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The Battle of Fallujah: A Comprehensive Briefing (v3.6)

| 59 Comments | 34 TrackBacks

"Wellington once observed that "nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won." Nothing about it is nice; but better them than us."
  -- Wretchard the Cat

As many of our readers know, there's a very significant battle going on in Fallujah right now. Want a one-stop shop that will help you keep track of what's going on as things develop, and link you to some of the smartest background analysis around so you understand the why and how, as well as the what? OK, you got it. One power-packed briefing, in depth and in detail.

Nov. 13/04: Evariste, of Discarded Lies, Obsidian of Obsidian Order, and Bill Roggio of the fourth rail have now joined in to help keep this briefing up to date. If you have a news item we've missed, please post it in the comments or email it to evariste, who will be updating this post periodically.

This briefing will be updated as excellent new sources are found and events continue to develop. Readers are welcome to suggest additional items for inclusion via the Winds of Change.NET Comments section.

Nov 16, 2004

Highlight of the Night: Bill Roggio at the fourth rail writes in Into the Sunni Triangle that the task now ahead of us is nothing less than the conquest of the Sunni Triangle (not reconquest, conquest)-because that had been the 4th ID's job, and it was denied permission to deploy from Turkish territory. By his lights, we serendipitously stumbled into a situation that, while hard, gives Iraqis a prominent role in the ultimate pacification of their country and is therefore a good thing.
Political solutions to the problems in the Sunni Triangle were sought by the Iraqi Governing council and the Interim government, but these attempts have failed. The Coalition and Iraqi government has demonstrated to the Iraqi people that the political options have been exhausted and has assembled Iraqi security forces able to participate in operations to establish government control. While the delayed timing of the pacification has fueled the resolve of insurgents, it has allowed the efforts to crush the insurgents to take on an Iraqi face. The Iraqis are committing to restoring order to their nation and have a stake in the outcome. While there is little doubt more American troops would have helped with restoring order sooner, it is beneficial in the long run with having the Iraqis actively participating in the restoration of order and their own liberation from the brutal coalition of terrorists and Saddam loyalists.
He has much more.

VISUAL AIDS

  • Nov. 10/04: Bill Roggio takes the GlobalSecurity.org aerial photos, and improves them himself. So Long Mogadishu, Hello Fallujah is a very good briefing of current developments, and his map includes the routes of U.S. forces.
  • Nov. 11/04: The BBC's animated primer is even better, covering attacking a city, defending a house, and a history of urban warfare. The bad news is that their material omits some critical battles that shaped urban combat (Ortona, Aachen, and Jenin - and by the way, Mogadishu wasn't one of them), and also many of the modern tactics for dealing with urban warfare described in our background section and Fallujah-related posts like posts like this one. The challenges are real, but their slant is incomplete and the common denominator of their historical examples is of losing battles. Typical BBC.
  • Nov. 10/04: MSNBC's photo slideshow from the battle (appropriately, it's embedded in the linked page) is the best I've yet seen by any media organization. Lots of big, good photos, with captions that explain exactly what you're seeing.

Background & Context: Before the Battle

  • Oct. 15/04: Over at Belmont Club, The Last Two Weeks sets a bigger picture for the developing military campaign:

"If it was possible to speak of a tactical encirclement of Fallujah in April, it may be meaningful to think of a wider, operational encirclement that has taken place since then. The keystone of course, was dealing with the Shi'ite insurgency first, specifically the Al-Sadr threat in Baghdad and Najaf. That was a classic solution to the "two front war" problem. Establishing an interim Iraqi government created the political preconditions to isolate the Sunni rebels. The silent part of the encirclement was the development of intelligence assets, whose only physical manifestation was the arrival of smart bombs on specific targets. Now comes the sequenced reduction of mutually supporting enemy systems..."

Background & Context: The Bigger Picture

  • Bedlam by the Eurphrates. Underneath the conflict between Zarqawi's forces and allied troops lies the politics of a tribal country - one where revenge is not unknown. In an ironic way, American troops are probably the sole guarantors of Falluja's survival. Pursuant to the requirements of counterinsurgency in tribal socieites, this will be used as a lever with Fallujah's tribal leaders, as a strong incentive for them to keep order once Iraqi government troops are holding what the allies have seized.
  • On which note, Lt. Smash points us to Spencer Ackerman's "reliably pessimistic" blog Iraq'd. Today's entry discusses the enemy's srategy of dispersal, and lays out the intended counter-narrative of the "Sunni persecution strategy." He's probably correct re Zarqawi's intentions. What Ackerman doesn't do is think ahead re: the consequences if the enemy "wins", which is a Fallujah leveled and salted by the Shi'ites a couple years from now. Tribal leaders in Fallujah understand this, and that will be a big constraint on Zarqawi's intended plan. The enemy has obstacles too, Mr. Ackerman.
  • Chrenkoff reinforces the importance of local governance to the long term future of Iraq. Smashing Zarqawi's base may begin to make this objective achievable, but it is not the end. Unless it's done, however, you can kiss any concept of local governance in the Sunni triangle goodbye.
  • Back on Nov. 08/04, Belmont Club examines why Zarqawi et. al. would fight for Fallujah. The Banner of Zarqawi
  • Nov. 09/04: My take: many of them won't, and left in civilian garb with the rest of the exodus a while ago. They will reappear elsewhere in Iraq, as some of the thugs from Najaf reappeared later on in Tal Afar. There are costs to such a telegraphed punch, and Zarqawi is almost certainly gone already (hmm, I'm not the only one who thinks so). But smashing the base he has built up will still pay dividends as Phase 3 of Operation Iraqi Freedom hits full swing - a phase that began in Tal Afar, and continued in Samarra and Ramadi. It leads, at last, to Fallujah before returning to other towns. Some will be new. Others will change hands several times, sloshing back and forth like water in a shaken basin. Backed by Iran, Syria, al-Qaeda, and what remains of Saddam's U.N. oil for food dollars, Zarqawi's terrorists will continue to plague Iraq for a while yet. Let them plague it on the run, then, searching for bases and respite, always wondering if the new neighbourhood they enter contains the informants who will bring about their doom. Let the Islamofascists die tired - just so long as they die.
  • Meanwhile, over at Tacitus.org, Bird Dog notes that we're not just at war with Fallujah's insurgents - we're also at war with the Saudi-based "scholars" and clerics who give them sanction, blessing, and religious cover. True, birddog... the Saudis will certainly need to be dealt within their turn. Let's start with free Shi'ites on their northern border, serving as an example to the large Shi'ite population in Arabia's oil-producing areas that escape from Sunni discrimination and self-determination are possible.
  • Speaking of which, Bahrain's Parliament is debating events in Falluajh. It won't matter to the operation, of course, but it's an interesting indicator. Opinions were, shall we say, divided. I'd call that progress, and it does the heart good to see prominent Arab Parliamentarians dissing the jihadi wingnuts. (Hat Tip: reader Bill Herbert) Our Bahraini friend at Chan'ad is even less amused by the Sunni Islamists, and says (and I quote) "A pig is cleaner than this bearded monster."
  • Has telegraphing the punch so much cost the USA too much? Yglesias says "Duuuuh!"- the terrorists have fled, and he sees a very inconclusive result coming. Centerfeud notes that without that telegraphing, civilian casualties rise sharply. Where should the trade-off be? And, given that Iraq is sovereign, who has to approve any decision? Of course, allowing the exodus also allows the allies' informers to escape without drawing any attention, and that may be more valuable than even a couple thousand terrorists because the informers' lives are an absolute requirement if you want ongoing security later, too. It's a worthy question, and Matt may even be right, but there's more going on here than meets the eye.

