailed planning just like a construction project in the US, though.
Marine engineers come in two primary flavors: combat engineers, which breach minefields, destroy IEDs, and create obstacles, etc, and what could be termed construction engineers, who build roads, small buildings, make water, make power, etc (a branch of these also builds airfields). The emphasis in Marine engineering is on temporary, expedient solutions. No superhighways, and nothing like the Taj Mahal. Simple, quick solutions that will last just long enough and can be improved later.
For longer-term solutions to engineering problems, US Navy Seabees are attached to Marine forces. Seabees have a heavier engineering capability in many respects, but suffer from the fact that they are not Marines (quick wink to my Seabee friends out there). Seabees are usually stand-alone construction forces, whereas Marine engineer units are usually employed as part of an overall logistics plan and reside within logistics units.
Seabees have in the past created humanitarian assistance contact teams, which consist of a few experts with a small amount of equipment, who travel around a given area and do on the spot fixes for temporary assistance.
None of these military forces are able to do the big things that a major reconstruction effort requires, like restoring power permanently. They have the capability to do things like refurbish buildings, but cannot do so on a significantly large scale.
Of course, if there are lots and lots of Marine engineers or Seabees around and this is their only task, then they can do much more. But again, their job is to support US forces.
One way that these engineering forces will come in handy is in assessing work that needs to be done. Seabees or engineers are both capable or determining the scope of work for a given task.
The largest amount of reconstruction work in Fallujah will be performed by Iraqi or other contractors. Creating a stable security environment for them will be the main factor that dictates the speed at which they get started.
Two more issues are important to note:
Some US Army engineering units may have been sent to Iraq solely for reconstruction purposes. I am less familiar with their capabilities, though I know they can be very heavy.
Also, Fallujah has not been the recipient of any reconstruction aid until this point. The city may look rubbled in some places, and underdeveloped in others, but it is important to remember that US combat forces have set foot in it for at least a year, let alone reconstruction units or organizations.
Foreign Fighter Insight
The Miami Herald details the situations of a handful of foreign fighters. Not quite the battle-hardened veterans I expected. If this is the competition though, it is excellent news.
Marine and Enemy Tactics
The Christian Science Monitor, though offering a few skewed thoughts about US force, does a good job of detailing US and insurgent tactics in Fallujah in this post.
-US forces' destruction of insurgent food supplies
-questioning of starving insurgents
-insurgent training runs the gamut from good to bad
-amphetamines found in many insurgent safe houses and used to dope them up so they stay alert (the article alludes to Afghanistan here, but this is also reminiscent of Somalia, where the population uses a narcotic found in a local weed)
-insurgents who have been killed were primarily those interested in martyrdom operations. What does this say about those who remain? Perhaps an end is not too far in the distance to the car-bomb and other suicide attacks. See today's WSJ editorial for more . . .
UPDATE: If the link doesn't work, try this (shouldn't require registration):
UPDATE 2: Registration, if any, should be free, so here is the text:
The Lessons of Fallujah
Killing terrorists doesn't make them stronger.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004 12:01 a.m. EST
So coalition forces strike the city of Fallujah, and Iraqi insurgents respond by attacking in Mosul, Baquba, Kirkuk and Suweira. This, we now hear, proves that the more insurgents the U.S. kills, the stronger the insurgency grows. Call it the Obi-Wan Kenobi school of international relations: Strike him down, and he'll only become more powerful.
In real warfare, of course, killing the enemy means there are fewer enemies to kill. And in one week in Fallujah, and at the cost of some 40 American soldiers' lives and several Iraqi ones, about 1,200 insurgents were killed and another 1,000 taken prisoner. The insurgents have been denied their principal sanctuary. Their torture chambers--a stark indication of what they intend for all of Iraq if they're allowed to prevail--lie exposed.
More important is the demonstration effect: Ordinary Iraqis can take heart that the Allawi government and the U.S. mean business, something that had been put into doubt by the failure to take Fallujah back in April. The sooner and more aggressively the fight is taken to other insurgent strongholds, the better the chances that January's scheduled elections can be held on time, in conditions of relative security, and with Iraq's Sunni minority committed (or resigned) to pursuing their options at the ballot box.
Assessing the ultimate impact of any battle takes time: It is true that of the 5,000 insurgents estimated to have been in Fallujah, the majority, including terrorist ringleader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, appear to have gotten away in the exodus of civilians that preceded the battle. These insurgents will no doubt continue to mount gruesome attacks throughout the country, with the aim of cowing the silent majority of Iraqis who'd like to be on the side of freedom if given the chance.
Still, it is instructive to note the view the insurgents themselves took of the battle. In an audio recording transmitted on the Internet, a voice said to be Zarqawi's warns, "Once they have finished in Fallujah, they will head toward you. You must not let them succeed in their plan." That sounds more like the voice of desperation than it does the voice of confidence.
Another point in the Zarqawi recording bears attention: "This war is very long, and always think of this as the beginning, and always make the enemy think that yesterday was better than today." In Israel, this is known as the question of the barrel: Is there a bottom to it or not? Beyond whatever tactics the Iraqi insurgents may employ, their strategy is to convince Americans that there is no bottom; that their cause enjoys huge popular support; that it feeds off the resentments that "occupation" inevitably engenders; and that it can go on undeterred by whatever damage U.S. forces inflict.
Sadly, there are plenty of Westerners willing to buy into this hypothesis, since it sits so well with those who think the war was a mistake and thus can't imagine that we can still win. Yet apart from the military success, the big news of the Fallujah campaign is that most Iraqis quietly supported it. The protests from nationalist politicians was far more muted than in April, perhaps because they have seen from the car bombings and beheadings what the Zarqawis also intend for them.
The task now is to build quickly on success in Fallujah by wiping out other insurgent strongholds such as Ramadi. We are also encouraged to see that Iraqi forces seem to have performed marginally better in Fallujah than they had in the past. Continued operations should help train, integrate and harden the Iraqis, particularly their officers. Their willingness to fight will increase the more they witness our determination to win.
Fourteen young Afghani women trained as camera operators for a year, and have created a film entitledAFGHANISTAN UNVEILED, currently showing on PBS. I've recorded this film and plan to watch and comment on it later in the week. Looks promising.
Law student Adam Tait plans to address many legal issues of the War on Terror over at his new blog, Tait Musings. Check it out.
Notes and Thanks
-China will have to wait until later; Iran and Iraq will take priority for now.
-I am backed up on responding to reader email (and posting a few things I promised readers I would post), but don't despair. I answer every email I get, slow though I may be.
-Thanks for making The Adventures of Chester the 31st most visited blog in the blogosphere, as of this writing. For one month old, that is not too shabby. I'm sure the averages will drop, but as I wrote earlier, you keep reading, I'll keep blogging. I'll also aggressively improve the content, the template features, and the management of the site.
Please continue to refer your friends!
UPDATE: Also, don't forget that for every purchase you make through the Amazon portal on the sidebar, whether of books or other products, The Adventures of Chester receives a small fee. This is one more way you can support this site and I thank those of you who have taken advantage of this program.
November 16, 2004
The Law of War
Alert Readers have asked my opinion of the story of the Marine who is alleged to have broken the law by shooting an injured, unarmed fighter.
The law of war is clear that one cannot do this. Upholding the law of war is the hallmark of a professional and disciplined fighting force. If one is allowed to shoot an occasional wounded enemy, then other things will eventually start to slip and soon your forces will be no better than thugs.
Having said that, I reserve all judgment until the outcome of the internal investigation to be conducted by the 1st MEF. For an incident of this high a profile, it is likely that a full-bird colonel, and possibly a team of investigators, will be charged with determining if a crime was committed or not. There are many defenses that this young Marine could have, and we should hold out tongues until further information is available.
It is tempting to say that the Devil dog should be let off, even if he was in the wrong. But when fighting for the future of civilization, it is best to uphold it.
Prepare yourselves as the press gears up to make Abu Ghraib-like hay out of this story. If the name of this Marine is released, we'll all know it very soon, whereas there will be few stories of the heroism of the Battle of Fallujah, though no doubt it was present in spades. See my post from last week about our society overlooking physical courage.
Whither the Insurgency? A Ramadan Offensive?
What actions is the insurgency taking to combat the loss of its key base in Fallujah?
This is perhaps an unfair question, as it implies some semblance of centralized command and control within the insurgency. From the actions over the past week, it seems that this article's assessment that the insurgents,
" . . . have switched to hit-and-run tactics, abandoning their previous strategy of seizing and holding terrain that could be turned into safe havens."
This seems to bode well for the Iraqis and the US. If terrain is no longer controlled by the insurgents, then those who live in that terrain are now free to participate in elections and go on with their daily lives. If hit-and-run tactics are the best that the insurgency can mount, it will eventually run out of personnel, funding, and weapons caches, all of which must come from somewhere.
The article goes on to state:
"The insurgents aim at dispersing American firepower in what looks like a dress rehearsal for fomenting enough chaos to disrupt the elections scheduled for January 2005."
It seems unlikely that the insurgency will be able to significantly disrupt the elections. No doubt it will try, but there are many ways to combat this push:
First, for every attack that is prosecuted, one of two things happens. Either the attacker kills himself or is killed in the attack, or the attackers hold some limited objectives for a brief period and then are killed by coalition forces -- like in Mosul. This is an attrition battle that the US and Iraqi government will win. Insurgents must realize at this point that their continued attacks will not break the will of the United States to finish them off -- somehow conducting catastrophic attacks in Iraq prior to the US election was the action needed to shake the national resolve of the Americans. The analogy to the Tet offensive in Viet Nam has been made, and will continue to be made, but it is incorrect. Tet was effective because it happened months before the election.
Another possibility is that the insurgency wants to influence the outcome of the Iraqi election, rather than its existence. This would indicate that the insurgents are gravitating more and more toward seeking a political solution. It will be interesting to see if any evidence of this strategy begins to develop.
Front page mention to any reader who can find an article detailing who the candidates will be in the upcoming election.
DoD News: Operational Update on Fallujah, Iraq
This press conference:with Marine Colonel Regner, the G-3 or Operations Officer, for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, contains several interesting tidbits. Among them:
-precision-targeting by airstrikes in Iraq has at times been ultimately decided by Allawi himself
-A Civil-military operations center (CMOC) has been set up in Fallujah adjacent to the provisional mayor's office, as a precursor to reconstruction efforts.
And, this update on actions in Ramadi:
"Colonel, this is Eric Schmidt with The New York Times. I wonder if you could give us a feel on what's going on in Ramadi today. To what extent is the fighting there intensifying? And maybe just the same general question; how much of that city is secured by American forces and how much of it is contested right now?"
REGNER: "Okay, Eric. In regards to Ramadi, the provincial center of the Al Anbar Province, there has been challenges in Ramadi. Do we control Ramadi? Yes, we do. We have a couple of battalions there. We don't always have the fortunate manpower strength to put two battalions in Ramadi, but in the last 48 hours, because we've had two battalions there operating throughout, the numbers of caches that we have found and the number of terrorists that have either been killed or captured has reached a higher level than it has been in the past."
"Do we control Ramadi? Yes, we control it, but again, it is not at this time a cleared city, because as everyone probably realizes, some of these terrorists decided not to go against the might of the Iraqi army, as well as the American forces, and they have escaped that -- our city of Fallujah and moved on to -- in fact moved into Ramadi or some of the other cities that are in the area."
"It has been -- for about a week now, it's been tougher in Ramadi, but I think we've measured up to that with the strength that we've put in that. And we've put a different battalion than normally operates in there, and so the enemy -- you know, the enemy, some of these guys are former military, and they study you just like we study them. And when a new force comes in, it throws them off guard. And we've been very successful in Ramadi."
It would appear from these statements that an offensive in Ramadi has either been concurrent with the Fallujah battle, already started in the wake of the Fallujah battle, or ongoing since before Fallujah, and perhaps a Fallujah-scale assault is not necessary there. Combine these facts with the reports that sheiks and clerics in Ramadi have urged the citizens to give up the terrorists, and it paints a picture of progress in securing and clearing Ramadi.
The Future of the Iranian Nuclear Program, Part I
What does the future hold for the Islamic Republic of Iran and its nuclear weapons program? What forecasts can be made about US policy toward Iran?
CONFRONTATION WITH IRAN LOOMS
The President has stated that Iran will not be allowed to possess nuclear weapons. He can be taken at his word.
The current diplomatic agreement between Iran and several nations of the EU has no verification mechanism, and will not satisfy the President that Iran has ceased its nuclear weapons program. Having seen the ill effects of a failed diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear program, the President will be short on patience for similar negotiated disarmament schemes that miss the mark of full and unconditional disclosure, like that of Libya. Iran will not submit to such disclosure.
However the current cabinet shakeup plays out, the Bush Administration will view Iran as a greater threat to US security than Syria. While Syria provides geographic territory, logistical support, and moral support to various terrorist groups, these groups, Hamas and Hezbollah, mainly target Israel and not the United States. While Syria may be the repository of whatever Iraqi weapons were stashed away prior to the invasion, Syria has no nuclear weapons development program. The President and Vice President have clearly stated that the over-riding reason for the invasion of Iraq was the threat to the United States of the "nexus between weapons of mass destruction and terrorist groups." This nexus clearly resides in Iran, which is actively seeking nuclear weapons and has a long history of supporting all manner of terrorist groups, including, from time to time, Al Qaeda.
THE TIMING OF US ACTION
Before assumptions about the use of US force can be definitively stated, the critical question becomes the time horizon. What to make of this? How to define in time, the event that creates the deadline? Iran will eventually reach a point wherein it has completed the infrastructure and research necessary to manufacture a nuclear weapon. This is the point it must not be allowed to reach.
The Atlantic article gives the Iranians 3 years, with many backside-covering qualifications. A recent US News report states three to seven years. Other reports, including one referenced in the Belmont Club by Wretchard, state as little as 4-6 months before Iran has the break-out stage and can "construct nuclear bombs whenever it wishes."
As we all know from the re-election campaign, President Bush was criticized as "rushing to war" in Iraq. Agreeing with the characterization of this decision (that it was poor form to move so quickly) or not is irrelevant. Instead, assume that Bush prefers to err on the side of action, and move quickly. In this case, let us assume the time horizon for his decision is 12-18 months. In the next year and a half, the US, whether alone or with allies, must address the Iranian nuclear program once and for all, or grudgingly admit Iran into the fraternity of nuclear powers, and like it or not, live with its regime for an indefinite period of time.
THE SHAPE OF US ACTION
Let us revisit the assumptions about military force from yesterday's critique of the Atlantic Monthly's December cover story. Now we'll add commentary to each of the assumptions:
"1. Any military action will reflect current thinking within the Pentagon."
This is wrong. Military war plans really only exist for two reasons -- in case of dire emergency, and to use as building blocks for situationally-dependent detailed planning. Witness Operational Plan 1003-V (called "Oh-plan ten-oh-three victor"), which was used to plan the invasion of Iraq. The plan had been gathering dust on the shelves in some classified vault for years, with a few updates and modifications here and there. When the attention spans of senior policy-makers dwell upon a particular issue, the plans are dusted off and revised, revised, revised, ad infinitum, as much as time will allow, and even with the possibility of major changes (complete rerouting of the 4th Infantry Division, for example) right up until the event in question is about to start.
"2. The only way to stimulate a regime change is through military force in general and an invasion in particular."
This too is wrong. Overthrowing governments used to be one of the core competencies of the CIA. This skill may not be as honed as we would like, but it is there, deep down. Moreover, a well-executed punitive strike, even against limited military targets, and not the entire apparatus of a regime, can be a powerful instigator of regime change. Having one's government unable to prevent a foreign military strike on one's soil is a seriously and catastrophically delegitimizing and destabilizing act.
"3. The military has no stomach for stability operations."
Also wrong. Secretary Rumsfeld and General Myers have issued directives since the Iraqi campaign started detailing the importance of postwar planning in future conflicts. The military can apply the same operationally detailed planning to postwar stability as it can to invasions, airstrikes, humanitarian missions, and other large-scale undertakings, so long as it has the necessary guidance.
"4. The buildup to an invasion cannot be disguised."
Correct. While tactical surprise is possible, even with a telegraphed punch such as seen in the defense of Kuwait, the invasion of Iraq, or the recapture of Fallujah, it is very difficult for a democracy like our own to commit large numbers of ground forces to any task while keeping it under wraps. In general, logistics cannot hide. Moving 10,000 men cannot be hidden in a stratgically significant way. If performed quickly enough, their exact destination and time of arrival can be difficult to determine. But their trip itself cannot.
"5. The US military is too overstretched for an invasion of Iran at this point in time."
More or less correct. An invasion of some size could be mounted, but the longer the invasion force stayed in Iran, the more force structure begins to catch up to it. A large-scale recall of reservists could increase the time US forces could operate in Iran, but such a move would make the United States vulnerable in other spheres of influence (Taiwan, South Korea).
As the time horizon moves further and further into the future though, this statement becomes less and less true. As Iraqi forces take more and more responsibility for Iraq's security, the forces available for an invasion of Iran increase dramatically.
"6. If a pre-emptive strike only succeeded in delaying the Iranian program, they would sooner or later have weapons after all."*
This may be true; but it assumes that the US would stop at one air campaign. If one air campaign buys 18 months, that is 18 months to prepare for the troop heavy option. If another air campaign has to then take place, why couldn't it? Singular, "it-all-comes-down-to-this" decisiveness is always preferable, but if it is impossible to achieve it is entirely plausible that a series of air campaigns could take place.
Knowing that there are 12-18 months to work with, what are the options open to US policy-makers?
Tomorrow . . . GOALS OF US ACTION, in The Future of the Iranian Nuclear Program, Part II.
*Note: These assumptions are derived from the article; they do not appear there verbatim.
Note 2: I am about to post an update to Sunday's critique of a New York Times article. Refresh your screen in a moment to see it.
Tonight's posts . . .
1. The Assumptions That Will Shape US Action Against Iran
2. Whither the Insurgency? The Ramadan Offensive?
3. China and Taiwan
Plus commentary on news items of note . . .
November 15, 2004
"Will Iran Be Next?"
The cover story of the December issue of the Atlantic Monthly is entitled, “Will Iran Be Next? A Pentagon-Style War Game Shows Why Military Strikes Would Invite Disaster.”
A better subtitle would be: “A TV News-Style Roundtable Discussion Shows Why Policy Isn’t Made in One Three-Hour Sitting.” James Fallows’ article describes a forum of policy wonks and former officials, sponsored by the Atlantic, who are seated in a room one morning, given few instructions on how to decide anything, and then recorded by videotape to ensure their egos can do the talking for them. The incoherent results are reprehensibly passed off as a mirror of “the most plausible, current, non-classified information.” (One very alert reader insists that this article is a CIA plant to throw the mullahs off. If only that were so!)
The forum is that of a meeting of the Principals Committee, the most senior national security officials of the “next administration.” Here is mistake number one: by trying to include both Democratic and Republican viewpoints in their committee, the Atlantic has seriously watered down the decisions of a group comprised solely of either party’s officials. Waiting until the election results were clear would have made for a much more realistic forum to discuss the Iran dilemma.
The next mistake is the assumption that Iran would defy the deadline set by the IAEA for satisfying its demands. This is no doubt a result of the vagaries of journalistic deadlines, but aside from the fact that this assumption has proven wrong (link), it ignores the possibility that Iran will both agree to IAEA demands and continue with its weapons program clandestinely – which is entirely possible and would require a wholly different set of considerations.
The purpose of the war game is to “force attention on the three or four main issues the next President will have to face about Iran . . .” and this is rightly how to define the deliberations and product of a Principals Committee meeting. But the wargame unduly focuses their discussion on the use of force. Diplomacy, economic sanctions, CIA covert operations, are all left out of the discussion, though one must assume that a meeting of the Principals Committee is where the combined application of these other elements of national power would most likely be weighed and counterbalanced against each other. The limitations that this imposes will soon be clear.
The participants in the wargame were: Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force Colonel, with many years of experience in developing wargame and other simulation exercises, this time posing as National Security Advisor. David Kay, the former US weapons inspector, played the role of Director of Central Intelligence. Two different individuals play Secretary of State, Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former case officer in the CIA, meant to be the conservative, and Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA analyst, meant to be the liberal.
Kenneth Bacon, a former Clinton administration official, played the White House Chief of Staff, and Michael Mazarr, a professor of national-security strategy at the National ar College, was the Secretary of Defense.
In addition to these participants, there were three observers: Harvard University’s Graham Allison, Marine Colonel Thomas X. Hammes, and Army Major Donald Vandergriff, the three of whom are known for their expertise or innovative thinking in defense-related decision-making. Being only observers, they can be let off the hook for the results.
So what happens when several once and future wonks gather to debate policy while being videotaped? As Steinbeck once wrote, it was "as spontaneous as peristalsis and as interesting as its result." In short, the "war game" had significant problems.
Aside from the fundamental limitations above, the "game" suffered from no clear mechanism for detailed planning. There was no brainstorming session, no attempt to weigh one idea against another. Instead, a free-for-all took place.
Consider for example:
-The roleplaying nature of the game was "loose":
"Sometimes the participants expressed their institutions' views; other times they stepped out of role and spoke for themselves."
How is it possible for them to express institutional views when those institutions -- the State Department and the CIA for example -- are undergoing significant post-election upheaval? Is it not off the mark to say that the institutions whose views they were expected to express don't know what their views are yet?
-The most critical of their product are the gamers themselves, noting for example, the lack of a red cell to figure out the options of the Iranians. Notes Fallows:
"'Process' sounds dull, and even worse is 'government decision-making,' but these topics provoked the most impassioned comments from panelists and observers when they were interviewed after the war game."
How ironic when they had no process to speak of themselves!
Perhaps mirroring an actual military war game,but without the actual troop movements, would be a better way to untie this knot.
Let us wade through the gobbledy-gook in this article and see what we can find.
The assumptions of the planners/gamers:
1. All of our information leads us to believe that Iran will have nuclear weapons capabilities within three years. This information may not be everything though, and there could be factors we have no idea about that will speed the process.
2. There are two wild-card factors: Iran's involvement in Iraq and Israel's potential involvement with Iran.
Using these two assumptions as starting points, the panel then proceeds to veto nearly every possible tool to affect the Iranian weapons program:
An Israeli strike? The Israelis know they don't have the capability for that! They would have to hit every missile in addition to all the nuke sites! They won't risk a counterattack with chemical weapons! We should tell them to pipe down!
Iran's influence on current US actions in Iraq? The Iranians can make it very difficult for us there if they want! The Iranians might provoke every Shi'ite to rise against us! It could get bloody!
They then consider three military courses of action (COA) for the US to take against Iran:
1. "A punitive raid against key Revolutionary Guard units, to retaliate for Iranian actions elsewhere, most likely in Iraq."
This is a truly baffling option. Weren't we discussing the Iranian nuclear program? How does attacking the Iranian military affect the development of Iran's nuclear weapons, except to force them to speed it up as much as possible? And what Iranian actions are we retaliating against? Do we already possess evidence of these actions? The inclusion of this option is inexplicable, unless one remembers that when planners are forced to come up with three options, one of them is usually called the "throwaway COA."
