QUAGMIRE? 23:05 24 Mar 2003

Everyone seems pretty upset over how long things are taking and the fact that some Iraqis are firing back. Take a look at these two maps and compare 4 days in 2003 to 4 days in 1991.


In 1991 we were only concerned with liberating Kuwait. Of course we wanted to destroy as much of Iraq’s army as possible, and the “left hook” by VII Corps pretty much wrecked all the Republican Guards it encountered. XVIII Corps, the light and airmoble units, maneuvered even further around to the west to cut off retreat and reinforcement. But we didn’t have to go very far.


In 2003 we’re concerned with Baghdad. Look at how far we’ve advanced with pretty light resistance. The Marines have had some troubles around An Nasiriyah, but they’ve encountered very little organized resistance. They might reach the outskirts of Baghdad tomorrow if things go well. The pace of this advance is INCREDIBLE. There’s no quagmire. The public has some pretty unrealistic expectations, and they’re encouraged to have them by the media.

The biggest reason for concern is the fact that, with the 101st Airborne reportedly committed to the coming battle around Baghdad, we’ve really got no reserve. A brigade of the 82nd Airborne or the 173rd Airborne Brigade, maybe, if they aren’t already committed to the north. The 4th Division’s equipment won’t start landing until next week. The coming battle is for all the marbles, and I’m not sure what Plan ‘B’ could possibly be.

Update 13:06 25 Mar 2003

A loyal reader has suggested that it is the administration, not the media, that is encouraging the public to have unrealistic expectations. While I’ll grant that Bush, Rumsfeld, et al, are always careful to put things into the most positive light they can, [but] they have always stressed that the war on terror and the war against Iraq are full of risk and that hard times will be encountered. I believe that they have been pretty frank about the situation on the ground.

Meanwhile, the media’s round-the-clock live coverage, although interesting in a “gee whiz – we can watch in real time” way, works hard to whip everyone up into a continuous frenzy. Every time an air raid siren sounds in Baghdad, every time advancing troops come under fire, and every time Allied POWs are shown on Arab TV the new commentators go NUTS. Huge explosions rocking Baghdad? Well, the war’s about over, folks. Marines taking fire at An Nasiriyah? That’s exactly what happened durning the Tet Offensive, isn’t it Joe? An Apache helicopter on the ground? Well, why use helicopters at all? Doesn’t that put troops at risk? A camouflaged factory? It must be the “smoking gun!” It’s like an hourly update on El Nino. There isn’t always something happening.

Important? Yes. Should Americans know what’s going on? Yes. But the constant references to “shock and awe” and the live videophone coverage gives an impression that something big is always happening and that things are taking far too long. The media played things up too much before the war started and now they’re filling hours of coverage with stupid questions and uninformed analysis. A lot like this page, in fact. But that’s not the administration’s fault.