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!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

According to CNN, we've managed to intercept a letter purportedly intended for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Read the whole thing, and let it sink in.

Now, some points to ponder:

First, is this genuine? It seems reasonable that it would be. It's dangerous to fake something like this. When it comes out (and it's always when, not if), it's like handing ammunition to your enemy. Rather like, oh, those bogus National Guard memos from the campaign last year. It's only out of the kindness of his heart that Kerry hasn't put out a hit on the people responsible for that goat-rope. No, it's probably genuine. We snagged his laptop not too long ago, and have his entire electronic rolodex. We know who he's been making contact with lately, and have been rolling them up as fast as we can. This letter is fallout from that seizure.

Second, there's evidence of a bit of blowback for Cap'n Z for having decamped so expeditiously from Fallujah. This sort of thing never plays well. To this day, there are people who refer to General MacArthur as "Dugout Doug" for having bailed out of the Phillippines. He managed to salvage his reputation -- victory covers a multitude of sins. However, when all you can see of your Fearless Leaders are butts and heels, even fanatics can hit a bit of a slump. One of the functions of leadership is rallying the troops, and it's rarely so important as when your side is suffering a reversal of fortunes. This letter seems to indicate that al-Qaeda in Iraq is falling short on leadership.

Third, despite the continued bombings and violence, it's clear who has the momentum. And it's not Zarqawi. In any struggle, you can generally tell who has the momentum. They're the ones who are acting. Mind you, the terrorists had the initiative at one point, due to the fact that the post-invasion planning was so lackadaisical. The Coalition forces were reacting to the insurgency, not the other way around. They moved around the country at will, and had many safe areas. This included entire cities. We managed to get our act together, though, and things began to shift in Summer 2004. The momentum shifted decisively in Fallujah, during November 2004. That was a key tipping point, because it set up the environment that was necessary for the January elections to succeed. Having seized the momentum, we're keeping it. The new Iraq is taking firmer and firmer shape all the time, with new milestones seen almost daily. Today, for instance, we saw the installation of the new cabinet. With each passing day, the government gains power and legitimacy, while the terrorists gain more and more enemies. And their response? More bombings, more violence.

Didn't someone say once that a good definition for insanity was doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result?

All this adds up to an insurgency that's on its desperate last legs. And since the ex-Baathists threw in with Zarqawi, this might well pertain to them, as well.

There will probably be low-level violence for years. But a point will come when terrorist action becomes indistinguishable from garden-variety criminality. And I don't expect to have to wait all that long for that.

No, not all that long at all.

Especially with the opposition's leaders cowering under bridges, for fear of being seen in clear daylight.