2. "A pre-emptive air strike on possible nuclear facilities;"
Much more like it. Now we are talking.
3. "A 'regime change' operation involving the forcible removal of the mullahs government in Tehran."
Certainly appears to be an option, though appearances can be deceiving.
The panel then begins to pick apart each and every one of these three options. Their over-riding goal throughout this exercise is to eschew any and all risk.
Striking the Iranian military? This is supposed to be a measured response to Iranian meddling in Iraq, "and a first step in laying the groundwork for the ultimate step of regime change." Here we see that this first option is nothing more than option three light. It cannot really be undertaken unless the US is willing to go all the way in removing the regime.
The pre-emptive air strike? The US would attack 300 different sites involved in the development of nukes, chem or bio weapons, all in a matter of five days.
An invasion of Iran? Meant to change the regime? Here the panel gets bogged down in details -- where will the feints be? What airfields will the invasion force use? Will it be light, with few divisions and lots of special forces? Or heavy, with many divisions and lots of special forces?
Then, the panel mentions that the invading forces will avoid any stability operations. This is fascinating. Why would the panel assume that a US force would avoid stability operations, given our recent experience in Iraq? Fallows asks this of Gardiner:
"How could the military dare suggest such a plan after the disastrous consequences of ignoring 'stability' responsibilities in Iraq? Even now, Gardiner said after the war game, the military sees post-conflict operations as peripheral to its duties. If these jobs need to be done, someone else must take responsibility for them."
This is nothing short of alarming. First, the post-invasion instability in Iraq was not the fault of the US military. The fault for the lack of planning rests with poor interagency coordination. Stabilty operations must have an overt political goal -- in this case, establishing a government -- and while the removal of Saddam's regime was a rousing success, the quick and efficient installation of the next regimes -- the CPA and the Interim Government -- were a failure. Military planners are not to blame for this inaction -- civilian planners are. In fact, US military units, who were living in Iraq, and had quite a stake in not seeing instability, are to be commended for adapting to the situation and preventing further instability than occurred.
Second, the idea that the military see post-conflict operations as peripheral to its duties is flat-out wrong. Marines for example, have been training for and conducting Miliary Operations Other than War or MOOTW -- what could also be called Small Wars -- for the better part of a century. And the military has moved to make postwar planning a priority in future conflicts as well.
More about this fictional invasion of Iran:
"Our objective is to be on the outskirts of Tehran in two weeks. The notion is we will not have a Battle of Tehran; we don't want to do that. We want to have a battle around the city. We want to bring our combat-power to the vicinity of Tehran and use Special Operations inside the capital. We have no intention of getting bogged down in stability operations in Iran afterwards."
In other words, the war plan is a reproduction of the plan for the invasion of Iraq, but without the guts to take a city. And rather than admit the US did poorly in post-conflict planning in Iraq, and then try to improve on that, the plan avoids all post-conflict involvement whatsoever.
This is a dangerous plan and the panel recognizes this and rejects it.
Sitting on the outskirts of the capital and waiting for a miracle to occur and a regime to evaporate -- especially a totalitarian one -- is not a recipe for success.
The article goes downhill from there, ending with these words:
"After all of this effort, I am left with two simple sentences for policymakers," Sam Gardiner said of his exercise. "You have no military solution for the issues of Iran. And you have to make diplomacy work."
Perhaps Mr. Fallows and his posse have no solutions, but The Adventures of Chester does. Before that though, let us examine some of the panel's assumptions which were not as obvious:
1. Any military action will reflect current thinking within the Pentagon.
2. The only way to stimulate a regime change is through military force.
3. The military has no stomach for stability operations (this one was obvious).
4. The buildup to an invasion cannot be disguised.
5. The US military is too overstretched for an invasion of Iran at this point in time.
6. If a pre-emptive strike only succeeded in delaying the Iranian program, they would sooner or later have weapons after all.
Tomorrow, The Adventures of Chester will address each of these assumptions and offer an alternative analysis and course of action. As the week progresses, we'll examine each part of this alternative one bit at a time.
Also later this week: China and Taiwan? Headed for disaster?
FLASH: CHESTER TO BE INTERVIEWED ON HUGH HEWITT SHOW, 6:40P CENTRAL
Tune in for another interview . . .
Programming note . . .
The Adventures of Chester's critique of the Atlantic's December cover story will be published tomorrow evening. It will be worth the wait.
The Latest Naysaying from the New York Times
Today's front page New York Times article, entitled Military Analysis: A Goal Is Met. What's Next? is an excellent example of aggressive naysaying and frazzled handwringing.
"Victory in Fallujah? Meaningless!" the Times seems to proclaim, as it proceeds to offer example upon example why the coalition's brilliant attack will make little long-term difference. The twists and turns in this bit of reporting are amusing to observe.
"American military commanders say the weeklong assault that has wrested most of Falluja from insurgent control has achieved nearly all their objectives well ahead of schedule and with fewer pitfalls than anticipated.
"But where do the United States and the government of the interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, go from here?
"In the coming weeks, the two allies must still combat a resilient and dangerous insurgency operating in most of Iraq, accelerate a huge economic reconstruction effort and lay the groundwork for elections to be held in January."
Is this news? Can this truly pass for the summary of the Times' analysis? Everything in the final paragraph was true before the attack -- and no one thought it would not be true afterward. More:
"But enormous obstacles remain to meeting these military, economic and political targets. "The Falluja operation will be a military success, but whether it's the key to political success will remain to be seen," said Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat on the Armed Services Committee who visited Iraq on Friday and Saturday, in a telephone interview. "The insurgents are working hard to derail this, and commanders are expecting widespread violence leading up to the elections in January."
Does the Senator think that the initiative truly lies with the insurgents, when their primary base of operations is now crawling with US Marines and Soldiers? Does he think that American commanders will sit by idly while insurgents attempt their derailment of the election?
"Military commanders point to several accomplishments in Falluja . . .
"But American and Iraqi officials still face daunting tasks in the aftermath of retaking the city."
Has any US official, military or otherwise, stated that the war is won? Again, the "daunting tasks" that remain have been on everyone's radar screen for some time.
"American commanders say they expected that the fight for Falluja, coinciding with the end of the holy month of Ramadan, would set off a surge in violence across the country. But the scope and size of the attacks in Mosul last Thursday stunned American officers who were scrambling Sunday to regain the initiative."
"Our experience is that, after battles in which they lose many fighters, the insurgents require some days to gather, treat their wounded and try to figure out what to do next," Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, charged with controlling northern Iraq, said Sunday in an e-mail message. "Our job is to work to not let them rest and to not allow them time to reset."
Where in this quote does Brig Gen Ham show that he is "stunned" and "scrambling to regain the initiative?" Does it not appear more likely that the violence in other parts of the country was expected to take place somewhere, and that its extent has been less than expected?
"In Baghdad, where attacks were increasing even before the Falluja offensive, Army soldiers said insurgents in at least one part of the capital had shifted their tactics this week, massing in limited numbers in their attacks on Americans, instead of shooting from the shadows and rooftops, or carrying out ambushes with roadside bombs."
Certainly, this blogger is not the only one who thinks this to be great news. The insurgent tactic shift described is easier to defeat than a roadside bomb or sniping. Though the Times chooses to characterize this shift as grave, could it not signal desperation on the part of the insurgents -- "Come on brothers! Those bombs and sniping aren't working!"
"Overall, yes, the anti-Iraqi forces have been more aggressive or stupid, depending on one's perspective," Sgt. Rowe Stayton, an infantry fire-team leader in northern Baghdad, said Sunday in an e-mail message. He said his troops killed 15 insurgents and wounded 6 others, without suffering a single casualty."
Again, great news. See above. How did this quote make it into the article? Times, your editors are slipping!
"But commanders say they are baffled over how to combat an effective intimidation campaign that insurgents are waging against Iraqis, from political leaders and police chiefs to the women who do the laundry for troops at American bases."
"People are affected every day by criminality," said Senator Reed, a former 82nd Airborne Division officer. "The situation has not - is not - turning around."
Which commanders are baffled? Senator Reed is not a commander. He has only been there for two days (see above). Perhaps it is Senator Reed who is baffled.
"The good news is that significant numbers of Iraqi security forces are standing their ground and fighting all over north-central Iraq," Maj. Gen. John Batiste, commander of the First Infantry Division based in Tikrit, said Saturday in an e-mail message. "Our hard work is paying off."
"But not everywhere. Last week, scores of police officers in Mosul fled their stations under attacks, allowing militants to loot half a dozen stations and steal police vehicles, uniforms and hundreds of weapons."
Does Gen Batiste have responsibility for Mosul? If not, then what is the assessment of the general who does? So the insurgents hit Mosul. Are we to believe that our generals expected no attacks, anywhere, as a result of the Fallujah operation?
How will the New York Times downplay the successful prosecution of the next battle in the counterinsurgency campaign? How will the New York Times downplay successful elections in January? The clock is ticking for the insurgency. Every day that passes is one step closer to elections. Every military operation that displays the brilliant planning and execution of that in Fallujah (and there will be more to come) depletes the oxygen on which the insurgents thrive.
Reading the contortions in this story, meant to make panic out of bad news, bad news out of neutral news, and neutral news out of good news, are like watching a man reach around his a** to scratch himself.
UPDATE: 11/16/04: An Alert Reader has mentioned that I should be careful about criticizing Senator Reed because he is a West Point grad and a former officer in the 82nd Airborne. My criticism of this article which references Senator Reed is not a criticism of his service or his experience; quite the contrary: if Senator Reed has some expertise as a former Army Captain in the late 1970s that he can bring to this discussion, then surely the Major General Division Commanders on the ground in Iraq have an equal or larger amount of insight to provide. Yet only one was quoted for the article and his assessment was neutral to positive. See the above post again -- the story references the thoughts of commanders, then quotes Senator Reed, who was not there long enough to get over his jet lag. If Senator Reed's opinions are offered as expertise, I ask the New York Times to instead interview and fully quote the opinions of the Division or Regimental commanders who have been there for months.
Site Meter - Counter and Statistics Tracker
The Adventures of Chester's 15 minutes of fame may have faded, but fear not, loyal readers. As long as you keep reading, I'll keep blogging.
Die Jakkalsgat: US mechanised infantry battalion structure
A former British Para has posted a description of US mechanized units on his blog: Die Jakkalsgat: US mechanised infantry battalion structure. Check it out.
November 14, 2004
Vengeance is Terrible
An Alert Reader has drawn attention to this photo.
Sunday Admin Update
The Adventures of Chester has:
1. Deleted Haloscan comments after a trial period.
2. Shortened the leftward-most margin again. How is it now?
3. Added an Amazon Books Link in the sidebar. The banner will display books dealing with military affairs, but you can click on the search Amazon.com portion at the top to find any product Amazon offers. Every time you order a product using this link, The Adventures of Chester receives a small commission. This is one more way for you to support the content at this site. So feel free to do your Amazon Christmas shopping using the sidebar banner link.
Furthermore, The Adventures of Chester is working on:
1. Better email efficiency.
2. A blogroll.
3. Enrollment in Milblogs, the premier ring of military affairs related blogs.
We welcome your feedback.
UPDATE: (9:08pm) All margins have been restored to their original spacing and width due to popular demand. Can you hear me now?
Iran 'to halt uranium enrichment'
News outlets are reporting that Iran will its halt uranium enrichment program.
Is this a diplomatic coup for Old Europe? Or have they been shanghaied?
Consider Friday's editorial in the Wall Street Journal . . .
As more news of this deal becomes available, some questions to ask:
1. How will the IAEA verify any of the promises of the Iranians? How cooperative will the mullahs be?
2. How easily can Iran continue with a clandestine nuclear program while appearing to cooperate with the IAEA?
3. What is the current stage of any programs, clandestine or otherwise? At what point does the Iranian program reach a point of no return?
4. Aside from this agreement, what would a more robust diplomatic solution look like? The WSJ article suggests a deal similar to the one made with Libya. Is this even a remote possibility?
5. How will the Europeans describe this step in the press -- will they embrace it and say that it shows the desire of Iran to be a full-fledged member of the international community, etc, or will they be more cautious? This is important because it will signal the level of European support for other US diplomatic action down the road.
The Adventures of Chester will aggressively seek answers to all of these questions. Please continue to visit.
FLASH: PHASE TWO IS COMPLETE
Based on this update from Fox, Phase II of Operation Al-Fajr is complete.
What does this mean? A Predictive Analysis
1. US and coalition forces now "occupy" the city of Fallujah (by their presence), "control" the city (by virtue of their presence and their weaponry), and will now begin to "retain" the city.
Retain is defined as: "To occupy or hold a terrain feature to ensure it is free of enemy occupation or use."
2. Sporadic fighting will continue. Though the cordon seems to have worked effectively, as we know from press accounts of men being turned back into the city, no doubt some of the insurgents both
a. slipped through the cordon and
b. will return to the city and attempt to attack US forces.
The coalition will mitigate against these attacks by using a host of methods:
a. Weapons caches will be destroyed in place or moved outside the city and destroyed.
b. Any tunnel or sewer systems that can provide egress or other quick movement within the city will either be destroyed or patrolled by coalition forces.
c. Human intelligence exploitation teams will interrogate all of the prisoners that the operation has netted, and develop databases of suspected insurgents.
d. Iraqi military and government forces controlling the city will probably attempt to ease the identification process for all citizens, through the use of a single ID card system that is difficult to corrupt, or other means.
e. The curfew for men will no doubt continue, though perhaps with some easing to allow men to work -- though this will likely be several days in coming.
3. Humanitarian aid will begin to trickle into the city. The aid will be composed of several parts:
a. US combat service and support units may have a small role in initial humanitarian assistance operations until NGOs and other organizations with greater capabilities can safely participate.
b. NGO and other relief organizations, which are non-partisan. These will be allowed into the city based on judgments as to the security threat against them.
c. Private, and possibly Iraqi government or US military construction organizations (probably Seabees, long shot - USMC engineers) will begin to assist in reconstructing the city. The military forces will focus on quick fixes to infrastructure, while the private firms or Iraqi governement organizations will work toward longer solutions. It should be noted that the press may infer that the reconstruction is a necessity because of the destructiveness of US firepower; the truth is that the city has most likely benefited little from any reconstruction effort since the fall of the regime.
4. Psychological and media operations will continue. These will play a role in both continuing the pacification of the city, and in exploiting our success and advertising it to the rest of the country, and perhaps the region. These operations could take the form of video feeds of prisoner confessions or interviews, interviews with residents who did not support the insurgents, or allowing international reporters access to some of the more heinous aspects of the insurgent torture chambers and death rooms.
5. One-third to one-quarter of the US forces that participated in the battle will move out of the city within 72-96 hours. The rest, including especially 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, will stay and reinforce the pacification.
Ramadi has been cordoned
This European and Pacific Stars & Stripes article notes that the Army's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, operating in Ramadi, has cordoned off the city . . .
On Thursday, this site gave an initial look at the Order of Battle for Ramadi. A reader has emailed since then stating that RCT-5 is not in Iraq right now, though some of its battalions are. Army's 2nd BCT is definitely there, and 2/5 is definitely in Ramadi. Keep an eye on this . . .
Fox is now reporting that US military personnel are conducting "mopping up" operations in Fallujah and that the city is 'Occupied but Not Subdued'.
Has Phase II, The Ground Assault, been completed? Has Phase III, Exploitation, Reconstruction, and Installation of Government begun?
The news in the morning will give us the necessary clues . . .
November 13, 2004
Another Admin Update
1. By popular demand, I have taken the left margin a little more to the right -- several readers complained that it was too far leftward. How is it now?
2. I'm leaving both comments systems up for now. I'd like some more feedback on them before I make any bold adjustments. So please readers, let me know what you think. Are there defenders of the old system out there? Is the new system far superior?
UPDATE: I'm thiiiiisss close to removing the Haloscan comments and just keeping the Trackback function. A command decision. Just not taking to them. Will monkey with the margins more tomorrow.
Another post or two may come later tonight and will reflect on any news from Fallujah.
Tomorrow The Adventures of Chester will jump into the Iranian fray by starting with an in-depth criticism of the cover story of the latest Atlantic Monthly, "Will Iran Be Next?" by James Fallows.
You may attempt to read the story at The Atlantic Online, but I believe it is subscriber-only content. If that is the case, I will make liberal use of extended quotes from the article in my critique, which will be the first of several posts about Iran, nukes, and US options.
We will win the war: a recent exchange
An Alert Reader has asked that I extricate myself from down in the weeds in Fallujah and comment on the overall course of the war. In response, I offer an exchange I recently had via email with a colleague (I hope he won't mind). This exchange took place a month ago, before I started this blog.
FOC = Friend of Chester
C = Chester
FOC: "Well, you make a compelling case regarding unilateral action." [Note: he's referencing a previous conversation we had.]
C: "Remember, our action is only unilateral if you define multi-lateral as France and Germany. Frankly they don't bring much to the table anyway."
FOC: "However, I still feel that Arab pride is a major stumbling block in winning over the average Iraqi or middle easterner."
C: "I disagree: The "Arab pride" concept circulates a lot in the press in the US, as does the "Arab street" concept. But a more powerful cultural force particular to Arabs is at work: they respect power. They go with the winner. There is a tipping point on the ground in Iraq. If we get past it, the majority of the population will support us. I think we have already surpassed this tipping point. Moreover, we are linking the success of our effort with the success of indigenous Iraqi forces efforts, and are thereby making common cause with the Iraqis: our success = their freedom."
FOC: "It almost seems to be like a no win situation for the middle class there. I guess I see it from a religious perspective. If we fail, obviously their condition does not improve. If we are successful and transform the region, it means they and Islam were wrong and could not provide the means for a successful nation on their own. It exposes that fact that the majority of these countries have repressive governments and according to Hayek this repression goes hand in hand with unsuccessful economic systems. It took the "Christian" west to be the catalyst for change which implies that we/our system is superior to theirs."
C: "I disagree: Saddam was no devout Muslim. And Iraq, since the 1920s, has been the most secular of all Arab states. I think that Al Qaeda and other fundamentalist groups want to influence perceptions such that people on both our side and theirs think the Iraqi campaign IS Christianity vs. Islam. But I think that the truth on the ground in the Arab world is more fragmented than this. I don't think you can make the equation, "Our success = Islam's failure." Islam is not unified. The key religious question in this entire war v. Islamofascism is: "Can Islam support separation of Church and State?" There are many Muslims who would say yes. A higher percentage of Iraqis are amongst this number than in neighboring countries. Finally, it does appear that the "Christian" west is the catalyst for change, but I think the Arabs, particularly the secular Iraqis, are smart enough to realize that the West isn't just the Christian west; it is also the technological west, the free west, the west of individuality, the west of separation of church and state."
FOC: "My fundamental question is what did we accomplish."
C: "Several things:
1. Opened a new front in the war; provides a staging base for US troops in the mid-East, and a new ally in the Iraqis. Fights fascism on its own turf.
2. Possibility of beginning the democratization process in Iraq -- will affect long-term change in the region.
3. Iraq, not a member of OPEC, will provide counterbalance to the Saudis, once it is producing at full capacity.
4. Saddam gone. No tears shed there.
5. Removal of troops from Saudi Arabia. This had been expensive both politically and financially.
6. Now we know for sure if Saddam had weapons or not: he didn't, but he did everything in his power to make others think he did (even within his own military, where every general interviewed said, "I didn't have them but the unit on my left and right did." -- I think this is the explanation for my gas mask at home), plus we now know that he would have gotten them if he could have, plus we know how corrupt the Oil for Food boondoggle was.
7. If Saddam wasn't working directly with al Qaeda on 9/11, he was at least a passive observer, or offered psychological support -- for that one particular operation. In total, as the 9/11 Commission report states, he offered sanctuary to bin Laden in 90s. That's enough for me.
8. From a humanitarian perspective, no more death camps, mass graves, torture chambers or sanctions causing malnourished kids."
FOC: "I have no doubt that Saddam had some bad stuff (or had the potential of making it), however, whatever WMD Iraq had are now in Syria. Our actions did nothing to stop the terrorist from getting their hands on it. It still exists but in another country."
C: "Not so sure Saddam had anything, or that Syria got what he had. Could be though -- there was that attempt to make a chemical strike in Amman, by Syrian based bad guys earlier in the year. Overall I think there is more here than meets the eye. We've been exploiting troves of documents we captured in Baghdad. Remember, the CIA had completely infiltrated the AQ Khan network for nuke material sales and that's how we wrapped it up. Some think we even had Khan himself on the payroll and that's why Musharraf pardoned him. I think there is much more here going on than we know."
FOC: "Surely the intelligence community could see that Iraq would simply move whatever they had rather than risk handing it to the US, vindicating our cause."
C: "No way. The reason Saddam continued thumbing his nose at us is cause he thought he would eventually win. Didn't believe we'd follow through. Can't put our reasoning in his mind. He has a completely different view."
FOC: "Instead of solving a problem we moved it to another place while new terrorist poured into Iraq."
C: "Even if Syria has weapons remnants now, we know that Iraq doesn't. Fine with me if we move by process of elimination to Syria or Iran. Also, terrorists pouring in to Iraq is a good thing. Once they are there, and have coalesced, it makes it very easy to kill them! We have created this battlefield, we are attracting the enemy to it, and if we beat them on it, it will be a decisive victory."
FOC: "So now we are committed there with the only goal left to change the region and that I still feel is next to impossible. All of the leaders of Saudi, Iran, Syria, UAE, Qatar, etc don't want to loose power."
C: "I disagree: you are viewing the region too monolithically.
Saudi Arabia: has moderating gov't compared to some of its populace. If we lose in Iraq, it will be bad for the Saudi gov't short term, because all the yahoos who support Al Qaeda will turn to Saudi Arabia. The gov't itself is split there between two separate crown princes. One is a would-be reformer, the other would spin the dial back a century or two more than it already is. If we win in Iraq, that is very good for the Saudi gov't short term, but in the long term will cause them to reform -- which we want them to do. Overall: Saudis will choose their short term interest and worry about long term later.
"Iran: they are definitely funding Sadr and his group, but the US/Iraqis have been successful in politically isolating Sadr from the mainstream Shi'ites, with the help of Sistani. That is the main avenue for Iran to influence Iraq. They can still find common ground with Sunni insurgents and foreign fighters, but much less so than with the Shi'ites.
I think Iran is the next place for pre-emptive action, but the campaign there will look dramatically different from either Iraq or Afghanistan.
"Gulf states: UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, maybe Oman, and Kuwait: these are firmly in our camp, all are democratizing, though slowly, and will not be upset to see us win.
"Syria: probably assisting Sunni and other insurgents, does not want us to win. We're pressuring them with new sanctions if they don't withdraw from Lebanon, hitting them on a different front. Also have lots of Marines on that border."
