Monday, May 16, 2005

Breakout and Pursuit

This has been an interesting week, mostly for the action surrounding Operation Matador in Iraq.

The War on Terror can be thought of in some ways as a conventional military campaign. There are elements that are decidedly UNconventional, and those may prove to be decisive, but the parts that we CAN see conform in some ways to the conventional model.

Afghanistan was essentially a Reconnaissance-in-Force. Although there were important strategic reasons for hitting Afghanistan -- we simply HAD to attack and eliminate Al-Qaeda's training and support infrastructure -- we also gained a great deal of information on our enemies. It's arguable whether or not the invasion of Iraq was necessary, but having done the deed, we were able to turn that into a Meeting Engagement, which we were better suited for doctrinally than our enemies were. The climax of that phase was Fallujah in November 2004, but in some sense the operations since then have followed the same theme.

But, meeting engagements don't last forever. One side runs out of something. It's either fighting men, food, water, munitions, the will to fight, or any combination, but once they're out of it, they're done. They stop fighting, and start running.

Then, you get into a very interesting and fluid phase sometimes called Breakout and Pursuit. It's not a complete analogy, mind you, but it seems to fit current events quite well. With the conclusion of Operation Matador, we sit astride the insurgency's lines of supply for cash, recruits, and armament. Armament they don't sweat so much. There's scads of that stuff left over from the old regime. Cash and recruits, now ... They're gonna hurt for those, and possibly soon.

We also have reports now of schisms within Al-Qaeda itself. This is very good news, if true. It speaks, partially, to the morale problems Al-Qaeda has been experiencing in Iraq. It also seems to indicate that those problems are spreading. There was talk a few years ago of Al-Qaeda recruiting armies of non-Arab muslims to do their bidding. Now it seems that such talk was premature, if not completely off-base from the start.

Which brings up the question, "Now what?" Well, I don't know, exactly. As I said, breakout and pursuit is a very fluid thing. It can even be temporary, if the pursuit is not maintained and the enemy can find new bases and sancturaries. But the guys running this show are well aware of that, and will keep the screws on with a vengeance.

The critical battlefield now is not a place as such. The critical battlefield now is the morale and resolve of every American citizen. Truly, that was always the case, but it is more true now that we are in such a fluid phase. The key thing to remember now is that, provided only that we maintain our resolve, WE WILL WIN. They're on the run. Keeping up the pressure may be expensive. There may be temporary reverses. There's still plenty of hard work ahead. But not as much hard work as we've already got behind us. It helps to keep a sense of perspective. Fifteen hundred of our best is a grim price, but ...

Fifteen hundred. Two years in Iraq. Tea-time at Gettysburg.

Stout hearts, citizens! Freedom will yet carry the day!

No comments: