Frontline Thoughts

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The guy in charge of getting U.S. troops to Baghdad says things are tougher than expected. Not a queasy "armchair general" or "defeatist" or "peacenik," the commander of ground troops in the theater.

Lt. Gen. William Wallace tells The Washington Post that Iraqi tactics have slowed the advance and that, together with thin supply lines, likely means that fighting will last longer than expected. Let's see how long it takes for the Bush administration to call Wallace crazy.

One more extraneous thing. Contrary to news reports, official statements, and editorial assertions, U.S. forces are not on the outskirts of Baghdad. They are a good 50 miles from the city. Those miles could go fast, could go slow, but 50 miles is still 50 miles.

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  1. Keep this in mind when you hear any speculation on the operational strategy of this war (including this post):

    >>Shahak (of the Isreali Defense Force) says that until now the American’s have managed to conceal their true battle plan. “Do you know what the Americans have planned? I don’t. They also never said (what they were planning to do). How do you topple a regime in 48 hours? In a week? Seventeen days? If we don’t want to make fools of ourselves, we should wait patiently. It would just be arrogant to judge from what we see on TV.”

  2. For the record, I wouldn’t be surprised if the final blow on Baghdad came from the West or the North rather than the bogged down South. Out.

  3. General W.T. Sherman predicted a long, bloody affair at the beginning of the Civil War – the only general on either side to do so. He was considered insane and asked to leave the army. First Bull Run opened a lot of eyes, by the Battle of Shiloh, everybody realized he was right.
    We should remember that war is rarely easy, that is why we avoid it.

  4. if 50 miles is indeed, “outskirts”, why aren’t the euro-enviro freaks worried about urban sprawl there?

    the recognition that we probably don’t know the battle plans makes sense. remember how there was talk of a water landing onto the beaches of kuwait back when. this goes along with the potential of heading into baghdad from another direction, too. still, underestimating the goon squads who have nothing to lose here is a bit strange. that’s where i get worried about the planning.

    still. may our troops come home as quickly as possible after a fantastic, successful completion of their mission to a hero’s welcome!

    (i still remember how it was actually “cool” to say thanks to our soldiers post 9/11; or how thanking a fire fighter was cool, too. it still should be.)

    and as always, “happy friday”
    drf

  5. if 50 miles is indeed, “outskirts”, why aren’t the euro-enviro freaks worried about urban sprawl there? (of course, chicagoland extends to at least south bend and kenosha (eh?), both of which are more than 50 miles away…)

    the recognition that we probably don’t know the battle plans makes sense. remember how there was talk of a water landing onto the beaches of kuwait back when. this goes along with the potential of heading into baghdad from another direction, too.

    still, underestimating the goon squads who have nothing to lose here is a bit strange. that’s where i get worried about the planning, because greater internal resistance should be expected when getting rid of a regime. they’ve got nothing to lose.

    so, to those who thought this would be a neat three week affair, please return to earth and switch news channels… war is awful, as noted above…

    are these unrealistic expectations a feature of media coverage, poor propaganda on the bush administration’s part, a combo, a misunderstanding of war, or what?

    still. may our troops come home as quickly as possible after a fantastic, successful completion of their mission to a hero’s welcome!

    (i still remember how it was actually “cool” to say thanks to our soldiers post 9/11; or how thanking a fire fighter was cool, too. it still should be.)

    and as always, “happy friday”
    drf

  6. We have William Wallace on our side? I’m feeling better already.

  7. In DC, 50 miles away includes the outskirts of the greater city., depending on which side you’re talking about. Certainly along the I-95 corridor Greater DC starts about 50 miles out. Baghdad, as I recall, has more people than the DC area but I don’t know how spread out it is.

    Certainly the Beltway snipers were often 20-30 miles out of DC proper. Once in Richmond, but that wasn’t considered DC-area.

  8. It is fair to keep in mind what has gone right up to this point. Either through luck or skill we prevented the Iraqi’s from torching their oil fields. We have kept most civilians out of harms way. We are trying to prevent the total destruction of the Iraq’s infrastructure. All of these are in some ways a cause for the slow down on the march towards Baghdad.