Background & Context: The Military Dimension

  • First of all, if you need it please see our Essential War Briefing, compiled in March 2003 for those who find a quick Military 101 refresher useful.
  • June 26/04: The Grand Bumblers. Belmont Club contrasts the experience of Chechen victory in Grozny with the experience of Iraq's Islamists when matched up against the USA. They're using the same urban tactics, but America isn't following the script. Great starting point for your understanding.
  • Oct. 25/04: From Belmont Club's War Plan Orange, a good description of the changes in the U.S. tactics and doctrine that are preventing repeats of Grozny and dealing with the growing prevelance of urban warfighting. It's certainly a good summary of what the U.S. military is trying to do:

"One indication of the unfavorable trend faced by enemy forces face was the rapid transformation in US operations. It is interesting to compare Marine preparations to assault Fallujah in April 2004 with those apparently under way today, just months later. The Marine methods of April would have been instantly familiar to any military historian: hammer and anvil, seizure of key terrain; feint and attack. Today, many of the military objectives in the developing siege of the terrorist stronghold are abstract. They consist of developing a network of informers in the city; of setting up a functioning wireless network; of getting close enough for smaller US units to deploy their line-of-sight controlled UAV and UGV units to create a seamless operational and tactical environment to wage "swarm" warfare; of getting artillery and mortar units close enough to play hopscotch over everything the network decides to engage. To the traditional methods of warfare the Americans were adding a whole new plane which only they could inhabit."

  • See Winds author Trent Telenko's The Networked Force for an excellent and very down to earth treatment of these critical 21st century warfare concepts, and the implications of the changes the U.S. military has gone through over the last 15 years (yes folks, that includes Clinton's terms as President). Fantastic comments section too, with lots of military folks chiming in.
  • Nov. 10/04: 'Jay Tea' at Wizbang discusses civilian casualties and the wisdom of making certain kinds of locations into sanctuaries. It was an uncomfortable post for him to write, and there's lots of debate... but I'd call his logic sound in the abstract and sound with constraints in practice. The constraints? There are other actors on the ground besides the terrorists, and if ultimate success remains the goal their reactions matter too. Those fighting on the ground are best equipped to make these calls.
  • Nov. 11/04: Small robot planes called drones or UAV are also being used in the battle of Fallujah. In at least one case, they played a decisive role in an artillery engagement. They've also been scouting the city for several months now, marking strongpoints, booby traps, etc. Something the Marines learned from the Israelis - and the Pioneer is an Israeli drone that has proven itself in several Mideast battles.
  • Nov. 11/04: DefenseTech also notes that the tactics in Fallujah don't seem to match the Counterinsurgency Operations Field Manual. I'm sure the commanders all know the manual - sometimes, you have to throw the book away due to outside constraints or operational reality. But it's still worth reading Noah's post to see what the manual says.
  • Nov. 11/04: Iraq Now has a letter from an officer in 1st Infantry Division that is sharply critical of the Marines' approach in Iraq. 4th Infantry has leveled similar criticisms in the past. Read with an open mind, and remember the Army and Marines don't always like each other much. (Hat Tip: Grim's Hall)

Background & Context: The Press' Performance

  • Nov. 08/04: What Bias? What Ignorance? The Obsidian Order has an excellent post covering the media coverage, from the good (NY Times & CBS, believe it or not) to the terrible/misleading (AP, LA Times), plus a bunch in the middle. Some of these mistakes are proof of amazing levels of ignorance.
  • The Embeds are back. Great news. Maybe when they're done they can help educate some of their contemporaries.
  • On Veteran's Day, Chester comes back with more suggestions for improving media coverage. If you only ever cover soldiers as victims or villains, he asks, what picture can you expect to protray? How about more stories of simple bravery and successful courage, which float around the blogosphere all the time but often don't make it to mainstream media. Case in point: how many of you have heard of Brian Chontosh? As usual, Chester has a good point.

REPORTS: OPENING GAMBITS: - AND SO, IT BEGINS...

  • Nov. 08/04: Fallujah Again. Belmont Club's best post for details of the strategy and tactics involved in the battle. Excellent and informative read.
  • Don't forget the simple stuff, either. Winds member Trent Telenko has raved about the .50 cal machine gun, which he calls "the mounted lance" of U.S. mobile forces. But don't take his word for it - listen to the words of a soldier in Iraq as he explains why "Ma-Deuce" is the way to go in urban fights.

REPORTS: THE MID-GAME

Nov. 9, 2004

  • Nov. 09/04: The Enemy Starts to Collapse. Belmont Club discusses some of the new tactics at play, and assembles the larger picture from the news reports. Despite all of the terrorists' preparations, this looks like a very lopsided battle so far. But it isn't over.

Nov. 10, 2004

  • Nov. 10/04: To all the U.S. Marines fighting in Fallujah and around the globe, Happy Birthday!!! To all the jihadis facing them in Fallujah and elsewhere, happy death day. Allah wants to have a word or two with your worthless ass, and the USMC is happy to help you with the travel arrangements.
  • Nov. 10/04: Terrorist counterstrike - there are reports that 3 members of Iraqi PM Allawi's family were abducted from their home in Baghdad. Obviously, the goal is to use them to pressure Allawi into opening negotiations and stopping short of victory again - a 48-hour dealine has been set. I don't think it will work, and I grieve with PM Allawi for his terrible loss.
  • Nov. 10/04: The enemy is fighting from mosques, of course. The U.S. approach is to basically besiege those buildings, then wait for Iraqi National Guard forces to come along and deal with them.
  • Nov. 10/04: In taken the town hall, and moved through the Jolan District, and they're still encountering only "small pockets of fighters." On one level, their tactics are designed to produce this - but given the forces in Fallaujah before Phantom Fury started, there should have been a few really serious battles by now. Back to the telegraphing issue, with all its pros and cons....
  • The enemy's use of mosques as war strongholds in hardly suprising. Such use removes all protections on the mosque under the laws of war, and U.S. forces will reluctantly target such mosques.

Nov. 11, 2004

  • Nov. 11/04: Bill Roggio's quick overview describes the discovery of torture chambers and snuff-film sets in Fallujah, fighting in the Jolan district, and an American secret weapon... Sgt. Kimberley Snow of Task Force 2-2. Read Bill's post to find out what makes her so important.
  • Nov. 11/04: Via The Command Post: "House-to-house searches uncovered three Iraqi hostages, handcuffed and tortured, in the basement of buildings in the city, which is believed to be an operating base for the most ruthless gang of kidnappers in Iraq lead by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Marine Major PJ Batty said on Thursday. Fallujah residents, however, deny that such people live in their city." Suuuure they do. Now you know where "Baghdad Bob" comes from.
  • Nov. 11/04: California Yankee picks up a news report that estimates 600 enemy dead. While this is good news if true, I'll remind our readers that wartime casualty estimation tends to be inexact.
  • UPDATE: Janabi is apparently confirmed dead. Good shooting.
  • Nov. 11/04: NPR embedded reporter Anne Garrels is reporting that Iraqi troops discovered a briefcase with 40 vials of Sarin nerve gas in Fallujah. The items are under guard by U.S. forces, and specialists are being called in. As always with such stories, we urge readers to suspend judgment for 2-3 days until analysis et. al. can be performed. Still, this is not entirely unexpected - there were pre-battle reports that the insurgents had chemical weapons, and U.S. troops (who dislike anything with extra weight) are carrying protective gear. You can also listen to her describe the performance of the Iraqi troops.
  • On Nov. 12, California Yankee adds further details. Still not confirmed, though. CY also adds some additional details re: insurgent tactics that may be interesting: more on the use of mosques, and 'sleeper' cells.

REPORTS: ENTERING THE ENDGAME

Sometimes referred to as the "mopping up" phase, though it can be bloody as the remaining defenders fight viciously from their strongholds or begin taking desperate measures. The endstate is "control" of the battlefield, which does not mean the absence of violence so much as it means the removal of the defender's ability to dislodge the attacker. In the case of Fallujah, it's also worth noting that the end of the battle is not the end of all.

