i-NSIDER/No.112/March 30, 2003
WAR AGAINST IRAQ Journal (10)
-- America's miscalculation
| Today's 'Sunday Project' had the theme of 'America's miscalculation'
throughout the program. The White House and the Pentagon were indeed quite
optimistic when they launched the war. They thought the US would win a quick
and decisive victory within days or weeks and accomplish their intention
to obliterate Hussein. Outside the conference room where the important decision
to open a war was made, people heard the President and his aides laughing
8 chains of miscalculation
(1) Air-strikes were not so effective as anticipated. The American troops could not kill Hussein in the first surprise attack. They have exhausted their precision-guided weapons, and now have to switch to ordinary weapons, which are not very smart and are more likely to hit civilians by mistake.
(2) In preparation for an attack against Iraq, the US tried to buy the right for US troops to enter Turkey and to be stationed there. The US promised enormous financial aid to the Turkish government. Turkey was offended by America's condescending and high-handed attitude and behavior, which could be compared to a Big Brother's slapping your cheek with a checkbook. Wanting to show that they are not so mercenary as the US thinks, the Turks rejected the offer and denied American troops passage through the country. The Turkish people in general are obviously opposed to taking part in the war. The 4th Infantry Digital Division was therefore unable to deploy 65,000 soldiers, including logistics units, in Northern Iraq. General Tommy Franks, who is commanding Operation Iraqi Freedom in Qatar, was not happy because he does not have enough ground forces under him. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was confident of the capability of precision-guided bombs, so he rejected the military leaders' advice, saying that 120,000 troops were enough. Even with so many soldiers sent to the battlefield, the current force is less than half the size of the coalition forces that fought the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
(3) Iraqi soldiers' resistance was far fiercer and more persistent than expected. In Basra and some of the southern cities, Shiite residents were expected to give an ardent welcome to a 'liberation army'. The coalition forces were supposed to win easy and quick control over them. But in reality they faced strong and stubborn opposition elements of militia or suicide units, namely the Special Republican Guards and the fedayeen Saddam (Saddam's Men of Sacrifice). Even Shiites confessed that they "don't like Hussein but will fight against 'invaders' to protect Iraq's sovereignty."
(4) As a result, US troops have difficulties to secure supplies for the front. The 1st Marine Division and the 3rd Infantry Division were initially "sweeping into southern Iraq in an invasion aimed at Baghdad". But then bad weather and guerilla assaults got in their way, blocking their supply lines stretching 300-400 kilometers from the Umm Qasr port. Now the frontline soldiers have only one meal a day and are drinking filtered water from the river, waiting for the rear units to bring them support, moral and material.
(5) Information dominance was one of the American tactics to give Iraqi people "Shock and Awe", but it has not been very successful. Iraqi National TV broadcasts Hussein's speeches and top officials' press conferences. Al-jajeera covers both Iraqi civilians' casualties and US soldiers killed or captured. The Western public have a mixed feeling in view of the coalition's successive false reports; for example, "Hussein's top-level leaders killed", "Factory for chemical weapons found", "Uprising of Shiites", etc. Some people are more and more critical of these announcements, which display wishful thinking. Out of spite the coalition forces dropped a bomb on the Iraqi TV station, which is an apparent violation of war regulations.
(6) The US and UK supposed, before the war, that a desperate Hussein would set fire to the oil fields or destroy bridges and dams. Citizens would be unable to get food or daily commodities. The coalition troops would then distribute humanitarian aid to win the people's gratitude and friendship. The fact is, Hussein did not destroy the nation's infrastructure. He had ordered that a six-month food stock be established for residents of Baghdad and other cities. It is not the Iraqi people but frontline American soldiers who are thirsty and starving.
