Lessons Learned

The New York Times has a report on
America’s preparations for modern urban warfare
. The military is experimenting with tactics that would selectively destroy command and control centers while avoiding house-to-house fighting.

Urban warfare in Iraq isn’t an insurmountable problem. It’s a difficult one to be sure, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t strategies that can effectively prevent large amounts of casualties on both sides. Our use of precision weapons is one way in which this can be accomplished. As long as we have good targeting information (something we’re working on for Iraq), we can pinpoint specific targets with a high degree of precision. Yes, there are always cases of bombs going astray, but those effects can be minimized through careful target selection. In an area like one of Saddam’s palaces or a chemical weapons plant, the targets are sufficiently isolated that collateral damage is highly unlikely.

The other issue is the civilian population of Baghdad. One of the most brilliant tactics of the Afghanistan campaign was the use of humanitarian food drops. Unlike Somalia, where US troops were seen as oppressors, the Iraqis are far more likely to welcome us than try to stop us from removing Hussein. With humanitarian relief supplies arriving with US troops and the removal of Saddam’s secret police, the civilian population would be unlikely to fight for Saddam.

Even in the most difficult urban fighting yet seen by the US military – the Tet offensive of the Vietnam War, the US managed to defeat the enemy who had holed up in many urban areas. It was difficult and sometimes dangerous, but our superior tactics, traning, and technology ensured that we were able to remove an entrenched enemy force from a civilian area with a relatively low amount of casualties. Given the advances in those three factors in the past few years, the specter of urban warfare of Iraq should be given consideration, but it is no reason to delay the necessity of removing the Hussein regime from power.

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