Nov. 12, 2004

  • A non-web source of mine reports that in at least one case the runaways were Ba'athists, and that their Islamist 'brothers' shot many of them pour encourager les autres. That's French, which the Ba'athists must certainly understand after all these years. Then again, maybe that's why they fled.
  • Nov. 12/04: On the other hand, Transterrestrial Musings has a post of his own about strife among the enemy. Reports of a senior Zarqawi commander found dead with a bullet to the back of the head, suggesting execution by his fellows. It also reports 20 other 'foreign fighter' bodies shot to death execution style. Revenge for the previous action? Neither report true? Either true? Hard to tell sometimes in the fog of war.

Nov 13, 2004

  • Patrick O'Brien's deploying his acerbic wit over at Clarity & Resolve:
    Yeah, once the muzzles are taken off our dogs of war, you guys are shown to not be able to jihad your way out of a wet piece of pita bread.
    Ouch.

Nov 14, 2004

  • Marines discover the mutilated body of a Caucasian woman that was decapitated, disemboweled and all appendages chopped off. The marines also discovered the bodies of 8 murdered Arab men. Gruesome discoveries such as these will continue to surface from the madness that was Fallujah.
  • Baghdad's international airport closure has been ordered extended indefinitely by Iyad Allawi, indicating that the fighting isn't nearly over yet. Meanwhile, two border crossings, one with Syria, one with Jordan, were ordered reopened for Eid traffic.
  • Iraqis have finally taken over vetting and recruitment procedures from the Americans for their security services and Iraqified them, immediately making them more practical. That's the prevention side of it; the article linked also covers repair of the extent of damage already done by recruitment of terrorist allies, informants and sympathizers: a massive purge has begun of Iraqi security services.

Nov. 15, 2004

  • Faces Of The Fallen is a memorial at the Washington Post to our brave troops who fell in the line of duty. The least we can do is try to know them.
  • A dead man says what? Abu Musab al Zarqawi has issued a new audiotape, encouraging terror groups to attack American troops and supply lines to keep us from attacking any other cities than Fallujah.
    "The enemy is weak and cannot widen their battle so do not stop at expelling them ... advance toward them and rain rockets and mortars down on them,"..."Block off all their main and secondary supply lines for these are their main arteries and ambush them along those routes for they are exposed and easy prey," the speaker said.
    Cute! You're still toast, buddy.
  • The Marines have located a major bomb-manufactory in Fallujah; they found a very large number of improvised explosive device input material (C4, cellphones, wires, radios). And, who says the British are the masters of understatement? I'll put an Ohio farm-boy up against them any day!
    “It’s all significant because this is not the kind of stuff an average household has,” said Lt. Kevin Kimner, 25, of Cincinnati, assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. “This is better than Radio Shack.”
  • Iyad Allawi's two female relatives that were abducted were released; his best friend, a male cousin, remains a hostage. He's showing admirable determination in extraordinarily trying circumstances:
    Allawi had said on Saturday that he was deeply concerned about the fate of his three relatives, but their abduction would not deter him from purging the country of militants.
    I was wondering what he was made of. Good man.
  • NBC is trying to make huge hay of an incident in which a marine killed an enemy fighter pretending to be dead. LGF's Charles links to an excellent piece on this, putting this kind of situation in perspective. Our own Armed Liberal has a refreshingly sane take as well.
  • FOX News interviewed some of the troops who were airlifted to Landstuhl for treatment following wounds in battle in Fallujah. A short read, but worth it.

Nov. 16, 2004

  • US planes bomb Baquba as violence spills over from Fallujah. Also in that link: Baghdad International Airport, previously indefinitely closed, has reopened to civilian traffic, in a sign that the end of the fighting is near and a return to relative normalcy is imminent. In a contrary sign, Iraq's interior minister said that while Mosul is calm now, he expects a surge in attacks over the next two days.

34 TrackBacks

Tracked: November 10, 2004 3:00 PM
Phantom Fury. from The Bayou City Perspective
Excerpt: The (hopefully final) assault on the "terrorist stronghold" of Fallujah, Iraq, dubbed Operation Phantom Freedom, began in earnest on Monday after being thoroughly telegraphed by the Iraqi and American forces who are staging the attack. The Perry-Castań...
Tracked: November 10, 2004 4:37 PM
Fallujah, so far from Brain Shavings
Excerpt: Winds of Change has a multi-week roundup on The Battle of Fallujah....
Tracked: November 10, 2004 5:29 PM
Understanding Fallujah from The Opinionated Bastard
Excerpt: From Winds of Change It’s a long post, especially if you read all the other posts by other bloggers that it refers to, but its worth the read.
Tracked: November 10, 2004 6:12 PM
PHANTOM FURY from The Indepundit
Excerpt: EVERYTHING YOU WANT TO KNOW about the Battle of Fallujah, and more, over at Winds of Change. Or, for a reliably pessimistic perspective, you can read Spencer Ackerman's IRAQ'd at The New Republic....
Tracked: November 10, 2004 6:59 PM
Fallujah Update from Stryker Brigade News
Excerpt: In addition to the sources we've mentioned previously, Winds of Change has a very comprehensive roundup of information on the situation there. Their entry will be updated as new information becomes available, so you might want to bookmark it....
Tracked: November 10, 2004 9:23 PM
Comprehensive Guide to Battle of Falluja from Airborne Combat Engineer
Excerpt: If you just tuned into the Mother of All Urban Warfare, Joe Katzman provides a great overview of the background and what has transpired thusfar -- which will be updated. News has been limited today. Perhaps we'll learn more about
Tracked: November 10, 2004 10:49 PM
OOOH-RAH! from Feste...a foolsblog
Excerpt: On this day in a Philadelphia tavern, the Continental Congress gave birth to the Marine Corps almost a full year before the Declaration of Independence. More than two centuries later in Fallujah, America still looks to the Marines to do...
Tracked: November 10, 2004 11:47 PM
Fallujah Briefing from Ace of Spades HQ
Excerpt: Excellent digest and links at Winds of Change....
Tracked: November 11, 2004 2:20 AM
Fallujah 3 from murdoc online
Excerpt: Well, more info indeed has been pouring out, and it mostly seems good. As I noted last time, I won't be running news updates. Everyone else is doing a fine job. No, my primary function tonight will be to point...
Tracked: November 12, 2004 2:39 AM
Excerpt: Can be found in this information-laden post....
Tracked: November 12, 2004 2:50 AM
Winds of Change on Fallujah from The Truth Laid Bear
Excerpt: Confused about Fallujah? Go check out this staggeringly informative Winds of Change roundup on Fallujah, and be confused no more....
Tracked: November 12, 2004 3:14 AM
Excerpt: I found a very informative blog entry that is covering the battle of Fallujah on the Winds of Change blog. The blog has plenty of links to stories from embedded reporters and other interesting links including an arial view of...
Tracked: November 12, 2004 4:56 AM
Telegraphing From the Front from Carnivorous Conservative
Excerpt: Right click open in new window for best view. This update is taken from reports from The Telegraph, a must see Winds of Change documentation of Fallujah, Chester, The Belmont Club, Global Security and Fox on air reports. My
Tracked: November 12, 2004 5:05 AM
Fallujah Roundup from Fanatic Heart
Excerpt: Winds of Change.NET: Special Report: The Battle of Fallujah (v2.4) (pssst: Ryan, you'll love this) Winds of Change, my favorite people-I-don't-agree-with-but-who-are-smart-and rational-human-beings, have posted an amazingly detailed roundup of links of...
Tracked: November 12, 2004 6:02 AM
South of Thurthar and 10 from Carnivorous Conservative
Excerpt: As best I can tell, the inset in the above image is a blow up of approximately where the action in this story is taking place.FALLUJA, Iraq, Nov. 11 - The stars began to glimmer through a wan yellow-gray
Tracked: November 12, 2004 8:14 AM
Enemablog from Simon World
Excerpt: The semi-regular look at the links that matter: Plenty have wondered if Arafat has died of AIDS (and what about the quilt?). Someone knows the truth. Best headline of the week goes to Ace. Hemlock (Friday entry) has the solution to the problems of the ...
Tracked: November 13, 2004 6:42 AM
Entangled Triangle from Carnivorous Conservative
Excerpt: This post deals more with the overall
Tracked: November 13, 2004 6:56 AM
What the Internet Can Do from Terror Debate
Excerpt: It's stunning what people can do with the internet. Has anyone in history ever had access to so many primary sources, analysis, maps and real-time information?
Tracked: November 13, 2004 8:27 AM
Hornet's Nest from Speed of Thought...
Excerpt: ...
Tracked: November 13, 2004 11:17 AM
Fallujah. from On The Third Hand
Excerpt: I highly recommend Special Report: The Battle of Fallujah at Winds of Change. The Command Post is also doing its usual excellent job of bringing us all the latest news on the subject (Link is to their 'Iraq' section).
Tracked: November 14, 2004 5:42 PM
Fallujah Briefing from The Dead Hand
Excerpt:
Tracked: November 14, 2004 8:46 PM
Excerpt: Winds of Change has the best Battle of Fallujah round-up I've seen yet....
Tracked: November 15, 2004 1:10 AM
On Fallujah and Mosul from The Glittering Eye
Excerpt: I haven't posted anything about the battle for Fallujah because I don't think that I have much meaningful to contribute. Probably the best coverage of the situation in the blogosphere is on Winds of Change. They're updating the information there...
Tracked: November 15, 2004 2:31 AM
Excerpt: WindsofChange.Net has many informative posts on Fallujah....
Tracked: November 15, 2004 5:27 AM
Zarqawi's Fallujah from the fourth rail
Excerpt: (Note: I am assisting with Winds of War Fallujah briefing. Joe Katzman has assembled an incredible briefing on the battle. Some of the information in this post is derived from entries I submitted for Sunday's posting.) As the battle of...
Tracked: November 15, 2004 11:14 AM
Excerpt: News is everywhere, but on the Winds of Change carries such a comprehensive briefing. Currently at version 3.4....
Tracked: November 15, 2004 5:48 PM
Iraq Report from Stryker Brigade News
Excerpt: Winds of Change has published its most recent Iraq Report, with links to news and analysis of recent events there. Also, in case you missed it previously, they have a very comprehensive roundup of news related to Fallujah....
Tracked: November 17, 2004 7:55 AM
Back in Fallujah from Speed of Thought...
Excerpt: Wind of Change has a very comprehensive round-up of the happenings in Fallujah. Worth your time.
Tracked: November 19, 2004 9:41 PM
What It's All About from 2Slick's Forum
Excerpt: In the case of Fallujah, I'd recommend looking no further than this wonderfully comprehensive site at Winds of Change.
Tracked: January 23, 2005 9:57 PM
Excerpt: POLITBURO: EMPIRE OF THE BLOGS. Way harsh map. Go find Beautiful Atrocities. Only quibble: there are NO llamas in Europe BATTLE OF FALLUJAH: Winds of Change posts exhaustive roundup covering background, military analysis, army bloggers, Iraqi bloggers,...
Tracked: August 7, 2005 8:07 AM
Excerpt: The decline and disarray of Musab al Zarqawi's al Qaeda in Iraq can be evidenced by looking into two recent letters. The first was from a terrorist calling himself Abu Zyad to al Zarqawi lamenting the free-fall of jihadi conditions in Mosul. The second...
Tracked: October 11, 2005 5:30 AM
Excerpt: M1126 Stryker ICV DID has covered the Stryker vehicle before, most notably for the unexpectedly positive reviews the nonpartisan Project On Government Oversight received when it spoke to soldiers who served in them and appreciated the vehicles' capabil...
Tracked: March 14, 2006 12:23 AM
Richard Jadick: Someone You Should Know from Good News from the Front
Excerpt: Faced with a shortage of doctors, the Navy needed a junior-level doctor to accompany a Marine batalion to Iraq. Lt. Commander Richard Jadick, one of the senior medical officers at Camp Lejeune, volunteered. He left a pregnant wife at home...
Tracked: April 14, 2006 4:34 PM
Excerpt: Stryker ICV, Korea(click to view full) DID has covered the Stryker vehicle before, most notably for the unexpectedly positive reviews the nonpartisan Project On Government Oversight received when it spoke to soldiers who served in them and appreciated ...