FOC: "If Iraq is successful, it is a threat to their power and money. They have successfully been able to use Islam to maximize their power and that will be how they discredit anything "good" that happens in Iraq. So to me, even if we do the enormous task of changing Iraq it is still an even larger task to change the region. It will not happen on its own because there are too many forces that oppose our "vision" for the region (French/German/Russia/Radical Islamic/etc)."
C: "It's definitely a 15-20 year deal, but I think it's the right way to make things happen. The Russians already support what we are doing, just not materially or with manpower, but that would be counterproductive anyway, after Afghanistan and Chechnya. The Germans will come around and begin to provide increasing support overall, whether in Iraq or not. Esp if Schroeder loses re-election or is ousted. The French are done. Go ahead and write them off. 10 years from now, France will have more Islamic militants than Iraq. Sharia law is already being practiced by immigrants in the slums of Paris. Watching France go down the tubes over the next few years will not be pretty."
FOC: "The infidel invaders (the US) are saying "you must do this" while other competing powers attempt to achieve their own vision for the region which is very different from their own. Given the discussion above, which side will the proud Arab most likely go with given the choice? His religion will force him to choose to reject the US. The Koran is very clear about what to do with Infidels."
C: "I disagree again, for same reasons as above. Arab world is not so monolithically fundamentalist Islam. Many different flavors, factions, and even secular groups. In the Koran, worse than an infidel is an apostate (according to Bernard Lewis). This is why the Saudi state is being sieged from within for example. And the proud Arab is not so proud. He's really the scared Arab, and has to choose who he fears more: fundamentalist fascism, or the US, or increasingly a secular Iraqi state. I think he will side with US/Iraqis/moderating Arabs when all is said and done because we will have more to offer him than fascism.
"By the way, the second round of the battle of Fallujah is going to kick off any day. Marines have the city cordoned and Allawi is negotiating with sheiks to give up the foreign fighters including Zarqawi. We're also using our new Iraqi forces to gather precise targeting intel on the ground, which is why there are so many airstrikes in the city. I think Allawi will fail, and we'll go into Fallujah after the US election (in case there's a casualty spike). It'll take 1-2 weeks to clean the place out, but will be a crushing blow to the insurgents. Look for Iraqi national forces to be heavily involved in the battle, perhaps on an equal footing with the US. If we play our cards right, we may even capture Zarqawi instead of just killing him -- this is a long shot though. Upside of everything: Elections are going to go off with little difficulty in January. I'll go out on a limb and make that statement."
You are about to witness two changes here at The Adventures of Chester:
1. The left margin of the text will be widened for more readable posts, and less scrolling. One reader has asked that I not do this. None have asked me to, but I feel it is an improvement. I welcome your feedback.
2. Haloscan commenting and trackbacking is now available. I am leaving the blogger comments for now. I welcome feedback on this as well, especially from you frequent commenters out there. If I keep Haloscan, I will keep the blogger comments up until they are archived, then remove that link from the blog. But please use Haloscan, otherwise your comments will be gone forever in a week. If it does not work or has significant problems, please email me.
UPDATE: Note: Please use the leftward-most comment link; it is the new haloscan link and should make commenting easier. I may go ahead and delete the blogger comment link now before this gets too confusing. Does anyone know how to do this without losing all past comments?
I you are interested in how I widened the margin, email me and I will forward the instructions.
Good comments all. Please try the new system though and see what you think.
What about Mosul?
This Fox story gives an overview of the battle, but let's talk Mosul for a moment. Many tidbits in this article.
"The U.S. Army diverted an infantry battalion from the fighting in Fallujah and sent them back to Mosul after an uprising there by insurgents, U.S. military officials said Saturday.
"The 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, a unit of the 25th Infantry Division, was ordered back to Mosul late Thursday after militants attacked bridges, police stations and government buildings in the city, officials said."
[Ah ha! So in addition to the Black Watch, 3rd LAR, 2nd Recon Bn, and possibly 1/2, at least one Stryker battalion was participating in the cordoning of the city. This makes sense -- seems that Strykers could be employed in a very similar manner to Light Armored Vehicles, which comprise 3rd LAR.]
"The battalion, which is now part of the Stryker Brigade of Task Force Olympia, was already back in the Mosul area."
[Not surprising -- speed is the forte of these units -- much more so than their armor. Are any other Stryker Bns in the cordon?]
[Assessment of events in Mosul: The attacks there by insurgents this week were part of a pre-planned strike to coincide with the Fallujah operation, not a result of insurgents moving from Fallujah to Mosul. While some reports note that many key buildings are in the hands of insurgents, it seems that they have no hope of more than a short-term presence. Mosul is a largely Kurdish city, and the Kurds will have little use for the insurgents.]
[ An alert reader wants me to draw your attention the the blog, A star from Mosul, authored by a teenage girl living there.]
Noon Update . . .
"U.S. forces expect to be positioned throughout the last remaining guerrilla stronghold in Falluja by Tuesday.
"They would then have the task of retrieving weapons caches throughout the city said to hold thousands of weapons, from anti-aircraft missiles to machine guns and land mines."
[Note: no doubt many of these caches have been destroyed via sympathetic detonation by airstrike, artillery, or tank rounds. But this implies the US will be "retrieving" them, maybe moving them outside the city for destruction or storage. This will take a long time during the reconstruction phase. It may be tempting to blow them in place, but no doubt we don't want to destroy much more of the city -- people will be moving back in. Moving explosives in large quantities will take a long time - it requires a great deal of care.]
" . . . Major Clark Watson, deputy commander of the 3rd Marines, 1st Battalion [1/3, from Okinawa] . . . estimated U.S. forces had killed about 100 foreign fighters in the offensive."
"Iraq's minister of state for national security said more than 1,000 insurgents had been killed in the past five days of fighting."
[The author's juxtaposition of these two claims is perhaps meant to discredit one or both of them. No doubt Maj Watson was referring to the kills his own unit has made, and not the entire coalition force.]
"American tank commanders said they faced small teams of fighters with rocket-propelled grenades in the Shuhada district."
[Note: This matches a Fox embedded report commented upon yesterday. He's with the Army's 2-2.]
"They also said they had found pick-up trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns."
[This could refer to a ZSU-23-2 Towed Anti-Aircraft System which could possibly be mounted on a truck bed. Would be quite lethal against ground forces if employed in that method, rather than against air. ZSU's seem to be common in Iraq, though perhaps not as many are left as were there a year ago.]
More articles about the aerial battlespace . . .
. . . and the lethality of successfully networked intel and firing nodes. Both are Bing West's journal entries -- the links may look the same but they are different.
Three graphics worth your time . . .
a good visual summary of recent events is posted at Carnivorous Conservative.
Also, The New York Times has another pretty good graphic on its front page, detailing the current locations of the infantry battalions. Two notes: first, in the north of the city, in the Askari neighborhood, it shows a "high-value target" team. I wonder who they are catching? Second, west of the Euphrates, it details the movements of the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance battalion -- vindicating this site once again, as we've noted the Marines in the cordon are most likely Reconnaissance and Light Armored Reconnaissance units.
Carnivorous Conservative has integrated this graphic into his own and the outcome is excellent.
November 12, 2004
NPR : U.S. Troops Push Southward Through Fallujah
An Alert Reader has posted this story in the comments section, noting that when one of the RCT command posts played the Marine Corps hymn on Wednesday, the insurgents attacked, and the commander decided to play it every day.
UPDATE: The Marines' Hymn. Sorry.
Another tidbit . . .
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - U.S. Won't Let Men Flee Fallujah: "Most of the remaining attacks by insurgents inside Fallujah have been on Marines blocking the roads and bridges leaving the city, reports show. Marines have returned fire killing numerous insurgents trying to escape, officers here said."
[Note: I know what you're thinking: "Chester, how can you be blogging on a Friday night? What is Mrs. Chester doing?" Mrs. Chester is at work. Blogging it is for a bit more, then I'm signing off.]
UPDATE: One more tidbit. a good one, same article:
"Once the battle ends, military officials say all surviving military-age men can expect to be tested for explosive residue, catalogued, checked against insurgent databases and interrogated about ties with the guerrillas. U.S. and Iraqi troops are in the midst of searching homes, and plan to check every house in the city for weapons."
I hereby admit I was incorrect in my assertion that not every house would be checked. Looks like they will. I just don't like the phrase "house-to-house" because it can mean different things, and when I hear Chris Matthews saying it, I know it is a cliche.
On a roll . . .
Another vindication for The Adventures of Chester's analysis of yesterday which stated " . . . the southern cordoning. This seems correct, and the USMC forces are probably the 4th Recon Battalion . . . "
Fox is reporting that:
"On Wednesday, a crowd of 225 people surged south out of Fallujah toward the blocking positions of the Marines' 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion. The Marines let 25 women and children pass but separated the 200 military-age men and forced them to walk back into Fallujah."
So it is the 2nd Recon Bn from the East Coast, and not the reserve 4th Recon Bn from Texas. But it is still a recon bn. Interesting that this tidbit is reported from Wednesday and makes the Fox front page today. Leads us to suspect there's a delay on many other stories . . .
Bingo . . .
A key tidbit about who's in charge where: FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - U.S. Won't Let Men Flee Fallujah:
"Army Col. Michael Formica, who leads forces isolating Fallujah . . ."
Ah ha! So Col Formica's 2nd Brigade is in charge of the cordon. Every little bit helps.
Something to chew on . . .
I read this article about Cousin Marriage and Democracy in Iraqwhen it was linked from National Review Online a couple of months ago. I draw your attention to it now. Very interesting hypothesis. When I was in Egypt on a training exercise, we got one day to take a bus tour of the pyramids. The tour guide told us about himself and mentioned that he was married to his cousin and that it is common in the Middle East, though not so much in the West. Interesting . . .
Finally . . .
Fox is finally running something other than the Peterson circus. They quote Islam Online as saying that US forces are using chemical weapons against insurgents in Fallujah. [I can't find the exact reference on the website.]
I agree with the comment of a reader the other day [can't find which post] who said that they are probably using White Phosphorous rounds, which burn the skin and smoke a great deal, and have the added benefit of serving as a marking technique for aerial fires to roll in and finish the job -- combined arms at work: You hit the target with small arms while you call for fire, then watch the bad guys skin burn off, then watch a jet toss something on them just to be sure. Then you do it again.
To the uninitiated, WP would look like chemical weapons.
UPDATE: To the reader who wonders the difference between chemical weapons and white phosphorus, I submit that they are both pretty bad if you are on the receiving end. I imagine that WP is just not considered a chemical weapon by various international treaties. I'll investigate further, but here are some links:
Artillery Terms and Tactics Let's not forget that any kind of artillery fire is pretty hellacious, and this link describes much of it.
Here's a description of a Soviet-made WP munition.
UPDATE 2: Many good insightful comments about this post. If only we had a subject matter expert who could answer our speculation about WP. Also, perhaps I spoke out of turn about the "watching their skin burn off" bit. A little too graphic perhaps. Keep the comments coming.
An Alert Reader posted this link. Headquarters Marines getting out and mixing it up? I can really appreciate that. Hell hath no fury like a noncombatant.
Request for Reader Feedback
For the next half hour I will be answering reader email from earlier in the week. I welcome reader email and will answer every one I get. Please provide me your thoughts on the content of this site, its layout, or other topics you would like me to cover.
UPDATE: We will talk about Iran on this site soon. I have also received the new Atlantic and will read it over the weekend. My first reaction is that anyone (James Fallows in this case) who says, as the cover does, that "Military strikes would invite disaster" is just silly. Military strikes always invite disaster. That's why you have to win. Ido like the Atlantic though, because it has articles by Mark Steyn, Robert Kaplan, and Chris Hitchens, three of my favorites.
Foreign Policy and bloggers
If you're waiting for the Peterson reports to end, here's a good article about the growing influence of bloggers on foreign policy, especially in Iran.
There is nary a mention of Fallujah on CNN.com. Things must be going well.
Go to this Fox link, Americans Push Deeper Into Fallujah go to the right hand side of the page and watch the video entitled, "Closing In," for the latest from a Retired Army LtCol with TF 2/2 in the city. TF 2/2 just destroyed an enemy force of 25 insurgents. Other highlights from this report:
-"massive artillery prep was just executed."
-"soldiers are continuing to clear house-by-house."
-says they are "in the extreme southeastern portion" of the city
-says "enemy strongpoints" are composed of "multiple two-three man anti-armor killer teams."
The article linked says, "U.S. forces are taking incoming fire from mobs of insurgents on the city's perimeter. To fight back, Marines are calling in air strikes."
If there are mobs, then our cordon is working. This is excellent news.
An alert reader has emailed that another embed report from Fox details the ambush of 9 Army armored vehicles in the city.
All of these reports indicate the final salient for the defense.
Fox is promising two hours of Fallujah coverage from 3-5p central, but is currently in a post-orgasmic state about the Peterson verdict. I'd much rather hear North give his thoughts.
Details of the 3rd Dimension in the Battlespace . . .
Boundary shifts accompanying phase changes were covered last night:
"One of the things that Phase changes can mean is a change in boundaries. This is probably the case here, as reports that US forces have crossed Highway 10 running through central Fallujah indicate a possible boundary shift."
I failed to mention the extreme importance of boundaries to units in general, and to aircraft in particular. The location of a boundary has a great deal to do with determining where aviation assets will be employed and boundaries are essential to mitigating friendly-fire incidents [Note: along with few reports of civilian casualties, there are also few reports of friendly-fire incidents in the Battle of Fallujah.].
This article details the complexity of the aerial battlespace:
More from former British Para . . .
The Brit referenced yesterday has his own blog, Die Jakkalsgat, and has posted an Order of Battle update. Good overview.
I take issue with the 24th MEU's 1/2 in blocking position east of Euphrates. Makes more sense that the battlespace east of the Euphrates and outside the city is under MEF control -- and this doesn't jive with the 24th MEU reporting to the MNB SC.
Also, does anyone have imagery or a map of Latifiyah? It is not on my National Geographic map. All of the Globalsecurity imagery from Latifiyah is really of Al-Qaqaa and does not shows the surroundings.
More clues of US and insurgent tactics . . .
This Long Island News article is written by an embedded reporter and offers more clues into US tactics.
Interestingly, it appears as though the tank-infantry teams necessary for urban warfare have been created at the battalion level, at least in this case:
" . . . it was the 2nd Battalion that led the way, riding in tanks and Bradleys and blasting the way for Marine infantrymen, who go door-to-door in the hunt for insurgents who have survived the initial onslaught."
The US probably did this because it did not like the idea of commingling US and Army units at anything lower than the battalion-level. This makes sense from a unit cohesion standpoint, but note that the lack of tank-infantry teams at the company level, and instead their separate existence as independent battalions, has created a vulnerability or two from time to time:
"After the first push down a north-south main road the Americans have named Henry, his men reached their goals in the Jolan neighborhood ahead of schedule. They then had to wait longer than expected for the Marines to sweep in behind. That left the 2nd Battalion vulnerable as they waited in captured buildings."
Insurgent command and control clues . . .
How are the insurgents controlling their side of the battle and coordinating their defense? Are they doing so at all?
Here are some clues to their systems of command and control . . .
This article can lead to several inferences about insurgent command and control: they are extremely decentralized and have been likely given a wide statement of intent, along with some rudimentary training, and then released to do what they see fit. No doubt there are some sleeper cells still in the city, as speculated. In this sense, the units described are not being controlled at all, but are acting in an every-man-for-himself manner.
Yesterday, a look at some classic command and control theory was promised, and it is appropriate here.
From the undisputed Bible of Command and control, Martin Van Creveld's "Command in War," (the conclusion);
" . . .what are the implications for the organization of command systems and the way they operate? . . . there are five, all interacting with each other:
(a) the need for decision thresholds to be fixed as far down the hierarchy as possible;
(b) the need for an organization that will make such low-decision thresholds possible by providing self-contained units at a fairly low level;
(c) the need for a regular reporting and information-transmission system working from the top-down and the bottom up;
(d) the need for the active search for information by headquarters in order to supplement the information routinely sent to it by the units at its command;
(e) the need to maintain an informal, as well as a formal, network of communications inside the organization."
The insurgency is certainly decentralized, but does it have reporting systems in place at all within the city?
This New York Times article details the use of rudimentary signalling systems to concentrate and coordinate fires by the enemy. An excerpt:
"But these marines [sic] did see a black flag pop up all at once above a water tower about 100 yards away, then a second flag somewhere in the gloaming above a rooftop. And the shots began, in a wave this time, as men bobbed and weaved through alleyways and sprinted across the street. "He's in the road, he's in the road, shoot him!" Sergeant Brown shouted. "Black shirt!" someone else yelled. "Due south!"
The flags are the insurgents' answer to two-way radios, their way of massing the troops and - in a tactic that goes back at least as far as Napoleon - concentrating fire on an enemy."
From these accounts, it appears that the insurgents have both active fighters who are being controlled in some sense, at least to the point of coordinating fires, if not maneuver, and also more lone-wolf type fighters who are completely released from any oversight.
UPDATE: I mistakenly quoted the book as "On Command." It is "Command in War." I've added an Amazon link to the right.
Latest from Fox
Embedded reporter Greg Palkot with 3/5 was just on Fox saying that he thought 80% of the city was under US control. The footage shows a Marine firing a Javelin missilein the direction of a tall, spired structure.
Like many anti-tank weapons, these missiles could also be used in a bunker-busting capability. Or he could have been shooting an enemy technical vehicle of some kind.
One thing is for certain: whoever was on the receiving end just had a significant life event and probably needs some new drawers.
Tomorrow . . .
Blogging will be from 1pm to 5pm central time. So you'll have a reason to be in front of your computer at work on a Friday afternoon.
Also in the morning if time.
Also, by way of explanation: An anonymous reader has asked I stop using technical terms like phase, stage, etc. and instead describe the battle in a narrative fashion, and not to try to figure out what the planners envisaged. Also to stop quoting Mao.
Response: No more Mao. You're right. His thoughts are old. I still think them relevant though. To discuss guerrilla warfare, you have to start somewhere and that's what I pulled off the bookshelf. It is a good book. And you have to understand guerrilla warfare before you can start to think about Netwar.
As far as the first point, sorry, but I will continue trying to see the battle from both a planning and an executing mindset. That's just what I do.
November 11, 2004
Another outstanding graphic over at . . .
. . . Carnivorous Conservative. Today's is truly impressive. Conservative, you should get hired by a newspaper.
Note who he thinks is doing the southern cordoning. This seems correct, and the USMC forces are probably the 4th Recon Battalion, and whatever Light Armored Reconnaissance battalion is in theater. Not sure which Army Cav unit Conservative thinks is down there, but I trust him.
For background roundup on the whole shooting match, go see:
It is outstanding. Fantastic roundup of links.
Here's a quick summary of all I have predicted thus far, in no order:
1. US attack will begin when US election is over.
Result: Correct. Phase One began Tuesday night, US time.
2. US Order of Battle will include at least 1st Marine Regiment, at least one MEU, and several thousand Iraqi troops.
Result: Correct, with a little clarity on RCT 1 needed.
3. Zarqawi is still in the city.
Result: ????? US commanders for the first time yesterday said he may not be.
4. US will execute an extremely well-detailed operational plan, honed over 7 months, rehearsed and grasped by the lowliest Marine on the ground. The planning will be flexible to changes in the situation on the ground.
Result: Correct. The tempo of this attack, combined with reports that it is well-ahead of schedule, prove this true.
5. Black Watch is a blocking force, with highway from Fallujah to Baghdad a free-fire zone for Marine Air.
Result: Incorrect. Black Watch is southof the Euphrates, patrolling there for any insurgents escaping through the US cordon. In retrospect, I think the report of the Black Watch's presence in Al Iskandiriyah, on which I based my prediction, was indicating that the brigade had only stopped there on the way to their final position. Also, teh distance from Fallujah to Baghdad is much too far for the Black Watch to be effective as a blocking force if deployed in a north to south line. And what am I thinking, that the insurgents would escape in some kind of armored/motorized/mounted/technical vehicle fashion? Wrong.
6. Campaign will be in three phases: Phase I: Shaping the Battlespace, Phase II: Ground Assault, Phase III: Exploitation, Pursuit, Reconstruction.
Result: Correct so far. I'm sticking with this analysis even though my numbering/designation scheme might be a little off.
7. US has excellent technical and human intelligence.
Result: Inconclusive. We have certainly killed a good number of the enemy, but our reconnaissance could have been by fire. Will have to read up a little more on this one.
8. Insurgents will stand and fight.
Result: Correct. Some element of the enemy stayed in the city and fought.
9. The US and Iraq will seek to decisively engage the insurgents, and will not stall for negotiations or political solutions.
Result: Correct. This is a decisive battle.
10. The battle will last a week to two weeks in Fallujah, and then roll to other cities. The assault on other cities' insurgents is likely triggered by certain key triggers or objectives being met that we are not privy to.
Result: Signs point to yes.
11. The insurgents will kill more Iraqi civilians than US ground troops will.
Result: Hard to quantify, but as I've noted in a previous post, the US seems to be killing very few civilians, otherwise we would all hear about it.
12. We are likely to see veterans of other Al Qaeda campaigns surface in Fallujah; what you might call the "enlisted" fighters of Al Qaeda -- the committed trigger-pullers as opposed to the plotting, more notorious commanders. Look for many of the foreign fighters to be vets of Somalia, Afghanistan, etc.
Result: Something about this has crossed my radar screen, but I haven't had time to process. Thoughts, readers?
Note: I will attempt to interpret what is happening, and to make predictions on this page. I will not second-guess our ground commanders. I'll leave that to the armchairists on the Sunday-morning talk shows.
ABC News: U.S. Launches Second Phase in Fallujah
About "Phase 2" . . .
In fact, I cannot find a quote that this is phase 2 beginning.
Let's assume it does come from a US military spokesman though. What can this tell us?
In planning a campaign, the first division of tasks is into phases. The next division is into stages. I've posted several times that I think this is a three-phase battle in Fallujah,
1. Shaping the Battlespace
2. Ground Assault
3. Exploitation, Reconstruction, Installation of Government,
and that we are currently in Phase 2, Ground Assault.
If a military spokesman has said Phase 2 starts today, that means that I am off a little in the scope of the planning, not the overall sequence of events.
If Phase 2 is starting today, that means that:
Phase 1 has ended. Phase 1 probably consisted of many Stages, with letter designators: A, B, C. So shaping the battlefield was a smaller task than if it required its own phase, and was instead a stage of Phase 1. Same with the initial ground assault. it would be very interesting to know what the triggers were for calling Phase 2: could be capture of key terrain, teh convergence and link-up of two units (like the Army Cav regiment and one of the RCTs -- they've kind of been doing an L-shaped attack), etc.
One of the things that Phase changes can mean is a change in boundaries. This is probably the case here, as reports that US forces have crossed Highway 10 running through central Fallujah indicate a possible boundary shift.
What is more significant is that the Phase change happens after the vast majority of the city has been picked over. This could indicate that the next stage in this phase will involve both reconstruction, etc very rapidly in Fallujah, and assaults in other cities.
