It will not be thought unfit, I think, to celebrate even as we mourn: that is the lot of men in times of war. Congratulations to the Agonist and his lovely bride, with thanks for their many sacrifices and much hard work during these days of fighting.
Hail the Heroes:

What Richard Blaine said cynically, I say with conviction: Today they are the honored dead.
From the NY Post:

A critique of Donald Rumsfeld. The complaint seems to focus on two central points, which are supported by evidence. His two main complaints are:

1) The Secretary of Defense, and others at CENTCOM, have made implausible statements about the war going "according to plan."
2) The Secretary of Defense, and his civilian advisors, did not allocate sufficient troops for the war.

A short response, then we'll do point by point:

1) One does not hold a press conference during a war and say, "Our plan has failed, and we're improvising," even if it has and you are. We know that the Pentagon had a number of options on the table; and, further, that wars don't run according to plan. "The plan" in war is always a construct of contingencies--it's a chain of "if they do this, we'll do that, unless they do this, in which case we'll do the other, unless..." To hold any war plan to a standard of "it can't be said to be a success if you changed it" means no war plan has ever succeeded.
2) Horseshit.

Now to the man's own words:
As far as events proceeding according to plan, well, if your plan is vague enough, with a sufficient number of "branches and sequels," as the military puts it, even defeat might be presented as having been anticipated.
War plans are vague, involving branches and sequels. Journalists who don't like that ought to write about something other than war.
The much-heralded initial airstrikes failed and are now conveniently forgotten. The ground campaign assumed the lead from the first days of the war - which definitely was not according to the plan. And the number of ground forces permitted to the theater commander was inadequate by any honest measure.
The intial airstrikes did what now? The first occasion when a coordinated military response hit our troops was when we got to Baghdad. Iraqi command and control is so degraded that we haven't seen any kind of coordination farther from the Baghdad Bunker than you can drive a pickup without being shot at by Apaches. The Republican Guard units ringing Baghdad were reduced, officially, to 50% strength, 65% strength, but in fact were reduced almost to no strength--both the 3rd and the 1st Marine plowed through what was left.

As for the ground troops taking the lead, several strategems positing that were available in the public eye by early March. Look here particularly at the "Fast Roll," and see if it doesn't sound similar to what we've seen. The Pentagon probably had ten potential versions rather than a handful, all of which understood that adjustments would be made according to what cards the enemy played.

And as for this statement--"the number of ground forces permitted to the theater commander was inadequate by any honest measure"--how's this for an honest measure: Baghdad in 17 days with fewer than a hundred US fatalities? Sure, things could have been worse. War is fluid. But honestly: the troops committed have shattered the opposition with astonishingly few losses. That's a fair measure that the troops committed were sufficient to the task.

If you aren't convinced, try this thought experiment: first, think of what would have been different if the Guard had been twice as tough as they were. Answer: we would still have won, though we would have taken either longer to do it, or suffered more casualties, depending on whether we chose to invest them and take them with airstrikes, or fight through them. Now, consider what we might have done to make things easier. What would an extra division have really meant to our frontline forces? If we'd moved a bit more slowly, we might have protected our supply lines from guerrilla raids, which could have saved a few American lives--but not very many, because we haven't lost very many to start with. War is dangerous, but it doesn't get much safer than this. Baghdad may yet prove bloody, but as for facing the Iraqi army--we had more than adequate forces even for a tougher foe than we faced.

Fortunately, the 4th Infantry Division, denied access through Turkey, unexpectedly became available to rush to southern Iraq, where it has been much-needed. Secretary Rumsfeld may lack humility, but he does have good luck.

Still, Secretary Rumsfeld cannot have it both ways. Either he expected a short war, in which case he did not intend to deploy those heavy divisions from the States, or he expected a long war all along.
At this writing, the 4th Infantry is "weeks away from joining the fight in Iraq." Their equipment is in Kuwait, but the soldiers aren't yet, excepting a few lead elements. This assertion that the 4th's arrival was sorely needed is twice false: first, they haven't arrived; and second, no serious disruption of Coalition operations is resulting. The 4th may be used in the battle for Baghdad and Tikrit, which is what they were going to be used for had they been deployed from Turkey. That is to say, on this point the plan has changed only insofar as they are approaching from the south, not the north.
At one point in the long planning process, Secretary Rumsfeld's civilian advisers - not one of whom had served in the military - insisted the ground campaign would require less than 10,000 combat troops, who would take a Sunday drive to Baghdad after the regime had been toppled by technology. The generals had to fight bitterly to overcome such madcap notions.
Maybe, but what they got was a force of 250,000. The Marines alone number more than double the figure cited here. Obviously Rumsfeld listened to the generals--he just didn't give them everything they asked for. Between the stunning success he's enjoyed and the fact that it's really difficult to imagine a set of circumstances in which this force could have been bested by the Iraqi army, I'd have to say Rummy did all right.

Dangers remain before us, let's not kid ourselves. The ones in Iraq don't have to do with force levels, though, they have to do with counterinsurgency. The fall of Baghdad and Tikrit will mark the end of the war, and the start of the occupation. We've got a surplus of troops for the war, and more arriving for the occupation. The situation is well in hand (and remember how that statement traditionally begins?). If you want something to worry about, turn your thoughts to North Korea. That way lies peril.

Keeping Syria Out:

We've had statements from Colin Powell, Tony Blair, and many others denying that we are planning invasions of Syria or Iran. I believe them. I still wonder what's going on with the Syrian oil pipeline, though. The Gulf Daily News, citing unnamed "analysts" and "economists," says that Syria can absorb the loss of contraband Iraqi oil--thought to have been supplied to the tune of 200,000 barrels a day!--if and only if it engages in market reforms and exploratory drilling:
Syria may miss the extra cash from Iraq, but some economists say it has enough foreign exchange to cushion the fall for now, and its own oil production of about 500,000 bpd can meet immediate domestic needs. "Iraqi oil was a boost for Syria's economy, but is not essential," said Syrian economist Nabil Sukkar.

"Syria has been alright as far as foreign exchange is concerned since it discovered and started extracting its own oil."

But Syria's oil reserves are dwindling and economists and diplomats say it must find new oil or develop its gas sector fast if it is to continue seeing revenue from energy exports.
So, my guess at this stage: the administration is after free market reforms in Syria, combined with a drop in revenue available to the government for the purposes of sponsoring terrorism. Since we will soon be in charge of the Iraqi oil fields, at least for a while, access to them on generous terms would be a nice carrot to go with the "or else" stick represented by the I MEF, 3rd and 4th Infantry, 7th Cavalry, and 101st Airborne.
The War-Ride:

I wrote on the medieval quality of this modern war, with its apparent notions of chivalry and the sanctuary of holy places. Today's heavy cavalry raid has interesting historic resonances. The Iraqi command apparently plans to retreat into underground fortresses designed to be virtually impregnable, while conducting its fights in a house to house fashion to reduce the effectiveness of American technology. One response to this resort-to-fortification in the Hundred-year's war was the development of the chevauchee, a heavy cavalry raid designed to smash the enemy before he could withdraw into the fastness:
The English contract armies of the fourteenth century, at their best composed of mounted retinues of men-at-arms and archers, fast-moving and tactically proficient if brought to battle, were wholly appropriate to a war strategy based upon the chevauchee. They were, however, less well suited to strategic commitments requiring long-term occupation.
The American chevauchee--or "war ride," if you would prefer a non-French name under the circumstances--does not target civilians, as the Norman system often did, but irregular combatants. Rather than fight them house to house for control of the city, a quick raid draws out relatively undisciplined forces who can be slaughtered on the hoof.

Eventually--and probably fairly quickly--Baghdad will have to be brought under formal, full control. As a short term strategem for breaking the large numbers of irregular forces in the Baghdad urban enviornment, however, the chevauchee isn't bad. It keeps us on terms in which American military hardware can be brought to bear, rather than the infantry-to-infantry fighting required of house to house. Once the numbers of these folks have been reduced a bit, the house to house combat will go more easily.

The elite American forces are similar to the English army in one other way: they are second to none on the battlefield, but not well suited to peacekeeping and occupation. Look to see the Marines and 101st Airborne heading to new ground (like, perhaps, East Asia) as soon as the occupation becomes stable. The 3rd and 4th Infantry may remain behind, and we will likely see some of the units in Germany rotated into Iraq as well, perhaps reserve units. Coalition of the willing members who want to supply forces for peacekeeping will probably also make an appearance.
CIA Agents Dead:

This report is from UPI. It says that three CIA assets--that is, a foreign national recruited to provide intelligence--who were Iraqi nationals were the source for the decapitation strike. They are now dead, according to the report, executed by Iraqi counterintelligence. This report offers a remarkable amount of detail on the operation--enough, in fact, to make me doubt its authenticity. It's almost enough to go into the "Can this be true?" category: particularly the notion that there were/are three hundred Green Berets in Baghdad, linking up with Delta Forces and CIA paramilitaries (this will be the Special Operations Group) already in place.
Col. North:

Jed Babbin at NRO carries a report from embedded journalist, Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North (Ret.). It looks like the Marines are getting the fight they've been wanting. I raise a glass to them, and wish them the best.

