Col. Evers: Many thanks for your continued commentary. Let me end this round (but not our correspondence, certainly) with this:
No invasion force designed to topple Saddam Hussein can exclude Army heavy forces or light forces from the Army and the other services. But the Army is going to be commanded by Tommy Franks and the rest of the Turgid Turtles. As one friend of mine puts it, we are taking ugly dates to the party, but we still have to go. We have to deal with that reality, and in so doing we need to: (1) achieve tactical surprise and reduce casualties by overwhelming speed in striking Saddam’s Scuds and as much of his personally-controlled assets as possible. That requires the use — predominantly, over the first days or week — of airpower and light forces; (2) combine the force so that the power of the heavies is ready to follow. It cannot lead and at the same time achieve the essential surprise. If we do this right, Saddam’s people will mostly surrender. I think that because the experts — people who have been there and are, in some cases, privy to current intelligence estimates, believe it. I have talked to infantry commanders who led forces against Iraqi ground forces in 1991. The Iraqis are down to about 30% of their 1991 strength. They will fold like a house of cards if we hit them fast enough, and hard enough to demonstrate that Saddam won’t survive this round. That is the key. If we dawdle, and if Franks’s tanks get stuck on the west bank of the Euphrates, we will encourage every Islamist in the world to attack us. Speed and lethality. That’s what will win this sooner than later.
Gen. Franks, from what I have been told by those who know him, understands neither airpower nor the use of special operations. I do not mean to denigrate your decade-long study. It doesn’t matter if Army doctrine doesn’t work this way. Franks does. But the Army doctrine that permits the micro-management of ground forces, plans slow movement along staging lines, and fails to apply airpower as it should be is a recipe for disaster. I agree that hope is not a method of operation. Speed coupled with overwhelming airpower and light infantry, is a method not a hope.
Airpower is limited in close-combat situations. But when you have operations such as Blackhawk Down without proper air support, you have a disaster. In Afghanistan, American casualties were higher than necessary because airpower wasn’t sufficiently integrated into the operational planning. When, early in the Tora Bora action, ground commanders suddenly wanted to be bailed out by air support, it wasn’t on hand because no one had planned for it. It is this kind of thinking — mainly from the Franks crowd — that kills young Americans. If AC-130’s were on station over Mogadishu they would, let me assure you, have been able to do one hell of a lot more than a couple of helicopter gunships. Take a look at the specs for that aircraft. Talk to the guys who fly it. They will convince you.
I can read a map, and I know that most of Iraq will never have to be visited by any American on the ground or in the air. Take a look at where the Scud Box is, where the Republican Guard is based, and where Saddam’s palaces are. I’m not saying that heavy forces should be left out. I’m saying that the butcher’s bill will be much higher if — as they plan to do — the Turgid Turtles dispense with tactical surprise, and too many Americans have to walk from Kuwait to Baghdad.p>Best, br> — Jed Babbin /p>
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