Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Have you gotten the feeling, listening to the nearly ritual assurances from everyone from Dubya on down that "things are right on schedule, according to plan", that they doth protest too much? (Particularly since their plans for the north had such a public change). Well, consider this, from the Washington Post:

... the 3rd Division this week was alarmingly low on water and was also in danger of running short of food, the sources said. Heroic efforts have been made by truck companies and other logisticians, but a certain amount of chaos has developed, exacerbated by sniping and immense traffic backlogs from the Kuwaiti border. That traffic jam also has undermined Bush administration plans to quickly follow the U.S. military advance with tons of food and other humanitarian relief to win support among Iraqis. "There's tremendous fog out there," an officer said, referring to the confusion of wartime operations, with logistical commanders struggling to figure out where various supply items are in a system that at times resembles "just a bunch of guys out there driving around."

Things are messy enough that "senior defense officials" cited in the article (unnamed, as per usual for this administration) are now talking about a campaign lasting months.

And that could start to get a little inconvenient, what with all the other little problems cropping up around the world. Like North Korea, for instance, which is now variously threatening to launch new ballistic missiles, and "take a new important measure as regards the armistice agreement". (None of which keeps Dubya's ever-hopeful State Department from detecting "signs of softening" in the North's position). Or India and Pakistan, which have traded missile tests over the past few days, amid generally rising tensions. Or, if you take a slightly longer view, China, whose leadership is now openly talking about preparing for direct conflict with the US in the not too distant future -- a change in policy responding directly to Dubya's belligerence.

But we might not be worried so much about any of that with the problems that a few months' delay might cause closer in. For starters, it would likely make the game that at least two of Iraq's neighbors (Jordan and the Saudis) are playing -- quietly aid the US and hope the population doesn't notice -- unsustainable. Indeed, it's conceivable that past a certain point, some of Iraq's neighbors might stick an oar in themselves -- particularly the Iranians, who already have ties to the Shiite population which has conspicuously failed to welcome the US with open arms.

So, for all sorts of reasons, it's best for the conflict to end quickly. And I don't exclude the possibility that it might -- for instance, by sudden action from some force which public comments to date haven't even hinted at. Which is, in fact, how they got a quick end to the last Gulf War -- but in this case, it's not nearly as clear how that force would have entered the country. And which would make the whole WaPo piece I started out with is disinformation from start to finish -- as it might well be.

But the Third Infantry Division's mad dash north would strain supply lines under the best of circumstances, and the dust storms we've seen are hardly the best of circumstances. Which suggests that there may be a bit of truth to it -- in which case, if CentCom can't pull a division or two out of a hat in the next few days, we may have some awfully hard slogging coming up after that...


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