(7) Their suppositions continue: amid confusion as the regime collapses, refugees would swarm into neighboring countries. The UNHCR and other international groups would care for them at the border. The coalition forces would treat them courteously as they are recognized as civilians and not enemies. The world would be relieved to see people helping other people and order being restored. So far no refugees are reported in the country. Despite the UN's plan to shelter 600,000 refugees, only 14 people had arrived by March 27 at a refugee camp near the Syrian border. They were all taken in by their relatives in Syria (The Asahi 03/28). On the contrary, many Iraqis who had come to Amman, Jordan as guest workers after the Gulf War decided to go home to fight for and protect their families, their hometowns and their country. Their number is going up day by day, and very few are left now in Amman (The Mainichi 03/26).
(8) Another miscalculation: anti-American sentiments are growing among Arab countries since a mistaken bombing killed civilians in Jordan. Religious leaders of Sunni sects as well as Shiite leaders called for a jihad (holy war) against America. The coalition forces have made enemies of the whole Arab world and Islamic communities.
So on and so forth. The Bush administration has had to review their first plan to advance straight away to Baghdad, saying "We don't know how long it will take". As they really don't know what to do, they hastened to send 100,000 more soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division, who were waiting for orders in Texas. Their armored vessels are anchored off the coast of Turkey. Tsuguji Taoka says that it will take until around April 20 for the reinforcement troops to be operational. When the ships arrive south of Iraq, they need to unpack, mount, check the equipment, and make sure everything is working. A considerable part of the Division has to be assigned to secure the supply lines and to undertake the southern cleanup operation.
(1) One way to accomplish this goal is to try to advance quickly to Baghdad, destroy the Republican Guard troops, and win the fight inside the city. Once Hussein is deposed, the fedayeen and other paramilitary forces that have been attacking allied troops as they head north would find themselves cut off from the main source of their power. The paramilitary forces would be defeated by American and British troops or destroyed by Shiite Muslims eager to settle scores after decades of repression. A new order would be established in Iraq from the inside out.
(2) But there is another possible approach, one that commanders indicated they might favor. That is to defer the rush to Baghdad and to focus instead on ridding Iraqi cities in the south of fedayeen. That would make it easier for the US to run supply lines north and could encourage the Shiites in the south to throw off the yoke. The American troops might take advantage of the delay in attacking Baghdad by bringing in additional forces from the USA, like the 4th Infantry Division, and by readying them for combat to build up the offensive punch. The coalition forces could also start providing 'humanitarian' assistance to Basra and other southern cities, providing an incentive for Baghdad residents to cooperate with American forces. A new Iraq would be created from the outside in.
(3) Traditionally, the American way of war is to keep up pressure on the enemy. Waiting for more divisions to arrive is not an attractive option for the US forces. Faced with the unexpected prospect of urban warfare in southern cities, a looming battle in Baghdad, and yet another confrontation in northern Iraq, the allied force has found itself to be stretched thin. It also faces the prospect of a longer war. To avoid a prolonged war, the US has to resort to a diplomatic strategy.
The third option is the most reasonable. Gordon characterizes this war as " a complex, risky and most unusual war". He is hesitant and indirect, but the point is, the Pentagon had better admit their failure and withdraw. Acting commanders know the Bush administration has misread the situation. The neo-conservative politicians like Donald Rumsfeld do not have any experience on the battlefield. They may continue to order attacks till the country is destroyed by indiscriminate carpet bombing as Russia predicts (see our Journal 7).
In today's 'Sunday Project', Dana Dillon of the Heritage Foundation
said, "We would like to avoid an urban war and unnecessary deaths,
but the ambushes by Iraqi soldiers in civilian clothes pretending to surrender
are illegal under the Geneva Conventions." Toshiyuki Shikata, former
general superintendent of the Northern Army of the Japan's SDF, agreed
and said, "It is the Iraqis' responsibility if they use civilians
as their shield. There is no reason for the allied force to hesitate from
using carpet bombing." Shikata is usually moderate in his thinking,
but he gets radical in a war framework, thinking as though he were a commander.
Suppose you play such a game of brinkmanship, all goes to ruin.
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