April 9, 2003


Lessons of Somalia bolster US successes: Iraq's battle plan likely sought to create a 'Black Hawk Down' scenario. (Brad Knickerbocker, 4/09/03, The Christian Science Monitor)
Looking back at the US experience in Somalia 10 years ago, Saddam Hussein thought he saw the key to winning a war with the United States. Mix his paramilitary forces among civilians, fade back into urban combat, and inflict more casualties than Americans back home could stomach. Then he'd count on the US to pull out, leaving the Iraqi leader in control of his country and more powerful than ever in the eyes of fellow Arabs across the region. It would be a Mogadishu redux.

What he apparently failed to realize was that the Pentagon and its political leaders had also learned important lessons from what had been a military disaster for the US in the streets of Somalia's coastal capital back in 1993.

Those lessons - about intelligence-gathering, a flexible mix of conventional and Special Operations forces, focusing on capturing or killing the enemy's leadership, and generating political will - now are focused on Mr. Hussein himself.

Those four 2,000-pound "bunker buster" bombs that rained down on the place where Hussein, his sons, and other important regime leaders were thought to be this week are the starkest evidence yet that these lessons have been effective. Yet throughout the war, this approach has been evident - particularly in the use of clandestine forces, now on the ascendancy within the military establishment.

Such units have seized airfields in southern and western Iraq, secured oil fields, landed transport aircraft on highways at night to disgorge Humvees and small bands of Special Operations troops, tapped into phones and computers, and prevented the launch of Scud missiles.

They also rescued Pfc. Jessica Lynch, tracked senior Baath Party members and Republican Guard officers for capture or killing, and secured suspected chemical and biological weapons sites. They're searching underground bunkers and tunnels, working with Iraqi informants, and recently intercepted communications leading them to believe that Hussein's son Qusay is running Iraq's security forces.

In the process, they've been working with British, Australian, and Polish Special Operations units. Together they total some 10,000 troops, the largest percentage of the overall force since the Vietnam War.

"It's probably the most effective and the widest use of Special Operations forces in recent history," says Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a Pentagon briefer who has commanded Army Ranger units.

All that suff is great, but the single greatest change from then to now is a president and a people who think trading 18 American lives for a thousand of the enemy (in Iraq the ratio is going to turn out to be even more lopsided--with less than 100 American dead there have to be over 100, 000 Iraqi dead, don't there?) is a cost that our freedom may exact from us and that we're willing to pay, however reluctantly. The lesson relearned on 9/11 was one taught by Douglas McArthur: "The inescapable price of liberty is an ability to preserve it from destruction."
Posted by Orrin Judd at April 9, 2003 8:15 AM

Mr. Judd;

I still don't quite see why Mogadishu was a military
disaster. Without heavy weapons or real support our troops had a kill ratio of well over 50 to 1 and possibly 100 to 1. It was a political
disaster and Saddam Hussein was able to realize that. Why can't Mr. Knickerbocker?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at April 9, 2003 9:49 AM

Same as Tet. Both seem to show that you cannot approach war in a dissolute, half-a**ed way.

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at April 9, 2003 10:45 AM

The Judd position is that it was not a military disaster. The disaster was in the political handling after the event, which led to us bailing. If nothing else, it sent the wrong message to our future foes.

Posted by: The Other Brother at April 9, 2003 12:20 PM

Then it would seem that once Prof. DeGenova gets fired from Columbia U., the Pentagon should hire him immediately....

Posted by: Barry Meislin at April 9, 2003 5:31 PM

The Columbia World of Quotations. 1996. NUMBER: 30910

QUOTATION: What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

ATTRIBUTION: Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), U.S. president. letter, Nov. 13, 1787. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 12, Julian P. Boyd (1955).

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at April 10, 2003 12:04 PM