Friday, August 09, 2002

November Light?

I have to give weight to John Pike, among others, arguing we will go in lighter on November 6, 2002, rather than in December (air strikes) and January (ground invasion), as I’ve guessed. The timing of having five of our carriers in the general area plus a British carrier around that time is significant. It is tough to get that many at sea, and when you are supposedly just rotating the carriers, for a short time you have double your usual strength. We certainly might defeat Iraq with a small quick attack but I hate to count on it. If Iraq doesn’t collapse at the first blow, we’ll be in for a stalemate until we can ship in the heavy stuff. The lighter option rates in at 50,000 troops with two Army divisions, a Marine brigade, and a British heavy brigade.

But using these numbers, going up to even 120,000 could add three more Army divisions, triple the Marines, and double the British. This is still far less than the 250,000 option that is now supposedly out of the question. One reason I hate to read about raw numbers of troops is I never know what they are counting. Are they counting just the combat outfits as the 50,000 figure implies, or all the support troops, too? I’d rather see divisions and brigades discussed. Shoot, under some perfectly valid assumptions, you can assume 30,000+ troops per division even though divisions are 10,000 to 15,000 strong. And are you counting the Air Force and Navy in the raw numbers? I could easily use the 250,000 number to come up with a Navy and Air Force-supported attack by five divisions of Army and Marine troops. This is only about double the ground force cited for the 50,000 option.

I still can’t believe we’d go in with fewer than five divisions. That’s a big risk. I hate to bank so much on surprise if the surprise is that we’d actually attack with too little to win. For the Iraqis, that would be a pleasant surprise.