According to people who have been
there, Fallujah is not a very big city. You can walk across it in half an hour.
Yet when the history of this miserable war is written, I suspect it may loom large.
Like Stalingrad, it will mark the point where the war turned against the invader.
may recall that the U.S. Marine commanders on scene declared some weeks ago that
the battle was won and Fallujah was ours. It now appears they were Panglissading
through reality, in a way that seems universal among American generals. Fighting
still continues in Fallujah. Far from fleeing, resistance fighters are now infiltrating
back into the city. Sectors we have "pacified" spring back to life in IED attacks
and ambushes. There is talk about letting a few civilians return to Fallujah's
ruins, but only under conditions that would make normal civilian life impossible.
course, Fallujah itself was largely destroyed in the American assault. The American
military did the only thing a Second Generation military can do: it put firepower
on targets. 2GW armed services are one-trick ponies: they only have one act, and
they perform it regardless of whether it fits the circumstances or not. In Fourth
Generation war, the usual result is what has happened in Fallujah: a moral victory
for the other side. As Colonel Boyd argued, and as this column has pointed out
time and time again, the moral level of war is the most powerful, the physical
level the least powerful.
Correspondent Patrick Cockburn, who is in Iraq,
reports another result of Fallujah:
"[J]ust at the moment that the
US troops were moving into Fallujah, suddenly, most of Mosul – a city in the north,
which is at least five or six times the size of Fallujah – fell to the insurgents….
This is far more important in some ways that what's happened in Fallujah."
only did most of the insurgents leave Fallujah before our assault, they realized
that if we had concentrated in Fallujah, we had left openings elsewhere. They
took full advantage of those openings. It is perhaps time to ask which side has
the better commanders.
Stalingrad is now seen as one of history's great
defeats. But in fact, the Germans had largely won in Stalingrad on the tactical
level, before they were outflanked and encircled operationally, then defeated
If we look at Fallujah through that lens, the parallels become
clearer. It is not certain we will ever fully control Fallujah, just as the Germans
never took full control of Stalingrad. Nevertheless, we will claim a tactical
Operationally, Fallujah, like Stalingrad, proved to be a trap.
It led us to concentrate so many of our few combat troops in one place that the
insurgency was able to make major gains in other, more important places. It again
drew a glaring contrast between how America fights – by pouring in firepower –
and the stated aim of the American invasion of Iraq, liberating the Iraqi people.
You cannot liberate people by destroying their homes, their jobs, and their cities.
If operational art is the art of linking tactical actions to strategic goals,
American generals have once again shown the world that they have no operational
skill – a situation that is typical of a Second Generation military. (It may be
useful to remember that the American military failed operationally in the first
Gulf War as well; Saddam's Republican Guard escaped 7th Corps' slow,
inept attempt at operational encirclement.)
After the first Marine assault
on Fallujah in April – an assault that was wisely abandoned, since it threatened
to set off a nationwide uprising against the occupation – Pat Buchanan said that
Fallujah will probably mark the high water line of neocon imperialism. I think
the outcome of the second battle of Fallujah will confirm that prescient assessment.
Just as Stalingrad marked the turning point in Fall Barbarossa, so Fallujah
will go down in history as the "tipping point" in America's Last Crusade.
This will be the last column for this year, though sadly not for this war. Let
me close by wishing a hearty "Bah! Humbug" to fellow realists everywhere.
S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural
Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation