Line of Communication

I don’t know what they call it these days in the military.  It used to be called a "line of communication," (LOC) or a "Main Supply Route."  These days it could be anything since the main line of intellectual advance in the services seems to be to invent new terms, abbreviations and acronyms for the simplest and most familiar things.  "Front Line" is now called "Forward edge of the Battle Space."  "How you do things," has become "Tactics, Techniques and Procedures"  (TTP)  This kind of fooling around is probably indicative of an absence of real thought.

An LOC is the road, railroad or combination of tracks overland that lead from your forward deployed forces to their supply base.  George Marshall once put Patton into a main twist by inquiring politely "Where is your railhead, George?"  This was in Champagne somewhere.  There was no answer and Marshall got up and walked out of the room.  Patton had a bad habit of ignoring things like railheads and as a result he often ran out of  bullets, beans and gasoline.  He could get a way with that because the German Army was in retreat and people like Marshall kept "fixing up" his railheads and roads behind him.  If that had not occurred, then Patton’s 3rd Army would have ground to a halt with catastrophic results "for keeps" rather than just occasionally as a passing irritation to higher headquarters.

In Iraq, our LOC runs to the south through "Shialand" as someone described it to me recently.  Down from the Baghdad area through Kut, Amara, Nasiriya and Basra to Kuwait where the roots of the supply base are.  There is some resupply through Turkey, but the bulk of everything comes through and from the ports in Kuwait.

Airplanes?  Hah!  The tonnage just is not there, the tonnage and the bulk.  It is helpful but not anything like enough to sustain the force in field.  The British, etc.?  I am glad they are there but anyone who thinks they could keep our LOC open if the Shia started working on closing the roads is smoking something "good."

Am I advising the Shia and their Iranian advisers on what to do?  I do not think so.  They are far too smart to have "missed" this vulnerability.  It is there for all the world to see.


What should be done?  As a matter of elementary prudence, we should position a large mobile force in Kuwait, so that we can re-open the roads north if need be.

Pat Lang

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62 Responses to Line of Communication

  1. rpe says:

    Some time ago I read about the Chinese intervention in the Korean war and how devastatingly effective large forces of well led light infantry can be, especially when they can cut a heavy mechanized forces supply lines.
    If a large Iranian force of light infantry, lavishly equipped with wire guided antitank missiles, manpads, and mortars, with the aid of their Shia allies in the south of Iraq set out to cut our supply lines it would require a very, large, force to reopen the supply line and keeping it open would present a real challenge. Where are these troops going to come from ?
    If the Iranians move against us strongly in Afghanistan with the aid of their many local allies how would we stop them ? If the report from Hersh is correct and we do intend to use a nuclear bonb on Nanantz the fallout would reach into Pakistan. Does anyone think the Pakistani government, with its citizens dying from fallout from an American bomb, will be willing to allow us to resupply our troops in Afghanistan ?
    Does anyone believe that, if it did work with us in these circumstances, it would long survive ?
    I keep reading that the administration expects the Iranians to reply to an air attack on them with terror attacks. Why do they think the Iranians, with thousands of their people dead and dying, would limit their retaliation in any way ?
    There is good reason to believe that the Iranians have large numbers of mobile antiship missile launchers positioned to close the Gulf to our navy and the ships that resupply our men in Iraq. Where are the troops going to come from to secure the large segment of the Iranian coast needed to stop the Iranians from sinking our ships at will ?
    Does the Navy think it can fight each and every ship through the Gulf without the use of land troops ?
    I sincerely hope that someone in the administration has thought these and many other issues through. If not we could be in for a very interesting and lively time.

  2. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Good thinking, but I do believe the navy can probably handle its own problems. The interdiction of LOCs is a different matter in just the way you say. pl

  3. b says:

    Seaways are LOCs and are vulnerable to the same tactics that land LOCs are.

  4. J says:

    i don’t think that the ‘current’ jcs will be putting on their thinking-caps anytime soon, as they appear (sadly) cowd by the bush neocons, and are incapable of independent military thought and action.
    i’m glad that past jcs’s can’t see what is happening today, so so sad.

  5. ckrantz says:

    Maybe a stupid question but are there enough troops available to secure ‘shialand’ on short notice? Especially if Iranian regulars or ‘advicers’ move in largescale in case of a strike on Iran.
    I’m obviously not military but if the Shia in the south turns against the US wouldn’t that be the end of the US presence in Iraq?

