August 07, 2003


The always provocative Fred Kagan on the lessons of Iraq, and the possibility the "RMA" aspects are over-rated.

Decades from now, the American conduct of the Second Iraqi War on the ground will be noted for two specific actions of military brilliance: the launch of ground forces across the start line without an aerial preliminary, which certainly brought the Americans enough Tigris bridges before they could be blown to ensure a quick war; and the "thunder run" into Baghdad, turning every conception of urban warfare in the textbooks completely upside down. Both moves were audacious, surprising, and decisive. Neither, however, was particularly novel, or overly reliant on "network-centric" type capabilities.

That doesn't mean US network-centricity didn't materially assist in American victory, or act as a force multiplier in its own right. Just that the two specific acts that won the ground war could also have been done by a US force in 1991 (or, for that matter a 1940-era mechanized force) if it enjoyed the same sorts of overwhelming advantages in protection, speed, training and morale.

Posted by BruceR at 09:46 PM


We've written about this before. Here's the current rundown of troops from other countries headed for Iraq, in order of size of contingent, with a note at the end for what it means for U.S. troop redeployment.

1. Italy (sending 2,800 troops): A mechanized brigade-minus, serving with the British division.
2. Poland (2,300): Sent its troops without any vehicles (don't laugh, Canada did the same thing in Kandahar), which the US is providing for them. About 200 Poles were part of the original Iraq invasion force, making it the fourth-largest combat contingent. Providing a brigade-minus and a divisional headquarters this time.
3. Ukraine (1,800): A brigade-minus for the Polish-led division.
4. Spain (1,300): The U.S. recently rewarded Spain for its support by shifting a contract to build submarines for Taiwan from a German shipyard to a Spanish one. Providing the third brigade-minus for the Polish-led division.
5. Netherlands (1,100): A battalion of marines, augmented with engineers. A sizable contribution for this country. Will fill out the British division continuing on in the Basra area.
6. Fiji (700): Fiji, which had been a major UN peacekeeping contributor for decades, largely in Lebanon, wound up its role there recently when the Israelis withdrew and has been looking for a new way to get international military visibility since. It is currently under financial pressure from unpaid peacekeeping fees from the UN, though, and a parallel need to support the Australian operation in the Solomon Islands. If they go to Iraq, the US will likely be footing a significant bill for them. Would serve somewhere in the Polish structure if they do.
7. South Korea (670): South Korea's contribution is one of the largest on paper, but it's less than it seems, comprising medical and engineering units that are barred from serving in a combat role. Likely folded into the American rear area somewhere.
8. Bulgaria (500): Another early volunteer, Bulgaria is sending an infantry battalion to join the Polish-led division.
9. Romania (405): An infantry battalion, filling out the Italian brigade, above.
10. Denmark (380): One infantry battalion-minus, serving with the British.
11. Honduras (370): Engineers and doctors only. May be of some limited use for the Spanish brigade.
12. El Salvador (360): Unlike other Latin American offers of assistance, these are actually infantry, and will slot in with the Spanish.
All the other countries that are mentioned are either offering only sub-unit level forces (company or smaller size) or are still arguing over it (Thailand, Japan, Turkey).

So here's what you've basically got:

3 (UK) Division will now be at least a third to a half drawn from other countries (over 5,000) mostly from Western Europe... the greatest value from the multinational assistance so far has been in aiding Britain in drawing down its huge wartime commitment rapidly, although it will still have a brigade-plus of its own army in Iraq indefinitely, as well.

The Polish-led "division," that will connect the British and American sectors is still severely understrength, with under 10,000 soldiers, but it presumably has been put in the quietest sector (the Samawah area, south of Baghdad and northwest of Basra), too. It is replacing all of 1 Marine Division, which has had a fairly quiet postwar, allowing the Marines to finally get out and rebuild. It will have little effect on U.S. Army rotations, though.

The US Army, meanwhile is planning to quietly ratchet down its own presence in the centre and north of the country, week by week and month by month. It is already planning to go from 15 brigades to 13 with the withdrawal of the remainder of the 3rd Infantry Division in September (that's being replaced by only one brigade of the 82nd Airborne). The overall plan is to be down to no more than 10 brigades total by April (90-100,000 personnel with support troops), with only the 1st Infantry, 1st Cavalry, and two other regular brigades in country after that point (two National Guard brigades are also augmenting this force for its first six months).

The big drop-off right now comes around February, from about 150,000 to 130,000 soldiers from all countries combined, when the 101st Airborne pulls out of its sector en masse, with nothing at this point on deck to replace it. This may not be a huge problem if things are quieting down, as the other formations can then stretch to fill. But it was a third multinational division (and specifically an Indian contribution), even an understrength, polyglot one like the Polish one, that the Americans had hoped for to slot in in the Airborne's place, and that's almost certainly not materializing now without a new UN resolution.

The only nation that is receptive to committing combat troops to fill this February gap without UN involvement is, of course, Turkey, which has its own agenda in the region. Its offer of up to 5,000 troops is being regarded cautiously by Washington. If things haven't settled down as hoped for by September, and a replacement for the 101st appears to be prudent, the only options left to the U.S. now are going hat-in-hand to the Security Council, or to Ankara.

Posted by BruceR at 04:28 PM


Speaking of agreeing with stuff, LGF is dead-on today. This is quite possibly the worst serious newspaper column ever written. How any editor could have this handed in to them and not burst out laughing before asking where the real column is, you crazy doofus, is quite beyond me.

Screaming "Ballroom Blitz" to the sky? RRRiiiggghhht...

UPDATE: *giggle* "the calm lake of open-thighed soul?" *giggle*

Posted by BruceR at 03:44 PM


I have to fully agree here. Bettany Hughes is the first of a heretofore unheard-of breed: the History Babe. She could do a lot for PBS's bottom line. I caught the last two episodes of her Spartans series last night and she really is impossible to stop looking at. I think she may have been talking about Greece, but I'm not really sure...

Seriously, it was good old BBC travelogue history in the Michael Wood-Gwynne Dyer tradition, as good if not a better retelling as the recent Peloponnesian Wars series (ironically featuring Victor Davis Hanson). I did think the flaming red outfit at Delphi was a bit much, but I strongly recommend her work nonetheless.

Posted by BruceR at 03:25 PM