Christopher Bellamy: Bush's reinforcements cannot reach the front soon enough

Share
Related Topics

The Pentagon signalled the most radical amendment to the strategic plan since the war started nine days ago, by announcing yesterday that an extra 100,000 troops would be sent to fight Iraq, in addition to the 30,000 from the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanised) already in the plan. They will join 250,000 Americans and 45,000 British in the Gulf.

In Washington, there have been rumours of a split among former US generals, including the Gulf War victors Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf, who always thought more troops would be needed, and the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, who hoped to move swiftly with fewer troops. If this is true, the generals were right. As soon as Iraqi resistance started proving tougher than expected, it was clear there might be a "density problem", not enough troops.

The extra US forces will come from Texas, Colorado and the garrison in Germany. They will increase the overall number by 50 per cent but will probably double the number of frontline combat troops in Iraq. The 4th Division will be ready to deploy probably within a week. The additional 100,000 and all their equipment will take longer to arrive.

They cannot get there too soon. The 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanised) is exhausted and potentially vulnerable at the end of a stretched supply line. The encirclement of Baghdad is expected to start in days. As General Sir Mike Jackson, the UK's Chief of the General Staff and its senior soldier, said yesterday: "The conventional fight with the Republican Guard may not be too far away."

So far, the US troops have tried to avoid fighting for towns, but they cannot do so indefinitely. If the Iraqi regime in Baghdad does not collapse, or is not overthrown by an internal rising or coup, US and British troops will have to go in and, if necessary, fight street by street.

Conventional military wisdom, which can be modified when one side enjoys overwhelming air, technological, and information superiority, is that the attacker needs a three-to-one local superiority in the open field. Studies suggest in cities the required superiority may be 10 or 12 to one. And hi-tech does not necessarily help. A pro-rata comparison with Northern Ireland suggests that if the Allies do have to move in to fight in the streets of Baghdad, up to 100,000 troops might be needed.

America, which has little experience of city fighting, has sought advice from the Israelis. But the Israeli tactical approach to urban warfare used on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip hardly squares with the US and British politico-strategic war aim of "liberating" the Iraqis.

These debates present a striking analogy with the Anglo-American campaign in north-west Europe in 1944-45. The US commander, General Dwight Eisenhower, favoured a cautious advance out of France, through the Low Countries and into Germany on a "broad front", consolidating the country behind him as he went. The British commander, General Bernard Montgomery, rather uncharacteristically, had a more daring scheme. That is ironic, given Monty's reputation as a supremely cautious general. He favoured advancing as fast as possible on a narrow front. The latter came to grief on the "Bridge Too Far", at Arnhem.

In the present war, former US generals favoured an approach more akin to General Eisenhower's. The approach adopted so far, attributed to Mr Rumsfeld, is more like Monty's; move as fast as possible to grab decisive points and the centre of gravity, by-passing subsidiary objectives.

The arrival of US paras in the Kurdish-controlled area to open a second, northern front is also highly significant. The Americans will not be able to build up a heavy presence, but, given a couple of weeks and round-the-clock flights by massive C-17 transports, they should be able to put in a brigade with Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.

Armies who have no respect for the enemy often lose. The tabloid press has called the Iraqis "savages" and ministers have called elements of the Iraqi forces "thugs". The Iraqis are brave, tough, and doing a lot better than many people expected.

Their defensive strategy is clever. In the Western Desert in the Second World War the British faced a great German general, Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox. The British beat him in the end, but they respected him. It is better to be frustrated by a knight than by a knave, after all. Perhaps the Iraqis have been reading Sun Tzu, again. "Offer the enemy a bait to lure him; feign disorder and strike him; pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance." We should not be arrogant. We should respect the enemy.

Christopher Bellamy is professor of military science and doctrine at Cranfield University

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - OTE £42,000

£28000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be joining a leading s...

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant -Engineering -Renewable Energy

£18000 - £23000 per annum + competitive: SThree: As an Associate Recruitment C...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A church in South Carolina burns after a fire breaks out on June 30, 2015  

America knows who has been burning black churches, but it refuses to say

Robert Lee Mitchell III
England's Jodie Taylor, left, and Jill Scott celebrate Taylor's goal against Canada during the first half in a quarterfinal of the Women's World Cup  

Women's World Cup: We should be able to praise England's Lionesses without shaming the men's team

Charlie Webster
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map