Sunday, March 23, 2003

So, I'm getting a little confused about this "shock and awe" thing. The original buildup involved comparisons to Hiroshima -- the original idea was to try to stun the enemy into surrender the way that the nuclear bomb did, or maybe it was the German blitzkrieg.

But the campaign as it unfolded seems to have been accurately described by "buffpilot", a poster who announced himself as a B-52 pilot in the comments to this post on the Daily Kos (and endured a bit of ribbing until people finally figured out that the handle was a reference to his aircraft -- "Big, Ugly, Fat..." -- and not his physique):

This was precision bombing (I know your laughing but give me a minute). The western part of Baghdad is the military complex and bases. Also some key government buildings. The multiple blasts were either secondaries (like ammo dumps/fuel storage going up) or multiple strikes on bunkers to literally dig them out. The S & A is that we could do this all over the country all at the same time. I hope they can control the fires before they spread to civilian areas. (Note the lights are still on and the fire response should be unhindered except in military areas)

So, the Iraqis are supposed to be shocked and awed thing that we flicked the firing switches on a few hundred missiles that they knew we were going to send to a few hundred predictable targets all at once?

What was shocking and awesome about blitzkrieg was that it overwhelmed enemies that weren't expecting it, leaving them without support, in an army that was disintegrating, before they even knew what was happening. Hiroshima shocked and awed by showing the Japanese leadership the realistic prospect that Japan might be completely annihilated. And this. We hit a bunch of predictable targets, that were probably empty already, and figured that doing it all at once, with the most expensive fireworks show in the history of the planet... well, it was spectacular, to be sure, but once the dust settled, you can almost imagine the Iraqi leadership wondering at the end, "So, was that it?"

At any rate, they don't seem to be shocked and they certainly aren't awed, at least not by anything they've seen yet.

And by the way, for those who believe that the rigidity of the Iraqi troops, and their slavish devotion to the command chain, are a major weakness of their army -- please consider that elements of the Iraqi 51st division are apparently continuing to fight around Basra after their commanding officers surrendered. [Update: according to this post from The Agonist, the commander hasn't surrendered either, despite reports that he had in the mainstream press. I'm trying to figure out how they could have blown it on something like that.]

(But let's not pretend Dubya's crew accomplished nothing with their fireworks show, on which they spent over $100 million in cruise missiles alone. However few civilian casualties there are -- and there are certainly civilian casualties; the smartest bombs set dumb fires which are spread by dumb winds all over the neighborhood -- he has given Osama bin Laden, and his heirs and followers, recruiting film which they'll be using for the next fifty years).

I just did something I'm trying to avoid, by the way; I cited a news story about the comings and goings of the armies. At best, that reportage is highly unreliable; with each side doing its damnedest to deceive the other about what's going on, most of that is likely to be seriously misleading -- as in the first Gulf War, where there was what appeared to be thorough reporting from the Western press, which gave barely a hint of the large force to the east which ultimately showed up as Schwarzkopf's "hook maneuver". How bad could it be this time? Well, how much have you heard about the American force coming in from Jordan?


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