Here’s a nifty little moon calendar. You can set all sorts of parameters blah, blah, blah.

I realize that the US military is capable of fighting at any time that it feels is necessary, but when given the opportunity to choose your battlefield, why not pick the time and conditions that help you the most? Iraq probably expects us to go around the new moon, and we could try to “surprise” them by picking some other date.

However, strategic surprise was lost a year ago when the rush to war began. Operational surprise is impossible because of the huge build-up of forces and the prolonged UN song-and-dance routine. Tactical surprise is still possible, and things like increased no-fly missions should help mask the actual start of the main battle, but no one is really going to be caught “off-guard.” Things like a massive bombardment by GPS bombs (thousands and thousands of targets hit within half an hour, maybe, between cruise missiles, satellite-guided weapons, and special forces on the ground) could mean that everything gets hit before it can react, though, regardless of the level of surprise. We’ll see.

For what it’s worth, I’m thinking March 28 or 29. That gives a few extra nights of waning moon before the new moon, and the main fighting might be over before the end of the following week. The entire campaign could be fought with less than 25% moon if all goes well. Big “if”, of course.

Plus, despite the 200,000 US “troops” in the gulf area, the only large formations of regular US Army that are in and equipped actually seem to be the 3rd Infantry (Mech) Division and one brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division, both in Kuwait. Of course, don’t forget the Marines and Brits. But two more weeks would probably allow the rest of the 82nd to get completely set, plus the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division and the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, who are just starting to arrive in numbers.

And maybe the 4th Infantry, if Turkey ever allows them to pass through from the Mediterranean. Does anyone know if the ENTIRE DIVISION is on the ships in the Med? Or is it just the equipment, with the troops still in the US waiting to be airlifted over when the equipment lands? Or just part of the division? I can’t seem to find out, which isn’t an entirely bad thing. (Some bloggers have suggested landing the 4th ID in Israel, then passing them through Jordan and entering Iraq from the west. There’s a big highway from Amman to Baghdad that would do the trick, but think of the political trouble THAT would stir up. Jihad, and then some, I would think, even if Jordan agreed. Doesn’t seem likely to me.)