Monday, July 29, 2002

Dien Bien Phu II?

I’m having trouble believing that the administration is considering an "inside-out" strategy of dropping paratroopers into Baghdad and taking Iraq from the core outward. The idea is to drop on weapons centers and command centers to decapitate the military and deprive it of chemical weapons. Assuming we even know where all of the chemical depots are; assuming we can actually blanket Iraq and capture Saddam, and assuming we could possibly assume Iraq has no alternative means of command and control(and assuming that standing orders don’t just tell them to withdraw into the nearest city), what are we thinking?

Do we assume victory so much that we think the sight of American uniforms in Baghdad will lead the die-hards to just give in? Do we trust airpower so much that counterattacks by the Iraqis are discounted? Do we really prefer to abandon our strong suit of air supported armor to focus on city combat right off the bat where we will endure casualties? Has anybody heard of Dien Bien Phu? During the First Indochina War when the French where trying to keep their colony of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, the French prayed that the insurgent Viet Minh would just stand and fight. The French dropped paratroopers deep into Viet Minh territory to block a supply crossroads and figured they’d hold out against anything the Viet Minh could throw at them. The Viet Minh did indeed stand and fight. Unable to withdraw, unable to reinforce sufficiently, and unable to wield enough firepower to stop the Viet Minh, the French were killed or captured. The French got their wish. The French lost that war. I sure hope this is just a ploy to make the Iraqis worry about our capability to drop deep. Just hope we don’t actually do it.

The only thing this has going for it is that it silences critics who believe heavy armor smashing its way to Baghdad is "unimaginative." Otherwise it is a recipe for disaster. Yeah, we’d most likely recover from it and win, but casualties would be high. Dropping troops by parachute or helicopter in the enemy rear is great, but just make sure heavy armor is marching fast already to link up with it. Don’t assume victory. Plan like they are tough and if we are lucky, enjoy an easy victory made easier because we never gave the enemy a chance to fight on even terms.