Stand by for Prediction Update . . .
Coming in a few minutes . . .
More from Chairman Mao . . .
(. . . check the Amazon link to the right to see if you like this book)
"In general, guerrilla units disperse to operate:
1. When the enemy is overextended in defense, and sufficient force cannot be concentrated against him, guerrillas must disperse, harrass him, and demoralize him.
2. When encircled by the enemy, guerrillas disperse to withdraw.
3. When the nature of the ground limits action, guerrillas disperse.
4. When the availability of supplies limits action, guerrillas disperse.
5. Guerrillas disperse in order to promote mass movements over a wide area.
Regardless of the circumstances that prevail at the time of dispersal, caution must be exercised in certain matters:
[Here comes the good part.]
1. A relatively large group should be retained as a central force. The remainder of the troops should not be divided into groups of absolutely equal size. In this way, the leader is in a position to deal with any circumstances that may arise.
2. Each dispersed unit should have clear and definite responsibilities. Orders should specify a place to which to proceed, a time of proceeding, and the place, time and method of assembly."
[See my description of a possible defense of Fallujah.]
Black Watch article
The reader who asked me to look into the 24th MEU has sent me this article, which I excerpt, as its source requires registration:
It has some interesting tidbits about the command relationships between the Black Watch and the 24th MEU. Note: Can you guess if the reporter is for or against the war? Try it and see.
Copyright 2004 Telegraph Group Limited
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH(LONDON)
November 08, 2004, Monday
HEADLINE: Nothing for the Black Watch to show but a lament
BYLINE: By Richard Lloyd-Parry and Padraic Flanagan
AT dawn yesterday, a lone piper marched stolidly across the Jurf
al-Sukhr bridge, which links the west and east banks of the Euphrates, playing a lament for the three Black Watch soldiers killed three days earlier.
In a regimental tradition dating back centuries, the battle group's
commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel James Cowan, asked for the piper to play before they began another dangerous operation.
Still carrying his SA80 rifle, though out of his constricting body
armour and helmet, Pipe Major Scott Taylor, 34, from Glasgow, stood on the bridge to honour his recently fallen comrades.
Fellow members of the Black Watch D Company - the group that suffered fatal casualties last Thursday - were visibly moved by the playing of Flowers of the Forest and Highland Laddie.
Yet within hours more soldiers from the battle group had fallen
casualty. There was an explosion, soldiers saw a mushroom cloud, and two more were injured.
Word of the casualties quickly spread by radio. Two young privates, Greg McPherson, 19, and Raymond White, 18, trembled as they listened to the radio traffic in the back of their Warrior.
"Everyone was chain smoking like there was no tomorrow," said Maurice McDonald, a photographer for the Press Association, who was on the bridge when the explosion took place.
"Even the piper was mad at it. We had to open the back of the Warrior to let in some fresh air."
However, despite five deaths and 10 injuries, the Black Watch have made no palpable progress in any of their objectives: combating banditry, gathering intelligence on insurgent activity in their area of operation, and intercepting guerrillas on the supply routes to and from the rebel-held city of Fallujah, where an imminent US assault is expected.
So far, at least, Col Cowan has been vindicated in his judgment,
expressed in a private e-mail leaked to The Daily Telegraph last month that "every lunatic terrorist from miles around [will] descend on us like bees to honey". He added: "I hope the Government knows what it has got itself into. I'm not sure they fully appreciate the risks."
Col Cowan has refused to comment on the e-mails, but no one at Camp Dogwood has disputed their authenticity.
Yesterday's operation was not the idea of the colonel. It was ordered -"very quickly", according to military sources in Dogwood - by the men whocommand him, the officers of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, led by Colonel Rob Johnson.
It involved all three companies and most of the soldiers of the
800-strong battle group - and so depleted was Camp Dogwood that the regiment's cooks and medical orderlies guarded the perimeter.
The object was two-fold: to seal off key routes used by insurgents, channelling them into mobile road blocks; and to set up Forward Operating Base Springfield, a temporary position east of the river. The base was successfully established but, within hours, it had come under the same rocket and mortar fire which has plagued Camp Dogwood. And despite the elaborate arrangement of intercepts, the operation failed to net any
guerrillas or their weapons.
Who's on a tropical island reading this right now?
Have had several blips from the Afghan time-zone too. Who are you folks and what are your stories? Are you US military (Guam, Afghanistan?)
I guess it could be Siberia too.
UPDATE: Another reader thinks the far west islands of Alaska.
Sorry for all the TLAs
TLA = three-letter acronym
MEU: Marine Expeditionary Unit
MAGTF: Marine Air-Ground Task Force
RCT: Regimental Combat Team
Another followup . . .
If the Brit and I are right, then that means:
2/5 is still in or around Ramadi,
1/2 will be detached from 24th MEU to fight in Ramadi
RCT 5 will C2 Ramadi
and other battalions from Fallujah will be shifted to RCT 5 for the fight. Possibly with 2/7 Cav for armor assets. First question to figuring out if this is right is: How many bad guys are in Ramadi?
Another word on the armor assets: more than likely they are not being employed as a battalion. Urban fighting requires tank-infantry teams and to do that you have to mix them up. So at the individual battalion level, even though they are still reporting as 2/7 Cav or 1/8, they have added tank platoons and spun off infantry companies. This is textbook though, and the textbook isn't always followed.
Quick followup thought . . .
A MEU Command Element is really like a tiny little MEF command element in makeup and function. It has all of the necessities to control an entire MAGTF.
An RCT on the other hand, does not have the breadth of staff necessary to control a MAGTF, but it certainly has what is needed to control several infantry bns.
Perhaps 1/3 has been detached from 31 MEU and given to RCT 7 or RCT 1 for the fight. 31 MEU is perhaps C2ing the western battalions.
My gut tells me Fallujah is RCT 7 and RCT 1, and RCT 5 is planning Ramadi, even though at least one of its battalions (3/5) is in Fallujah.
Is this what counting cards in Vegas feels like?
Thoughts from a former British Para
An Alert Reader emails his assessment of the battlefield. He is an "ex. Para Regiment officer who went into Iraq last March attached to 1 (UK) Armd Div HQ as an ops/int officer." [My notes in brackets.]
"First, the attack on Fallujah is being run by MajGen Rick Natonski, and the precise nature of the command chain is difficult to establish."
[Have I mentioned on this blog that my boss at work was a Marine too? Yesterday at lunch he told me his TBS roommate was Rick Natonski. Unbelievable.][I completely agree; getting a handle on this chain of command is difficult.]
"For example: 24 MEU is still running North Babil province with the UK BG under tacon, but the BLT has moved north to assist in the Fallujah operation. So, in that sense, 24 MEU is not part of the operation, but 1/2 Marines are. But who are they reporting to? 1 MarDiv directly, or some lower command? So my start point is who was where BEFORE this operation kicked off."
[I bet the 24th MEU is reporting directly to I MEF; this allows Gen Natonski and 1MarDiv to focus on Fallujah while I MEF worries about the rest of its zone. If the Euphrates is a major demarcation of unit sectors, this would also make sense, as 1MarDiv would have the north, and various other units, incl 24th MEU, the south.]
"1 Mar Div had 5 RCT and 7 RCT under command, also 11, 24 and 31 MEU and several other 'independant' units."
[Sounds about right, but where is RCT-1? For the uninitiated, RCTs 1,5, and 7 are organic to 1MarDiv. Hang on, it gets more complicated still.]
"11 MEU has 1/4 Marines under command. They remain further south responsible for Najaf and Diwaniyah."
[Makes sense . . .]
"24 MEU had 1/2 Marines and 2/24 Marines under command. The 1/2 Marines were replaced by the British Back Watch BG, but it is likely the 2/24 Marines have remained in place."
[I agree. 2/24 is a reserve infantry battalion, I think from Chicago, and reserve battalions, like it or not, usually get guard duty somewhere while battles kick off. Not always though. A California reserve bn was organic to RCT1 during the invasion and performed superbly.]
"31 MEU has 1/3 Marines under command. I'm not sure where exactly, but on 30 Oct they lost about 6 marines. It seems pretty likely that they are involved in the Fallujah operation, but from which direction?"
[We now know that they came from the north, with 5 other battalions. Still not sure what regimental commands are in charge of what battalions though. I said the other day that I thought 31st Marines was in charge of 1/3 and Army's 2/2 and USMC 1/8. I said this because Army involvement makes it joint, and MEU Command Elements are Joint-Task Force Enablers. But one Army battalion along with two USMC battalions isn't very joint, really, and a USMC RCT command would have no trouble C2ing the whole thing. But which one would it be?]
"As of August, 7 RCT under Col Craig Tucker consists of:
2d Force Recon Co
1/8 Marines - north west or Fallujah
1/7 Marines - Hit
1/23 Marines - out West....
3 LAR - out West....
C Co, 1st CEB
503d Iraqi National Guard Bn"
[1/23 is also a reserve unit -- Texas Marines -- so they are probably still out west. Not saying they can't hack it, just saying that's what usually happens. We know that 1/8 is in Fallujah. And isn't RCT-7's command in Fallujah too? If so, who is left commanding the battalions guarding the Syrian border? Whatever is happening, units are getting attached and detached like it's going out of style.]
"I'm trying to build up the units in 5 RCT, or is it 1 RCT??? as there seems to have been some recent changes. 2/5 Marines and 3/5 Marines are there or thereabouts, 2/1 Marines keep cropping up, but 1/5, 2/4 and 3/24 Marines I think have left. 1 tank btn was in theatre recently, and I think 3 AA btn too."
[1/5 has definitely left the theater. Probably 3/24 too -- no mention of them at all past few days. And 2/4 is more than likely in a MEU train-up cycle, so it's not there.]
"On the army side, there is plenty of talk about units 'in the area' but the only one that seems to have gone 'into' Fallujah is 2/7 Cavalry - an armoured recce TF. Now, they were previously attached to 11 MEU during the attack on Najaf, so it seems they have become a sort of pseudo-marine unit!"
[2/7 Cav is valuable b/c of its armor. If it participated in Najaf, then it is probably being used again in Fallujah because of unit experience and because it is the one that the 1st Cav has assigned to give the MEF if needed.]
[The fact that so many units are organized in such an unusual way is a reflection of how long we've been there and the fact that the USMC is rotating battalions in 6-7 mo tours, rather than 12-14.]
Where is the 24th MEU?
I've promised a reader to decipher this tonight. First thought, with no evidence whatsoever, just a gut feel: 24th MEU's infantry, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, is preparing to participate in the Ramadi attack. Therefore they are RIPing (relief in place) with the Black Watch, which is currently under the command of the 24th MEU. I think the Euphrates is a unit boundary and the 24th MEU seems to be south of it, as that is where the Black Watch was last reported patrolling. Ramadi is also south of the Euphrates.
Thank You Anonymous Commenter!
Amazon.com: Books: Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror
Some ruminations on reforming US intelligence will appear in several later posts over the coming weeks.
Check this out
Video footage of the training of Iraqi forces prior to the Fallujah battle. The whole page may be worth bookmarking. I can't get the video to work though. Check it out and see what you can make of it.
UPDATE: An Alert Reader sends me this report:
1. DVIDS video worked ok.
2. Must 1st register & get confirming email back.
3. After that (<5 mins), logged on to site. Everything worked fine.
4. Am using old Pentium 450 mHz with Win 98 on fiber optic ISP
Battle of Grozny Study
Many links from Alert Readers tonight. An Alert Reader emails:
"I am a former Marine (E-4, 0311 primary, 3/7 Camp LeJune, N.C. ’89-92) Gulf War Vet and I also worked as a war correspondent/TV Producer from 1992 until 1996. During That time I covered most of the fighting in Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Nagorno-Karabagh, Georgia, Afghanistan and Chechnya.
"The knocking holes through walls tactic was actually developed during Stalingrad, but was most effectively used recently by the Chechens during the battle of Grozny from Dec. ’94 until Feb.’95. It would not surprise me if there are some Chechens in Falluja presently, or in fact, had trained these particular Muj prior to the assault on the city.
"In fact, all that I have read of late about the Muj’s tactics seems to prove that they are following the exact lessons and tactics that the Chechens used in Grozny in ’94. Unfortunately, for them….the US Marines are not the Russian Army. I’ll send you a link to the US Army study of the Battle of Grozny that I have somewhere soon, and you may see for yourself."
PARAMETERS, US Army War College Quarterly - Summer 1999
Slow start tonight . . .
. . . due to my participation in two intramural basketball games and the fact that Mrs. Chester is under the weather and requires my attention.
Fear not. Plenty of things to post tonight.
Chester referenced on Fox News Live?
An Alert Reader has just sent me an email stating that David Asman on Fox News "mentioned a website he had been reading that talked about Mao and resistance fighters."
Mr. Asman, feel free to quote my site, but please offer credit where credit is due, and give your viewers the web address. I'll be waiting for today's transcripts to see the reference.
Also, if anyone at Fox is reading this, I have a story idea for you.
I just had Fox on while I was making my lunch. Whatever program is on has an anchor surrounded by a studio audience. The anchor is interviewing three US troops who were severely wounded in Iraq. One's face is partially disfigured and he had to spend ten months walking again, and his whole platoon died. The other two had equally bad things happen to them.
The story is about Veteran's Day, and the pitch is to honor these veterans. What is inspiring about them is their attitudes -- all three are very positive, ready to come out swinging, just trying to raise awareness of wounded vets from Iraq.
This is an excellent story. The character trait that these men display is called moral courage, and there is some unselfishness thrown in to boot.
But my question to Fox is, why are veterans only honored on TV if they fit into the box of being a victim? Don't get me wrong: certainly you honor all veterans. But the ones you are interviewing ON THE AIR could easily fit into the victim box --if their attitudes were different, this might be the tone they took.
What I am asking is: why don't you interview some veterans who have shown physical courage? Get some guys up there who have been decorated for saving lives under fire, or who pressed on in attacking when wounded, or who slew an overwhelming enemy force single-handedly? Provide this as a counterpoint to the guys who were wounded in bomb blasts and let's have a more robust conversation about courage, service, and sacrifice.
Let me give you an example:
Loyal Readers, raise your hands (unless you are at work) if you have ever heard of Lyndie England, Jeremy Spivits, or any of the other bad apples who were involved in the Abu Ghraib incident?
Through the mist of the internet, I see many hands raised.
Now readers, raise your hands if you have ever heard of Brian Chontosh.
I see few if any hands up.
I'm not buddies with Brian Chontosh, but he was in my class at The Basic School in Quantico when I was there. I think he finished 3 or so out of 250.
You should ask yourself why you know the names of the Abu Ghraib crowd, but not Brian Chontosh.
If our society stops recognizing physical courage, there will no longer be any episodes to recognize. So what do you say, Fox?
[In the interest of full disclosure, I never fired a shot in Iraq myself, and was never in any firefights, though within hearing distance of a few. Closest I got was when the Iraqis fired all the French and Chinese missiles at us while we were still in Kuwait. They missed.]
UPDATE: An Alert Reader has asked if I am correct about the soldier losing his platoon. I think it was a helicopter crash, not a firefight. Could definitely be a smaller size - like a squad, but I think I heard platoon. Like I said, I was making lunch. Transcript may be out . . .
More to come . . .
Tonight, let's examine what is being reported as Phase 2 and see how it fits into my analysis of the battle plan.
Also, some more references to Chairman Mao, along with some classic Command and Control theory.
November 10, 2004
Last post for tonight
Chester has reached his culminating point for today. Remembering that there are no tired units, only tired commanders, he is going to sleep.
Tomorrow's news will tell us if we can declare Phase II to be over.
the fourth rail has been kind enough to link to me and I return the favor. Good news roundups there.
Many new improvements to the website coming soon . . . last thing I do tonight is put up a link to the Mao book at Amazon.
Until tomorrow . . .
UPDATE: I've received so much email that I've only been responding to donation-generated email for the most part. But I'll get to everyone in due time.
Level More Mosques
The US is still being too nice. When you think of how many of your tax dollars are going to be shelled out to rebuild this city, including its mosques, would you not agree that it'll be alright to level a few? We'll rebuild them better than they were anyway.
"Almost immediately, they came under fire from a sniper in the minaret of a mosque just south of them. Someone in a three-story residential building farther down the street also opened up. The marines made 50-yard dashes and dived for cover, but one of them was cut down, killed on the spot. It was unclear what direction the fatal bullet had come from."
"After two hours of bombardment, the sniper at that mosque ceased firing. But just around the corner at the famous blue-domed Khulafah Al Rashid mosque, another sniper was pinning down marines, and airstrikes were called in on it, too. The issue of striking at mosques is so sensitive in the Arab world that the American military later issued a statement saying that the strike on the Khulafah mosque was unavoidable and that precision munitions merely knocked down a minaret."
They've Finally Made Up Their Minds . . .
. . . and the verdict is that Yassir Arafatis dead.
What if they left? Mao and Guerrilla Warfare
Much media hand-wringing has been heard in the last 48 hours about insurgents possibly escaping the city.
How to take this? First a few quotes from Mao Tse-Tung, who successfully prosecuted a variety of guerrilla campaigns before bequeathing such lovely things as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution to history [note: for an excellent film about these events, rent the movie, Huozhe (1994) ("To Live")].
I use the text of Mao's book translated by Brig. Gen. Samuel B. Griffith II, USMC, who had a PhD in Chinese military history from Oxford. Mao's text was written in 1937.
Mao's political goal was the complete emancipation of the Chinese people from the Japanese. He states the fundamental steps necessary as these:
1. Arouse and organize the people.
2. Achieve internal unification politically.
3. Establish bases.
4. Equip forces.
5. Recover national strength.
6. Destroy enemy national strength.
7. Regain lost territories.
Six full pages of this book are dedicated to the importance of establishing bases. Let's focus on that, as it is the most relevant to the Fallujah battle. Here are some further quotes:
"The problem of establishment of bases is of particular importance."
"The guerrilla base may be defined as an area, strategically located, in which the guerrillas can carry out their duties of training, self-preservation, and development. Ability to fight a war without a rear area is a fundamental characteristic of guerrilla action, but ths does not mean that guerrillas can exist and function over a long period of time without the development of base areas."
And here we have the way to understand what is happening in Fallujah. The battle is accomplishing several goals:
1. Kill all those who fight us.
2. Eliminate a base of operations for terrorist and anti-Iraq forces.
3. Establish a representative government, politically friendly or part of the national government.
4. Allow Iraqi forces to participate in the battles and to build their warfighting skills, and the legitimacy of their government.
5. Defeat various means of insurgent media-strength: safe places to keep hostages; inflated casualty figures.
6. Destroy insurgent command and control networks.
7. Exploit intelligence.
The insurgency now has no base in Fallujah. It will soon have no base in Ramadi or the other few towns where insurgents are massed. An insurgency without a base cannot survive. The only places that will be left for bases will be outside the country . . . Syria, Iran, etc, . . .
Snap Reaction to CNN with Aaron Brown
Forget FOX, switched to CNN. Note: If we all refuse to watch it, they will stop covering the Scott Peterson trial. I promise. It's magic.
Jamie McIntyre reporting from Pentagon. Embeds with Army battalion in Fallujah.
Lt Gen Sattler on screen at press conference saying, I paraphrase, "The enemy cannot communicate amongst themselves."
and embed reports that insurgents punched holes in walls of buildings to create routes through them, rather than using the street.
I noted the probability of both of these last night: The Adventures of Chester: Insurgent Defensive Plan
Embed notes that anti-tank mines were piled up by insurgents in the streets. This is very interesting. Anti-tank mines aren't very effective when you can see them in piles. It's when your tank goes over them without your knowledge that you have a bad day. The insurgents were probably planning to command-detonate these, possibly in an attempt to level a building. Even if you wanted to surface-lay a minefield for deterrent purposes, you would not pile them up.
Embed reports she has seen no civilians at all today.
CNN now shifts to a writer from the New Yorker, who is coming from Dubai. Writer states that he is not surprised that many insurgents have left the city, and states that a hard-core group was probably left behind to defend it.
This is excellent news. Whoever was defending is now dead. And if it was the hard-core resistance then they won't be around to provide inspiration to the lower guys.
Make no mistake: no doubt some insurgents left. But no doubt many are very dead.
CNN shows lots of footage of things that happen when battles are slowing down: LtGen Sattler in joint press conference with Iraqi general; Iraqi troops raising Iraqi flags over the city; US and Iraqi troops embracing; US officer telling Iraqi officer it was an honor to fight alongside him.
Question: Has Phase II, The Ground Assault, ended? It seems to be winding down. Few reports tonight mention "fierce," "tough," "heavy," fighting that is currently happening. Note how this site predicted the shift from Phase II to Phase III, (Exploitation, Reconstruction and Installation of Government) would look: Where to from here? Predictive Analysis
What are the metrics to judge Phase II over? And what are the signs in the media that will show that these metrics have been met? Troops congratulating each other is surely one . . .
10 Minute Op-Pause
For you know who to check her email.
I will listen in to FOX, skim Mao's Guerrilla Warfare Book, and prepare the next post.
After than comes the much promised Prediction Roundup.
Hugh Hewitt Show Update
I spoke with Hugh on the phone today. I may join the show again on Monday. Hugh had a Marine Colonel on today (or will tomorrow), but likes balancing with a former lieutenant.
Carnivorous Conservative: Rough Picture from News Reports
Carnivorous Conservative has been dong some outstanding work athis site.
I won't call his latest image a joint-venture graphic -- he did it without me. It is excellent.
Carnivorous also tells me via email that he had a root canal yesterday. He is probably "Jello-ivorous" right about now.
Go see his graphic. Right now.
Zarqawi Not Likely In Fallujah
-can't find link to this one. If true then that is a wrong prediction for me. Highlights from the article:
November 10, 2004
Zarqawi Not Likely In Fallujah
Military officials say terrorist is traversing Iraq
"The sources said the Jordanian-born terrorist began a sojourn throughout the country that took him to towns around Baghdad to recruit followers and plan attacks."
"He also greets newly arrived jihadists, who enter through the Syrian, Iranian and Saudi Arabian borders, and gives them targets to bomb. Often, within days of their arrival, a car bomb explodes, killing civilians."
"An Islamic Web site says Zarqawi's organization, formerly called Tawhid and Jihad, is responsible for virtually all the car bombings in Iraq. He targets Iraqi security forces cooperating with the U.S.-backed interim government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi."
"We think he moves around Iraq," Gen. Metz said. "We are keeping the intel capability looking for him outside of Fallujah, also."
After the Fallujah fight, then what? | csmonitor.com
Highlight with notes:
On psychological nature of strategy:
"If US-led forces take Fallujah with relative quickness and efficiency, Samarra, Ramadi, and other restive regions may decide that harboring insurgents isn't worth it. But if the attack stalls, or causes large numbers of civilian casualties, moderate or politically uncommitted Iraqis might decide that the guerrilla fighters could end up winners, after all."
Note: You bet. Taking the worst place down first, and quickly, will make the following battles easier.