The DPRK says that making missiles is their fundamental right.
Military maxim:

Here is a story on the nuclear-proof bunker Hussein had constructed in Baghdad. It reminds me of one of several maxims I was taught while studying urban warfare: "If they can't get in--you can't get out."
Mourning on the Front Lines:

There has been a great deal of mourning from the media, but one rarely hears our soldiers say anything sad. I found a few sad sentiments, though, running at the bottom of articles from the embeds. Here is a compilation of our fighting men's sadness:
"I'm getting pissed off about it, really," said one British Fusilier, a
member of the famed "Desert Rats." He said, "This is getting to be
peacekeeping duty, like in Bosnia and Kosovo. I came here to fight a war."
Some young Marines who had anticipated a major battle appeared disappointed. "I was told that if I would ever get to shoot my rifle at someone, today would be the day," Lance Cpl. Douglas Sanders said.
"He really doesn't have an army anymore," Capt. Ronny Johnson, a company commander in the 3rd Battalion, said of President Saddam Hussein.

Johnson said he had mixed feelings about the disintegration of the Republican Guard targets. He said he was disappointed because "when you plan and rehearse for something" for so long, you want to carry it out.
Air Force jets, Army AH-64 Apache helicopters and multiple-rocket launchers "destroyed our objective," said Lt. Bevan Stansbury, executive officer of Bravo Company in the 2nd Brigade's 3rd Battalion, 15th Regiment. "So we have no fight right now."

"They pretty much destroyed every vehicle in the brigade," Stansbury said. With a trace of disgust, he added, "Now we're just rolling in and will probably be an occupation force."

Live to fight, love to fight.
Not a Conspiracy Theory:

About those Russian military advisors to Iraq: I have a question. Since 9/11, we've seen an increasing amount of cooperation between the CIA and the Russian intelligence service, which has been dealing with al Qaeda because of the Chechen situation. Does it not strike you as odd that there are high-level Russian advisors operating with Iraqi forces from just before the start of this war? I'm just asking: doesn't it seem possible that they are there because we want them there? A general officer functioning as a military advisor would have a lot of access to information that could be passed right on to Russian intel--and from there, to the CIA.

This is not a conspiracy theory. I'm not asserting this is what is going on. I'm just asking if it doesn't seem plausible. We've been getting some good intel, including the location of the meeting we disrupted with the decapitation strike. It most probably is a turned Iraqi general, but Saddam is known for keeping his generals on a very short leash, as he considered them the largest threat to his survival. Here's an alternate source. Putin is a former KGB man, after all; and as for our president, his father was once the head of the CIA.
Keeping Syria out of it:

Special Forces have destroyed a major oil pipeline between Iraq and Syria. They also cut the railroad line. That last makes sense, as it raises the difficulty of moving troops if Syria decided to join the war. Cutting their oil supply, however, is pretty aggressive. We went to some trouble to do this--it wasn't just a Tomahawk missile, but a spec-ops team risking their lives to make sure it was done right. I don't know if this is a carrot-and-stick approach to Syria (what, then, would the carrot be? Offers to subsidize their oil needs in the meanwhile?), or if the administration is trying to bait them into war.

The British have invested Basra "on three sides" according to news reports. Against the complaints that such an almost-siege demonstrates that we didn't have enough troops present, I'll repost something I said at the start of the campaign, when the 3rd Infantry performed the first investment of the war:
The usual fashion is to invest on three sides, leaving open a way for an enemy to retreat. This isn't an act of kindness. The notion is to hit them until they are forced to abandon their defensive positions, withdrawing in the only way that is left available. Since you know which way they are going, you can set ambushes (or, in this case, use air power) to rout and slaughter them along the way. Recall here the "highway of death" from Gulf War I.

It is also possible to perform a complete encirclement. Usually this is not done, unless your forces are so superior that you do not fear having to defend all points against a breakout attempt. The three-sided investment allows for greater predictability of enemy actions.
Medieval Warfare & Iraq:

US forces fighting outside the gold-domed Shrine of Ali have not responded to attacks from within the shrine, rather than damage the holy building. I have been reflecting on this over breakfast. There is only one precedent in the history of mankind of which I am aware for this. That is, of course, the Medieval tradition of sanctuary, which puts holy places beyond the reach of war and even justice. I suspect that eventually we'll have to flush these snipers out, but it may be using tear gas and police tactics, rather than the military approach.

