Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Thoughts on Fallujah

Reading (via The Belmont Club some of the accounts of what is going on in Fallujah, while at the same time re-reading Stalingrad by Anthony Beever makes for an interesting comparison. It lead me to one thought.

Some of the grisliest urban military actions have occurred because of the sheer ferocity of the defending commander. There is a noticeable stiffening of Russian resistance after the frankly brutal Chuikov took command. About the only thing Chuikov had a reasonable supply of in September and October 1942 was men. And I know of no evidence that suggests our enemies in Iraq have such near-inexhaustible reserves, though I am sure some of them could match Chuikov for his ferocity.

The other big if seems to be the competence of the insurgents themselves. While we obviously have the huge advantage in terms of technology and material it would be the worst kind of hubris to pretend that these things are more important than the men themselves. Tech and material can certainly aid the winning of battles, but it is the men and women on the ground that actually do the job.

My feeling is that tactically our enemy is uneven. That means some people are poor, while others will be extremely able. The first group will likely be easy to deal with, but soon they will be whittled out and we'll end up facing a core of accomplished fighters who have proven themselves by staying alive. The fighting should get harder at that point, which we might well soon be reaching.

The level of organisation does not seem to be particularly good, but here the technology is really working against them. If modern tech helps out, it is really in the realm of communications. Of course, if as seems we are squeezing them into a specific locale then the difficulties ease here too, and again it should get harder.

The really big if though is the motivation. Part of the rapid advance thus far I would put down to the perimeter the insurgents were defending just being a bit too big for their numbers (that is highly speculative). Add in the initial shock of the attack as well. I sense though we are now entering the crux. If there is a mass breakdown in our opponents this could be finished bar the shouting (and sniping) by the end of the week. However, if there is a retrenchement it could well last longer. Military bombardments and whatnot are nice, but a constant in war is that they only go so far.

However, right now mostly I just hope and pray that our casualties, and those of civilians, are as few as possible.

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