Domani

Well, I’m still unpacking and cleaning, so I probably won’t get a chance to post anything major until tonight or tomorrow.

It seems that the President has chosen conciliation instead of force in Fallujah; but given that the situation is still so hazy over there, and we’re still fighting there despite the so-called truce, it’s hard to say just what is going on. Tacitus is absolutely ticked that that’s what the President has supposedly chosen to do, and tears him a new one.

I’m not so sure that that’s a bad thing, and even if it is, what could we have done about it? The more I think I look at this administration, the more I’m convinced that they’ll sacrifice anything, to include our national honor, on the altar of political expediency.

I’m currently reading, among other books, Richard Reeves’ study of Richard Nixon (President Nixon: Alone in the White House), and I’m struck by the similarities between the two Presidencies. It’s not just that the younger Bush has hired many of Nixon’s hands (though he has–even Rove was a member of the White House staff back then); but one thing that you come away with from reading Reeves is that darn near everything was subordinated to politics in the Nixon White House. Bush’s is worse; at least, there were some truly accomplished individuals in the White House staff (folks like D. Pat Moynihan, for example), who came up with some truly policy-based decisions; Bush’s staff lacks even that.

I’m nearly certain that at the end, if in fact Bush has chosen conciliation over confrontation in Fallujah (and, more importantly, Najaf), it wasn’t because of the wisdom of such a decision; it was because he feels that the political implications of Americans seeing even more valorous Americans on their tragic final journey, to a home they’ll never see again, were far too dire to suffer.

Republicans like comparing Bush to Churchill, saying their stewardship of a nation at war with a mortal enemy is the same. It’s significant that Churchill, right from the beginning, offered nothing less than blood, toil, sweat, and tears; Bush offered us shopping, leisure, lies, and fear, and nothing more.

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13 responses to “Domani

  1. Rich Puchalsky

    Tacitus is, in my opinion, an amazingly bad strategist. I don’t see how any administration could have decided to attack in Fallujah and Najaf.

    What are the options? The administration already threw its dice and lost, by trying to go into Fallujuh carefully and shoot/arrest the insurgents. If they had been able to, and the rest of the populace had been willing to hide, then everything would have been fine. Of course, this plan was aboout as optimistic as the plan that originally called for us to be hailed by Iraqis as liberators, so the gamble shouldn’t have been taken in the first place. Bush should have ignored the deliberate provocation of the hanging of the four contractors.

    But once the gamble was taken and failed — in that the people in Fallujuh showed that they were willing to take heavy casualties and still resist — what were the options? To go in with massive force would probably mean killing at least 10% of the people in the city (3% have already been killed).

    Which would get you what? There is no *military* objective in Fallujah. What the Bush administration desperately needs is a political solution. We now know that a massacre in Fallujah isn’t going to cow the Iraqis, it’s just going to cause even more resistance in the rest of the country, discrediting the moderate Iraqis and making the chances of a political solution go from improbable to impossible.

    Najaf is even worse. Attacking the central holy place of the Shiites would force Sistani to declare jihad against the Americans — he has already stated that he will do so. That commits all the Shiites to full-scale guerilla resistance, not just Sadr’s militia.

    The only real option that the Bush administration has now is to do what is has been doing: pretend to negotiate, knowing that the negotiations will go nowhere, send out patrols for firefights with Iraqis in an attempt to make it look like something is being done, pretend to be conciliatory to try to salvage some public relations points out of defeat.

  2. I feel great relief. For whatever reason, Bush avoided a bloodbath. Maybe cooler heads are ascendent.

    I suspect Marine snipers will cause considerable attrition among the insurgents, without killing so many women and children.

    But we should get out, pronto.

    As long as the occupation continues, we’re giving Arabs another “Rodney King Tape” every day — killed Arabs, “innocent” and insurgent, that raise the level of fury toward the USA.

    We should get out with whatever fig leaf we can muster; and I suspect Kerry will be moved sooner than Bush to do so.

    Terrific last paragraph. I’m going to link to it.

  3. Ron In Portland

    “I feel great relief. For whatever reason, Bush avoided a bloodbath. Maybe cooler heads are ascendent.”
    Rich is right, there are no cooler heads in the administration only political ones. The entire country remains a full gas can siting on a bed of hot coals.

  4. I must disagree with my learned Polish-American colleague on one issue: the military value of Fallujah. Doesn’t one of the roads to Jordan pass through the town? From what I can tell, our supply lines are still unsecured, three weeks along now.

  5. Rich Puchalsky

    Polish-American? Me? I’ve never been able to track down where “Puchalsky” comes from, but I think it’s Russian — Ukrainian, actually, since part of my family probably came from Rohatyn, a shtetl there.

    I take your point about the road to Jordan, but there are other supply lines, and they aren’t passable either. I don’t think that reducing Fallujah is going to clear them up, or even clear the road through Fallujah; the guerillas will just move along a few miles.

  6. the guerillas will just move along a few miles.

    I suspect you’re right about this, Ukrainian or not. That’s what guerrillas do. Speaking of which, are we in Stage Two guerrilla war now, or are we up to Three? I haven’t consulted any of the handy checklists in awhile. Mounting large operations and holding a certain amount of territory for a certain amount of time is Three, right?

