ONLY 10-15 NEEDED, REALLY 09:20 31 Mar 2003

Columbia professor Nicholas De Genova has expressed hopes for “a million Mogadishus” when the Allies enter Baghdad. He’s referring, of course, to the 1993 events in Somalia where Rangers and Delta Force operatives were cut off and mass attacked by local militia. I imagine that everyone is familiar with the incident due to the book and film BLACK HAWK DOWN.

Mogadishu has come up quite often when discussing urban warfare lately, with good reason. But in that encounter we lost 18 US servicemen and they killed from 500 to 1000 attackers. Other estimates of Somali deaths are even higher. Although every life lost is irreplaceable, war is war, and that is an exchange rate that will win battles. The people of Mogadishu still refer to that fight as “The Day of the Rangers,” and not fondly.

Those US troops were not prepared or equipped for a protracted engagement. When things went bad, no support was available to reinforce them or get them out quickly. They didn’t have enough water or medical gear. Most had left their night-vision equipment behind because they expected to be in and out in less than an hour in broad daylight. In short, they weren’t prepared. At all. And they killed from 27 to 55 for each man they lost. Just think what would have happened if they had actually trained and equipped for the fight. Or if they had 4000+ men and a few tanks for support instead of less than 200 men and nothing heavier than M16 rifles and few machine guns.

There’s no doubt that urban combat in Baghdad will be ugly if and when it happens. But the US troops will be much better prepared, and the support forces will be in place. And the warlord they were after in the Mog was captured. If Mogadishu happens again, it is Baghdad’s Saddam loyalists that had better be prepared.