On the "what if they run away? THEN WHAT, HUH?" attitude:
"Furthermore, it's possible that the insurgents will not fight to the last man in Fallujah, but will withdraw and regroup elsewhere, waiting for a time and place to strike again. Samarra has already seen something of this dynamic of retreat and resurgence. Elsewhere, Mosul, Ramadi, and other cities might see an upsurge in violence prior to scheduled elections."
Note: Readers, have no doubt that despite our cordoning operations, many insurgents have escaped. Also have no doubt that there will be an uptick in violence in other cities over the next weeks. Also have no doubt that large numbers of insurgents can flee and we can still claim a victory in Fallujah. By fleeing and blowing themselves up elsewhere, they gradually become irrelevant. More on this later tonight.
On what this site has termed Phase III: Exploitation, Reconstruction, and Installation of Government
"But it may be the battle after the battle that determines which direction Fallujah and other areas of Iraq not now entirely under government control will slide. And that battle - consisting of the stability and nation-building activities that have proven so difficult to this point - will be increasingly out of US hands. "It will be Iraqi politics, governance, economic and aid activity, and military and security forces that ultimately win or lose," says Mr. Cordesman."
Note: The US military's velvet-gloved fist will be the deciding factor keeping the Iraqi forces from losing.
Results - News Release Generator
Big news today about hostage slaughterhouses found in Fallujah. We should make every reporter tour these, with cameras.
This news release seems mundane . . . why dedicate one to a single airstrike? The important detail is the terminology. I think it is alluding to the increasing proficiency of Iraqi forces in using combined arms attacks. If this was an Iraqi calling in the jet, that bodes well.
This news release has outstanding info about the organization, placement and command structure of Iraqi units. It also mentions that the Iraqi government has named Major General Abdul Qader Mohammed Jassim as the new Mayor of Fallujah. I predicted this last night.
Surprise! Insurgents are using mosques.
A word on terminology:
"Regimental Combat Team 7" or RCT-7 means 7th Marine Regiment, but task-organized with attachments (tanks, amphibious vehicles, special forces, in this case Iraqis) for a specific mission.
An anonymous reader has said:
"As more information comes in, it would be highly interesting to get an insight into the important issue of how the Iraqi (government) forces performed at the battle. Something similar to your breakdown of the US units would be very informative, with the addition of any information you find on things like the background of each Iraqi unit's members (eg. ethnicity/religious sect, past political alliegance, prior military/police experience) and of course how well (or poorly) the unit performed.
"It would also be interesting to have your opinion on what the Iraqi performance bodes for the tasks ahead, especially securing and stabilising Fallujah and conducting elections in January."
I will do my best on this, anonymous, but it will take some time to gather the necessary information. Possibly over the weekend.
Scrapping the response to the Slate article. Who reads them anyway?
Will block any ads inappropriate. Thanks to the reader for pointing out the plagiarism ads. If they come up again, I'll see if I can't stop them.
Next . . . under-reported articles from the Early Bird.
Record Site Traffic
This blog is 25 days old and had 40,000 page views yesterday.
The Belmont Club
is breaking things down as to how the fight is shaking out. Result = good for us, bad for them. Go see: The Belmont Club.
Belmont Club is one of the best out there.
Bloggging about Fallujah, Iraq et cetera for the next three hours.
Couldn't escape to post at lunch.
Many excellent comments in both email and the blog. Will attempt to address many.
Coming tomorrow . . .
In the morning, if I have time:
1. Prediction Roundup
2. Early Bird Articles of Note
1. What if they slipped away? Analysis Using Mao Tse-Tung's "On Guerrilla Warfare"
1. I think Hugh Hewitt will interview me again, but I need to doublecheck.
2. "Live-blogging" continues (is it live when news is a trickle? maybe "Heavy Blogging" or "Fierce Blogging" -- wait, that's only if I'm in the MSM)
3. Rest of Iraq -- been promising this for two days
4. If time, will begin Iran controversy analysis -- also possibly examine new Atlantic Montly articles
1. Thank you very much for your donations. The first improvement I will put them toward will be probably be transparent to you, loyal readers, but I will configure my Yahoo account to download directly into Microsoft Entourage -- this will require a premium account that costs around $20 I think.
This will allow me to manage email much more effectively. Web-based is too slow.
Also, I will be subscribing to Access Intelligence, an open-source intelligence network that pushes news to you, rather than your having to pull it. It's free, but Entourage will help me manage that too.
2. You've probably noticed some tinkering with the ads. Consider the page under construction for a few days.
3. Soon to be added -- direct links to book recommendations on Amazon. Also I'm told Haloscan is best for comments and will investigate.
4. Will also try to figure out how to increase the left margin of the text body so you don't have to scroll down too much.
5. My live-blogging (heavy blogging) will continue until I declare Phase II over. After that, will continue to cover the war, national security, intelligence, etc, but in addition to daily posts reacting to events, should have time for a long solid post every two days or so. Should also have time to do dishes, pay bills, make sure I keep my job, etc.
6. Still plan to add a donate button to the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation. I met the head guy there once and he received a Navy Cross in WWII. Good group.
Until tomorrow . . .
FLASH: A GOOD DAY FOR A DECISIVE VICTORY
HAPPY 229TH TO THE MARINE CORPS
Major General John A. Lejeune Birthday Message
From Commandant Hagee:
2004 Marine Corps Birthday Message
From an alert reader, with music:
Happy 229th Birthday to the United States Marine Corps!
Let's hope it's today and I'm wrong about one to two weeks!
November 9, 2004
FLASH: DECISIVE DAY IN DOWNTOWN FALLUJAH?
Just heard from Fox News:
- troops rolling now at Iraqi AM
- appear to be converging on center of city from all sides
- commander states could be a decisive day
Let's hope those converging troops watch the blue-on-blue fire! Give em hell boys, but don't shoot each other!
Latest Fox online:
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Coalition Units Thrust Into Heart of Fallujah
Go see the new join updates at Carnivorous Conservative. Graphics are getting better and better. Railroad graphic is top notch.
More Early Bird stuff
Fleeting Militant Cells Further Cloud Insurgency
(San Diego Union-Tribune)...Hannah Allam, Knight Ridder News Service
UK Soldiers' Killer May Be European
(London Daily Telegraph)...Tom Newton Dunn
Three Embeds and a British Analysis
Haven't read yet. Go find links. Still data-mining . . .
Driving Toward Heart Of Enemy
(Long Island Newsday)...Matthew McAllester
A Make-Or-Break Struggle
(Long Island Newsday)...Craig Gordon
Advancing Forces Meet An Eerie Stillness
(Boston Globe)...Anne Barnard
Attack Is Based On Shock And Awe But The City Must Be Left Standing
(London Times)...Michael Evans
Awaiting 'Martyrdom' Inside Fighters' Lair
testing this link, stand by
UPDATE: Someone tell me if this link works. It's from within the Early Bird, which requires login.
UPDATE: It doesn't work. Here's the text. I'm reading embedded reports from local papers now. I'll make a list of the good stories and find their links outside the secure Early Bird.
UPDATE3: Dropped the long text. Here's the non-secure link instead:
I'll publish the source and title of good article and you can post the links in the comments section -- will allow me to make at least three more posts. Distributed intelligence at work.
Reflection on Baghdad Seizure
Here's a great quote from an outstanding book, The March Up : Taking Baghdad with the 1st Marine Division:
About Entering Baghdad: A single battalion plans its movement:
"Under the old doctrine, the plan would have been to deploy abreast two companies with tanks across the five-kilometer front and advance down the peninsula block by block, reaching the university at the western end by the afternoon of the second day.
"Instead McDonough proposed rolling through the center of the Snoozle [a certain piece of terrain in Baghdad where palaces are located], tanks in the lead, peeling off one company to secure the embassies and one platoon to guard the approaches to the central bridges, and sending tanks on with one company to search the university. Conlin [the Bn Cmdr] should ignore random RPG shots, McDonough [the operations officer] urged, and concentrate on grabbing the three key pieces of real estate; he should rely on shock to crumble the resolve of any stay-behinds. He should finish taking the Snoozle in four hours and the next day move on to another sector. In other sectors, the Army and Marine units were planning the same type of nonlinear movement."
I quote this here because it is an excellent look at the "bypass and collapse" vs "straight up the middle" concepts of attacking a city. No doubt similar formulations have been used in Fallujah.
Maneuver warfare triumphs again. Four hours vs. two days. Outstanding.
Think on this when reading press reports.
Coming Up . . .
About to delve into Early Bird.
Prediction update will happen before 7:30am central time instead of tonight.
May just yet make it to the Slate article.
Even a boring press briefing is interesting with Rummy
My friends will laugh at this one. They know Rummy is my hero.
The Fallujah Battle is like a much smaller version of the invasion of Iraq in general in 2003.
1. A large and well-prepared US force swiftly and violently removed a government (in the case of Fallujah, removed a quasi-Islamic government).
2. US forces must next support the establishment of a new government in the same place. This is where our detailed operational planning failed during the invasion. It failed because there wasn't any. The military can do virtually anything. And virtually anything on a dime too, with no planning. But in the invasion aftermath, not only was there no planning, but the disconnect was between military and civilian planners -- very difficult to rectify.
The same mistake will not be made in Fallujah. The tempo of operations will be maintained, but the actions will be political and humanitarian in nature -- and no doubt very well-planned already. There will be no political vacuum that allows lawlessness, criminality, and insurgency to prosper.
Where to from here? Predictive Analysis
In the coming days, US forces will continue destroying insurgent positions wherever they are found. Behind the initial assault units, follow-on forces are consolidating successes. These forces are probably composed of a large number of Iraqi units and US forces as well. The pattern of use for Iraqi forces seems to be: use them for seizing symbolic or sensitive structures, with massive US support, or use them as follow-on forces.
Media reports about house-to-house fighting should be taken with a grain of salt. If I walk through my neighborhood, am I not walking house-to-house? I continue with my assertion that US forces will only enter a house for a very specific reason.
The best possible reason to do house to house searches: looking for senior leaders. A noble idea, but less likely: to avoid the loss of civilian life. By going house-to-house, that is to say, clearing rooms one by one, we could prevent ourselves from shelling a building and killing both the insurgents and civilian occupants of the building. There are still other ways to do this though . . . precise fire from small arms can as effective as leveling a building, provided you can isolate the target.
The US has stated that the metric used to judge the success of the battle is the establishment of a local government in Fallujah that is friendly to the National Government. This means that in the next few days, as the US continues to hammer away at insurgent positions, security and stabilization operations will commence in the city. These might be characterized as Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) because the purpose will be to install and sustain a government, not to kill enemy forces. This will signal the end of Phase II, the Ground Assault, and the beginning of Phase III: Reconstruction, Exploitation, Installation of Government. The US no doubt has certain key triggers that must be met before this happens. Phase III actions will more than likely include the installation of a governing mayor and staff chosen by Allawi's government. He'll impose martial law and enforce it with the best Iraqi troops and some US troops standing by. Over time, the US will fade out of the city and assume an observational role as the Iraqis take more and more charge.
So while Shaping the Battlespace took place over two to three weeks and was gradual in its build-up, the Ground Assault is lightning fast and begins suddenly. Phase III will have a definite beginning point, but will appear gradual, as its actions make fewer headlines. Phase III will last for at least 60-90 days. It will end when Iraqi forces are capable of controlling the city with minimal assistance from US troops.
When Phase III begins, most US troops will finish off the remaining insurgents and withdraw to other cities to exploit their psychological victory there . . . but of course some will stay.
During Phase III, some sort of ruling council or other political body will be established in Fallujah and preparations will be made for citizens to vote. A great deal of effort and money will be spent on reconstructing the city as well.
My Way News: "A psychological operations unit broadcast announcements in Arabic meant to draw out gunmen. An Iraqi translator from the group said through a loudspeaker: 'Brave terrorists, I am waiting here for the brave terrorists. Come and kill us. Plant small bombs on roadsides. Attention, attention, terrorists of Fallujah.'"
Read elsewhere that Marine were broadcasting heavy metal to drown out mosque announcements . . .
Took a brief op-pause . . .
. . . for Mrs. Chester to check her email. I think she was secretly reading my site. Back on it now. Still an hour to go for you west-coasters out there.
Read these comments about civilian casualties . . .
See the comments from tonight's earlier post about civilian casualties. Alert Reader "Obsidian" has some excellent thoughts, especially with regard to civilians being herded into the final kill zone in order to be killed by the insurgents and blamed on the US.
Still no big headlines about large numbers of civilian casualties. If you want, start checking the foreign press, especially some of the more left-leaning pubs (you can tell this when they refer to insurgents as "resistance"). These pubs may have unembedded journalists wandering around the city, and will have no restrictions by US forces on what to report.
Are there readers who aren't blogger members having problems posting comments? Should be open to everyone.
Military Situation Reporting: A How-To-Guide
CRITIQUE OF PRESS REPORTS
There are several problems with the press reporting on the Fallujah battle. The best way to address them is to examine some basics of military situation reporting, and then to examine bits of several press stories to show how military situation reporting would be a much better template for their stories. Situation reporting doesn't translate directly into journalism, but it would provide mucch more detail than we are getting. It is also adjustable to account for any info holds the US may be putting on the journalists.
And there is no reason why journalists can't use this system. Basically it is just better writing, and requires no special military knowledge to use. It is a simple system.
First, here is the basic way to give a report about enemy personnel.
Time: When seen
Size: how many? what size unit?
Unit: what unit are they a part of?
Activity: what are they doing?
Location: where are they?
Equipment: what do they have?
Example from today's ABC News reports:
"On Tuesday, heavy street clashes were raging in Fallujah's northern neighborhoods."
What does 'heavy' mean? Every story references 'heavy', 'fierce', 'harsh', 'tough' fighting. How are the insurgents attacking us? What techniques are they using? Here's how to rewrite it:
"At 4pm local time Tuesday, US Marine engaged small bands of a dozen militants each in the central part of the Jolan district. The militants were armed with small arms, and were firing indiscriminately from street corners and roofs of houses. Marines responded by . . ."
Rather than using superlatives or the same tired adjectives over and over again, both of which have the effect of sensory overload on the reader, reporters should aim for more precision. Rather than giving us some kind of barometric measurement meant to quantify the fighting, they should concentrate on giving more detail on what EXACTLY is happening.
If most of these reporters were NCOs or officers, they would be kicked off the radio nets because nothing they mention has value to gaining a mental picture of what is happening.
Still to come tonight . . . (in no particular order)
1. I'll plumb the depths of the Early Bird for under-reported stories. Good ones are often found there. Links may be hard to come by, so I'll paste paragraphs.
2. Where does it go from here?
3. Prediction Roundup and Update
4. Does this battle remind you of anything?
5. Chester takes a close look at a Slate article.
Stand by . . .
Also . . . Carnivorous Conservative is working feverishly on updating our joint graphics.
Special forces have four in their sights - The Herald
Can someone email me and tell me how to link to a certain part of a page, instead of the top of the page? Thanks. I know there are code-warriors out there dying to help . . .
Another thing I can't figure out: show more than 10 previous posts on the frontpage sidebar. Don't want them to get archived too quickly.
Insurgent Defensive Plan
The insurgents are composed of a variety of groups with varying levels of coordination between them. This is the estimate of the US. With such a decentralized command structure, controlling a defense is impossible. Instead, you have to give very broad, general guidance to your personnel and hope they follow it. In this case, the defensive plan would make a series of nodes all over the city. Each node would consist of a weapons cache, or an excellent piece of terrain for firing at the invaders, or othe features that would make it ideal for a fighting position. Between these nodes would be multiple avenues of approach, all interwoven in a grid. These could be surface streets, tunnels, holes blown through the walls of buildings, sewers, etc. The plan would be for insurgents to attack, then displace very quickly to the next position, before the firepower of the US can be trained upon them. All of this could have been rehearsed so that fighters could get between positions even at night. This nodal defense would be more effective if a) insurgent forces could communicate as to which positions had been reduced by the Americans and b) insurgents waited until US forces bypassed them before attacking.
Where are the civilian casualties?
Has anyone read significant reports of civilian casualties? There seem to be few reports. Also, few civilians appear on any of the TV shots I see.
1. US is avoiding civilian casualties, and doing a darn fine job.
2. US is effectively controlling the media coverage to avoid images of civilian casualties -- but reports of them would still trickle out, via Al-Jazeera or elsewhere.
3. Insurgents have not been successful in using human shields. Perhaps because the remaining civilians are sympathetic to the cause in some way. Doesn't help your cause to kill your own supporters, or cause their deaths.
4. All of the above.
You would think we would hear a story of a missile going astray, the wrong building being hit, etc. So far, very little of this.
Today's News: Roundup
The New York Times > International > Middle East >NYTimes reports that US forces have reached the center of the city and now control 1/3 to 1/2 of it. Highlights:
"General Metz said that enemy casualties were higher than anticipated, while reminding journalists that the Army does not maintain an official body count for the opposition."
"The general estimated that two to three thousand insurgents faced American forces in Falluja, but he also said he suspected that many of the senior rebel leaders, including the Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had fled before the city was sealed off. Several insurgents had been captured and were expected to provide useful intelligence."
[Note from Chester: This is the first instance I know of where a senior commander has said Zarqawi may have left. We probably have a task-organized team of Green Berets and other snake eater types, combined with Human Intelligence Exploitation analysts conducting raids on suspected hiding places for many senior lieutenants. They will be supported by conventional infantry forces who will cordon off areas for the raids. Think Blackhawk Down, or capture of Saddam.]
"Reports from the military and witnesses inside Falluja 16 hours after American attack was launched indicated that there was still heavy fighting in the southwest quadrant of the city."
[Note from Chester: I am about to attack these press reports. They are horrendous. I'm making a list.]
"Reports from inside the city said the insurgents were spreading the word that they were not retreating but rather luring the American forces into a "killing zone" deep in the city, though that claim was so far unrealized."
[Note: This is excellent news. Wherever they mass we will destroy them. Let's see what kind of a kill-zone they can come up with. Let's hope what we are doing causes them to mass. I doubt the insurgents truly have a final kill-zone set up. No way they have been able to channel our attack into a specific area.]
"Witnesses told The A.P. of seeing two American tanks engulfed in flames, but that could not be confirmed."
[Note: Would these witnesses be men between the ages of 15 and 55? What are they doing talking to the AP? Someone arrest them.]
[Also, what can they kill a tank with? perhaps the reporting is wrong and they mean a Bradley, but a tank? The pictures I have seen of tanks show them with reactive armor plating. RPGs will bounce off. If they've killed a tank, it was through luck or very heavy weaponry, or land mines -- possibly command detonated. More than likely land mines.]
"In the Askari and Jeghaifi neighborhoods in the northeastern part of the city, American troops were already seen in the streets by around 8 p.m. Monday, an insurgent who identified himself as Abu Mustafa said in a telephone conversation. He said insurgent forces were staying fluid, moving around the city to reinforce spots as they were attacked by the Americans."
[Note: This too is good news. If the plan of the insurgents is to reinforce areas where the Americans are attacked -- that is, areas where the Americans are strong -- then they will fail. The insurgents should be reinforcing areas where the Americans are weak, and hitting them there. To do the opposite is a violation of the most fundamental rules of warfare. But it successfully makes for martyrdom.]
"The prime minister said 38 rebels had been captured in the initial assault on Sunday, on the main hospital and two bridges over the Euphrates River. Four foreign fighters - two Moroccans and two non-Iraqi Arabs - were arrested, he added."
[Note: Earlier US estimates said about 10-20% of the insurgents are foreigners. This seems to be holding water for now.]
Pause . . .
. . . I'm letting the information wash over me.
Map of Jolan Streets at Carnivorous Conservative
See this post for a new map.
Blogging for tonight
begins in t minus one hour.
FLASH: CHESTER TO BE INTERVIEWED ON HUGH HEWITT SHOW, 5PM CENTRAL
Check HughHewitt.com to find your local station.
I'm told to expect a wide-ranging interview, 20-25 minutes.
3pm Update . . .
Today's USA Today has a graphic of the battle on page 8A. Three interesting bits:
1. Caption notes that Marines in the north are sealing off tunnels. This is very good news. Whether we have stumbled upon tunnels or had prior intelligence about them, denying their use to the insurgents, and forcing them to fight above-ground is a positive for us.
2. Another caption notes that the soccer field in the NE part of town is where insurgents are burying their dead -- doesn't say how long they have been doing this. Interesting . . .
3. Finally, another caption states, "Soldiers from Britain's Black Watch battalion were not part of the major assault but patrolled the west bank of the Euphrates River to disrupt any insurgent movement in and out of Fallujah."
Wow! So the Black Watch is that far north! All previous stories we've covered here have indicated that the Black Watch was further to the east and to the south . . . and on the eastern side of the Euphrates, not the west . . . more to come on this tonight as I take another close look at the imagery and maps in my commander center.
Also: An Alert Reader notes that we will get little detail in the press about successful techniques the US forces are using because they will want to use thm again in Ramadi. Excellent point. Sometimes though, bits and pieces can be gleaned from news reports, and we'll keep doing just that.
Preview for Tonight
More to come this afternoon if possible. These are some of the features for tonight:
1. Commentary on today's news in Fallujah, and live-blogging of any updates.
2. Prediction Roundup and Update
3. Critique of Press Coverage
4. Your donations are improving reader feedback! We'll show you how.
5. Meanwhile, in Baghdad . . .
6. And much more!
Tune in . . .
Something I missed from the story earlier this morning is that US forces moving from the north yesterday reached Highway 10 running through the central part of the city. So the city has been successfully divided.
What is happening in areas the US has pushed through? Doubtful that they are depleting combat power by leaving elements behind as they go. More than likely, there is a unit - battalion or regimental-sized - that has been assigned Rear Area Operations. (Don't confuse this with the mission of the 24th MEU in Babil province). The rear area unit would consolidate control of key terrain in the areas already swept, and would hold and control key routes for logistics sustainment to flow. During the invasion, this mission was assigned to Task Force Tarawa (the name given at the time to the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade). This is why Task Force Tarawa suffered so many casualties in Nasiriyah after the 1st Marine Division and follow on supporting forces had already moved through the city. (Note that a Marine Brigade includes organic aviation, combat, and support units and is between 10,000 and 20,000 personnel, much larger than an Army brigade, which is around 3000 and is only a combat force.)
Another note: several quotes over the past days from Col Formica, Commander of Army's 2nd Brigade. From earlier today:
"Col. Michael Formica, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Brigade, said Tuesday that a security cordon around the city would be tightened to insure insurgents dressed in civilian clothing did not slip out.
"My concern now is only one — not to allow any enemy to escape. As we tighten the noose around him, he will move to escape to fight another day. I do not want these guys to get out of here. I want them killed or captured as they flee," he said."
Col Formica's unit, the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Cav, is probably conducting some of the cordoning of the city. Given the terrain outside the city, it would make sense to use an armored force. Unless a whole Army brigade is involved, why would Formica be quoted?
