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The era of compressed expectation

Ten days onto the offensive, it is clear that the Wehrmacht is exactly where the French want them, as evidenced by their pause to refuel their tanks and rearm with more ammunition.

We are told by various reporters that the war is bogging down. that casualties are ‘heavy’, that Iraqi resistance is ‘stiff’. We hear that thing are going badly and the allied military leaders have miscalculated.

Yet although the allied forces have taken loses, for sure, and each of those is a tragedy, the cold facts are that in military and historical terms, UK and US casualties have been insignificant, trivial in fact.

The allies have overrun a huge chunk of Iraq, killing thousands of Iraqi soldiers and paramilitary militia, smashing the Ba’athist Socialist infrastructure of repression and hammering targets of military importance at will. The fact that not everything has gone the way UK and US planners expected will not be an earth shattering surprise to them as there is a well known military axiom that they will all be very familar with: “no plan ever survives contact with the enemy”.

It seems that any war which does not result in single figure losses and which is not over in time to not interfere with the screening of the Oscars is going to be deemed a ‘catastrophe’ by a media which knows nothing about either military affairs or history. The British took 58,000 casualties (one third of them killed) on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916. That is what ‘heavy casualties’ means.

3 comments to The era of compressed expectation

  • Byron

    Perhaps the Pentagon simply misphrased their explanation of the pause. Instead of trying to deny a pause, maybe something like this would have gone over better:

    “We are pausing the offensive for a few days to rearm, refuel, and asses intelligence reports about the results of the Baghdad bombing campaign. The 3rd ID has raced across Baghdad in six days and is now encamped 80 miles south of the city. We expect the invasion of the city to be the most difficult, consuming part of this war, and we want the soldiers rested and fed, and the machines and weapons fully fueled, armed, and all major maintenance problems addressed, before beginning the assault. We will also use this opportunity to position some reserves to better guard our supply lines from ambushes and guerilla attacks.”

    Which is basically what they’re doing. Honesty is the best policy.

  • Not only are casualties so far “trivial” (if any number of dead human beings can be called trivial), but a huge portion of them (at least on the British side) were due to accidents and “friendly fire,” not even from hot and heavy combat with the enemy. It is a stretch, but not much of one, to say that, statistically, the more fearsome threat to British forces comes from the US, not Iraq.

  • Jacob

    Well, there was some wild hope for some kind of lucky strike like the “decapitation”, or mass surrender.
    That this did not hapen cannot be termed a failure or a disapointment. It may still happen.

    Now there is no hurry at all about the invasion of Bagdad. It will be done in the most deliberate and orderly manner. Stockpile supplies, bring in reinforcements, set up forward air bases for close support aircraft, grind down the Iraqis with regular doses of bombing. The better the preparations – the less the casualties.
    In the end, the taking of Bagdad will be no Stalingrad – more like Jenin.