This story, taken in context of the war as we've seen it develop, speaks to the new "way of war" being developed by Rumsfeld and others. It looks remarkably like the early Medieval way of war. Professional armies, schooled in a theory of Just War (in fact, the same theory, which has its origins in the Catholic monasteries of the Middle Ages), are clearing border realms of bandit kings. They do so in a way designed to protect the holy places, and in doing so they uplift the folk of the land who had been living under the tyranny of those powers. If there is a living tradition of chivalry in the world, these men are the ones who bear it. I cite again the opening message to the Marines:
"When I give you the word, together we will cross the Line of Departure, close with those forces that choose to fight, and destroy them. Our fight is not with the Iraqi people, nor is it with members of the Iraqi army who choose to surrender. While we will move swiftly and aggressively against those who resist, we will treat all others with decency, demonstrating chivalry and soldierly compassion for people who have endured a lifetime under Saddam's oppression.
The great question for this emergent way of war is weapons of mass destruction. They are still out there, and have not yet been used. This action in Iraq, and the resolution of the increasingly dire situation with the DPRK, will determine whether or not this generation lives under the shadow of such weapons, or if we master them. These two scenarios are possible: a return to the conditions of the Cold War, when the destruction of our cities was a daily fact of life; or, a world in which these weapons are controlled by only a few, stable states, and programs to develop them elsewhere are eradicated before these weapons can fall into terrorist or rogue-state hands. If the latter is to be the case, it will be the military forces of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia that bring it about.

This is, really, the choice on offer. Policies which allow rogue states breathing room to develop weapons of mass destruction encourage the development of the deadly future. The only policy that avoids that future is one predicated on the chivalry and sacrifice of our fighting men.
On J. M. Marshall:

Twice now in recent days I've had J. M. Marshall called to my attention. His latest piece in the Financial Times takes Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to task for what Mr. Marshall considers an inadequate force deployed in Iraq. Mr. Marshall has a number of friends in the defense establishment, who share his opinion that the deployed force was simply not of the overwhelming force that conventional military doctrine calls for. Mr. Marshall:
Mr Rumsfeld and his associates did not need much convincing that they knew modern warfare as well, or better, than anyone. But success in Afghanistan buoyed them considerably. When they began planning to invade Iraq, the success in Afghanistan played a key role in their thinking. Indeed, Mr Rumsfeld and his deputies first pushed for a war plan that had considerably fewer troops than are stationed in Iraq and Kuwait even now.

Beyond their theories of modern warfare, they brought two priorities to the current war plan. First, they are committed to a vision of military world dominance that requires the US to be able to mount a number of rapid moves against hostile, rogue states around the globe. As a result, they wanted to take down Saddam Hussein in a manner than made clear that the US could act rapidly against others. Attacking Iraq without mobilising America's entire arsenal was an important part of making that that threat credible. Second, they embraced an interpretation of the politics of the Arab world that made it seem extremely likely that US and UK troops would be welcomed as liberators in Iraq rather than invaders. They discounted the likelihood of the guerrilla warfare we are witnessing now.

Still, some are wondering today why Mr Rumsfeld, an American patriot who has dedicated much of his life to public service, would take such a chance with the war in Iraq. The answer is simple: hubris. He and his deputies did not regard it as a risk. They were sure that they were right.
I have two things to say about this. The first is: they -are- right. The force deployed is more than adequate to destroying the Iraqi regime, quickly and efficiently. That will become clear in the next few days. The war is now thirteen days (!) old. Paris fell to the Nazi army in forty-four days. The 1st Marine Divison is now driving on Baghdad, and the 3rd Infantry had a big fight with the Republican Guard today. Things are going to happen quickly now. With a substantial number of special operations forces already contesting the streets of Baghdad, the destruction of the ring-defenses is all that remains to the liberation of the city. There is no safe haven for the Republican Guard; there is no resupply for them. There will be no reinforcements--there is nowhere from whence they might come. The 1st Marine alone is larger in size than the remaining Republican Guards, has better equipment, better training, better intelligence, and air support. Anyone trying to fall back on the city will be exposed first to air strikes, and then to hammer-and-anvil tactics between spec ops units in Baghdad, and Marine units closing on the rear.

The second thing to say is that Rumsfeld's strategem has demonstrated a capacity to take down regimes quickly. The decapitation strike at the start of the war seems to have shattered the Iraqi command structure. It is increasingly unlikely that Saddam is alive. His statement today--the most important statement a leader can make to his army, bolstering them in the face of certain defeat by a foreign army--was delievered by his information minister. It wasn't even a recording of him giving it. If the Rumsfeld strategy can kill the enemy leaders within half an hour of the start of the war, it's no strategy to lightly malign. Hubris? It's a level of competence the Greeks would have called isotheos. Indeed, they used that word--"equal to the gods," it means--on men who achieved far less.