  6. zanzibar says:

    I can understand why folks are concerned about a US attack on Iran. At this stage of the game with the quagmire in Iraq, the probability of a US led attack on Iran is very low. The US needs Iran to sort out Iraq. And the outcomes are too uncertain of air strikes on Iran that saner heads in the military will prevail. At the very least we will have many whistleblowers not just a Gen. Shinseki. Gen. Zinni recently has been very eloquent on the TV shows. I have no doubt that our military have many smart officers that will not be brow beaten that easily now. Bush and the neocons are in a weakened state. Only the diehards will believe them. Their credibility is shot. As many astute strategists state we have to arrive at a political undertsanding with Iran. The question is will the theocrats in Iran see it the same way? Maybe they do not see their political future in the prism of US opposition and martyrdom. That is far too suicidal for a regime that has visions of dominance.

  7. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “The question is will the theocrats in Iran see it the same way?”
    I think that you are projecting a western viewpoint onto them and that they are not interested in doing anything with us other than humiliate us. pl

  8. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “on short notice?” Depends on what that means. pl

  9. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Quite right about the “sealanes being LOCs. Having watched the USN at work in the same waters. I have assumed that the fleet will keep the sealane open from the Arabian Sea to Kuwait. No?? pl

  10. Mac Nayeri says:

    What is that makes you believe
    “that they are not interested in doing anything with us other than humiliate us?”

  11. Serving Patriot says:

    Given what Hersch has recently written, a more interesting question is “would the military really do it?” (use tactical nukes). It is almost impossible to conceive, but yet, like OIF, this very real possibility continues to move forward (seemingly of its own momentum). Scary times ahead – now even scarier when one considers that Hersch has normally been about 6 months ahead of events in his “news scoops.”
    Makes one wonder even more about Bacevich’s and Dunlap’s comments in the recent Harper’s article “American Coup D’etat” (Apr 06). Gives the Hersch article another disturbing dimension.

  12. ked says:

    “This kind of fooling around is probably indicative of an absence of real thought.”
    Col Lang, not to get sidetracked, but just a point of info… The trend you note is due as much to the outsourcing of thought than its absence. Contractors & consultants have cornered the market on regurgitating familiar terms & concepts into newspeak for a healthy profit. While I’ve seen no evidence those efforts have enhanced our fighting capacity, I suppose their shareholders & bonus-laden executives are proud.

  13. ckrantz says:

    A week or two. I can’t help to think about another war and the potential for a tet style offensive. But I assume the planners have taken all this in account before any action.

  14. dan says:

    I’m assuming that you’re contemplating the consequences of a US attack on Iran here – and if so, what good is a mobile force in Kuwait if, amongst other things, the Iranians decide to insert forces into Kuwait in a bid to destroy the US logistics platform?
    There’s no doubt that the Iranians could take Basra (“10 Mullahs and a sound truck” ) and use it as a jumping off point for forays into Kuwait.
    I’m pretty sure that the Iranians can, and would, hit the port infrastructure with their missiles as well. It’s not just the LOC’s that are vulnerable – the whole platform is susceptible to disruption.

  15. W. Patrick Lang says:

    It is necessary to plan for unpleasant contingencies no matter how bad the odds. What is the alternative? To do nothing?
    I was thinking of various end states, among them the one you mention.
    I would not conceded the point in advance that US Forces in central Iraq operating in cooperation with a substantial force based in Kuwait could not keep the LOC open. pl

  16. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “But I assume the planners have taken all this in account before any action.”
    This is a bad assumption. Senior thinking is being driven by the political vision of the administration. pl

  17. W. Patrick Lang says:

    We have grown a generation of senior military leaders who are not really educated. They were created in a sycophantic process and drenched in pseudo science as a part of their vocational training.
    K-Mart managers. Do not expect too much. pl

  18. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Don’t kid yourself. They will obey orders in anything which is not a violation of the law of war. I would. pl

  19. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Mac Nayeri
    I have followed the course of the non-relations between the US and Iran ever since the revolution. I have yet to detect anything on the part of the present Iranian regime other than hostility toward the US. I do not generally hold with the assumption that history will continue in a straight line but in this case I do not think that the Islamic Republic thinks of the US government as anything but an adversary to be frustrated and if possible defeated.
    None of the talk about the coming youth revolution and the lost opportunity of the Khatami presidency impresses me as other than a chimera. pl

  20. Serving Patriot says:

    I agree with you they will follow that order.
    But, opening the nuclear bottle without a similar prior provocation seems to me to be a violation of said laws as well as basic common sense. Given that the uniforms are unable to go public with thier opposition, then all of the not-so-subtle off the record leaks to the press have a broader context. Namely, “don’t give us that order because we will follow it.”
    IIRC, at Nuremburg, the military on trial found no refuge in the defense that they were merely following the legal orders of the madmen in charge.
    Did you read LTGEN Newbold’s printed dissention in TIME? “Fool me once…” as the saying goes. Newbold gives yet another signal from the military to the Administration to not give the order on Iran.

