Insomnia (insomnia) wrote,

So, the war has devolved to the inevitable...

Looks like Basra and Baghdad are surrounded.

Reports of "quick coalition gains" which boosted the stock market fail to tell the whole story, however. One reporter mentioned recently that the US soldiers had to retreat from one town south of Baghdad due to heavy fire, only to come back the next day and find the town had been completely deserted. No enemies. No civilians. Not a single person that the reporter in question could interview.

The Iraqis always knew they would fall back on Baghdad, where they have at least six weeks worth of supplies, a constant source of fresh water, and even some lush and fertile land. Meanwhile, the coalition are out in the desert, where the temperatures will reach 100 degrees this weekend.

As the war drags on, there will be more pressure put on the US to attack Baghdad in force, both in terms of public opinion, the impact of press coverage of a besieged city, the rising temperatures, and the havoc the war is causing the economy. Saddam Hussein, however, doesn't really lose much by waiting, so long as he can stay in power. Arab public opinion is swaying in his direction and the US are giving him no real options, after all.

Chances are, this war was never really winnable in the conventional sense for Iraq. Like Vietnam, this war has more to do with economics and public opinion than whether the other side can field a standing army that can fight on an equal basis with the US. All they need to do is to drag out the conflict and make it costly and unpopular.

If Saddam needs pointers on how this can be done, Afghanistan might be the place to look. Recently, a humanitarian aid worker was killed in Afghanistan, and it has caused considerable concern amongst the humanitarian groups in that country. A few more dead humanitarian workers could effectively result in the undermining of such efforts in Afghanistan.

Similar things could happen in Iraq. If Iraq is unsafe for humanitarian aid workers, that leaves the US military entirely responsible for supplying the civilians of Iraq... thereby forcing US soldiers to resort to degrading tactics in order to assure their safety... thereby undermining efforts to win over the "hearts and minds" of the Iraqis.

Sure, the US will win over some of the Iraqis, but will that be enough if there exists a substantial minority willing to resort to violence to remove the invaders from their country?

So, for the time being, we all collectively wait. The US will probably try sqeezing in some pockets here or there, but today a US general stated that they control 40% of the country. That's probably a lot less than most people think, and given that the enemy in this war has been elusive and that some towns have been liberated repeatedly, it is uncertain what "control" really means.

Meanwhile, fratricide happens, accidents happen, terrorism and ambushes happen, civilian deaths happen, the stock market happens... and the end is really nowhere in sight, even if we do conquer Baghdad.

Assaulting Baghdad in a real, meaningful way might change things for the better. Then again, it might change things for the worse, too...

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