59 Comments

The most important aspect is the Iraqi soldiers performances.

What Iraq needs is an army/ police force ready and able to fight for democracy, to kill for Iraqi freedom. The US is there to make sure such good Iraqis win in any real fight.

But the US can NOT win -- only the Iraqis can win.

It was Allawi's orders. It is to support elections. The world, the press, the other Arabs & Islamic societies better get used to it.

(I wonder if Ghaddafi wants to race for economic empowerment?)

Great round up. Thanks!

All the accounts I've read say that the Iraqis are doing well.

Great resource, Joe.

>> And, given that Iraq is sovereign, who has to approve any decision?

Youse guys are so funny. You crack me up.

Fallujeh is simply part of a political exercise. Given our overwhelming superiority in technology and training the issue was never seriously in doubt. The fiction of "free" elections could not be staged with Fallujeh in the hands of insurgents. Given Sistani's insistence on one man one vote, the "elected" Shia majority will request that the U.S. withdraw following the January elections. We should leave with alacrity. Iraq will then experience a period of Civil War, before returning to conditions as they existed following the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Perhaps the British, who drew the original lines in the desert creating Iraq, can petition for a Security Council Resolution to end the Civil War.
Sorry, couldn't resist that last.

failedromantic,

That's a nice little story. Care to provide any evidence for your theory, or will you continue to believe we are all too stupid or unworthy to bother?

From my blog, The Dignified Rant, a post on the value of sanctuaries:

The Dignified Rant

How "significant" the battle will be depends upon what comes after. It could be just about as significant as the Battle of Tora Bora. I personally don't think that the general insurgency will be much harmed by it.

All the armchair general pontificating about "weapons and tactics" does not obliterate the strategic problem: there are enough troops to assault successfully anywhere, but not enough troops to secure the entire country everywhere without the cooperation of its people.

There never have been enough troops there. If there had been, no Battle of Fallujah would even have been necessary.

To Joseph Marshall who stated
"All the armchair general pontificating about "weapons and tactics" does not obliterate the strategic problem: there are enough troops to assault successfully anywhere, but not enough troops to secure the entire country everywhere without the cooperation of its people."

No Joseph, there haven't been enough troops to secure the entire country everywhere without the cooperation of its people. There aren't enough troops on the planet to secure the entire country everywhere without the cooperation of its people. Thats a major piece of what we are doing there-securing the cooperation of its people. Did you notice that the Iraqi troops are involved. Did you notice they are performing better this time than last time. Did it occur to you that they improve with experience, like all the rest of us and that they will continue to improve with our help and involvement. The Vietnamese didn't perform so we elbowed them out of the way and flooded the country with troops. They were happy to hand the war over to us and never took ownership of it. I like Bush's approach. It would seem that he is capable of learning from experience.

It's important to keep in mind the military and political objective in Fallujah. We are not necessarily there to end the opposing violence (it's only an insurgency if you believe that the Baathists are ready to rule that section of the country if we give up).

What we are there to do is to reclaim the city, in as intact a fashion as we can manage, by driving out the bulk of the Baathists and the jihadis and denying them the use of the city.

Controlling the city will have several benefits. First, it does disrupt the organized violence coming from there, destroy weapons caches and interdict some communications.

Second, it establishes a precedent that the Sunni triangle will indeed be stabilized and controlled.

And third, it facilitates elections in January.

But none of this means that we should expect violence to end or that continued violence means the operation failed.

One step at a time.

RKB Not to disagree with your points about violence, but it seems to me if we focus on killing as many of the enemy as possible as the military objective that provides the highest probability of achieving our political objective. If we destroy this enemy, the rest will follow. If we fail to destroy this enemy, it will reform and we will return to the status quo ante somewhere else.

AP has Abdullah al-Janabi and Omar Hadid as unconfirmed kills.