So here is how the battlefield looks:
In the city:
31st MEU, comprised of two Marine infantry battalions, one Army mechanized infantry battalion and the MEU's organic assets.
1st Marine Regiment, comprised of two Marine infantry battalions, and one Army Cavalry battalion (armored).
Total: about 6000-8000 forces, including attachments.
Outside the city
2nd Brigade of 1st Cav Division, performing cordoning, screening, or blocking mission.
US Marine Light Armored Reconnaissance battalions, and Reconnaissance battalion, also performing screening missions, or occupying key terrain (bridges).
Still no definitive word on the locations and dispositions of the Iraqi National units (three brigades).
Note: the vast majority of Marine tanks in theater are probably in use in Fallujah as are Marine Assault Amphibious Vehicles (with a few in key areas in Ramadi etc.)
More to come . . .
Fox News Overview
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Coalition Units Thrust Into Heart of Fallujah contains some interesting points:
-artillery has abated as US forces move within the city
-looks as though either a full Army brigade, or its command group, could be controlling some part of the battle.
-resistance is light as US forces move to city center. This could be good or bad. Good if the resistance is dead. Bad if they have displaced to other prepared positions in the middle of the city. Gen Casey said yesterday that the worst fighting would be in the middle of the city.
-The cordon to the south? There is yet again mention of a cordon of troops all around the city, and this presumably includes the south. Between the two regimental-plus sized units the NYTimes outed last night, and Iraqi units, we've already reachd the 10,000-12,000 mark. The south could be secured by Light Armored Infantry -- Haven't heard much about its use in the fight thus far -- or by Reconnaissance Battalions, who can provide a screen, or by non-combat units, such as Military Police, or even other Marine support troops in a pinch.
-Will try to cover things at lunch today, but the forecast does not look good. The meat of today's blogging will be tonight.
Results - News Release Generator
Operational over view . . . here.
The Adventures of Chester is going radio silent for the rest of the night. I will send quick emails to those of you to whom I have not yet responded. I'll also be revising the entire format of the site after-hours.
Thanks for your suggestions, comments, donations, visits to sponsors, and readership.
Next update will be between 6:30 and 7:30 am central. See you then. Live-blogging will continue tomorrow night. With luck there will be more news to cover.
Thanks to your readership, page impressions increased from 5000 on Saturday to 12000 Sunday, to 25000 on Monday. Let's keep this up.
Your homework for tomorrow is to tell three friends about The Adventures of Chester, or to post a link to the site in three different blogs.
UPDATE: Changes: Background now soft sandy color; text increased in size from small to medium; slightly different color backgrounds for google ads; and most importantly, you no longer have to be a registered user of blogger to post a comment.
Marine engineers and/or Seabees could have constructed a bridge across the Euphrates to the west of the city on its outskirts -- possibly at the narrow bend in the Euphrates, before it turns north again. Via this route, they are pushing sustainment to a Support Area of some size near the edge of the northern part of the city -- possibly the seized train station. The logistics route probably links Al-Taqqadam Airfield with the MEK Compound east of the city.
This is much safer and less of a bottleneck than pushing sustainment across the seized bridges.
November 8, 2004
Participating Units and Command Structure
The NYTimes has a new graphic of the advance and the forces involved on their front page.
The graphic identifies six different units:
3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment:This battalion has been located in and responsible for Fallujah since August.
3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment: This battalion was probably shifted from Ramadi.
2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment, US Army Cavalry: This unit has been chosen for its armor, which is most likely split between the two previous Marine battalions.
All three of these battalions are probably under the operational control of the 1st Marine Regiment.
1st Battalion, 8th Marines: This battalion has been shifted to Fallujah from the far west of Al-Anbar province. The battalion website notes that it deployed from the east coast with reinforced command and control and logistics assets - perhaps it alone completely replaced 7th Marines in the West.
1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment: This is the Battalion Landing Team for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. It is based in Okinawa. The MEUs are being used.
All three of these battalions are probably under the operational control of the 31st MEU.
This reporting indicates that the forces which seized the bridges and the hospital were merely blocking them off and no advance is being made across the Euphrates.
The 31st MEU (REIN) and the 1st Marine Regiment (REIN) are now driving into the northern part of the city, and if insurgents flee, they'll have to cross the highway running through the heart of the city, or perhaps travel along it. The highway is most likely a free-fire zone for US air assets. The plan could be to force the insurgents to either fight (and die) in their fortified positions in the north, or flee to the south where there is less advantage to them (and be attrited by air in the process).
Also, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit's homepage is showing that the Black Watch is falling under the operational control of the 24th MEU. This makes sense geographically, as the 24th MEU is in Babil Province. The 24th MEU's mission, reinforced with the Black Watch, is likely Rear Area Security, and possibly to act as an anvil, though I am beginning to waver on this point.
The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit Homepage states that the 11th MEU is in the Najaf - Diwaniyah area. Perhaps they are merely continuing to pursue security and stabilization operations. The update on the page is a week old though.
All three deployed MEU's in one theater at a time is highly unusual -- another sign they've been planning this for months. MEU's are strategic assets, and their movements are called by folks VERY HIGH up the totem pole.
Other probable Marine unit locations:
2nd Battalion, 24th Marines: Northern Babil province, reporting to the 24th MEU.
1st Battalion, 23rd Marines: Al Asad, watching the western portion of Al-Anbar province.
2nd Battalion, 5th Marines: Ramadi, probably under the control of the Fifth Marines HQ.
Tomorrow, perhaps we can roll all of this into an org chart and post it.
Why this isn't Hue -- Wavetop View
Time being short for the evening, here is a wavetop view of why Fallujah is not Hue City in Viet Nam.
HUE CITY, 1968
The enemy was regular NVA with highly centralized command and control, and indirect fire assets. The US forces were outmatched in troop strength and fought house-to-house, attacking positions of enemy strength rather than bypassing them. US forces were battle veterans, but had little prior experience in urban environments.
Enemy forces are extremely decentralized, with little overall command and control and few indirect fire assets. They are beholden to planning a defense and then adhering strictly to that plan; they do not have the command and control that will offer fllexibility. Instead, an every man for himself attitude will pervade their defense. Moreover, much of the enemy is poorly trained. Those that are veterans of fighting and are highly motivated are in the minority.
The biggest difference between these two battles is the incredible technological and training superiority of the US forces. US forces have made training for urban fighting a priority for years and have honed amny skills. The best template for this battle is not Hue, or any of the urban battles in which Islamic forces were pitted against a Western power (Mogadishu, Grozny, Kabul/Kandahar, Palestine, Beirut, etc), but is instead the US military's seizure of Baghdad one year ago.
Some of the tactics and procedures used in that attack were:
-extensive use of optics and heat-sensored imaging at night
-swarming techniques: US forces, even a whole battalion, move in a dispersed formation. When engaged by enemy forces, they train the firepower of the entire unit on that one spot, concentrating it there.
The Belmont Club is also offering the viewpoint that the battle seems to be going swimmingly.
I am sticking with my prediction that the battle will last a week, and two weeks tops.
Carnivorous Conservative has updated the Carnivorous Conservative - Adventures of Chester joint operational graphic.
Fallujah news has been slow to eke out since the initial flurry of stories associated with the attack.
Prediction: US forces are seizing numerous objectives throughout the city and keeping reporters from mentioning what they are. Expect another flurry of news reports overnight (US time) or in the morning, as the military allows reporters to file what they've been watching all day. They have to release something -- FOX has been running the same footage since I came home from lunch today.
Gotterdammerung II: Insurgent Operational Plans
What is the operational plan of the insurgents?
1. Continue to control key areas of the country, specifically urban areas.
2. Use terrorism and other unconventional warfare to sow discord between the US military, the Iraqi military, the US government, the Iraqi government, the Iraqi polity and the US polity. When as many of these factions are united in the cause to defeat the insurgents, it increases or preserves our reserves of national will. When they are divided, it depletes them.
3. Enlist the aid of any group that will offer it.
4. Achieve sympathetic consideration from other countries through skilled media manipulation.
Beyond this, in the realm where operational considerations and tactics collide, we have these options for the insurgents, as they are fighting in Fallujah.
From the insurgent point of view (using the understudy method )
Shaping the Battlefield and Prosecuting the Defense of Fallujah: A centralized view
As the insurgent commander, I have massed a significant base for myself within the city of Fallujah, and have alternate bases in Ramadi and other smaller cities in Al-Anbar province and inside Baghdad. As the US assault approaches, I have several options before me:
1. Stand and fight with my fellow believers.
2. Disperse my believers such that the Americans will control Fallujah but we will fight another day.
3. Some combination of both.
I believe that I cannot bear the loss of Fallujah as a sanctuary for my insurgency. I also believe that the battle for Fallujah should be as painful as possible to the Iraqi people and to the Americans.
I will disperse some of my key personnel to other cities. Of my two best lieutenants, I will send one into hiding as a redundancy in case I am lost. He will not like this, but it is for the best. The other I will keep with me to manage the defenses here in the city and to control the battle as it rages.
I will use my dedicated couriers to send messages to the cells of believers who operate in other cities, letting them know how to coordinate attacks in their own cities once the Americans begin their siege of my own.
I will choose my best and most dedicated followers. Half of them I will keep in Fallujah to insprie the less forthright, and to direct the attacks against the infidels. The other half I will send out to other places, where they will lie in wait until the Americans think they have beaten me. At that point, they will launch another wave of coordinated and violent attacks against the Iraqi populace and the Americans. Just as the Americans use their "special forces," I will use my most ardent followers.
I will issue calls for other believers to come and join in the battle; I will do so through the rudimentary communication networks I have created throughout the mid-east. Other followers will issue calls for young men to come and fight with me.
At the height of the battle, when the Americans have reached certain positions, if all looks lost, I will slip out of the city if possible, and will join other believers elsewhere. I won't tell my subordinates of this plan."
The above analysis is written as though the insurgent forces have extremely centralized command and control. More than likely, the opposite is true. They are a diverse mix of forign fighters seeking adventure and glory, veterans of previous campaigns of Jihad (Somalia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, etc), strung-out Ba'athists with nowhere to run, troops sponsored by Iranian and Saudi mullahs, and so forth. In this case, it is difficult to predict what kind of planning they may have.
Many alert readers have commented or emailed re: how to increase text size. I am holding off on this until I go silent later tonight, at which point I will attempt to switch to a template for the blog that is much easier on the eyes.
In the meantime, follow this advice:
"The individual can change on-screen text size in IE by clicking on "View" at the top of the screen and then "text-size" (WIN 98 - probably similar in other versions.)"
It worked for me and I have an iMac and am using Safari.
Joint-Venture Graphics with Carnivorous Conservative
The Adventures of Chester and Carnivorous Conservative have partnered to bring you a basic map of US large-unit troop positions, which we will use to track US progress.
If the networks can do it, so can we!
Gotterdammerung I: Insurgent Strategy
What is the strategy of the insurgents?
1. Break the will to fight of the coalition. The insurgents continue to believe that the US is a fundamentally weak nation in terms of national will. They believe that they can defeat the will of the US.
2. Continue to exist at all costs. Any insurgency or guerilla movement is more or less victorious so long as it continues to exist. Consider the Confederacy. Many historians believe it was a mistake for Lee to invade Maryland because all he had to do was continue to survive. Lee on the other hand thought he could divide the north's populace politically and made the gamble. It ended badly at Gettysburg.
3. Topple the Irraqi interim government. So long as the fledgling interim government survives it gains legitimacy. With every city it makes stable it gains legitimacy. Toppling the interim gov't is a key part of the insurgents' strategy.
4. Cause a US defeat and withdrawal.
5. Through victory, implement Islamic and Fascist political movements in Iraq and project them regionally. Pay no attention to so-called irreconcilable differences between secular Sunni Ba'athists, religious Sunni zealots (like Wahabi's), religious Shi'ite zealots, like the Iranian gov't, etc. The goals of all of these groups are at the moment united in defeating the iraqi interim government and the US. The US has strategies in place to divide them against themselves as well though, and those strategies appear to be working.
Snap Reaction: Hannity and Colmes
I am following Hannity and Colmes in the background as they discuss events with LtCol Oliver North. (Certainly they'll post the transcript when they finish the showFOXNews.com)
Hannity asks if US troops are going to go house-to-house. North says they are prepared to and probably will.
Reaction: Troops only enter buildings in an urban environment for specific reasons: the building provides key terrain to observe and participate in the battle; the building is known to house intelligence which can be exploited; the building is housing weapons which need destruction, etc. "Let's go house to house and see what happens," is not a plan for success, just for disaster. Entering a building in an urban environment is extremely dangerous.
One reason NOT to enter a given building is because bad guys are in it. FOX reported earlier today that the rules of engagement are: if fired upon from a building, US troops will level the building. This is a much better alternative than entering and searching.
Hannity and North discuss the much-vaunted tunnel systems: how will the insurgents use them?
Reaction: More than likely, if tunnel systems exist, the insurgents are using them as interior lines of communication, to avoid using surface streets or congregating in buildings. Tunnels, sewers, and other utility systems are a common part of the 3D urban battlespace and must be planned for carefully.
Colmes asks North if there is evidence that the attack was influenced by US political considerations. North parries by saying it is intimately tied to Iraqi politics.
Reaction: This is a dumb question. It goes without saying that the campaigns and battles of the war are influenced by political considerations in the US and rightly so. This is why we have civilian control of the military. Most wars have involved these types of calculations. Consider Lincoln, who tied operational planning to his own re-election efforts, because he knew that if he lost re-election, the US would lose the war. The interaction between politics and war is one way of defining "strategy." Please take a look at the book, Supreme Command : Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime, which is offers four case studies of the interaction between civilian leadership and military leadership: Lincoln, Clemenceau, Churchill, Ben-Gurion. Outstanding book.
Colmes notes that Allawi has prohibited weapons in Fallujah and halted all essential city services. Colmes asks North why this is only happening now, if we've had problems with Fallujah for a long time.
Reaction: It is happening now as part of an overwhelming offensive in which Iraqi politics, US politics, humanitarian considerations, and destroying the enemy have all been taken into account. Every last detail has been thought out as thoroughly as possible, including small touches such as banning weapons in Fallujah.
North is asked by Hannity or Colmes what good it will do to take the city if Zarqawi has escaped. Part of the question references Iraqi public opinion in Baghdad, polls of which show that the Iraqi on the street thinks Zarqawi is gone.
Reaction: North answers correctly that whether he is there or not he has now been and will continue to be completely marginalized. North notes that Osama bin Laden is still alive, but has been reduced to making speeches to threaten American, rather than actually killing Americans. This is an example of marginalization. Excellent point by North.
What will happen to captured US forces?
Will any US personnel be captured in this battle? The insurgents will only capture US personnel if they think media or propaganda advantage can be gained from so doing.
More than likely, the insurgents are doing their best to kill US personnel. Coalition forces have isolated them from the media for the most part, which means that even if they were to capture US personnel, they would gain no media value from them.
The other reason for a capture attempt is for information. but either of these reasons, torturing for information, or displaying for propaganda, require, time, energy, and a safe place in which to operate. The insurgents have none of these. If the insurgents can pull off a video of a US captive, and the background noise and detail DON'T show that all hell is breaking loose around them, then that would be in their favor. Those are big ifs though.
War is chaos. When things look bad, remember this. It always looks bad. Things are going to go wrong too. Even though it is unlikely that the insurgents will capture one of our guys, units get cut off, troops get lost, and those tunnels could be vexing . . . more on the tunnels later.
Read this Mark Steyn column, which is the only one he has ever written for the Spectator that they refused to publish, and which he wrote after the beheading of Kenneth Bigley. It is harsh but necessary. Best quote:
"consider Fabrizio Quattrocchi, murdered in Iraq on April 14th. In the moment before his death, he yanked off his hood and cried defiantly, “I will show you how an Italian dies!” He ruined the movie for his killers. As a snuff video and recruitment tool, it was all but useless, so much so that the Arabic TV stations declined to show it."
Live-blogging begins . . .
Chester is back. Here is the agenda for this evening, in priority:
1. Live-blogging any breaking news . . . currently tuned in to Fox News, listening to O'Reilly. Usually shy away from tube news, but they will have frequent updates. Will offer analysis of anything that happens.
2. What will happen to captured US forces?
3. The Adventures of Chester is joint-venturing with another blogger (who will be revealed later this evening) to bring you some detailed graphics of today's actions.
4. Insurgent Strategic Plans, Operational Plans, and Tactical Plans.
5. Rest of Iraq Roundup
6. Ruminations on Principle Intelligence Requirements for this battle.
7. Battle of Hue vs. Battle of Fallujah: A Detailed Comparison
8. If time, Fallujah vs. Grozny.
9. General Thoughts on Urban Warfare.
Finally, I'll spend some time answering reader email, either in the blog or one-on-one. It's an ambitious schedule, but we'll cover as much as possible.
Notes: Thanks to all of you who have supported the page via the Amazon Donate Button. The Adventures of Chester will continue to strive to offer you in-depth analysis of current and future US military operations. After Fallujah is in the 'win' column for the US, we'll offer some political analysis as well -- probably some things you haven't read elsewhere.
Note: The template is staying as white-on-black for now. The Adventures of Chester (TAOC) has experimented with a sandy background, and black text, but implementing it will require a great deal of time, and we want to focus on content for now. If anyone knows a shortcut to increase the font size, please post that knowledge, or email me.
Tonight . . .
. . . I'll be live-blogging again for at least 3 hours, covering what I can glean from TV news, which is faster updated than print news.
The long-promised insurgent strategy post
Comparison with the Battle of Hue
Address reader comments
and offer insight on news, unit movements, unit actions, and sadly, casualties.
UPDATE: SecDef about to speak at press conference.
Urban Warfare links
A reader has asked for more links . . .
Here is some background reading on urban warfare . . . peruse and digest and I'll offer comments later today.
Back online . . . Updates . . .
Banker by day, blogger by night . . . and lunch.
4000 strong Coalition forces now moving into the NE Askari neighborhood -- no word on what unit.
US Marine forces were paused at train station north of town while awaiting indirect fire and air-delivered fires, but have now moved into Jolan.
Borders with Syria and Jordan sealed . . . Baghdad Int'l Airport closed for 48 hours.
"Before the main assault, Allawi visited the main U.S. base outside Fallujah to rally Iraqi troops.
'The people of Fallujah have been taken hostage ... and you need to free them from their grip,' he told the soldiers at the camp, who swarmed around him when he arrived. 'Your job is to arrest the killers but if you kill them, then so be it.'
'May they go to hell!' the soldiers shouted, and Allawi replied: 'To hell they will go.'"
Just heard report from embed with Army battalion on Fox news. Soldiers used
M58 Mine Clearing Line Charge (MICLIC) to clear approach routes of IEDs and booby traps. Stated at least 5 had been successfully mitigated and the route was used with no casualties.
Look for reports that the APOBS Breaching Weapon has also been used.
So we're calling this 'Phantom Fury' . Good enough for me. Note that I MEF has operational command of all that is happening. Note that 1st Mar Div is mentioned, rather than a regiment. Seems like a reach to use all of 1st Mar Div . . . who minding the store in Ramadi, Habbaniyah, Al Qaim, etc? Sticking to prediction of regimental (reinforced) sized Marine force, but now with regimental sized Iraqi and US Army forces too.
Purpose of attack
Fox news reporting that the metric by which success will be judged is the introduction of a stable government in the city . . . more on this later.
Here's the Drudge coverage:
DRUDGE REPORT 2004�
Amazon Donate button is up!
Where are the MEUs?
Perhaps the MEUs are minding the store (Ramadi, etc) while the infantry battalions that have been there for months are kicking down the door . . .
Tonight I will do some data-mining on the Early Bird to attempt to answer this question . . .
Interesting, no time to process now . . .
go to Foxnews.com and click on the Fallujah photo-essay. Good lay of the land from the ground.
A word on civilians and casualties:
Fallujah pop is 300,000. All but 50,000 have left. We have offered every opportunity for non-combatants to leave. We've used every means of media, and have dropped leaflets, used speakers, etc. We've completely telegraphed our moves to save civilian lives.
What to make of the 50,000 still remaining? Certainly a handful didn't buy it, some just have poor judgment, and some are concerned about protecting their property. Many are possibly families of insurgents (though not the foreign elements).
A good number of the remainder are probably sympathetic to the insurgents in one way or another: tacit approval, outspoken political approval, material assistance, and fighting for their side. The curfew for men in the city is an excellent idea. Any man we see can be arrested and is immediately under suspicion. Arrest any who show and sort them out in detention camps later . . .
We've done everything possible to avoid the loss of innocent life. The question to ask is: How innocent are the lives that remain in the city?
Updates . . .
An Alert Reader has emailed me this link to a quick summary of the Battle of Hue.
I will post some comparative statistics later today.
Fox confirming 15,000 coalition troops actually in the attack.
-one Marine regiment plused up with attachments and on steroids
-one Army regiment, armored, perhaps also with attachments
-three Iraqi brigades (British model: brigade = our battalion size)
More . . .
More to come . . .
Please continue to tune in to the Adventures of Chester for more analysis, commentary and predictions as the day goes on!
My next post will be lat morning or early afternoon central time.
I am also working on improvements to the site.
Thanks for record traffice yesterday: over 11,000 page impressions.
UPDATE: Also working on an Amazon donation button. Blogger is being difficult.
Doesn't seem to be much new news out of the battle this morning, but there ar some interesting stories, which I'll excerpt here.
London Daily Telegraph
November 8, 2004
'Cash On The Spot–If They Tell Us Where The Weapons Are'
When Capt Kirk Mayfield of the US army goes into battle he will have Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and sniper teams at his disposal. But one of his most important instruments of war will be in his back pocket – a thick wad of dollar bills.
"I'm going to get five grand," he told his platoon commanders at one of their final briefings yesterday. "If they tell us where the weapons caches are, where the IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and the bad guys are, we'll give them cash on the spot." Capt Mayfield, commander of Phantom troop of the 2-2 Task Force, emphasised that intelligence gathered on the battlefield could not only save the lives of American soldiers but also lay the foundations for stabilising the city after victory had been secured.
November 8, 2004
Defenders' Aims Double-Edged?
The U.S. military assessment of insurgents' goals in Fallujah is that they will fight hard and try to provoke a backlash against the expected assault.
By Jim Krane, Associated Press
NEAR FALLUJAH, Iraq - U.S. military planners and intelligence analysts believe that Iraqi insurgent leaders holed up in Fallujah will defend the city by combining scrappy fighting with a media blitz designed to provoke a worldwide outcry.
The insurgents understand that they cannot beat the U.S. military but will probably try to hold off the assaulting forces, killing as many U.S. troops as possible and provoking a backlash in the United States over American casualties, U.S. Army officials say.
''He wants to make it as painful and costly as he can,'' said Army Maj. Eric Larsen, of the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Brigade, referring to insurgents. ``He's testing us. How much are we willing to pay for that real estate?''
