Jewish World Review Nov. 15, 2004 / 2 Kislev, 5765
On the verge of victory
As the battle for Fallujah winds down, the United States is on the verge of
a decisive though by no means a final victory.
The offensive in Fallujah is the key element but only an element in a
broader campaign to set back the insurgency in the Sunni Triangle (which
stretches from Mosul in the northwest to Baghdad in the southeast)
sufficiently to permit elections to be held in January.
Fallujah is the linchpin of the logistics and communications networks of the
anti-democratic forces. These basically stretch northwest along the
Euphrates to the Syrian border, and northeast toward Tikrit, Balad, and
Samarra. These river lines parallel the traditional smuggling routes from
Syria and Iran.
The capture of Fallujah disrupts both of these lines of communication, and
deprives the resistance of what it thought was a secure base.
A secure base is critical to the success of a guerrilla movement, said Mao
TseTung, the man who (literally) wrote the book on guerrilla warfare.
"The guerrilla base may be defined as an area, strategically located, in
which the guerrillas can carry out their duties of training, self
preservation and development," Mao wrote in his 1937 treatise on the
subject. "Ability to fight a war without a rear area is a fundamental
characteristic of guerrilla action, but this does not mean that guerrillas
can function and exist over a long period of time without the development of
The loss of Fallujah means that though the resistance continues to have
cells throughout the Sunni Triangle, it can have secure bases only in Syria
"The sanctuary of weaponry, local political support, command and control
infrastructure, and ready ties to cash sources can't be picked up and
moved," said "Chester," a former Marine who served in Iraq, whose web site
(Adventures of Chester) resurrected the Mao quote above.
Small bands of insurgents can leave and set up shop elsewhere, Chester said.
But by doing so, "they will completely cut themselves off from command and
control from above, and no longer will be able to mass in a single place."
StrategyPage.com notes a related difficulty for involuntarily relocated
terrorists: "Flushed out of their bases, the anti-government forces are much
more easily killed, and a lot more quickly. This has an adverse impact on
recruiting for the anti-government gangs."
In an effort to relieve pressure on Fallujah, the resistance is stepping up
efforts elsewhere in the Sunni Triangle, much as Lee invaded the North in
the summer of 1863 in an effort to relieve pressure on strategically
critical Vicksburg. That tactic ended unhappily for the Confederacy at
Gettysburg, and will end unhappily for the resistance in Mosul and
elsewhere, as they expose themselves to American firepower.
The second major consequence of the battle for Fallujah is that a hell of a
lot of resistance fighters have been killed. At this writing, the estimate
of the number of insurgent dead is more than 600, and the number is likely
to rise above 1,000 before the operation is completed. Since most of the
insurgents are Baathists connected to the former regime, the losses are all
There is a kind of Darwinian selection at work, since most of the insurgent
leaders and many of their most experienced fighters left Fallujah before the
hammer fell. It was largely the most expendable who are dying there. But
leaders without troops are much less effective than leaders with them.
The third major consequence of the fall of Fallujah is psychological. The
Arab media, most notably Al Jazeera, described the political decision to
halt the Marine offensive against the city in April as a military victory.
The Marines stopped because the resistance had beaten them, Al Jazeera said.
The ease and speed with which Fallujah has been captured gives the lie to
this. In the Arab world, nothing is more persuasive than power, and the
American military has just provided a massive demonstration of this.
The fourth, and arguably the most important consequence of the assault on
Fallujah is the performance of Iraqi troops. We cannot win in Iraq until
the Iraqis are able to take upon themselves the lion's share of the
responsibility for their own defense. The jury is still out, but the
initial signs are mostly good.
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
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