August 31, 2002

WHY TAKE BAGHDAD? :

Urban War, the Right Way : Baghdad Needn't Be Another Mogadishu. American Troops Are Up to the Task--but Is the Public? (Mark Bowden, August 302002, LA Times)
Reports that Saddam Hussein is hoping to lure invading U.S. armies into protracted street battles in Baghdad have prompted visionsof American soldiers caught in a nightmarish 360-degree urban battlefield--"Black Hawk Down" redux.

Given that his military is estimated to be only one-third as strong as the one routed by allied armies 11 years ago, Hussein's best hope against an invading American force would be to exact enough casualties to wear down support for the effort in the U.S. or frighten off support for such an invasion before it began.

Toward that end, the nightmare of the 1993 battle of Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, depicted in the book and movie "Black Hawk Down"might help convince Americans and their lawmakers that the cost of going to war against Iraq would be too high. But, in fact, the kind of urban fighting that members of Task Force Ranger faced in 1993 would little resemble such fighting in Baghdad.

The mission in Mogadishu was a limited, light-infantry assault, a lightning raid meant to capture unharmed several lieutenants of Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid. The whole purpose was to get into the city and get out quickly. The mission turned into protracted street fightingonly when Somalis were able to down two Black Hawk helicopters, forcing the soldiers on the ground to stay and rescue the chopper crews. An assault on Baghdad would come with heavy force and would be designed to defeat an entrenched enemy. It would involve a large contingent of footsoldiers supported by armor and precision air support. Task Force Ranger fought without the aid of tanks or AC-130 Spectre gunships because the
Clinton administration had declined to authorize these weapons. The full force of the U.S. conventional arsenal would back any move on Baghdad. The Rangers, Delta Force, SEALs and Air Force commandos trapped in Mogadishu numbered only about 160 men. Any force employed to attackBaghdad would be many times larger and linked with ready replacements and reinforcement. The most valuable armored tool in such an assault would probably not be a tank but a bulldozer.


Here's the question though: why take Baghdad? Especially if Saddam is going with a turtle strategy, sucking in his head and limbs and hiding in a "tough" shell, why not just take the rest of the country, giving us free reign to clean up his weapons sites and denying him access to his oil, surround Baghdad and tell the folks we'll leave when they send him out.
Posted by Orrin Judd at August 31, 2002 11:40 PM
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