At the same time, the insurgents will seek to exploit public horror in the Muslim world as well as among U.S. allies over civilian deaths, with the goal of forcing the U.S. military and Iraqi government to negotiate, Army officials said.
In April, the three-week U.S. siege of Fallujah was called off after mounting international pressure over high civilian casualties reported during the assault.
For the insurgents, victory means negotiating an end to the fighting and retaining some control over Fallujah, or at least keeping the Americans out of the city. If they could fight the Americans to a stalemate, it would be viewed as a victory in the Arab world.
''They believe they can achieve what they did in April,'' said Col. Michael Formica, who commands the 2nd Brigade.
``Their goal is to maximize casualties and drag it out. They want to break the will of the United States back home and bring the Iraqi government to the bargaining table. They want to set conditions to maintain control.''
Beyond those broad goals, the aims of Iraqi and foreign fighters differ, American officials believe. U.S. planners have long seen signs of a rift between the two groups.
Iraqi fighters in the city seek autonomy from the U.S.-allied Iraqi government. They don't want to pursue the battle if the cost means the destruction of their homes and city.
But Muslim mujahedin, including foreign fighters who have flocked to Fallujah, are thought to be willing to fight and die for the ultimate goal of an Islamic state. For them, Fallujah's destruction is a worthy sacrifice, the officials say.
Formica described Fallujah as the ''Super Bowl'' for foreign jihadis willing to fight to the death against foreign occupation.
Insurgents have had months to prepare their defense. Planners expect the toughest fight in Fallujah's old city and spiritual hub, the northern Jolan district.
The densely populated warren of narrow alleys and attached houses provides the best possible fighting positions for the insurgents, who hope to lure U.S. troops into ''killing zones'' -- choke points with clean fields of fire, or booby-trapped buildings or areas that have been mined with homemade bombs.
Explosives-rigged buildings are such a worry that the U.S. Navy Seabees have established a special team to extract people from collapsed buildings.
The difficult part for U.S. forces will be to distinguish guerrillas from civilians.
Christian Science Monitor
November 8, 2004
High Stakes Of Taking Fallujah
By Dan Murphy, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
CAIRO – As US Marines mass outside the tough Sunni Triangle town of Fallujah, analysts believe the imminent high-profile attack in Iraq carries high political risks.
The US says a principal motivation behind retaking Fallujah, considered the center of the insurgency, is to make Iraq safe enough for elections, scheduled for the end of January.
Rooting out the foreign insurgents the US believes are using the city as a base to wreak havoc throughout the country is crucial to stabilizing Iraq, US officials say. This, coupled with sending a stern message to militants that they will be dealt with unmercifully, could be a turning point on the road to winning the peace in Iraq.
But these broad goals may prove difficult to achieve, say many observers skeptical that the attack on Fallujah can achieve the type of results that US and Iraqi officials are hoping for.
Analysts say that rebels have already fanned out well beyond Fallujah to towns like Ramadi and Samarra, fueling a new wave of violence in areas the US thought it had previously pacified.
To this way of thinking there is no decisive battle to be won in Fallujah, and if the assault devastates that city - in the way the Vietnamese city of Hue was by Marines in 1968 - it could end up damaging the long-term interests of the US and Prime Minister Allawi. Elections could be more threatened by violence, not less so, and rebels will simply establish themselves in more broadly dispersed, harder to strike, locales.
"The Sunnis see themselves [as] the natural rulers of Iraq and they're not going to give it up without a fight,'' says Patrick Lang, a retired US army colonel and former head of Middle East intelligence for the Defense Intelligence Agency. He says he worries the US, by painting the coming battle as "a cataclysmic clash between good and evil" will end up leveling the town and not leave the room for political compromise that long-term peace requires.
"This is a civil war and it's essentially a political process that's going on there,'' says Mr. Lang.
"Allawi understands that he needs to bring these people ... back into a secular Iraqi nationalism. He'd like to see sufficient force used to get cooperation. But we don't want to go too far. We don't want to create a legend in the Middle East that we're a new Hulagu Khan,'' he says, referring to the 13th-century Mongol ruler whose sacking of Baghdad and murder of hundreds of thousands there is still talked about by Arabs.
Even in regard to Iraq's short-term stability, there are doubts over what the offensive can achieve.
Sunday, the Iraqi government braced for more violence by declaring a 60-day state of emergency for all of the country except the relatively peaceful Kurdish areas in the north. The emergency will see curfews imposed and other liberties curtailed.
"We have nothing [against] the people of Fallujah,'' said Prime Minister Allawi. "They have been taken hostage by a bunch of terrorists and bandits and insurgents who were part of the old regime.... I hope the terrorists get it because we are not going to be easy on them. We are going to bring them to justice and we are going to ensure the safety of the people in Iraq."
With many fighters having fled to other cities, Fallujah is not as rich a prize as it once was, say analysts.
While Fallujah was seen months ago as an insurgent hotbed from which many of Iraq's devastating suicide bombings were planned, there is now evidence of more decentralized planning and execution. And areas once won by US and Iraqi forces have shown signs of slipping back out of control.
That was brought home Saturday in Samarra, were more than 30 people were killed in four separate car-bombings and light arms attacks against Iraqi soldiers and police. US soldiers and Iraqi forces retook the city in early October, in an effort some saw as a dress rehearsal for Fallujah, but many local insurgents simply went underground.
A second opinion . . .
In light of reader concerns that I was giving too much away, I emailed my former boss, who now works at the Pentagon, and is a Marine Major, and asked him what he thought. His response:
"Good site. Having been in on the planning of the April attack, and
follow-on planning afterwards, I don't think your website is giving
anything away that any intelligent individual who studies military history
couldn't figure out. You are just providing a forum to "explain" some of what
is going on. Oh, and to your estimate of 1 week to clear Fallujah, I
would study the battle of Hue City during the TET offensive. I would say
more like a month. Don't forget the effects of mines & booby traps on rates
of advance. Also, look at what happened last time we went into Fallujah,
especially outside of the city. One of your contributors asked "how
can the insurgents be leaving the city in advance of the assault"? Simple.
There just aren't enough forces to cordon off the area. Think about trying
to shut down Fredericksburg, VA, while still allowing traffic to flow
along 95 and Route 1. Just my 2 cents worth."
I hope that alleviates some concerns . . .
A good point . . .
A concerned reader emails the following:
"I am worried your articles would be helpful to the
enemy. I know your intentions are good and it must be
tempting to show off your knowledge.
But maybe the best thing for the country is not to
give away the tactics and strategy that
flows from what you were taught and your experience.
I hope this is received well, my intentions are
This is an excellent point and I take no offense. I have often thought of these issues and will use my best judgment in offering tactical analysis.
Quite honestly, I think that the chess pieces are already in place and there is little of value the enemy would be able to glean from my site. The time to move forces and shape the battlefield is past. The die is cast.
Also, tempo is not on my side. By the time I offer comments on news reports, the next stage of the assault is already being prosecuted. I certainly don't want to "show off" for its own sake, I just want to help people interpret what is happening. Most of the media looks for the headline-making explosions and offers little in the way of trying to discern patterns.
My template for this is Strategic Forecasting, Inc. which offers in-depth analysis of global affairs based on open-source news and tips.
I appreciate and welcome any comments about these issues (troop safety vs. speech).
I am going to have to withhold my post on insurgent strategy. It's not ready for the light of day yet. I am also signing off for the evening. My next post will be between 6:30 and 7:30 am central time. I will continue live-blogging tomorrow, but it will be interrupted by periods of employment.
Alert and Resourceful Reader "chthus" has given me excellent imagery links:
This one shows the locations of key events during the aborted March and April battles in Fallujah. Two interesting points here:
1. One of the bridges we seized today is the one where the bodies of the contractors were hung. Retaking this bridge is probably quite a morale booster for US forces and probably has the opposite effect on the enemy.
2. The map notes that the US advance in April was into the southeastern part of the city. So we are coming at them from a completely different angle this time.
"chthus" has also provided a link to what is the best imagery of Fallujah I have seen to date.
I am printing these out and tacking them to the wall for future reference.
A reader takes issue with the disposition of the bridges . . .
An Alert Reader, Bacelic, has mentioned in the comments section that he questions the idea that US/Coalition forces have seized both the bridges and both banks of the river adjacent to them:
"To claim those bridges are secure is foolish. They have those bridges under overlapping fields of fire and direct obervation. I mean, there are some very experienced senior Iraqi officers in Fallujah. They are not stupid. I would be surprised if those bridges aren`t prepared for demolition."
1. We are capable of seeing explosive charges on the bridges just with satellites, let alone reconnaissance forces. If there were explosives on the bridges, they have been mitigated.
2. I quote from Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 1-0, "Marine Corps Operations", under "Terrain-Oriented Tactical Tasks":
"Seize: To clear a designated area and gain control of it."
"Secure: to gain possesion of a position or terrain feature, with or without force, and to prevent its destruction or loss by enemy action. The attacking force may or may not have to physically occupy the area." [This refers to the effects of fires. you can secure a piece of terrain or a building through the ability to fire on it.]
Let's hope the reporters are using the terminology correctly.
3. Nobody said we took the bridges without a fight. This overview states,
"Flares were dropped to illuminate targets, and defenders fought back with heavy machine gunfire. Flaming red tracer rounds streaked through the sky from guerrilla positions inside the city."
So it would seem correct that the insurgents had the bridges covered with interlocking fire. It would also seem correct that the US beat them and took the bridges.
November 7, 2004
We have isolated Fallujah from Ramadi
An embedded report about the recent actions.
I've predicted that the battle will be a rolling assault. Let me be more precise: we will isolate Ramadi and Fallujah from each oother and from the rest of the country to keep them from being mutually supportive. Then, we will defeat the insurgents in each in detail. Simplistically, divide and conquer.
Hard to say when the Ramadi attack will kick off. Probably after significant success has been met in Fallujah, which will be a deterrent against other insurgents, and deal a psychological blow.
Some highlights from this report:
"Under the new law, all men between the ages of 15 and 55 are banned from the streets of Fallujah and surrounding areas 24 hours a day. All traffic is also forbidden. Fallujah police and security services have been suspended indefinitely."
This is very good news for us. Basically any male on the street can be arrested, and the rules of engagement have probably loosened a good bit. This will allow a cleaner battlefield for us. We want as little civilian interference as possible. They'll keep themselves alive that way.
I'm preparing a monster post on insurgent strategy and tactics.
By popular demand, I have noted my yahoo address above my profile.
Why snap analysis is a bad idea . . .
Thanks to Alert Reader "tbedilion" (Tod) for pointing out that the NYTimes has just posted a graphic on the location of the hospital.
The hospital is located at the bend of the Euphrates River north of the two bridges seized.
Go to The New York Times and click on the graphic under the top story. I can't link to it. Also, don't know the scale, but Fallujah looks to be about 15 square miles, and the NW portion to be about a quarter or a fifth of that.
This graphic tells me I was off on which two bridges were seized. They are both shooting off the western side of the city. Looks like I had my eye on one of these, but also a railroad bridge earlier.
The NYTimes does report though that thousands of US forces are "moving to a point north of Fallujah."
The US can use the hospital site to position artillery units to cover a great swath of the NW portion of the city where insurgents are thought to be concentrated. Furthermore, the Main Bridge, the southernmost of the two, is on the major highway that leads right through downtown. We are isolating the northwest portion of the city. A highway is good for us. It is a clear dividing line for our forces to use, it is open, which favors us, and we can traffic freely across it in armored vehicles. Expect that highway to be eventually used as an interior line of communcation. It also intersects with the smaller road that feeds out of the northern bridge.
Quick rundown on the urban landscape of major Iraqi cities. They don't have anything like sprawl, as we imagine a city here in the US. There is no strip development. It's almost as though a line is drawn on the deck where the city ends and farmland begins. And up to that line, populations are very dense.
So we have two large coaltion forces converging on the northwest part of the city. As reports start to increase, detailing the next stage of this phase, keep in mind that our combat forces can't face each other -- this will cause friendly fire, of course. Instead, if isolating this part of the city and then invading, they'll move at angles, or one will stay in place.
Note the title of the graphic, "No Escape to the West." Ahem. I called this about five days ago.
Hospital is in western edge of city
The hospital is on the western edge of the city. This makes sense. It would not be very smart to occupy a single building in the middle of the city for a very long period -- maybe just for a quick raid or other action. We're encroaching a little at a time. Whatever we occupy, that is intend to keep and not just move through, bypass or collapse, must have access to sustainment forces that will move in to resupply.
Here I am with a snap analysis even though I said never to believe the first report . . .
US forces have seized both bridges that would allow enemy forces to move west. Seizing in this case means complete control: we own them. That means real estate on both sides. For the southern bridge, probably a "beachhead" inside the city. For the western bridge, probably enough troops to defend it if necessary. For either of these, great latitude has probably been given to the local commanders to do whatever is necessary to keep these lanes open for the US and closed to enemy forces, and even excess numbers of DPRE (Displaced persons, refugees, and evacuees). During the invasion last year, all of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, from Task Force Tarawa, was dedicated to holding one bridge over the Tigris, in the city of Numaniyah. In the mind of the battalion commander, this meant controlling the entire city.
US Marine and Army units have moved from south of the Euphrates and west of Baghdad and converged somewhere along the highway to the north of the city. The US controls the major highways ringing the city. The forces at this converging point will organize there for actions to take place in the northeast part of the city, in the Jolan neighborhood, where insurgents are reported to be concentrated. The location of this assembly area outside the city could also be used as a logistics node* if we need another one.
US and Iraqi forces have seized the main Fallujah hospital, possibly to control the information flow to the media coming out of it, possibly because of its size and location.
Airstrikes and pre-planned artillery missions are no doubt continuing in the city, but don't believe press reports about indiscriminate fire. They are more than likely carefully planned. Expect any insurgent indirect fire to be immediately met with our own counter-battery fire, possibly in under one minute. Because of this, insurgents will have to take quick shots, then immediately displace, probably via technical vehicle. They have probably been doing this for awhile. But we will plot their shots and draw inferences on their locations.
*a logistics node could be a Forward Arming and Refueling Point for aircraft, a linkup point for resupply vehicles to meet the infantry battalion's own organic assets, a staging area for medical or other services, a decontamination area for chemical attacks, or a large stockpile of supplies, though if a piece of terrain is to be used for any of these purposes, priority will go to the combat units who will occupy it first. It will take awhile to build up supply stockpiles.
A logistics node does not mean a command and control site. Marines lead from the front. Even Generals. Expect to hear stories of even General officers right in the mix of fighting.
We are assisting one nation free itself while the French are losing control in another.
Here's a quick summary of all I have predicted thus far, in no order:
1. US attack will begin when US election is over.
Result: Correct. Phase One began Tuesday night, US time.
2. US Order of Battle will include at least 1st Marine Regiment, at least one MEU, and several thousand Iraqi troops.
Result: Inconclusive thus far. NYTimes reports at least one battalion from Army's 1st ID involved. Black Watch also acting as blocking force.
3. Zarqawi is still in the city.
4. US will execute an extremely well-detailed operational plan, honed over 7 months, rehearsed and grasped by the lowliest Marine on the ground. The planning will be flexible to changes in the situation on the ground.
Result: Correct. The speed of the inital movements indicates this is the case.
5. Black Watch is a blocking force, with highway from Fallujah to Baghdad a free-fire zone for Marine Air.
Result: Signs point to yes, but too soon to tell.
6. Campaign will be in three phases: Phase I: Shaping the Battlespace, Phase II: Ground Assault, Phase III: Exploitation, Pursuit, Reconstruction.
Result: Correct so far. Note: Phase II will be divided into several Stages. We have likely witnessed the completion of Stage A.
7. US has excellent technical and human intelligence.
8. Insurgents will stand and fight.
Result: Inconclusive. I'll address reports that many insurgents have fled the city for others in the Sunni triangle later tonight.
9. The US and Iraq will seek to decisively engage the insurgents, and will not stall for negotiations or political solutions.
Result: Signs point to yes.
10. The battle will last a week to two weeks in Fallujah, and then roll to other cities. The assault on other cities' insurgents is likely triggered by certain key triggers or objectives being met that we are not privy to.
11. The insurgents will kill more Iraqi civilians than US ground troops will.
Result: Too soon to tell.
12. We are likely to see veterans of other Al Qaeda campaigns surface in Fallujah; what you might call the "enlisted" fighters of Al Qaeda -- the committed trigger-pullers as opposed to the plotting, more notorious commanders. Look for many of the foreign fighters to be vets of Somalia, Afghanistan, etc.
Result: Too soon to tell.
Note: I'll give special mention in a post to anyone who can find imagery, a graphic, or a map of the seized hospital. We need to know where it is.
Note: I will attempt to interpret what is happening, and to make predictions on this page. I will not second-guess our ground commanders. I'll leave that to the armchairists on the Sunday-morning talk shows.
The New York Times is reporting that the hospital was seized by the 36th Iraqi Commando Brigade in conjunction with US Special Forces. This is important in that it shows the high initial involvement of Iraqi National Forces.
NYTimes also reporting (same article) that thousands of Marines are moving from their base to a point north of Fallujah. Their base is likely Al-Taqqadam airfield, and they are likely moving across the western bridge they just seized. This makes sense; a large armored force will now be positioned on the eastern side of the Euphrates, and north of the city. That means it can either rapidly move along the highway toward Baghdad in pursuit of insurgents, or it can use the same highways to position itself on three different sides of the city, with the Euphrates on the fourth.
PS: I hate the NYTimes. I'll avoid them if I can. Note this line:
"American and Iraqi officials are grasping for any tool at their command to bring the insurgency under control."
Grasping? How about kicking the door down and doing a little TCB? There's usually little reason to read beyond the first few paragraphs of an NYTimes story.
The Initial Objectives
Initial reports show that the first objectives were the two bridges to the west of the city, and the main hospital in the city.
1. The southern bridge feeds right into the heart of downtown.
2. The western bridge is outside the city and serves a major highway which skirts the northern edge of the city.
The southern highway will be used for our logistics into the city, the western one will be blocked to allow both armored and mounted forces to bypass the city altogether if necessary, and to keep insurgents from fleeing west. Insurgents now have no way to escape the city except to flee east.
The hospital: Don't get wrapped around the axle into thinking want to prevent its use, or monopolize its use as a hospital . . . if it is a large area, it might make an ideal logistics distribution node within the city, and this will be key to sustaining our forces in the fight. The Fox article quotes an Iraqi doctor as saying, '"The American troops' attempt to take over the hospital was not right because they thought that they would halt medical assistance to the resistance," he said by telephone to a reporter inside the city. "But they did not realize that the hospital does not belong to anybody, especially the resistance."'
I doubt that stopping medical care for insurgents was the only reason for taking the hospital, if it was a concern at all. More likely, we are taking it for its location and size.
[Sorry I'm three hours behind in covering phase two . . . I've been driving from Dallas to San Antonio since 4pm central. But I'm on it now . . .]
An Appropriate Quote
"WE HAVE COMPELLED EVERY LAND AND EVERY SEA TO OPEN A PATH FOR OUR VALOR; AND WE HAVE EVERYWHERE PLANTED ETERNAL MEMORIALS OF OUR FRIENDSHIP AND OUR ENMITY."
-Thucydides, Funeral Speech over the Athenian dead
Use this link to follow the actions on the ground . . .
FLASH: PHASE TWO, Ground Assault, BEGINS!
I'll be live-blogging for the next three hours straight folks so hang on . . .
Sunday Morning Update
The November 7th Fallujah Operations Update has been released. The update is mainly a summary of US airstrikes in the city and its environs. Again, this is consistent with the shaping phase of the campaign.
These updates will begin providing details about ground actions when the ground assault phase begins.
Black Watch Move Ahead of US Fallujah Assault states that the Black Watch has moved to positions east of the Euphrates, at the request of US military commanders, in order to "stop reinforcements moving north and block the way of insurgents leaving the city."
This is consistent with my prediction last week that the Black Watch will be serving as a blocking force, so that it can clean up any insurgents who flee to the east of the city of Fallujah. US air power will attrit them on the roads and the Black Watch will stop those that make it through. The US will leave an escape point for the insurgents, provided that they have a strong level of trust in Marine/USAF air assets and the Black Watch to then destroy them. The Black Watch will be the anvil to the MEF's hammer.
Interesting that the Black Watch is said to have moved at the “urgent request” of American Marine forces. It would be interesting to know what the reporting relationships are between the Black Watch and Marine forces. Has the Black Watch been attached to the MEF? Are they operating in Direct Support? Attaching them would be the best way to control their role in the assault. This would mean that the "urgent request" is an order, not a suggestion.
A word about media reports once the ground assault starts: in dynamic, fluid environments that are being covered by journalists who are embedded, or who may have no real experience with the military, or understanding of military operations, or all three, be very careful about believing the first report. When some headline jumps out saying something has gone horribly wrong, or that a completely unexpected event has occurred, wait for details and confirmation. Never believe the first report.
I have at least two other pre-planned posts today, one to answer readers comments, one to speculate on the insurgent strategy, and of course I'll comment on news as it comes out.
November 6, 2004
Charity Drive Cancelled
I've been reviewing my policy agreement with Google just to be safe and have discoverd that I can't encourage you readers to click on my ads. This includes clicking for charitable purposes. So I'm calling off my charity drive.
Instead, I will try to add a button to donate to the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation.
Please forgive my mistake and blame my newness to the blogosphere. And I apologize to any of the Google folks.
November 6th Operations Update
I'm writing this at 12:30pm central time. Today's Fallujah-Ramadi Operations Updatehas been published. The actions detailed are consistent with Phase One, Shaping the Battlespace. No mention yet of a ground assault.
Saturday Morning Update
On to the news ...
This story from the Australian press includes a great photo of a hastily constructed terrain model that US forces are using to rehearse the plans for attack in detail. This is good for us of course. The more detail there is in the planning, the better we will be able to adjust when our plan goes out the window. Also, I would imagine that these terrain models have been walked through dozens of times, and everyone down to the PFC level is familiar with the planning. This is standard practice. This article offers a good general overview of the events around Fallujah as well.
A front-page article from the San Francisco Chronicle (U.S., Iraqi troops mass for assault on Fallujah / STRATEGY: U.S. to employ snipers, robots to cut down casualties) is very interesting. First, a critique of the article: I'm getting a little tired of the press and their juvenile understanding of virtually anything military. I guess it comes from the fact that most journalists at elite newspapers come from elite universities. And most elite universities have courses like "Post-Modern Reality in Bolivia" instead of "The History of War." What a dumb headline! No kidding we'll use snipers! We always use snipers! Every infantry battalion has a platoon of snipers! Hello! This is kindergarten level stuff. Second, the article sets up our options as a)call in 500 pound bombs, or b) use robots and snipers. Come on! Does the press really think that the military is like the Keystone Cops out there? Makes it sound like a Chinese fire drill every time we do anything. This probabaly stems from another fact about elite journalists at elite newspapers from elite universities: they think those in the service are rubes who have been duped into serving for silly reasons.
