Friday, March 14, 2003

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Talk about minimizing collateral damage

Michael Gordon, the New York Times chief military correspondent, has started writing a high-quality weekly column for called Dispatches. His latest essay analyzes the differences between how the military will prosecute Gulf War II as opposed to Gulf War I. The key grafs:

Unlike the 1991 Persian Gulf war, the American and British militaries are not looking to pummel its adversary into submission. This time, allied forces have a complicated, two-edged task. They are trying to defeat the Iraqi army without utterly destroying it. They are also trying to win over the Iraqi people....

In the view of American intelligence, many of the regular army troops are virtual bystanders in an international drama that pits their leader against an American president. They may even be potential allies since the United States already has plans to take some of Iraq's existing forces and fashion them into a new army in a post-Saddam Iraq.

What's astonishing is the extent to which the military is implementing this strategy. Here's the final grafs:

Even the most enthusiastic proponents of the new approach caution, however, that there will be limits. Some units, especially some Republican Guard forces, are deemed to be more likely to fight than others and will be hit. Some regular army forces, such as artillery units, are seen by American commanders as too great a potential threat to allied troops to be left alone. Some hapless Iraqis will simply find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time: that is, in the immediate path of the American-led invasion.

"There are some units that are more likely to fight than others," said General Leaf. "The Republican Guards are more likely to fight than the regular army. There are some units that are positioned closer to friendly forces and are more likely to still be coherent, cohesive units before they have an opportunity to completely capitulate," he said.

'How do you balance the risk between the fact that the U.S. and coalition land forces are going to wind up in contact with these units and would like them just to surrender?,' General Lee asked. 'We are going to have to make some difficult choices. And sometimes we are going to simply have to destroy equipment and destroy Iraqi soldiers.'"

I'm well aware of how triumphalist this sounds, but is there another military in the world that would care this much about minimizing the killing of enemy soldiers?

posted by Dan on 03.14.03 at 10:43 AM