Today's Washington Post lead story contains these remarkable lines:
Top Army officers in Iraq say they now believe that they effectively need to restart the war. Before launching a major ground attack on Iraq's Republican Guard, they want to secure their supply lines and build up their own combat power. Some timelines for the likely duration of the war now extend well into the summer, they say.What these reporters are describing is standard military policy, not an 'effective restart' of the war. During the first days of the war, the 3rd Infantry Division was described as having been 'driven' off by Iraqi resistance. Not so, I said: they are simply investing their foes, to trap them that they might take them down at leisure and with airpower.
This revised view of the war plan, a major departure from the blitzkrieg approach developed over the past year, threatens to undercut early Bush administration hopes for a quick triumph over the government of President Saddam Hussein.
That is what they did, trapping them against the Euprhates and smashing them, then rolling on. They have moved faster and with less care for their supply lines than I would have imagined they ever would dare--but neither, it seems, did the Iraqis imagine it. Now they have invested Basra, trapping most of the remaining regular forces in the south, and have taken up siege positions of Baghdad in the south. The northern forces will be moving south as they build up sufficient strength, both to complete the investment of Baghdad and to see if they can flush the dug-in Republican Guard positions--if the RG feels it needs to shuffle forces to defend Baghdad, they will have to move tanks and troops in a way that will make them vunerable to airstrikes.
It makes perfect sense at this time to pause, use air power to smite the RG lines, concentrate on cleaning up some of the irregular forces operating in the backfield, and secure supply lines. It is standard military policy--which may mean that it's not at all what we're going to do, as Rumsfeld is an original thinker. If it is what we do, though, it's hardly a bad thing, or a sign that the war is faltering.
The fact that we are able to do this at leisure demonstrates the complete command our forces have of the battlfield. There is simply no coherent Iraqi defense. One may develop around Baghdad, but unless they can manage a counteroffensive, it is simply a matter of time and leverage until they are destroyed.