The Myth Of Urban Warfare

Steven Den Beste debunks the idea that Iraq will be filled with bloody street-by-street fighting. The idea that the US military will be embroiled in a long period of difficult urban warfare such as the battles in Mogadishu is one that makes a few assumptions about the way in which we intend to win the war.

As Den Beste notes, the cities don’t really matter. The mistake we made in Somalia is that we even bothered to engage in urban warfare in the first place. In fact, the US government had been warned that trying to use Mogadishu as a staging area for a humanitarian relief operation was a very bad idea. However, we believed that the Somalis didn’t pose as much of a threat as they did, and we went in regardless. Still, even in the worst of the fighting, the battle was one-sided. For the small number of Special Forces troops lost, literally hundreds of Somalis were killed.

Iraq will be different as the US military has had nearly a decade to refine strategies for urban warfare. The most important strategy being don’t. The same tactics that worked in the Middle Ages still hold true today. All you have to do is screen in a city and starve the defenders out. Except in this case, we have an opportunity to provide humanitarian relief aid on the outskirts of Baghdad to minimize civilian casualties.

The problem with the anti-war crowd trying to predict the course of a war is that they don’t know jack about the realities of modern war. They’re assuming this is going to be another Vietnam, except military strategy, infantry tactics, and logistics have advanced light-years since then. Wars are less about bombing your enemy into absolute submission and more about precisely removing the key elements that allow a threat force to operate. With Iraq, that means that once the command and control structure behind the Iraqi military is gone, the need for even entering a major city essentially disappears.

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