  21. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I am weary of the protestations and lamentations of general officers who have discovered their duty once they are safely in retirement.
    It is unclear to me that an order to attack Iran with nuclear weapons would be any more of a violation of international law than the use of any other kind of weaponry.
    Clarify? pl

  22. rpe says:

    It is my suspicion that an attack on Iran, particularly one using tactical nuclear weapons, would lead to an all out Iranian effort to bring us to battle and defeat us in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Gulf. The Iranians would see us, in the aftermath of a preemptive strike, as a force of almost satanic evil dedicated to the destruction of Islam. The war that would likely result would be Something like the Russian front in world war two combined with the Crusades at their worst.
    Our intelligence assets are designed and optimized to detect the movements of large mechanized forces. Their ability to detect swarms of light infantry aided by local allies as porters and guides is much less evident. In Korea in November of 1950 the Chinese were able to move hundreds of thousands of troops across the Yalu without being detected and in Vietnam we were never able to interdict the PAVN supply lines. Once established in southern Iraq with the aid of all the local Shiite militias and the Shiite units of the Iraqi army, which would almost certainly defect to the Iranians, they would cut our Los in scores of places. The natural choke points at the river bridges would have to be garrisoned to prevent their destruction by Iranian/Iraqi engineers, as would various damns that, if breached, would wash away vital sections of the road grid. This would eat up a good chunk of our combat power, further troops would be needed to protect each and every base south of Kurdistan and it would be wise to try and secure at least one of the refineries. This would eat up even more manpower. The Green Zone would come under siege from the Shiite population of Baghdad and eventually Iranian troops too.
    All our positions would be vulnerable to shoot and scoot mortar attacks and from 122mm rockets. The fire would not be very accurate but if there were enough of it we would suffer significant casualties. Helicopters and the big turboprop gunships would be vulnerable to manpad attacks and would take significant casualties. The fast movers are much less vulnerable but are less useful.
    Attempts to open the Los would be costly and quite possibly ineffective. A strong mechanized force could move anywhere it wanted in Iraq, paying in blood for each mile from IED attacks, mortars, and wire guided missiles with which the Iranians are well equipped. However they would only control the ground under their treads and within range of their weapons. Any supply convoy attempting to move without a very heavy escort would face almost certain destruction. Convoys with heavy security would be under some form of attack from the moment they left Kuwait. Now it would be possible to build a new road through the Iraqi desert that would avoid many of ambush rich sites of the existing road net but there would still be significant exposure of the supply columns at natural choke points.
    Airborne resupply, from what I can determine, is not viable in anything but the short term. Cargo planes are big, slow, targets that would be targeted by Iranian Sams in the air, and rocket and mortar attacks on the ground. We would be under siege in all our positions from the Anbar south. Where we would get the troops necessary to even try to win this battle is not evident. If the army in Iraq is not massively reinforced before the administration attacks Iran it would face the prospect of being nibbled to death like Napoleon’s army in Spain.
    The Iranian government has dismissed the Hersh reports as psychological warfare and part of a massive bluff. I suspect that they believe we would have to be insane to start a war with them from such a potentially vulnerable position. I hope they are correct.
    I would very much like it if someone could make a case that what I have written is wrong.

  23. W. Patrick Lang says:


  24. fester says:

