2003 March 27 Thursday
Pessimistic Voices On War Length Growing Louder

Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post has written an interesting article summarizing a variety of views on how long the war will take.

The combination of wretched weather, long and insecure supply lines, and an enemy that has refused to be supine in the face of American military might has led to a broad reassessment by some top generals of U.S. military expectations and timelines. Some of them see even the potential threat of a drawn-out fight that sucks in more and more U.S. forces. Both on the battlefield in Iraq and in Pentagon conference rooms, military commanders were talking yesterday about a longer, harder war than had been expected just a week ago, the officials said.

The article says the logistics supply train has been been doing a sufficient job of keeping up with the rapidly advancing 3rd Infantry Division. A pause to give time to improve the logistics situation may be necessary in any case.

The argument for a 'Pac Man' attack to destroy all the Republican Guard who ring Baghdad before an attempt is made to enter the city has an advantage not mentioned in the article: the more Saddam loyalists die in the fight for Baghdad the easier it will be to govern Iraq afterward. This is also an argument for hunting down the Saddam Fedayeen and Baath Party officials who are running the hit-and-run attacks in other parts of the country as well. The more totally the current regime is shattered and destroyed the easier it will be to remake and transform Iraq into a better place.

As for the pessimistic views voiced in this article: Keep in mind that in past conflicts predictions of how long a war would take have varied all over the map. War is full of a great many uncertainties. It would probably be prudent to send more forces to Iraq at this point. But the worst case scenarios now being bandied about may turn out to be excessively pessimistic.

The hard part of any siege of Baghdad is illustrated by the events in Basra. There are worries that the civilians will run out of water. On one hand the coalition forces should avoid urban fighting that would rack up large numbers of coalition and civilian casualties. On the other hand, a surrounded city will likely decay in its ability to support the lives of its inhabitants. A real practical question this brings to mind is whether coalition forces could capture water and sewer plants on the outskirts of Baghdad and use them to maintain the water supply and sewage removal from Baghdad even during a prolonged siege that lasted weeks or months.

Update: Using previous examples of urban combat between forces of differing abilities Daryl G. Press estimates potential coalition forces deaths from an assault on Baghdad.

With their technological advantages, coalition forces in Baghdad should perform at least as well as the Marines in Hue; the poorly trained Iraqis can be expected to fight less effectively than the North Vietnamese did. Depending on how many Iraqis resist, total coalition deaths might be in the 400 to 800 range. However, if the Iraqis perform as poorly as the Panamanians, coalition fatalities would be only half as high. But if the Iraqis are as skillful as the Jordanians were in 1967 which seems unlikely because the Jordanians at the time were the best soldiers in the Arab world then coalition losses could rise to between 1,000 and 2,000 dead.

(found courtesy of Joe Katzman's daily news round-up)

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 March 27 02:02 PM  Military War, Rumours Of War


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