    Regards

    Joe

  9. Actually, our generals have stated repeatedly that we have had forces operating *inside* Baghdad since March 16th.

    Sure US forces are 50 miles out. They are also 0 miles out, 100 miles out, and 1000 miles out.

    – Mr. Poge

  10. There’s a big difference between saying resistance is tougher than expected and saying that the force isn’t adequate for the job. (As you allege in your sloppily written “Afraq” article.) All he’s saying is that it’ll take a little longer. Is that so bad? Some of this may have to do with the fact that the 4th ID isn’t anywhere in the theater yet. Considering that our actual force on the ground is about 100,000 strong, we’re doing all right, albeit facing some ill-trained, suicidal, kinda-sorta organized resistance.

    First you’re against the war (not that I necessarily blame you for that specifically), and now we’re not kicking enough ass for your liking?

    Jeff, you accuse (with no evidence whatsoever) the Bush administration of not learning the lessons of Afghanistan. On the other hand, you’ve forgotten a big one yourself. Perhaps you remember that as tribal factions were being organized, diplomacy finalized, there was a period of inaction before the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif. Perhaps you also remember that there were some particularly foolish people demanding that it go faster, saying it wasn’t working simply because they couldn’t see it working, and calling for various higher-ups to resign(!). I’m genuinely disheartened to see a writer for Reason fall into this trap. The first casualty of war isn’t truth, it’s perspective.

  11. Oh, yes, thank God — we’ve prevented the Iraqis from torching the oil fields! At least now we’re starting to talk about what’s REALLY important in this war.

  12. Yeah Halle is right. We should’ve let these burn up and pollute everthing in the area. Damn that evil Bush and his capitalists ways!

  13. Addendum to my previous post, where I stated that we are doing all right given the size of the force we have there:

    I should have said instead that the factors that suggest we are doing “all right” are do to the fact that what little resistance coalition forces are encountering is poor, at best, and that in nearly every engagement our forces are overwhelmingly successful. (In fact, their performance is better than all right, given that they war-gamed against a regular army-type enemy, not geurrilla-type enemy.) In the end, they’d be receiving approximately the same resistance no matter how many troops were in the field. (though spread somewhat more thinly, assuming a northern front.) My original post suggested that our relative success or failure so far had to do with the size of our force. I feel that I was mistaken in this.

  14. William Wallace isn’t all we’ve got. The British sent in some of their Highlanders too…

  15. The Iraqis shall fear men in skirts yet!

  16. I got married in a Kilt, liked it so much I bought one. Chicks dig the kilt. As a fan of both Rob Roy and William Wallace, I’ll I can say is Kilts Rock.

    Regards

    Joe

  17. Geo Dude, it’s actually the size of our dick.

    By the way, Joe, that’s why Americans don’t wear kilts.

  18. Funny how the short kilt is an Englishman’s invention.

  19. the pentagon may not have expected it, but the Bush Administration and Rumsfeld apparently did… guess that’s what happens when you only listen to Richard Perle and Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress while ignoring the normal intelligence agencies.

  20. Gary!!!

    hmmmmm…… a humorous comment about the brits from our francophile? sacre bleu!… or is it “cordon bleu”? mmmmmm… chicken. 🙂

    bon week end,
    drf

  21. I live 50 miles from L.A. (Upland Ca.)and theres a lot of people, buildings, and stuff to blow up,from what I hear Baghdad is similar in layout hmmmmm…

  22. Oh, yes, thank God — we’ve prevented the Iraqis from torching the oil fields! At least now we’re starting to talk about what’s REALLY important in this war

    The problem with screaming “this is all about oil” is that it lacks perspective. Substitute in the real meaning of the word:

    “this is all about the stability and security of the entire world’s economy and transportation systems!”

    Doesn’t look quite so heartless and greedy then, does it.

  23. Before the war, the regular Iraqi army was estimated to have around 17 divisions numbering 375,000 men, and there were an additional 6 Republican Gaurd divisions. In addition to that, there were supposed to be an 30-60,000 Saddam Fedayeen, Special Republican Guard, and Baath party loyalists. Where’d they all go?

    It seems that the US is looking at 3 Republican Guard divisions around Baghdad, and some Baath party loyalists who are fighting in the rear, holding Basrah, and being slaughtered whenever they show their faces.