Some difficulties remain. Syria must be kept out of the war, and also Israel--Syria could plunge the region into chaos by attacking both US and Israeli lines, forcing a reply from both of us that would look united to the Arab world. There will be some cleanup work on these irregular forces that are harrassing supply lines. The war is nearing its close, though. Twenty thousand Marines are a force not easily resisted.
Calling Down the Thunder:

Marines have entered an Iraqi town in order to recover the body of one of their fellows, rumored to have been hanged in the town square. The government also revealed today that a rescue operation for the 507th Maintenance soldiers went badly, with 9 Marines killed and eight missing in the aftermath. Four bodies have been recovered from shallow graves, and each of these bodies is thought to be an American.

Better to have tried and failed, than not to have tried to rescue our soldiers. Yet the price is not forgotten. I have said we walk in the morning of the world, and in the tales of old often dead men speak, give advice. Here are some who speak to us now.

Tragedy at a US checkpoint. Alas for the 3rd Infantry, who did all they could, under circumstances heightened by the suicide bombing on the weekend. Alas for the family lost.
Can this be true?, II:

Kim Jong Il has been throwing all triplets born in Korea into state-run orphanages, apparently based on a superstition that a triplet might one day overthrow him. Again we are living in the realm of legend and myth:
Exodus 1.15-16: And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah:

And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.
Or, if you like:
THEN King Arthur let send for all the children born on May-day,
begotten of lords and born of ladies; for Merlin told King Arthur
that he that should destroy him should be born on May-day,
wherefore he sent for them all, upon pain of death; and so there
were found many lords' sons, and all were sent unto the king, and
so was Mordred sent by King Lot's wife, and all were put in a
ship to the sea, and some were four weeks old, and some less.
And so by fortune the ship drave unto a castle, and was all to-
riven, and destroyed the most part, save that Mordred was cast
up, and a good man found him, and nourished him till he was
fourteen year old, and then he brought him to the court, as it
rehearseth afterward, toward the end of the Death of Arthur.
We walk still in the morning of the world.
Poker and War:

Why I have always loved poker.
Can this be true?

From the New York Times:
The Army's Third Infantry Division has a team of lawyers along to advise on whether targets are legitimate under international conventions � and a vast database of some 10,000 targets to be avoided, such as hospitals, mosques and cultural or archaeological treasures.
Words fail me. Ten thousand targets to be avoided? Chivalry.
On Beowulf:

That is, on the poem, not the boy. From the Heroic Age, this article treats how heroic poetry was of old used to educate young men. It's a little dry, but since this is a theme of the blog just lately, I thought I'd include it.
How little changes, II:

5,000 year old swords found in Turkey. Wonderful story--silver inlaid, finely made weapons. Here is the United States Marine Corps Officer's Sword.
War with DPRK soon?

The BBC is reporting that Kim Jong Il, leader of North Korea, has not been seen in public in over forty days. He apparently even skipped the annual parlimentary meeting. Also not visible: his top military staff. Jo Myong-chol, a high-level defector, says the North has gone on a war footing.
How little has changed:

From the Washington Post:
In a model of how the Marines say they hope their relationship with the Iraqi people can evolve, the two sides struck a deal: the Marines agreed to escort some villagers to a nearby well to get clean water and help repair damage caused by the fleeing Iraqi army. The village leaders agreed to go house to house, rounding up rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons that could be used against U.S. forces.

The bargain was sealed with a feast cooked up by the townspeople, featuring rice, bread and goat cooked over an open fire.
From the Beowulf:
Gathered together, the Geatish men

in the banquet-hall on bench assigned,

sturdy-spirited, sat them down,

hardy-hearted. A henchman attended,

carried the carven cup in hand...
Is this the modern world, where warriors from far off bring promises to guard their hosts with valor, and are feasted as heroes? It is our world, today. The journals of psychology and sociology are worthless as guides to it. But there are ready sources that speak to it, tell us how to live in it, master it, and stride across it. They are the old songs, the epic poems, the sagas and the tales. A man might read a thousand page book by this or that famous journalist on the subject of Iraq, and still be at a loss when he tried to pass among the tribes. The same man, if he hears the Iliad, knows just what must be done.
Then let him make thee a rich feast of
reconcilement in his hut, that thou have nothing lacking of thy right.
And thou, son of Atreus, toward others also shalt be more righteous
herafter; for no shame it is that a man that is a king should make
amends if he have been the first to deal violently.
Wise words from Odysseus, master mariner and soldier.
Iraq War:

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.

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.
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.

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.