Wednesday, April 14, 2004

There's a quip I've heard attributed to Noam Chomsky about the first Gulf War. When someone asked him about it, he's said to have remarked that he didn't believe any such event had occured -- a war, he pointed out, involves two armies fighting, and it seemed that in that instance, one hadn't fought.

As applied to the first Gulf War, which did have a large set-piece tank battle or two, that's just wrong. As applied to the second, I'm not so sure. One of the enduring mysteries, at least in the public mind, is the sheer ineffectiveness of the Iraqi military, whose elite forces quite literally never fought. They didn't manage to even blow up bridges in their rear as they were retreating. (I remember hearing an explanation of that on Nightline, when Ted Koppel, in full anti-chemical regalia, explained with great solemnity that we had air-dropped laser-guided bombs, targeted precisely enough to clip the wires going to the detonators. Someone probably earned a case of beer from his buddies for getting Koppel to believe that). But the mystery cleared up at least a little bit later, when it came out that key Iraqi commanders had been bought off to not fight.

Fast forward to now, nearly a year after Bremer summarily fired the entire Iraqi military, when our forces are being subjected to a massive campaign of, among other things, harassing our supply lines by blowing up bridges.

The massive urban meat-grinder battle which many had feared going into the war never happened. Or at least, it hasn't happened yet. Let's hope it was avoided, and not merely postponed.

Further note: Chad Orzel suggests in email that Chomsky may have cribbed the line from the stand-up act of Bill Hicks...


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