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Friday, December 02, 2005

Dying On The Roadside


A roadside bomb killed 10 Marines and wounded 11 while they were on a foot patrol near Fallujah, the Marine Corps said Friday, in the deadliest attack on American troops in nearly four months.

Thursday's bomb, which was made from several large artillery shells, struck members of Regimental Combat Team 8 of the 2nd Marine Division near the city about 30 miles west of Baghdad, the Marine Corps said.

In another statement, the Marines reported a U.S. Army soldier also assigned to the 2nd Marine Division died Thursday in a rocket attack near Ramadi. The U.S. command had earlier said four American service members were killed Wednesday, three of them from hostile action and the fourth in a traffic accident.

According to Lunaville, we've now lost 2127 troops.  Now I know this is just the Law of Small Numbers here, but in December an average of 7 have died per day, which is not too far off from the 7.67 average during "major combat" in March of 2003.  Last throes, indeed.

Defense and the National Interest is a frequent stop for me, and Bill Lind just happened to have an excellent article yesterday about IEDs:

One of the most difficult challenges in Fourth Generation military theory is the problem Fourth Generation war poses for operational art. Put simply, 4GW is hard to operationalize. Operational art is not a thing, but a linkage: the connection between the tactical and strategic levels of war.

In Second Generation, firepower/attrition warfare, operational art is reduced merely to accumulating tactical victories. The presumption, often unwarranted, is that at some point you hit the magic number where the enemy surrenders. In Third Generation, maneuver warfare, operational art is the art of breaking the enemy’s strategic “hinges” with the fewest possible tactical engagements. It thus provides the basis for deciding where and when to fight, and equally important, where and when not to fight. The principal operational weapon is surprise combined with speed, i.e. unexpected maneuver, usually with mechanized forces, deep into the enemy’s rear.

The question of what operational art means in Fourth Generation war remains open...After World War II, the most operationally competent armies in the world were the Red Army and the IDF. Yet both lost Fourth Generation wars, the Soviets in Afghanistan and the Israelis in Lebanon, because they could not figure out how to act operationally against 4GW enemies. Reduced to fighting an endless series of strategically meaningless tactical engagements, both were forced to withdraw. The U.S. military now finds itself in the same situation in Afghanistan and Iraq.
What our opponents are doing is brilliantly simple. By relying mostly on IEDs to attack us, they have created a situation where our troops have no one to shoot back at. That, in turn, ramps up the troops’ frustration level to the point where two things happen: our morale collapses and our troops take their frustration out on the local population. Both results have strategic significance, and at least the potential of being strategically decisive, the first because it affects American home front morale and the second because it drives the local population to identify with the insurgents instead of the government we are trying to support.
Like the tank in Third Generation war, the IED is proving to be not merely a tactical but an operational weapon in the Fourth Generation.

Yup, we were fighting the last war, which is why we've lost.  Now it's just a question of who gets to be "the last man to die for a mistake" and when...


December 2, 2005 | Permalink


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Tracked on Dec 3, 2005 1:17:49 AM


I'm trying to remember where I read it: but in the American Civil War... victors lost about a quarter of their armies; losers lost about a third of their armies... and the victor was typically too spent and exhausted to press any advantage.

Ares and Loki must be having a fine old laugh at our expense!

Posted by: Darryl Pearce | Dec 2, 2005 2:39:32 PM

Now I know this is just the Law of Small Numbers here, but in December an average of 7 have died per day, which is not too far off from the 7.67 average during "major combat" in March of 2003. Last throes, indeed.

Minor quip: those are numbers for all deaths - those killed by the enemy, those killed in friendly fire, and those dying in accidents or of natural causes. In fact most deaths in March and April 2003 were of the latter kinds. Tough Icasualties.org still hasn't gotten around to update their April/May data with the info of certain Pentagon reports, I did so in an Excel sheet, and Iraqis killed only 42-52 troops in March (for 10 killed on March 23 in Nassiriyah under simultaneous hostile and friendly fire, the lethal cause couldn't be determined) and 47 in April.

That gives a March average of at most 4.33/day and a pre-'Mission Accomplished' average of 2.19/day - vs. 5.5/day for this month's first two days (and 4.37/day and 4.3/day for the months of the two attacks on Fallujah). This is war, hot war.

Posted by: DoDo | Dec 2, 2005 5:04:44 PM

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