Jewish World Review Nov. 15, 2004 / 2 Kislev, 5765

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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On the verge of victory


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | 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 base areas."


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 or Iran.


"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.

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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 but irreplaceable.


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 administration. Comment by clicking here.

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