by Austin Bay
March 26, 2003
For the moment synergism meets sand. Soon, U.S. militarysynergism will meet Baghdad.
"Synergism" is Pentagonese for choreographing a military ballet.When Central Command says its operations employ synergism, it means itscommanders seek to make best use of each military unit's and each weaponsystem's capabilities, and to use those capabilities at the most decisivemoment. "Best use" of one unit reinforces best use of another, and the totaleffect is greater than the individual parts. A finger alone is a poke. Aclenched fist, where fingers fit together, is deadly.
That's the theory. Reality is tough on theories -- ask thehonest "antiwar human shields" who went to Baghdad and discovered the Iraqipeople despise Saddam's regime and long for liberation. War is the harshestreality and tends to chew to bits military theories. German strategist Carlvon Clausewitz said war is the realm of friction. Friction means theunexpected and the expected will frustrate the best plans. Tire blowouts,tired soldiers and misread maps are friction, as are enemy snipers, enemydivisions and fedayeen fanatics mixing with civilians.
And then there is sand -- the weather as flying friction. Thesandstorms blotting Iraq are classic battlefield friction.
That's why plans drawn by smart soldiers are flexible. That'swhy the smartest soldiers demand "redundancy" -- more units and more weaponsand more munitions. Flexibility and redundancy reduce the threat of theunexpected.
Technology does mitigate the sandstorm's effects, though atanker with sand in his goggles might scowl at the statement. U.S. aircraftcan 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 tiredsoldiers in the US 3rd Infantry Division. The 3rd ID's advance from Kuwaithas 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 mustrest before tackling the Republican Guard. A wall of blowing sand gives themthe opportunity.
The 3rd ID's lightning advance positions it to "freeze" theRepublican Guard divisions around Baghdad so they can be destroyed byprecision munitions. The advance has risks. Bypassing towns means Iraqifascist militias can conduct "stay behind" attacks. While these have hadminimal military effects, the political effects -- which include incitingfear 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 trainedsoldiers using "synergistic" techniques. Real-time intelligence provided bysources from cavalry scouts to satellites is supposed to give the smartboots a real combat edge. Combine that with smart bombs, and the 3rd IDcan -- theoretically -- fight faster and with fewer troops.
Technology has altered old military math. The United States cannow use B-52s as close-support artillery, dropping heavy bombs with greatprecision. When synergy works, one modern U.S. division has the firepower torapidly defeat several Republican Guard-type divisions. The 101st Airbornecan strike an enemy from every direction. There is no "front line" againstthe 101st.
The old math, however, hasn't fully disappeared and never will.The British are demonstrating this in Basra, as they aid the popularuprisings against Saddam. In many combat situations, there is no substitutefor a large force of highly trained infantry.
But back in Baghdad: Eventually, the U.S. Marines and the 101stAirborne 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 tofurther isolate areas of resistance.
Destruction of the Republican Guard sets the stage for uprisingswithin Baghdad aided by allied special operations forces. Wargaming analysisindicates this is one likely course of action.
The margin for error provided by another high-tech armoredinfantry division would virtually eliminate any "what ifs." The 4th InfantryDivision was originally slated to attack from Turkey, but ground attack fromTurkey was not permitted. That unit has yet to debark in a Persian Gulfport. Should friction foil plans, it will be a long 10 days before the 4thID can enter the battle.