More here.
Unconfirmed: Two Leading Fallujah Shaykhs Killed

http://www.werenotsorry.com/

Read the bit about Kimberly Snow, but that just shows why the U.S. has trouble with the propaganda war. There is a basic lack of credibility for the U.S. in the Arab world. Any pictures she takes, the insurgents will argue to their fellow Islamics, "are just clever constructions of the jews meant to divert the faithful from their mission to defend this land from the infidels!" The only exception to that rule, I suspect, are the photos of Abu Ghraib. Those they seem to believe.

Problem for us is, anything that is bad about us will be believed more readily than that which is good. That's the tough part of winning the hearts and minds of a people who are culturally hostile to the U.S. to start.

Dingo's point boils down to: "the Arabs live in a fantasy reality and many believe only what they choose to believe."

Well, that isn't exactly news.

It's also why the undeniable consequences of punishment and even war are sometimes the only options left if your opponents' belief structures have sealed themselves off from reality.

With that said, there are always some people who do have open minds, even in closed-minded populations. And there's Americans back home, too, a very important audience. Nobody expects Michael Moore, Zarquawi, or bin Laden to believe Ms. Snow's pictures or represent them fairly. They are what they are, and caring about what people like that think is both foolish and morally wrong.

The pictures are being taken for another audience, one that is always large and often dominant: the wavering or uncommitted middle. The job must be done, and there will be pictures because the truth is important even if people choose not to believe it.

Kudos to Sgt. Kimberley Snow, who is doing an incredibly dangerous - and worthy - job.

Joe,

I agree with your assessment on Sgt. Snow's work. Her assignment also shows that the military is taking action (small ones, but action no less) to try to counter the propaganda war being waged against the U.S. This is an area where I think we are not being aggressive enough in the GWoT.

This roundup is second to none on the web.

Joe:

Shrug. What people think back home is irrelevant until the people back home start killing Americans or helping people to kill Americans in Iraq. They have no ability to affect the outcome of the war. Besides, the vast majority of Americans are predisposed to believe anything the government tells them anyway about the war. Nobody reads Al Jazeera or the other Arab newspapers, so they're not even seeing the news that the Arabs are getting.

If you're going to win against the insurgents, you have to turn the people against them. That's basic. If Arabs and other islamic people are living in a fantasy world and won't believe you, you have to bring them back to reality. Otherwise chances are you're going to lose over the long term. The rest is just pissing around with a lot of guns and missiles. Feels good, but it doesn't change the situation any.

We could try wholesale slaughter like we used against the Japs and the Germans in WW2 to try to make the Iraqis bend to our will, but there's a good chance we'd pretty much have to surrender any support in the rest of the WOT from the Euros and Turkey, Jordan and Egypt, and other important allies. So the Shermanesque route is probably one that wouldn't offer a net benefit.

Dingo,

If your understanding of the American polity is so poor that you believe American public opinion is "irrelevant" and "has no ability to affect the war," why should we trust your analysis or recommendations regarding Middle Eastern states?

Joe:

Seems to me that you don't have to trust anything I say, dude. I posted an analysis. Don't accept it? Okay. No skin off my nose. If you're right and I'm wrong, everything should calm down over there pretty soon. Arabs will accept us liberators and settle into a new democracy. If I'm right, they won't.

But here's a question you can answer for me: Why do you think public opinion will change anything in America when you guys just voted for a guy who specifically said he doesn't read opinion polls in making policy? If Dubya does what he says he does, what you or I think has ZERO to do with how the war will be fought over the next two years.

You posted an analysis. I questioned the quality of the analyst's framework. Nothing personal, but I think you're wildly off base. Clue: the American system, unlike the Parliamentary system in my country, has many important levers in the legislative branch and elsewhere beyond the Executive office.

American public opinion does matter, to any President, whether he reads polls or not. If you don't understand that then frankly, I have to wonder about your understanding of politics generally. That's a "laugher" statement if ever I saw one.

Not to Bush. He says he does what he thinks is right. Unless he's been lying. Do you think he's been lying?

As commander in chief, Bush has complete control over operations in Iraq unless Congress refuses to vote him more money. Given the way Bush played Kerry's refusal to vote for the 87 billion special appropriations as an act that was putting the lives at troops at risk, it's very unlikely that a majority of Congress will turn off the tap for operations in Iraq until Bush gives them the green light.

Under the American system, the President has a very wide latitude in conducting foreign policy and using the military in pursuit of that policy. If Bush has his mind set on continuing the war in opposition to public opinion (and with the nature of his base here, it's hard to see how he drops below 35-40% approval), there's pretty much nobody who can stop him.

This is a great collection to help keep us up to date - Thanks!
Note that Marine Dave Bellon is now a Lt. Colonel, having been promoted in August :-)

"Our friend at Chan'ad Bahraini is less amused"

it's actually "Mahmood" is less amused, Chan'ad isn't either, but at least when you link you should check?

5 pages of updates on Fallajuh in this blog and not one word on what is happening to civilians. Supposedly all this destruction is happening in the interest of the Iraqi people, but as to the welfare, life, and death of actual Iraqis there seems to be no interest.
Counts of Iraqi civilian deaths are derided and "debunked" but there is no real effort to learn the true numbers, just armchair pajama-clad warblogging, while F-18s rain death down on a city.
Look at the ruins of Fallujah and contemplate how many people facing that devastation will want nothing more than to see comparable scenes in US cities.
The Golden Rule still applies.

Actually, that was covered in the "telegraphing" entry. simple point is ther are damn few civilians left there when it all started. Also a lot fewer jihadis - that was the trade-off.

You're invited to compare Fallujah with, say, maps of Grozny pre and post, which actually resemble your description. I noticed not a lot of outrage about the snuff film room, torture chambers et. al. being found. Odd balance of outrage, to me at least.

Personally, my sympathy meter is a bit rusty when it comes to the folks who did Saddam's dirty work as his elite, and now serve as water-boys for Zarqawi. There are good guys there whose fate matters to me because we've been getting lots of intelligence - but safe to say they got out of the city inconspicuously with the mass exodus (perhaps one more reason to aloow it despite the trade-offs).

Of course, you're welcome to, uh, follow the rquest in the intro. and bring useful links to your comments. More fun to just rant though, isn't it?

Dead women and children lying in the street

I know dead civilians are not as much fun as playing armchair general. Certainly the snuff films are pure evil but the moral question is whether destruction of a city is justified in order to force their relocation.

The pictures I see of dead insurgents look like teenagers, armed with 20 yr old AKs and rusty RPGs. Whatever their religious/political beliefs, they are braver men than me, to stand up against F18s,Apaches/Cobras, tanks, and GPS targeted artillery with antique light weapons.

This article mind of a jihadi shows what might motivate a person to face those odds.

Pardon my scepticism that cutting a few heads of this Hydra does any good at all.

Another question: What about Geneva Convention, with the US turning male refugees back into a city under bombardment? What about failure to provide medical care and essentials of life to the civilian population under occupation?
I know we have an attorney-general nominee that considers the Geneva Convention "quaint" and "irrelevant", but for now it is still the law of the land.

Safe For Democracy

This link is interesting, both because Sunni leaders are being arrested for inflammatory words and because of the "tacit support" among Shiites for the attack on Fallujah.

Will one consequence of the Iraq war be a wider Sunni/Shiite conflict in the middle east?

Tom,

You've got to figure that a majority of the people of Fallujah are intelligent enough to understand the rationale - you've got to believe that they aren't excitable dimwits. Also, you've got to figure that they have had a taste of the "insurgents'" rule, and like it no more than you or I would. (And in fact, reports seem to suggest that the vast majority of them left in anticipation of the current clean-up, and I've seen anecdotal evidence suggesting that they actually want the insurgents out of their lives.)

How you predict how all this is going to pan out has a lot to do with how you think people, as a whole, from whatever culture, think. A certain kind of prediction marks one of as truly liberal: the prediction that they will, on the whole, be as rational as one thinks oneself to be, IF GIVEN A CHANCE. They haven't been, yet, because they've been intimidated by the bully boys. Once the bully boys are gone and they are able to vote for their government, we'll see how they think.