  7. Rich Puchalsky

    I think you’re thinking of something like this, from an article by George Friedman:

    “Vo Nguyen Giap, who commanded communist forces against both France and the United States in Vietnam, divided guerrilla war into three stages:

    1. Stage one: very small unit, hit-and-run actions without any attempt to hold territory.

    2. Stage two: continuation of stage one attacks combined with larger units, regimental and below, engaging in more intense attacks and taking
    and holding remote terrain as needed.

    3. Stage three: conventional warfare against a weakened enemy who is engaged and defeated.”

    I don’t think much of this theory. The Vietnamese forces won because the war aims of the U.S. weren’t sufficiently important to justify the losses taken, not because the U.S. was defeated in conventional battle. There should be a Stage 2.5 where the occupier gives up and goes home rather than committing more forces.

  8. K, thanks. Accepting the Giap schema for a moment, we’re at 2 now. Giap’s 3 is probably a thing of the past – you just can’t launch conventional warfare unless you can at least contest the skies, and I don’t see any guerrilla group being able to do that. I COULD see a Stage 3 unconventional warfare against supply lines that is able to inflict a genuine strategic defeat on an occupying power. We aren’t there yet, but we can see what it would look like. The ingredients would seem to be

    a) a final alienation of the Shiites;
    b) six months

    The second is the time I’m guessing it takes for a bigger “Mahdi Army” to get its sh;t together. IMHO we can NOT sufficiently reinforce within the same time frame to overcome the speculated increase in the opposition’s size and sophistication. At that point it’s fighting withdrawals or relief expeditions out of Kuwait with what forces you can scrape up.

    This is a very good reason to pursue what appears to be the current “Hope Najaf gets sicker of Baby Sadr than they do of us” strategy. If they get sicker of us, we’re in genuine trouble.

  9. Rich Puchalsky

    Interesting idea. I agree with you about contesting the skies; just today the guerrillas (and civilians) were mowed down in groups of 50+ people at a time by AC-130s. With no country willing to get caught sending the guerrillas anti-air missiles, as we did to the Russians in Afghanistan, I don’t think they’re ever going to be able to change the outcome where if they stand and fight in large numbers, they lose.

    Doesn’t that mean that the guerrillas won’t be able to drive the U.S. out of the country through supply line cutoff, though? Can’t the U.S. supply enough stuff by air to keep U.S. forces alive as long as they don’t venture out of a few fortified bases with air cover circling overhead? I don’t know anything about logistics, so I really have no idea, but I’m guessing so.

    Based on what I know about the Bush administration, I think they’re likely to try this tactic. Running back to fortified bases after the “hand off” on June 30 will

    1) Lower the U.S. death rate (no patrolling)
    2) Avoid the need to explain a fighting withdrawal
    3) Allow the claim that we still have troops
    in-country that could strike at the rest of the
    Middle East if they ever do anything we don’t like
    (of course this won’t really be true)
    4) Blame all continuing deaths of Iraqis on Iraqis

    And I agree with you about Najaf and Sadr. There was a “youth gang” that was boasting about driving out his people — just boasts, I’m sure, but indicative of something. If I were in charge, I wouldn’t keep sending U.S. troops creeping closer and closer in to the city, I’d just back off, let the people there see no hide or hair of the U.S., and wait for them to get really sick of the men with guns that they did see.

  10. Rich: “Doesn’t that mean that the guerrillas won’t be able to drive the U.S. out of the country through supply line cutoff, though?”

    It’s possible, but I think that if that were the case that scenario would’ve been played out already. Even though the media here in the US makes it look like the entire Baghdad area and surrounding cities is blowing up in our faces I think we need to hold into context the percentage of the population involved in the insurgency.
    Sadr has a relatively small following, poorly armed, and from what I could see from vid feeds, these guys are poorly trained…if trained at all. (shooting from the hip and treating the AK47 like it’s a freak’n fire hose tells me these guys don’t even know how to use the bloody thing to begin with!)
    The Fallujah “uprising” is probably even smaller in terms of combatants, and from the vid feeds I’ve seen these guys have had rudimentary training with a few showing some professional capabilities. That said, I think the insurgents have inactive sympathy from the residents, and that is about all they’re going to get.

    At issue about logistics is two things, volume vs resources; to get what is needed, where it’s needed, when it is needed without impacting current or future operations.
    Helicopters are limited in volume compared to a truck, and so to overcome volume deficency they would need more helicopters which means dipping into a finite pool of resources.
    So the hobgoblin of helicopters for the logistics guys is this: 1) we can get some there quickly, but not enough to do the job, or 2) we can get a lot there at the expense of current or future operational needs.
    Thus, armored trucks running the gauntlet. Not a pretty way of doing it, but given the other options, probably the best way of getting the job done.

  11. Rich Puchalsky

    I don’t think you need that many guerrillas to effectively close off a long road. But in terms of supply from the air, I wasn’t thinking helocopters — too small-scale. I’d guess that if the U.S. stays in Iraq, it’s going to pick out two or three multiple-square-mile patches of desert far from any cities, fortify them, put airstrips inside the fortifications, supply them by cargo plane, and pull all the troops into them.

  12. Well, you’re right that they don’t need a brigade to do the job. But they would need to be large enough, and mobile, to accomplish the task. However, such a large force would invite all sorts of American aircraft with nasty little suprises.

    Also, I hope we don’t go into the Fire-Base strategy. There are too many examples from the Vietnam war, and from Russian’s experience in Afghanistan that has “bad idea” blazoned across it. Like having all our forces bunched up like ducks in a barrel during hunting season.

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