Saturday, November 06, 2004

Guest Blogger: Chester the Marine

I'll be gone until Monday. Until then, I offer the following post from Chester, a former Marine officer who participated in the Iraqi campaign. He has a BA in Int'l Relations from Duke. He now works in finance in Texas. He knows a few things about what's going on in and around Falluja. I strongly encourage you to check out his milblog- The Adventures of Chester. It's well worth a look. Have a great weekend, and thanks for supporting those brave troops who are about to face evil head on...

Shaping the Battlefield

(2Slick note: this was posted on his site Novemeber 3rd- go to his site after reading this to see more current posts)

Folks, many of the psychological aspects of the battle are starting to become clear. Let's see what we end up with when we try to calculate the overall effect on the enemy that the following combination of military and political events will have:

1. Bush has won re-election in the US with a clear victory that is unchallenged. This shows unity in the American populace.

2. Four Arab-language media outlets have been forced from Fallujah by the insurgents for refusing to display stock footage of civilian casualties. This is a huge plus for us, especially when we learn that Iraqi journalists are being embedded with US forces. Remember how well embedding worked for us during the invasion? No reason it won't work again in swaying Iraqi public opinion. Note that the article states that Al-Jazeera declined to embed a reporter. If the battle goes well for the US, and Iraqis and other Arabs watch it go well on their TVs, but Al-Jazeera reports negatively, the US can publicize AJ's "no thanks" to being included to AJ's detriment. Another note: I bet the US has some very solid signals intelligence, or other human intelligence that many of the fighers in Fallujah are not Iraqi. Being able to show them on TV as the US assaults will be a huge plus for Allawi. I don't think he would take this risk if he didn't know for sure.

3. There is a British report that the Black Watch will be patrolling the outskirts of Fallujah. The article states that the Brits are based in Camp Dogwood. If that's the case, then the idea that they are patrolling the outskirts of Fallujah is spin, pure and simple. Camp Dogwood is a good 50 miles as the crow flies from Fallujah. The Brits are serving as a blocking force, and are going to be watching one of the high-speed avenues of approach running north-south from Baghdad to Iskandriyah (I can't find the name of this highway at the moment [2Slick's note- it's Highway 1- runs from Kuwait all the way up to Turkey]) to clean up any fleeing insurgents. I bet the US will leave them one avenue of escape. This is because:

a) it will definitely be very bloody if all the jihadi's have nowhere to go and fight to the finish in the city

b) if they flee, we can attrit them from the air very effectively (a highway is a relatively open battlespace)

c) the British, maybe coupled with US Army units, will be in a position to bat cleanup as the bad guys move toward them.

If I wanted them to have an escape route, I would make it to the east, and not to the west. Ramadi is in the west and we don't need fleeing forces regrouping there, or stumbling into the rear of 5th Marines.

Whether the spin of "outskirts of Fallujah" is generated by the British press to make good headlines or whether it is generated by the US/British military to emphasize an important role for the Brits is unclear. But the effect is the same: to someone on the other side hearing news reports, it looks like not only the Americans, but also the Brits are involved in the campaign, and are very unified.

So to sum up, if I am Joe Insurgent in Fallujah, and have news access (probably via shortwave radio), I know that:

-Bush has won a resounding victory

-the British are united behind him and will participate in the attack against me

-the Arab media will mainly be embedded with the Americans, and will give accurate stories of their prowess, not the dreck I feed them

All of these things have a psychological effect on the enemy combatants. If there is any chance at all for a peace settlement, the US' blatant unity behind the president will further deepen existing discord between the sheiks and the foreign fighters.

I would put all of these events, together with the unrelenting airstrikes, under the battle phase of "shaping the battlefield," wherein we have not yet committed ground troops, but it's the next step, and we are doing all possible right down to the wire to make them successful. Look for more airstrikes tonight, and if they begin to increase in frequency, as they did yesterday (from more or less one a day to two a day) then we'll know the assault phase is getting closer. In US doctrine, phases must have clearly defined begin and end points. These can be either time-driven or event driven. I think that since the US election is over, the shift of phases from shaping the battlefield to beginning to kick down doors will be event-driven: like a certain unit in place and ready to perform a certain activity, or a certain enemy target successfully attrited by air.

[Note: thanks to "cjr" in the comments for pointing out the CentCom press releases.][Note: a reader asked in the comments section what "devildog" refers to. It's translation of German: "teufelhunden." See here.] [Note: Thanks to alert reader "schutzhund" for pointing me to this story.]

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