I think you can take it for granted that people round here are very concerned about civilian casualties, and spend a lot of time soul-searching about the matter; but at the end of the day, the whole point of "our" position is that we want to solve this situation (Fallujah, Iraq, WoT - they're all connected) with the absolute minimum possible loss of civilian life all-round.

And there just hasn't been much actual news about civilian casualties yet, so there's not much to chew on yet.

This marine seems to sum up the situation well:

"I still don't understand these people's mentality. Do they think they can really win?" 2nd Lt. Shawn Gniazdowski, 23, of Chesterland, Ohio, asked during a break in the fighting. "It's a shame to see the destruction of an entire city because of a couple thousand fighters."

http://www.bradenton.com/mld/bradenton/news/local/10160500.htm

Regarding civilian casualties, the only info in western media seems to be coming from BBC, who frequently quotes a so-called man-on-the-street reporter in Fallujah. This guy has been thoroughly discredited by his occasional reports over the past several months.

As far as why these guys think they can win, well, they probably believe their own propaganda... Just take a look at some of the links posted on www.trackingterrorism.com and see some of the really wild things being published for jihadi consumption. For example, you will see reports that the Fallujah hospital has been retaken by the insurgents, and that they have captured an American General after his tank got stuck on the streets of Fallujah. It's wild! It would be funny, except that it just adds a little more juice to keep the energizer-jihadi-bunnies going, and going, and going...

DRK

Guru,

here is your problem. "Insurgent rule", though nasty, was probably less or equal to the level of violence now seen in Fallujah.

I also think it is clear we do not have the troop quantity to persist. Raiding and persisting are different things. Lesson of alexander, who used a small army and persisted over a large amount of territory: gain the immediate support of the population and keep it.

I dont like it anymore than you do but we have not "cornered" the insurgents. We have fallen for a classic provoke and retreat (in this case the bulk of the fighters just walked out) against our superior force - a tactic the west has almost always failed to comprehend and counter.

Look at the broad and funtional attacks against us elsewhere. fade back, hit the enemy's rear. this is 2000 years old at least.

Robin,

I don't think you understand. "Reclaim the city?" And next month? We are not interdicting any weapons caches, they are too diffuse. we can get 1000 rpg rounds -- so what. there are tens of thousands of weapons caches in Iraq.

This marine seems to sum up the situation well:

"I still don't understand these people's mentality. Do they think they can really win?" 2nd Lt. Shawn Gniazdowski, 23, of Chesterland, Ohio, asked during a break in the fighting. "It's a shame to see the destruction of an entire city because of a couple thousand fighters."

--

Yeah, that reminds me of what an American officer said during the Vietnam conflict; "It was necessary to destroy the village to save it".

Someone spoke of reality and propaganda and that it was up to the Iraqis to wake up and realize the reality. Well their reality consists mostly of oppression for several hundreds of years, both by British and their own people, but also by America. Not necessarily always via military force, but through other means, for example economic means. Their reality today is a country in turmoil. A country which has been invaded. And invaded not by any country but by the country which they identify with satan. That is their reality and no wonder they are pissed. Who wouldn't be?

Anderson, Many Iraqis wouldn't. Some few do, others will fight for other reasons but their motivations are more complex. It would help your analysis to try and understand the differences. Quite a few are damn glad Saddam is gone, meanwhile, and have noticed that the Americans (unlike Saddam's big backers France and Russia) are the only ones who ever rolled in to stop him. But noticing any of that might mar the seamless Fanonite narrative of noble but oppressed third-worlders whose only possible mental states are hate, rage and violence against (pick Western target, who by the way deserves it).

That may even be a correct description of their mental state, Anderson - but for another reason entirely. Try this on: even non-white people and enemies of America can be bad people and do bad things. Many in Fallujah and the Sunni Triangle, as Saddam's former enforcers and a privileged class in relative terms, might be people whose muderous resentment stems mostly from having their days of impunity ended. Not so much fun without the rape rooms, the ability to take what you want, etc.

Hey, don't cry for me, Gen. al-Douri.

Those days are over, and attmpts to prolong them through violence will create a backlash among the Shi'ites that the Sunnis must truly fear. Belmont Club makes this exact point is River War 2, the second link in the Highlight of the Night post.

It's also true that many of the people in Fallujah et. all never really faced the shock of conflict with American armies, thanks to the Turks who kept 4th Infantry out of the war. The romance tends to dampen once you've faced that and lost a few times, and the coming campaign should provide ample opportunities to do so throughout the Sunni Triangle. Followed by the nagging but unchangeable reality of Shi'ite ascendacy, the only question being on what terms and in what manner. The hangover is coming, and there are worse things to face than Americans, and that will factor in.

You can try to grapple with these concepts, or retreat to the classic Fanonite neo-Marxist fantasies. But the real world is more interesting. More... nuanced.

Speaking of classic, I can't get any better than Tom V.:

"I know dead civilians are not as much fun as playing armchair general. Certainly the snuff films are pure evil but the moral question is whether destruction of a city is justified in order to force their relocation."

Get that? It might be INCONVENIENT, so we should leave them alone. The idea that the Iraqi civilians being murdered day after day by this al-Qaeda terrorist and his minions might also deserve consideration is foreign to Tom - note that it never enters his calculus. But they're allied with Americans, after all.

Always good to throw in hysterical terms like "destruction of a city," too, which have no correspondence with the reality being described by correspondents on the scene and linked above. Grozny was the destruction of a city. This isn't remotely close.

But any excuse to keep the Americans from fighting, eh Tom? That is the real point, after all. Zarqawi et. al. with their terror bases and snuff films and campaign of murder are an unfortunate reality you need to get out of the way with a "throat clearing" denounciation... BUT there's just nothing we can or should do.

Everything up to that last point is just preliminaries.

Bing West explains the answer - though Tom will never understand it. Fortunately, a majority of the American voters do.

Finally... nem makes some good points. There's a good discussion inside that post just waiting to get out. We might have had it, too, were it not for his first paragraph.

That the violence may have been equal or less in Fallujah under al-Qaeda control is irrelevant, and fails even on its own flawed terms because it doesn't consider the resulting violence outside Fallujah. Again, an odd and telling blindness.

But the real problem is that the comparison itself is morally meaningless. We've seen this before in Afghanistan, where people compared the casualties among Afghans to the 9/11 death toll.

To which the correct answer is, "so what?"

Afghansiatn was an Islamofasicst state run by al-Qaeda, which carried ou an act of war on 9/11. The consequence of which was and should be war. Whatever the resulting casualty level. War is about winning and prevailing, in this case against one of the more evil and benighted regimes this world has been cursed with. That is a just cause, and comparisons of casualties as if al-Qaeda & the Taliban were morally equal to their American opponents are nauseating.

The al-Qaeda jihadis and their Taliban allies needed to die or lose. That may mean others die with them. Which is unfortunate, but it does not erase the need for the al-Qaeda jihadis and their Taliban allies to die or lose.

As it happened, there was a war. And when you look at the returning refugees, recent elections, etc., it looks like the Afghans won too. But the Taliban didn't, much to the consternation of many on the Left who would rather have stopped when it all became too messy for them.

No stopping then. No stopping now.

People whose way of life is carbombing civilians and sawing off living people's heads as a form of religious porno need to die. Period. If the local population cannot or will not evict or kill these people, they will unfortunately suffer with them when the inevitable retribution comes (if they're really lucky, the retribution will come from americans, as opposed to Chinese, or Iraqis, or Russians, or...). That's called consequences. Very forseeable ones, at that.

Fortunately for Fallujans, they face Americans. The USA, for good or ill, allowed the battle to be set up as a "provoke and retreat" by allowing a mass evacuation of civilians - and inevitably of jihadis in civilian garb too.

One result is a massive minimization of civilian casualties, possibly at the cost of military effectiveness.

nem seems confused, therefore. Is allowing "provoke and retreat" tactics a bad thing? He implies that it is. Should we therefore accept more civilian casualties to get more military effectiveness by cutting off the "retreat" option? But wouldn't that really escalate the level of violence to a much higher level than the insurgents used, which is therefore a bad thing in nem's mind since that seems to be the metric used?

nem's argument is sucking at blowing at the same time. But mostly sucking.

My position is a bit clearer.

Tactics built around maximizing ones own civilian casualties by using them as human shields (a war crime, I might add), convey moral opprobrium on those USING the tactic, not on those opposing them and forced to shoot through civilians.

Indeed, if the threat of civilian casualties are every snuff-film beheader's "get out of jail free" immunity card, then you'll see a lot of 2 things [1] snuff-film beheaders; and [2] civilians endangered by being used as human shields, since the tactic so obviously works.

There are numerous considerations under which one might choose to minimize civilian casualties when fighting enemies who use them as human shields. But that is not the overriding moral measure of a fight or of a cause. In addition, over the long term the moral imperative is to reduce the value of the human shields tactic itself, in order to protect future civilians there and elsewhere.

That the faux morality being preached here might actually endanger civilians in the long run, as well as empowering evil, isn't being considered. But it ought to be.

#31 nem,

The thing is, the people of Fallujah will be well aware that the shit they got from the "insurgents" is likely to be the shit they'd get from the "insurgents" if they were in power, for a long, long time down the line; whereas the level of violence at the moment that's the US' responsibility, they know, isn't likely to be sustained for very long.

Credit them with some intelligence!

[Asininity. All-caps. Deleted. --NM]

#37 (M.M.A):

"Stop it--you'll hurt your throat." --Frank Zappa

NM

Hey MMA -

That's not really a WoC-style comment, but I'll leave it up for now unless the thread deteriorates. We like discussion here, not graffiti; you're welcome to dicuss, even if you think we're completely wrong. But tag the place again, and you'll be gone.

And if you want gore and meat, can we also get some from the Islamists' murders? Or is that just inciting?

A.L.

Awesome, awesome roundup Joe! It is being cited everywhere in the blogverse, with good reason. :)

Holy cow--that is easily the most exhaustive and comprehensive roundup I've seen in some time.

Excellent work.

Regarding the, "most of the bad guys fled before the battle started and have thus moved on to other mischief thus making our efforts useless" meme. If, as reports at this point indicate, we have killed 1,200 and another 1000 are cornered fighting to the(ir) death doesn't that add to 2,200. I believe most estimates of their forces in Fellujah ran in the 1,500 to 3,000 range. Don't these numbers put the lie to the idea that they all got away and we are doomed to failure?

Boyd,

It is the nature of those who oppose the war in the MSM and elsewhere to move the goal posts as American military arms win victories.

I am inclined to say that this was at best a partial victory myself, but that is something for a seperate post.

So, Trent, does that mean you're writing a post on it?

>>It is the nature of those who oppose the war in the MSM and elsewhere to move the goal posts as American military arms win victories.

My scoring formula for US counter-terrorism operations is relatively unchanging:

For each terrorist killed, add points equal to the number of people killed by the average terrorist minus one.

For each terrorist captured, add points equal to the number of people killed by the average terrorist plus the number of soldiers and civilians saved by the inteligence gained by said capture.

For each civlian killed, subtract one point.

For each US soldier killed, subtract one point.

For every three persons maimed, subtract one point.

For every ten houses and shops destroyed, subtract one point.

For every civilian saved during the next year from improved living conditions post-invasion, add one point.

Now, total up the above points. If the total is negative, the mission was a failure. Assuming it's positive, divide the total financial cost of the operation by the point total. Compare this value to the marginal cost of saving lives by increasing CDC or NIH funding.

If the Marines can consistently be as cost-effective as NIH, they won't need my tax money anymore -- I'll donate scads of money, time, and energy voluntarily.

I'm quite interested in people's estimates of the score for the Fallujah operation. Trent, AL, Joe? How well did we do?

Re #45:

Okay, I added up all the points just like T.J. said, and I figured out that the Carthaginians actually won the Third Punic War.

The Romans were doing great on points until they totally leveled the city of Carthage and massacred everybody. Talk about racking up a huge point deficit. Congratulations to Carthage, by the way.

Congratulations to the United States, too. T.J.'s scoring system proves that the US won a great victory on 9/11, beating the terrorists by more than 3000 points.

T. J. Madison: I don't agree with many of your scoring rules, but I'll try...

People killed by a terrorist... depends on how long they continue to operate, but I am certain the current number for the past year in Iraq is greater than one. A car bomb seems to kill anywhere between 5 and 50 people, and it probably takes several 5-10 person terrorist cells a week or two to set it up. Let's assume the number is between 2 and 10 per year (lower for Mahdi army, higher for foreign fighters, somewhere in the middle for Baathist army officers). I will do the math on the (unrealistic) assumption that the terrorists will only operate for one more year unless we stop them... you could just as easily assume ten, and multiply the results accordingly.

Let's say each captured terrorist leads us to two others, on the average, so the number is 6-30 for captured terrorists.

Assume by the end of the operation, 1500 terrorists killed, 500 captured. (minimum score of +6000, max +30000)

Assume 200 civilians killed, 200 maimed. (-267)
(Could be higher, but according to latest reports, there were as few as 6000 civilians still in Fallujah when the attack started. Not sure what your definition of maimed is.)

Assume 40 soldiers killed, 80 maimed. (-67)

From the satellite photos, roughly 80k structures in Fallujah, assume 10% destroyed. (-800)
(you could assume 20% but perhaps that shouldn't count at all since we'll simply rebuild them all... and 10 buildings are certainly not equal to one life)

Overall score: +4800 to +28000

Cost of operation: $250 million or so
(assume battle damage equivalent to total replacement of 5 M1 and 10 M2 armored vehicles, and one Cobra or Blackhawk helicopter... call it $100 million... plus $10k to $20k per soldier of ammo and everything else ... each JDAM is $42k, Hellfire $47k, TOW $15k, the full ammo load of a Bradley costs $3k and of an Abrams $20k ... I'd say somewhere around $200 to $300 million total ... could be as little as 150 or as much as 500 ... just a wild guess)

Cost effectiveness: somewhere between $10,000 and $50,000 per point as you've defined it (but you'll excuse me if I don't subtract points for terrorists killed)

Incidentally, what is the "marginal cost of saving lives by increasing CDC or NIH funding"? There are plenty of medical treatments that cost $10k per additional year of life... which suggests to me that our Fallujah campaign was highly "cost-effective" in your terms.

You can start donating here or here

Of course the real question is what value do you place on intangibles such as: freedom for 24 million people?

Interesting numbers - and not just because I'm an engineer and like number crunching. They really seems like they can give some insight into who is going to win this thing (the WOT). In checking the historical urban battles linked above it looks like urban combat has traditionally cost thousands of casualties on both sides and total destruction of the battleground. We look to be getting 50:1 killed in our favor with only modest damage. So what has changed over the last few decades? Are the terrorists and their tactics really at that much of a disadvantage? We killed 50:1 in Mogadishu too and by most accounts still "lost". So what mix of political will and military might is it going to take to ultimately win and do we have it at this time?

>>Congratulations to the United States, too. T.J.'s scoring system proves that the US won a great victory on 9/11, beating the terrorists by more than 3000 points

Are you referring to the neutralization of the fourth plane (either by air defense or passengers)? Or are you referring to the fact that the terrorists died in the attack?

The suicidal nature of the attack demonstrates some of the weaknessess in the strategy of the perpetrators. The 9/11 attack could have been implemented without any loss of Al-Qaeda operatives (an exercise left to the reader.) Those operatives would then be free to make more trouble. In general, people willing to die for your cause are too valuable to be allowed to do so.

>>Okay, I added up all the points just like T.J. said, and I figured out that the Carthaginians actually won the Third Punic War.

The Romans did not exactly share my humanist objectives. And just because one side loses does not mean the other side wins.