    My point is that the pentagon couldn’t possibly have *assumed* that practically the entire regular army and half of the Republican Gaurd would just melt away. I can’t imagine that there have been more casualties or slower progress than would have occurred if the US had had to face another 20 divisions in the field. Did their worst likely case scenarios assume that
    80% of the Iraqi forces would simply disappear? If not, than why all the talk about things going slower than expected?

    Has anyone seen an article that sheds any light on this?

  24. AS a veteran, and a regular reader of Reason, I have to say how much I enjoy these lively discussions and articles. Good thing we’re not in Iraq [please substitute in your favorite dictatorship in place of that country if you wish] or we might be tortured and our whole family killed in front of us for suggesting that our government was screwing up the planning/executing of a war (remember Iran-Iraq in the 1980’s?)
    In the meantime, why not wait a bit to see if our planners can get it right? As far as I can see, they’re doing excellent so far, as are the troops in field, be they British, Australian, or American (again, fill in your favorite country from the “Coalition of the Willing”) If given a choice, I’m sure they would come home sooner rather than later, but NOT until their job is done, this time; I have confidence and faith in them that it will happen.
    And yes, there are metropolitan areas at least 50 miles in diameter (London? Mexico City?) depending of course how you define it. So if they’ve stopped, it may be for a good reason. I can think of several.

  25. Dan,

    “the stability and security of the entire world’s economy and transportation systems!” depends upon either having good relations with the Saddams, Al-Sauds, and Khomenis, or going to war with them, so we can have a reliable supply of energy?

    Perhaps the environmentalists aren’t so deluded after all?

  26. Lazarus Long,

    That’s right, again we should trust the “experts.” The next time the government tells you anything, it should of course be trusted, because it has such a grand track record so far. What you argue for is blind obedience to the state, you fascist thug.

  27. Lazarus Long,

    Oh, and BTW, my comments were not directed to the “operational plan” of Franks. They were of course directed to the slavish attitude of CAS. An attitude you appear to share. Thanks for the red herring, BTW, it was tasty.

    It amazes me that so many people here call themselves libertarians, like free markets, etc., but when it comes to issues of nationalism, you bend over and take it up the ass, trusting everything that the welfare government you dislike in so many ways says. Your ahistorical view of the US military is also rather shocking as well. I suspect it has something to do with all the propaganda the US military – and the US government for that matter – spews forth about itself.

  28. Sorry Gary, but there is a world of difference between observing and holding judgment in the face of incomplete information and barking out anti-US propaganda. Unlike you, I am actually aware of my ignorence and will hold my peace until I am better aware of all the facts. Your “conspiracy theory” rhetoric only further destroy your credibility.

  29. Lazarus,
    So you think that expanding the war into Syria and Iran, as we are now threatning to do, is all part of the plan eh?

  30. Warren:
    Yes

  31. Lazarus Thug,

    What conspiracy theory would that be? You and your red herrings.

  32. Lazarus Long,

    It is unfortunate that you are too dim to address what other people write. Instead you have to create issues out of thin air in order to shuck and jive your way through an argument.

  33. Gary, all you can do is flame. Entertaining but ultimately not worth my time. Bugger off my dear troll.

  34. Lazarus Long,

    Run like the dog that you are.

  35. CAS,

    You argument is stupid. That’s right, because we don’t live in Iraq, we should let the “experts” in the government take care of everything. Your slavish attitude sickens me.

  36. Gary has psychic powers. He can read Gen. Franks mind and therefor can pass judgement on the good general’s operational strategy (which has yet to be reveled to us mortals). This must be, as it is impossible for Gary The All-knowing to simply be talking out of his arse.

  37. Hmm. Well I just wanted to comment on how stupid it is to regard it as a failure that we’re 50 miles outside of Baghdad. “50 miles is still 50 miles” Jeff A. Taylor helpfully informs us. Wow, that’s profound. Well Jeff, this war started on St.Pat’s as I recall, and today it’s April 1, and we’re already 50 miles from the seat of power of our enemy. Shit man, that suggests to me that we’re doing pretty good. Maybe not as good as we had hoped, but still pretty good.

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