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Military Matters: Iraq as Stalingrad

A Brittish soldier chats to an Iraqi youth whilst scanning the area for Shiite Militia. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by William S. Lind
UPI Correspondent
Washington (UPI) Aug 10, 2006
In Iraq and Afghanistan, the coalitions' defeats continue slowly to unroll. In Lebanon, it appears Hezbollah may win not only at the moral and mental, strategic and operational levels, but, astonishingly, at the physical and tactical levels as well.

That outcome remains uncertain, but the fact that it is possible portends a revolutionary reassessment of what Fourth Generation War, or 4GW, forces can accomplish. If it actually happens, the walls of the temple that is the state system will be shaken world-wide.

One pointer to a shift in the tactical balance is the comparative casualty counts. According to the Associated Press, as of this writing Lebanese dead total at least 642, of whom 558 are civilians, 29 Lebanese soldiers who, at least officially, are not in the fight and only 55 Hezbollah fighters. So Israel, with its American-style hi-tech "precision weaponry," has killed 10 times as many innocents as enemies.

In contrast, of 97 Israeli dead, 61 are soldiers and only 36 civilians, despite the fact that Hezbollah's rockets are anything but precise. Israel can hit anything it can target, but against a Fourth Generation enemy, it can target very little. The result not only points to a battlefield change of some significance, it also raises the question of who is the real "terrorist." Terror bombing by aircraft is still terror.

Understandably, these events keep Americans focused on the places where the fighting is taking place. But more important developments may be occurring on the flanks, largely unnoticed. Even many Arab reformers now believe the United States cares more about supporting Israel than anything else, including democracy.

Egypt is one of the three centers of gravity of America's position in the Middle East, the others being Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. An article by Michael Slackman in the Sunday New York Times suggests that Egyptians' anger is turning on their own government:

"For decades, the Arab-Israeli conflict provided presidents, kings, emirs and dictators of the region with a safety valve for public frustration...

"That valve no longer appears to be working in Egypt...

"'The regular man on the street is beginning to connect everything together,' said Mr. (Kamal) Khalil, the director of the Center for Socialist Studies in Cairo. 'The regime impairing his livelihood is the same regime that is oppressing his freedom and the same regime that is colluding with Zionism and American hegemony.'"

In an interview this week with the BBC, Jordan's King Abdullah II warned that the map of the Middle East was becoming unrecognizable and its future appeared "dim."

Washington, which in its hubris ignores both its friends and its enemies, refusing to talk to the latter or listen to the former, does not grasp that if the flanks collapse, it is the end of our adventures in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, in the long term, Israel's existence depends on arriving at some sort of modus vivendi with the region. The replacement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the House of Saud with the Muslim Brotherhood would make that possibility fade.

To the region, America's apparently unconditional and unbounded support for Israel and its occupation of Iraq are part of the same picture. For a military historian, the question arises: will history see Iraq as America's Stalingrad?

If we kick the analogy up a couple of levels, to the strategic and grand strategic, there are parallels. Both the German and the American armies were able largely to take, but not hold, the objective. Both had too few troops. Both Berlin and Washington underestimated their enemy's ability to counter-attack. Both committed resources they needed elsewhere and could not pull back from a strategically unimportant objective. Finally, both entrusted their flanks to weak allies -- and to luck.

Let us hope that, unlike Field Marshal Friedrich von Paulus, commander of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad, our commanders know when to get out, regardless of orders from a leader who will not recognize reality.

William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

Source: United Press International

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Dealing With Death Squads In Iraq
Washington (UPI) Aug 11, 2006
This week, U.S. military commanders finally acknowledged the significance of Shiite death squads in Iraq. But the U.S. government and armed forces in Iraq still lack any coherent strategy to contain or reduce this threat. Last Wednesday, Gen. George Casey, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, acknowledged what we have been monitoring and stating in these columns for the past five-and-a-half months -- Shiite death squads are doing the largest amount of the killing in Iraq.

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