Let's take the terrorists in Fallujah. Even, if the USG is sloppy and has a net negative impact on life and liberty, the terrorists might still suffer enough losses that it might not have been worth it from their perspective. And if the USG is ultra-clean, the captured terrorists might be rehabilitated eventually and be better off! (an unrealistic outcome, but logically possible. See "Son of Al-Qaeda" for more details.)

The objective is for liberty and humanity to win, not for "the other side" to lose. Getting too caught up in "the absolute total destruction of the enemy" is a sure way to win Pyrrhic victories and compromise all moral values that distinguish you from your enemies.

>>Of course the real question is what value do you place on intangibles such as: freedom for 24 million people?

Point one: The 24 million don't really have that freedom (yet). Point two: ambient freedom saves lives -- in the case of economic freedom this can be measured in the form of increased lifespan due to better medical care, access to safety equipment, etc.

>> but I am certain the current number for the past year in Iraq is greater than one.

That's interesting. How many Iraqi civilians have been killed by the terrorists in the past year? Is it 2000? 10000? These numbers should be available somewhere. Dan?

I think I forgot a minor point on the scoring. When a civilian is killed, there's a certain chance one of his friends and relatives will crack and become a terrorist. This should figure into the score somehow.

>>Incidentally, what is the "marginal cost of saving lives by increasing CDC or NIH funding"?

Yo, Gene Thug -- any idea on what this number is? Note that research is cumulative. When a disease like smallpox is eradicated, that saves lives every year forever. That's why it's so cost effective.

T. J.,

You method is faulty.

Suppose by not attacking and absorbing insurgent resources those resources go to smuggle a nuke into America?

What is it worth to the economy and in terms of life saving to avoid that?

What would the calculation have shown in 1935 about the cost of deposing Hitler in that year? Probably not cost effective.

The flaw in your method was explained by that great American Yogi: "Prediction is very hard. Especially about the future".

Oh, and all those civilians left behind in Fallujah?

I'd be willing to bed dollars to donuts that many were the immediate families of the fighters who chose to stay. In fundamentalist islamic society, the men don't want their wives going out on their own. Instead of sending them to safety, they would demand that they stay at home and take care of the children. In fact, I would not be at all surprised to find that some men went off to fight and quite literally locked their wives into their homes.

I lived in Saudi Arabia for 6 years, and the men locking their wives into the house when they went off to work was far too common.

T.J.: "That's interesting. How many Iraqi civilians have been killed by the terrorists in the past year? Is it 2000? 10000? These numbers should be available somewhere."

Not really, but you can make an educated guess.

Going through Iraq Body Count and assigning blame, ~2500 people were definitely killed by terrorists in large-scale attacks in the past year (this excludes any cases of uncertain blame, as in "caught in the crossfire"). If you add some/all of the uncertain-blame cases, that would increase by 50 to 100%.

The murder rate seems to be on the order of 60 per 100k, so somewhere around 15k countrywide in the last year.

There are a couple of things to consider... terrorists tend to be part-time criminals and vice versa. Terrorists often engage in criminal activity (e.g. abduct people for ransom or steal/rob) purely in order to finance their other activities. Criminals often work for the terrorists for pay (smuggle stuff, assasinate people, observe targets, etc). There is no way to separate the two. For most of the murders we don't know if they were politically motivated or not. So I would assign almost all of the murders to terrorists.

Also, we don't have a separate estimate for the number of people executed in areas that were temporarily under terrorist control (Najaf, Fallujah)... either because they were suspected traitors or because they did something to offend sharia sensibilities... call it a round thousand or two.

Total? Order of magnitude of 20k +-5k.

As for how many terrorists there are: I would guess 2-3k foreign fighters, 2-3k hard-core baathists, 10-15k tribal (part-time terrorists, full-time bandits), and 4-8k mahdi army. Total 10-15k "full-time equivalent" terrorists.

After the Fallujah operation, probably subtract 1k foreign fighters and 1k baathists. That's gotta hurt. They really don't have a large pool of people who can even stand up to the best of the current Iraqi army... and that number is shrinking pretty fast. Oh, also subtract 2k mahdi army from when we were fighting them.

I think the name of the game is making a deal with some of the tribes... e.g. the ones along the oil pipelines, the terrorists were paying them to sabotage the pipeline, now we're paying them to keep it safe... they pretty much go with the highest bidder.

T.J.: "Note that research is cumulative. When a disease like smallpox is eradicated, that saves lives every year forever."

Well, just as in any investment you have to discount future years, it is not an infinite total value. Besides, when terrorists are eliminated, that saves lives every year as well ;)

While I don't know the marginal value of research per se, there are certainly a few medical treatments for which the (direct, not marginal) cost is in the $300k per "point" range, and many which are over $100k.

So, T.J., when are you starting to donate to the Marines?

This is no Mog. There is well coordinated planning, ample supporting arms, preplanned fire support plans, resupply, coordination of efforts, etc. Mog is generally considered a cowboy op, and interviews with the Rangers and D-boys show them saying they got complacent.

Re: Post #37 above: You say we need more GORE? Not Al Gore I hope?

Also, it is a common batlefield tactic to clear an area by fire. Clearing rooms by fire, brushlines, jungle, etc. I was trained to do this when I was a young Marine in the 80's. This Marine did nothing wrong, and the MSM will suffer if they go after him. My sense is the American people, minus the usual suspects, will rally behind this Devil Dog! He had suffered a wound to the face (I have heard he was shot, but maybe shrapnel), and was back in play the next day. Marines and hockey players are the same: Stitch em' up and put em' back in the game!

In Viet Nam, it was common for the military to shoot up a body before touching it. The VC and NVA routinely boobly trapped injured and dead. Things are no different in this situation.

>>Well, just as in any investment you have to discount future years, it is not an infinite total value. Besides, when terrorists are eliminated, that saves lives every year as well ;)

True, but I think the depreciation factor for research is smaller. For the sake of discussion we'll say they're the same, however.

>>Total? Order of magnitude of 20k +-5k. As for how many terrorists there are: I would guess 2-3k foreign fighters, 2-3k hard-core baathists, 10-15k tribal (part-time terrorists, full-time bandits), and 4-8k mahdi army. Total 10-15k "full-time equivalent" terrorists.

Ok, that gives us ~1.5 murders per terrorist man-year. Let's assume a 10 year career for these guys, left to their own devices -- terrorism isn't a particularly safe profession, with or without the US. So that's a multiplier of 15.

Your overall estimate seems reasonable.

>>So, T.J., when are you starting to donate to the Marines?

I ain't quite sold yet. But if the numbers keep looking good, an increase in my "donation" over and above the several hundred dollars per year extracted at gunpoint might be in order.

>>Suppose by not attacking and absorbing insurgent resources those resources go to smuggle a nuke into America? What is it worth to the economy and in terms of life saving to avoid that?

A nuke of the caliber that the terrorists would be able to throw together (10-30kt) would likely kill ~100k people, plus disruption and other costs. If the nuke hit near a big Center of Science™ the costs could be much greater.

Stopping such an event should be a high priority. That said, I don't think the guys in Fallujah are going to be involved in that kind of operation.

Nukage is best controlled on the supply side, and that involves locking down the Russian, Pakistani, and North Korean arsenals.

>>What would the calculation have shown in 1935 about the cost of deposing Hitler in that year? Probably not cost effective.

The cost of deposing Hitler in 1935 is one bullet or one bomb. Some people inside Germany were interested in that kind of trade, but they got very unlucky. Nobody outside Germany was interested in deposing Hitler in 1935, for reasons that would be considered quite embarrassing today.

>>The flaw in your method was explained by that great American Yogi: "Prediction is very hard. Especially about the future".

Indeed it is. But we must make some predictions, or else concede that all behavior is equally moral.

The Generals Speak

Interviews with retired US generals about the situation in Iraq. Maybe not quite as hopeful as the consensus on this blog, but hey, what do they know?

Yeah, what do they know. They're just a bunch of stupid admirals and generals with decades of experience and various flavors of TS:SCI clearance.

In #32, 2nd Lt. Shawn Gniazdowski is an Army soldier, not a marine as the post's author claims.

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