by Austin Bay
March 26, 2003 synergism will meet Baghdad.
"Synergism" is Pentagonese for choreographing a military ballet.
When Central Command says its operations employ synergism, it means its
commanders seek to make best use of each military unit's and each weapon
system's capabilities, and to use those capabilities at the most decisive
moment. "Best use" of one unit reinforces best use of another, and the total
effect is greater than the individual parts. A finger alone is a poke. A
clenched fist, where fingers fit together, is deadly.
That's the theory. Reality is tough on theories -- ask the
honest "antiwar human shields" who went to Baghdad and discovered the Iraqi
people despise Saddam's regime and long for liberation. War is the harshest
reality and tends to chew to bits military theories. German strategist Carl
von Clausewitz said war is the realm of friction. Friction means the
unexpected and the expected will frustrate the best plans. Tire blowouts,
tired soldiers and misread maps are friction, as are enemy snipers, enemy
divisions and fedayeen fanatics mixing with civilians.
And then there is sand -- the weather as flying friction. The
sandstorms blotting Iraq are classic battlefield friction.
That's why plans drawn by smart soldiers are flexible. That's
why the smartest soldiers demand "redundancy" -- more units and more weapons
and more munitions. Flexibility and redundancy reduce the threat of the
Technology does mitigate the sandstorm's effects, though a
tanker with sand in his goggles might scowl at the statement. U.S. aircraft
can deliver a variety of precision bombs in all weather conditions.
Intelligence gathering continues, though the danger of "friendly fire"
incidents does increase and most helicopters are grounded.
In an odd way, the sandstorm should be a relief to the tired
soldiers in the US 3rd Infantry Division. The 3rd ID's advance from Kuwait
has been startling, according to reports covering 240 miles in 40 hours.
This bold race was an act of utter audacity, but now 3rd ID soldiers must
rest before tackling the Republican Guard. A wall of blowing sand gives them
The 3rd ID's lightning advance positions it to "freeze" the
Republican Guard divisions around Baghdad so they can be destroyed by
precision munitions. The advance has risks. Bypassing towns means Iraqi
fascist militias can conduct "stay behind" attacks. While these have had
minimal military effects, the political effects -- which include inciting
fear among Iraqi civilians and taking POWs -- have been large.
The 3rd ID, when it engages the Republican Guard, will link
"smart boots" with "smart bombs." Smart boots means superbly trained
soldiers using "synergistic" techniques. Real-time intelligence provided by
sources from cavalry scouts to satellites is supposed to give the smart
boots a real combat edge. Combine that with smart bombs, and the 3rd ID
can -- theoretically -- fight faster and with fewer troops.
Technology has altered old military math. The United States can
now use B-52s as close-support artillery, dropping heavy bombs with great
precision. When synergy works, one modern U.S. division has the firepower to
rapidly defeat several Republican Guard-type divisions. The 101st Airborne
can strike an enemy from every direction. There is no "front line" against
The old math, however, hasn't fully disappeared and never will.
The British are demonstrating this in Basra, as they aid the popular
uprisings against Saddam. In many combat situations, there is no substitute
for a large force of highly trained infantry.
But back in Baghdad: Eventually, the U.S. Marines and the 101st
Airborne will reinforce the 3rd ID.
Once precision munitions begin to break the Republican Guard,
look for offensive thrusts by the 3rd ID's tanks and mechanized infantry to
further isolate areas of resistance.
Destruction of the Republican Guard sets the stage for uprisings
within Baghdad aided by allied special operations forces. Wargaming analysis
indicates this is one likely course of action.
The margin for error provided by another high-tech armored
infantry division would virtually eliminate any "what ifs." The 4th Infantry
Division was originally slated to attack from Turkey, but ground attack from
Turkey was not permitted. That unit has yet to debark in a Persian Gulf
port. Should friction foil plans, it will be a long 10 days before the 4th
ID can enter the battle.