Overall a very simplistic article. Even when they quote experts from GlobalSecurity.org, US Naval Postgraduate School, or the Center for Defense Information, they distill their analysis, which is presumably complex, since these folks have PhDs in all manner of things, into a one-sentence blurb, the effect of which is something like this: the battle may be difficult or it may not. This is just plain intellectual cowardice masquerading as objectivity.
As I've stated before, our assault will be fierce, highly coordinated, our Devil dogs will spare civilian lives as much as possible, and the attack will be as fast as possible.
Enough of that rant. Some administrative notes:
I would sincerely like to thank my daily readers for their patronage. I started this blog fifteen days ago and yesterday's page impressions totalled 6900 and change. I appreciate your telling your friends about me.
Again for the record, I am not in Iraq. My analysis is based on my experinces there in 2003 and open-source information.
I have a day-job. This is not my only gig. I appreciate the many great recommendations I have received, many of which I will pursue, including:
-adding a link to a reading list on Amazon
-adding a link to my email address
-increasing the font size for readers who have trouble with the small print.
I'll get to all of these things in time. I appreciate your patience, and so does Mrs. Adventures of Chester, who is trying to adjust to the fact that her husband's new hobby involves staring at a screen for long periods of time.
A final admin note: I have mentioned that I think the Battle of Fallujah will take place in three phases, and we are in the first, Shaping the Battlespace. The second, The Ground Assault, will begin shortly. From the day that it begins, as I determine it, until the day that it ends and phase three begins, I will donate all of my google ad revenue to the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, which is an organization that provides scholarships and other assistance to the children and families of Marines and Law Enforcement Personnel killed in the line of duty.
I can't see myself profiting from my google ads while my fellow Marines are slugging it out, so that's my pledge. I'll post when I'm declaring the ground assaulut beginning and when I declare it over, so it'll be transparent to all. I'll also post daily totals of the amounts to be donated.
More later today . . .
UPDATE: 11:28 pm: Just to be safe I have been reviewing my user agreement with Google. It's a violation of the policy to encourage viewers to click on ads for any reason. So I'm calling off my charity drive. I will try to add a donate button for the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation instead. AGAIN, my charity drive is cancelled.
Chemical Weapons Update
In the comments section from last night's post about chemical weapons, an alert reader, Don, pointed out that if the insurgents have chemical munitions, they most likely do not have the necessary medical and deconatamination equipment or training to keep their own members safe, and therefore, if they use the munitions, they are likely to kill more of themselves than us.
This is an outstanding point that I overlooked, but I would make a caveat: the insurgents could save chemical munitions for a last resort. If US troops reached certain key terrain or accomlished certain objectives that the insurgents designate, it could trigger a pre-planned chemical assault that is partially suicidal. That is to say, they would do their best to be upwind and distanced from the target points, but if they lost some of their numbers in the process it would be seen as a cost of fighting. Also, using chemical munitions rigged as IEDs could be performed in a relatively safe manner (for them) and could be used to attempt to deny us certain areas. If they have persistent chemical munitions that settle on surfaces like dust, then this is a real possibility.
Another general point about chemical munitions: they are best employed with conventional weapons, in a manner such that the conventional weapons injure a number of people, and the chemical munitions keep the injured from being saved.
If I had some limited stocks of chemical munitions, and was an insurgent commander, this is how my calculus on when to use them would go:
1. I could fire them in massed surprise fires against US assembly areas and logistics sites. The goal would be to disrupt the planning and preparation for the assault. The trade-off would be that for every chemical munition I fire, the likelihood that the US won't waste time seizing my city in a civil manner and will instead level it (and pour salt on the ashes if you ask me) increases dramatically. At this point, we haven't seen this action yet, and the window is closing fast. The massing of chemical fires could still be targeted against rear areas after the assault begins, but with the same tradeoffs.
2. I could shell or otherwise saturate certain parts of the city with persistent chemical agents in order to create an obstacle with a tactical shaping purpose: disrupting, blocking, turning or fixing. This would have to be part of my overall defenseive plan of rhte city and integrated with the rest of my plans, otherwise it will be a waste of my munitions because the US will go around or over it. If I didi this right and timed it correctly, the injuries to my own forces would be minimal.
3. As I mentioned above, I could save my chemical munitions for the final stages of the American attack, if I am not successful in beating them back. At this point, my use of them could encompass any of the above, or I could perform increasingly dastardly things: use civilians somehow as a ruse, use suicide attacks, etc.
Two more thoughts: While I doubt the insurgents have sophisticated medical equipment or personnel, it is entirely probable that they have basic chemical protective gear for individual members. In my war memorabilia box in my garage I have a Bulgarian model gas mask that I picked up out of an abandoned fighting position in Diwaniyah while I was there. That makes one Iraqi who was prepped for an NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) attack . . .
November 5, 2004
Chem attack drills?
An alert reader has asked in the comments section what I think about reports that Marines around Fallujah are preparing for a chemical attack.
First, here are two reports:
SignOnSanDiego.com >A story from June's San Diego Tribune stated that "Marines were worried that insurgents might attack with nerve agents delivered in mortar shells.
"For days, a rumor has circulated that intelligence officials had reason to believe rebels might have the nerve agents sarin or soman. That rumor gained credence yesterday when Marines at checkpoint just outside Fallujah were cautioned about the possibility of chemical attacks."
And this more recent story from the Australian press (Rebels vow to use chemical weapons) is very interesting indeed, stating,
"Rebel commanders said chemicals such as cyanide had been added to mortar rounds and missiles that would be deployed against coalition troops reported to be preparing for a major assault on the town west of Baghdad."
" A military committee made up of former officers in Saddam Hussein's army, including experts on chemicals and guerrilla warfare, is said to have been organising forces in Fallujah and planning tactics.
The committee is understood to include members of all the main insurgent groups, including that of Iraq's most wanted man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist leader behind the beheading of several foreign hostages and a string of car-bomb attacks."
Both of these pieces of information are very intriguing indeed. First, the chem threats. I think there are several ways to take them:
1. They are a bluff, meant to delay the assault by causing the US to spend time on chemical drills.
2. The insurgents have actually obtained or stockpiled chemical weapons stocks. If this is the case, I don't think that they have the ability to mass chemical fires against us, which would be a worse case scenario. Instead, we can expect them to use mortar rounds laced with chemical munitions (and my basic explosives and NBC training tells me this is a tricky combination because you must keep the explosives from destroying the chemicals -- you must have an airburst instead), and if that is the case, then our counter-battery fire will wipe from the map any grid that is the source of the mortar shots. Another option is for the insurgents to use chemical munitions, but to rig them as IEDs in a booby-trap method. This would cause a polluted battlefield and make it very difficult to save even the less severely wounded. It won't stop us, but it will slow us down.
Chemical weapons could have come from a variety of places. They could have been stockpiled in Fallujah before the invasion, they could have been collected there during the invasion, they could have been sent to Syria, then smuggled back in once the insurgency gained strength. I think it is entirely plausible that one of these events has happened. The only plus sides are completely political. The Bush Administration would be vindicated, and more of the world would be sympathetic to us. These are very small pluses, almost embarrassing to mention.
Earlier today I mentioned that all of the MEF's embedded reporter slots have been filled. If there is a serious threat of chemical attack, the troops are probably practicing a good bit. Look for reporters to be practicing too.
Second, the brief bit about the "military committee" in the city. I think this proves that my earlier assertions about the concentration of command and control capabilities in Fallujah makes it unlikely that the fighters will melt away.
There are several points to take away from this:
-I believe the story because the foreign press can often get much closer to the other side than we can (especially the Europeans, who at times are downright sympathetic). If a reporter from Australia can get good reporting on the actions of enemy commanders inside the city (and get away without being beheaded), then friendly Iraqi spies can too. This is good news.
-This shows that the enemy in Fallujah, though much smaller than the Republican Guard Divisions that we faced in the invasion, possesses one key thing that many of our previous enemies haven't: the will to fight. Breaking that will is paramount.
The existence of chemical munitions and elaborate coordination and mutual support on the enemy side could drastically slow down the battle if they are true. I think it all comes down to one thing: how good is our intelligence on the ground?
If chemical attacks are involved, I'm not quite willing just yet to change my estimate of one week, but I will say that casualties will be much higher.
I am nearly certain now that I have had a few hours to think it over that we can expect a rolling series of attacks, starting with Fallujah, then moving elsewhere. I'm not going into detail.
Barbarians Target Children; Other Updates
It makes sense that the insurgents would target children for indiscriminate murder. This would be a big news story and would attempt to turn the Iraqi populace against the battle. I hope that most children have left Fallujah.
In other news, this article has several interesting tidbits.
I'll first note that the article states that the I MEF spokesman has indicated that I MEF is "preparing the battle space."
I scooped Bloomberg on this myself over two days ago, on the 3rd. See my post from 3 November.
Second, the story states that there are 35,000 troops outside Fallujah. I think that this most likely is the number of total troops in the Sunni triangle or Anbar province. I've stated earlier that I think 1st Marines will attack into Fallujah. I think this still makes sense. They can't take all the troops in the entire province and pour them into one city. it would lead to too much unrest in the rest of the province. Plus figure at least 40% of that 35,000 is support or aviation troops. Even if you include the Iraqis, I think our attacking force will be no more than 10,000.
Another article notes that all of the embedded media positions in I MEF have been completely filled. It will be interesting to see how the coverage goes once it kicks off. I will try to follow that enough to offer some insight.
I have done a detailed analysis of troop positions and have a theory of which infantry battalion will be the first to begin the ground assault. I am hesitant to publish this though. I also have an idea as to how the overall assault force will look. Hesitant to describe this too, but I will say this: I am changing an original prediction. A week ago I said that I thought the offensive throughout the Sunni triangle would begin at the same time and be coordinated. Not so sure about this now. I think we might see a rolling assault. Fallujah will be first, and then the assault forces will move to other cities. Without going into details about why I think this, I will instead do some more investigating over the next day or so to see if the rolling assault theory has legs.
I'll stress again that my theories on this page are completely based on open-source info. I have no access to military planning documents or sites.
A final note for now: If you want to speculate about when Phase Two, the ground assault, will begin, don't forget whose birthday is on November 10th.
More later tonight . . .
[Admin note: Thanks to all of you who have visited a sponsor today. I appreciate it.]
Phase One is continuing . . .
Thank you all for continuing to read daily! My traffic is increasing very quickly. If you get a chance, be sure to visit one of my sponsors' ads.
In today's news, we find that shaping actions are continuing in Fallujah. These have thus far included:
-an increase in airstrikes against prepared enemy positions, command and control nodes, and weapons caches
-some very aggressive patrolling on the outskirts of the city -- this is building expectations in the minds of the enemy that we are serious and committed.
-press releases which highlight the resolve of US forces (every single press release from I MEF for the past few days has ended with a phrase like, "We will not stop until Fallujah has been returned to the Iraqi government."
-final unit positioning
I continue with my assessment that we are in the shaping phase of the campaign. Here is how I estimate this operation will go:
Phase I: Shaping Actions: We're seeing this now, as described above.
Phase II: Ground Assault. The mission will be to remove anti-Iraq forces (AIF) from power within Fallujah and other cities. The beginning of this phase may be event-driven. When this starts, watch the press releases very closely. "Defeat" means we will try to break their will to fight. "Destroy" means we will physically destroy the enemy forces. Both of course involve combat, but to differing degrees and with different objectives.
Phase III: Exploitation and Reconstruction: I expect that our victory will be followed swiftly with very aggressive moves to pursue any fleeing enemy forces, and to immediately move in to reconstruct the city, flooding it with Civil Affairs teams, probably interacting with Iraqi National forces. Our victory will be advertised a great deal in the Iraqi national and Arab regional media (more than just the token headlines we'll get in the US and Europe). Intelligence exploitation teams will be sifting through everything (and everyone) they can get their hands on too.
An alert reader, 'cjr' has mentioned that perhaps we are attempting to use the same method with Fallujah as the Brits did in Basrah: that is, wait outside the city and gather intelligence, then have lightning strikes inside to quickly defeat bad guys, then quietly moving back to the perimeter. I am too unfamiliar with the British actions in Basrah to comment on this yet, but my first thoughts are: who were they fighting, insurgents or bypassed Iraqi military units? My gut tells me we will have a fast, violent assault, and my gut tells me we have excellent intelligence on the positions and dispositions of enemy forces.
A question for you analytical types: presumably, the insurgency is a result of an Iraqi Army that melted away under the US onslaught, found itself linking up with foreign fighters, and now is funded from both domestic sources and abroad. The question is, what keeps the fighters from leaving, melting into the populace and dispersing from their concentration in the city? I think there are two answers:
First, they still think they can win. Battles are won or lost in the minds of the commanders, and they still have hope in their minds.
Second, the sanctuary of weaponry, local political support, command and control infrastructure (however sophisticated), and ready ties to cash sources cannot be picked up and moved. I've touched on this earlier when I mention why I think Zarqawi is still in the city. I'm not saying that small bands of insurgents can'tleave, posing as civilians and setting up shop elsewhere. What I'm saying is that by doing so, they will completely cut themselves off from command and control from above, and will no longer be able to mass in a single place. The US won't let this happen again. Therefore, if some small groups do leave, even if they are successful afterwards in some bombings or beheadings, eventually they will run out of steam without the logistical, moral, and command support that can be readily found when they have coalesced in a physical place.
Another topic floating around in the news: Have the Iraqi forces that will fight alongside the Marines bee infiltrated with insurgents? I think not. I have no doubt that insurgents have been successful in hiding themselves amongst many of the fledgling Iraqi units, but I think that the ones going into the Sunni triange will be heavily vetted. And we only need a few thousand out of the total (which is over 100,000) to put an Iraqi face on the victory. And the units fighting with us will be vets of other battles, like Samarra. If there are insurgents amongst them, why wouldn't they have disrupted that battle? It seems to have gone off with few problems.
A reader asks in the comments section how I can know what is going on if I'm not there. Excellent question. Short answer: educated guesswork. I was a staff officer involved in planning before, during and after the invasion. Though I was in nary a firefight, figuring out the big picture was my job. I should note that I am not going to post anything that I think will endanger our boys. I have some pretty wild ideas about the ground assault that I will keep to myself. I am a combat engineer by training and the idea of going into a fortified city has my creative juices flowing . . .
Future topics to be covered on these pages:
-the Iran situation: military, political, or other solution?
-the future of American politics: since everyone is talking about this, I will offer my own ruminations
-a general critique of military-related film
-applying business models to the use of military power: problems and opportunities
-the future of labor unions
-thoughts on the idea of "netwar"
and many other topics. So keep tuning in. I will do my best to hold your attention.
[Admin note: I welcome comments on the layout, appearance or of course, content of my blog. Please let me know, via the comments, if you have concerns or ideas.]
November 3, 2004
Shaping the Battlefield
[quick note: don't be surprised if the blog changes in appearance once or twice over the next couple of days. I will be making a few minor template changes. - Chester]
Folks, many of the psychological aspects of the battle are starting to become clear. Let's see what we end up with when we try to calculate the overall effect on the enemy that the following combination of military and political events will have:
1. Bush has won re-election in the US with a clear victory that is unchallenged. This shows unity in the American populace.
2. Four Arab-language media outlets have been forced from Fallujah by the insurgents for refusing to display stock footage of civilian casualties. This is a huge plus for us, especially when we learn that Iraqi journalists are being embedded with US forces. Remember how well embedding worked for us during the invasion? No reason it won't work again in swaying Iraqi public opinion. Note that the article states that Al-Jazeera declined to embed a reporter. If the battle goes well for the US, and Iraqis and other Arabs watch it go well on their TVs, but Al-Jazeera reports negatively, the US can publicize AJ's "no thanks" to being included to AJ's detriment. Another note: I bet the US has some very solid signals intelligence, or other human intelligence that many of the fighers in Fallujah are not Iraqi. Being able to show them on TV as the US assaults will be a huge plus for Allawi. I don't think he would take this risk if he didn't know for sure.
3. There is a British report that the Black Watch will be patrolling the outskirts of Fallujah. The article states that the Brits are based in Camp Dogwood. If that's the case, then the idea that they are patrolling the outskirts of Fallujah is spin, pure and simple. Camp Dogwood is a good 50 miles as the crow flies from Fallujah. The Brits are serving as a blocking force, and are going to be watching one of the high-speed avenues of approach running north-south from Baghdad to Iskandriyah (I can't find the name of this highway at the moment) to clean up any fleeing insurgents. I bet the US will leave them one avenue of escape. This is because:
a) it will definitely be very bloody if all the jihadi's have nowhere to go and fight to the finish in the city,
b) if they flee, we can attrit them from the air very effectively (a highway is a relatively open battlespace), and
c) the British, maybe coupled with US Army units, will be in a position to bat cleanup as the bad guys move toward them.
If I wanted them to have an escape route, I would make it to the east, and not to the west. Ramadi is in the west and we don't need fleeing forces regrouping there, or stumbling into the rear of 5th Marines.
Whether the spin of "outskirts of Fallujah" is generated by the British press to make good headlines or whether it is generated by the US/British military to emphasize an important role for the Brits is unclear. But the effect is the same: to someone on the other side hearing news reports, it looks like not only the Americans, but also the Brits are involved in the campaign, and are very unified.
So to sum up, if I am Joe Insurgent in Fallujah, and have news access (probably via shortwave radio), I know that:
-Bush has won a resounding victory
-the British are united behind him and will participate in the attack against me
-the Arab media will mainly be embedded with the Americans, and will give accurate stories of their prowess, not the dreck I feed them
All of these things have a psychological effect on the enemy combatants. If there is any chance at all for a peace settlement, the US' blatant unity behind the president will further deepen existing discord between the sheiks and the foreign fighters.
I would put all of these events, together with the unrelenting airstrikes, under the battle phase of "shaping the battlefield," wherein we have not yet committed ground troops, but it's the next step, and we are doing all possible right down to the wire to make them successful. Look for more airstrikes tonight, and if they begin to increase in frequency, as they did yesterday (from more or less one a day to two a day) then we'll know the assault phase is getting closer. In US doctrine, phases must have clearly defined begin and end points. These can be either time-driven or event driven. I think that since the US election is over, the shift of phases from shaping the battlefield to beginning to kick down doors will be event-driven: like a certain unit in place and ready to perform a certain activity, or a certain enemy target successfully attrited by air.
[Note: thanks to "cjr" in the comments for pointing out the CentCom press releases.]
[Note: a reader asked in the comments section what "devildog" refers to. It's translation of German: "teufelhunden." See here.]
[Note: Thanks to alert reader "schutzhund" for pointing me to this story.]
November 2, 2004
It begins . . . no mercy!
I think the Battle of Fallujah has started. Note: if this is the case, it is as I type exactly 18 minutes since the polls closed in Hawaii and the West Coast. My prediction was accurate.
I'll continue looking for signs that the fight has begun.
Until then, I'd like to address the concerns of an alert reader,who posted in the comments section his belief that if Allawi is calling the shots, he may not aim for a decisive battle, but may instead seek to negotiate with the insurgents, as he did with Sadr's militia. The reader notes that decisive battle is a western concept, and is not nearly as well adhered to in the middle east.
This is an outstanding point, and kudos for raising it. As the military historian Victor Davis Hanson has pointed out, in his book Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power, among other places, the concept of decisive battle is distinctly western and descends to us from the Greeks.
Nevertheless, I don't think that the Najaf model of battle broken with negotiations will hold up for Fallujah. I think that a decisive victory will be sought. Here are my reasons:
Sadr is a popular Iraqi whose father was a famous Shi'ite cleric and anti-Saddam dissident. This made Sadr more a part of the Iraqi political culture or establishment than any of the insurgents in Fallujah. The only figurehead we know of in Fallujah is Zarqawi (if he's there; I think so), and Zarqawi is a Jordanian. He cannot be negotiated away. Similarly, the foreign fighters there will not get participation in any political processes or parties. They aren't even Iraqis! Next, the insurgent-allied tribes and sheiks in Fallujah and Ramadi are Sunni, and were closely tied with Saddam's regime. Whereas the majority of Iraq's population is Shi'ite, and had/has some sympathies for Sadr, they will have no such sympathies for former-Ba'athist Sunni tribes, which are in the minority anyway.
Bottomline: I think this will not be negotiated away. Decisive battle it is!
UPDATE: I could have pulled the trigger a little early. The news story I linked to states that there were two airstrikes during the night and that a US press release said, "Marine Expeditionary Forces will continue to conduct operations and will not cease until Fallujah is free of foreign terrorists and insurgents." I think it is kicking off but I am not so sure as I was. Look for combined arms attacks, not just airstrikes. That will mean it is happening in earnest.
Quick thoughts for Monday . . .
Blogging will be light today and Tuesday as I am on a business trip. However, a few quick thoughts:
-An alert reader in the comments section pointed out that it is very possible that the 24th MEU(SOC) will participate in the Fallujah Battle. I entirely agree. Can't ever forget the MEUs. Those Marines receive some very intense and excellent training in urban warfare before deployment and they will most certainly be put to use. Look for the MEU to be employed as a separate unit, possibly directly reporting to the MEF CG or the Division CG, and look for them to have their own part of the battlespace. I'm not going to predict whether the MEU will be in Fallujah or Ramadi. In fact, they could be used as an operational reserve. Now that I think about it, yes, this is what I expect: 1st Marines: Fallujah, 5th Marines, Ramadi. 7th Marines, continue with security operations in the far west.(note: I am not entirely sure that it is 7th Marines out there, but it is probably them), 24th MEU, operational reserve. The MEU will make a much more effective reserve force than another infantry regiment. Whichever regiment is out west, they have been there learning the ropes in their neighborhood for a long time. Also the MEU has trained together for upwards of a year prior to and during deployment, making them a very well-honed force. There is precedent for both the MEU as reserve and MEU as urban assault force scenarios: one of the MEUs was the STRATEGIC reserve for all of CENTCOM during the invasion last year, and one of the MEUs, the 15th, I believe, was sent into Nasiriyah to clean clock after the Division had moved through and past.
-Another alert reader in the comments sections points out that there were three infantry battalions involved in the Fallujah assault in April, not two, as I have mentioned. I will doublecheck, but I think we are both right: three total participated, but only two at a time. I think we can expect all three of each regiment (5th Marines may have four) to be very engaged from the start, though each regiment may have a reserve. I'm willing to bet that they will forgo regimental reserves in exchange for greater speed in prosecuting the assault.
-A final note: look for press reports of some very intense psychological operations. When a Marine Brigade was in Somalia in the early 90s and was first fired upon by a Somali artillery battery, the commander on the ground, a 3-star Marine, responded by leveling the grid square where the fire came from. That's one square kilometer. Then he had helicopters fly over the city with loudspeakers, proclaiming he would do it again in a heartbeat. General Mattis (he's in Quantico now, not Anbar) loved this stuff. He had psyops speakers alternately blaring Metallica and the Marines Hymn as his battalion crossed into Kuwait in Gulf War I. We'll see if Gen Sattler and Gen Natonski are likewise so inclined.