THE BRIAR PATCH?
The recent string of high-profile attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq has appeared to be so methodical and well crafted that some top U.S. commanders now fear this may be the war Saddam Hussein and his generals planned all along.
Knowing from the 1991 Persian Gulf War that they could not take on the U.S. military with conventional forces, these officers believe, the Baath Party government cached weapons before the Americans invaded this spring and planned to employ guerrilla tactics.
“I believe Saddam Hussein always intended to fight an insurgency should Iraq fall,” said Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division and the man responsible for combat operations in the lower Sunni Triangle, the most unstable part of Iraq. “That’s why you see so many of these arms caches out there in significant numbers all over the country. They were planning to go ahead and fight an insurgency, should Iraq fall.”
In an interview Wednesday at his headquarters northwest of the capital, Swannack said the speed of the fall of Baghdad in April probably caught Hussein and his followers by surprise and prevented them from launching the insurgence for a few months. That would explain why anti-U.S. violence dropped off noticeably in July and early August but then began to trend upward.
Not everyone in Iraq agrees with that theory. An alternative view is that the current resistance was not planned in advance; rather, Hussein loyalists were in disarray after the invasion and took several months to develop a response. In either case, the insurgents clearly gathered intelligence during that time on the vulnerabilities of the U.S. occupation force.
Kevin is intrigued because he’s suspected this all along:
Everything I’ve read about Saddam Hussein indicates that he’s frequently out of touch with reality, especially in military matters, but it’s quite possible that this time somebody finally pounded some sense into him: there was no way he could win against the U.S. military.
So instead, his troops “melted away” (remember that?) and prepared for the urban fighting that we were so afraid of back in April (remember that too?) but that never materialized. Now we’re finding out just where those troops melted away to.
Vernon Loeb and Thomas Ricks, the authors of the piece, are as good as they come in reporting of defense issues. Still, I’m incredibly skeptical of this theory. It’s quite conceivable that Saddam or his generals realized that they couldn’t take the US on in a direct confrontation and that a guerilla campaign would be the best bet. But why would his soldiers continue to fight for him once he was out of power when they surrendered faster than little French girls in 1991, when Saddam was in full control of the power of the state?
Kevin also notes that the situation described in the piece could be a good thing:
Now, this is obviously bad news in one sense, but I wonder if there’s a sense in which it’s good news: at least we know who the enemy is, and we know their numbers are limited–large, maybe, but still limited.
‘Twould be nice. Indeed, this is a variation on the famous flypaper strategy. But, from what I’ve gathered listening to people who know what they’re talking about on the Iraqi insurgency–most notably Steven Metz of the Strategic Studies Institute–there are many factions involved, with the former regime loyalists (FRLs) being but one. The others include foreign jihadists–al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other Islamic terrorists who started reconstituting in Iraq after the Taliban regime was deposed in Afghanistan–and “new internationalists”–Iraqis who hated Saddam but who resent the presence of non-Muslim soldiers in their land. This is a complicated problem, since measures necessary to root out FRLs and jihadists will exacerbate tensions among the local populace, likely increasing the number of “new internationalists.”