    I am addressing the comment by ckrantz on 4/9/06 on the availability of US forces to control the LOCS from Kuwait to Baghdad by force. I have looked at this question several times at my blog and the question is getting to become more up in the air.
    The last time the southern supply lines were threatened during the August 2004 Sadrist rebellion, the Centcom had 18 US brigades in country at that time, and was able to send two brigades immediately south to clear the LOCs in about 2 weeks. During the April 2004 general rebellion, the 1st Armored Division was held over on its tour and sent south to clear the LOCs from Kuwait. Both times, the assaults were assisted by SCIRI aligned forces, and were targetted against ill-trained light infantry.
    Right now the US has 16 brigades in the area of Iraq (most of one in Kuwait), and if we are assuming a scenario where the US is attacking Iran, I have severe doubts about the willingness of the Badr Brigades or other Shi’ite sectarian aligned militia, security and military units to positively assist US forces. Instead, the probability increases that everyone retranches to their home bases, and US convoys start getting shot up by their previous security guaranteers and the Mahdi Army.
    The US could shift forces to the south to retake the bridge cities and take some control of the LOCs again but at a cost:
    “If those supply lines are cut, then within days forward US units will be running short on fuel, ammunition, and spare parts. US airlift is sufficient to make sure that US units are not overrun or besieged, but any active presence and patrolling that forward deployed units are doing would have to be sharply curtailed if US supplies lines were severely crimped if not cut entirely.
    If US units can not or will not patrol, and Iraqi government forces get their civil war on, desert, or find a damn good reason to spend the next week painting the rocks outside of the barracks as they keep their heads down, then any semblance of credibility that the US may have attempted to gain through the ink blot strategy will be destroyed. The removal of active patrols would allow an easy assaination, intimidation, and rolling up of informers, cooperators, and marginal deciders by the insurgents. Once the umbrella of public safety is pierced, the public trust in the promises of protection made by the counter-insurgent force to protect its allies loses credibility.”
    Being forced to retake those LOCS kills the counter-insurgency efforts. That is the trade-off.

  25. W. Patrick Lang says:


  26. Serving Patriot says:

    Your point “It is unclear to me that an order to attack Iran with nuclear weapons would be any more of a violation of international law than the use of any other kind of weaponry” is very much mine what I am thinkg of with regard to following of illegal orders given by POTUS.
    As for the use of nuclear weapons, I believe in this case they would violate the tenants of proportionality as well as our stated policy (at least once long ago) of “no first use.”
    Personally, I think it the serious contemplation of the nuclear option (probably first put forward as the throw-away or “scare off the civilians” course of action, but now seized upon by the maniacs in power) that has shocked the reality-based members of the high uniformed leadership into action. We may see soon some of those active duty officers giving it all up instead of following what are illegal orders. At least that is what Hersch believes. He’s been more right than the Administration has been lately.

  27. CJ says:

    Given that I was convinced some time ago that we would be bombing Iran before the end of the year (Before the mid terms? Rove is working the numbers you can bet…), the nuclear conjecture in Hersch’s article was disturbing to say the least. I guess we shouldn’t be all that surprised as the administration has been pushing to modernize our nuclear arsenal including upgrades with tactical nukes. The Atlantic has had some interesting articles on the strategic ramifications of this modernization. As for restraint on the part of the administration, that would suppose a capacity to finesse the diplomatic situation. Past experience would indicate that the administration is most comfortable with the brink when driving an enterprise over it.
    The possibility of military officers standing up, well, one can hope that there will be vocal conscientious objectors. Issues of legality seem to be given light consideration these days. The same system that saw the need for these tactical weapons would have to resist their use. And as Dr. Strangelove said, what good is building a doomsday machine, if you are not going to use it?
    Great discussion – I’m learning a lot about military affairs. Thanks, as always.

  28. dan says:

    The alternative might be to have a direct diplomatic channel running between Iran and the US to avoid this situation developing in the first place; after all, it’s just about the only option that is not on the table.
    Clearly, the Bush administration is still wedded to the idea of regime change, and refuses to partner up with the Iranians for a spot of guidance counselling. This is a major strategic error.

  29. kevin says:

    I have always visualized it as a major “artery”.

  30. ali says:

    The line of supply thing is a very good point. Hitting the supply lines is pure T.E Lawrence and the obvious way to drag US troops into the Killing Zone.
    If the South goes up it won’t compare with the Sadr’s rising in 2004, The Mahdi Army is about twice as strong as it was back then, we’d be fighting the better trained Badr as well and they have four times the strength of Sadr. If we don’t disarm them we’ll likely have a Shi’a ISF mutiny on our hands and they may finally demonstrate the martial quality that the Pentagon has been praising. Then there’s the Pasdaran to deal with. An enraged Iran might make the same sort of huge mistake as the Tet offensive, especially if blessed with favorable weather, but they’ll certainly infiltrate suicide squads in and these could be numerous and lethal. If Zal hasn’t cut a deal with the Sunni insurgents and they press their advantage at the same time we’d be in real trouble.
    The Brit’s have less than 9,000 troops down there and I hear that’s far too few to adequately control the place as it is now. I’d assume the US or for that matter the British would be building up a reserve in Kuwait but I’ve heard nothing about that. Is Rummie assuming air cover is all that would be needed? If so I’d anticipate heavy British casualties and I doubt their involvement could be politically sustained by the Labour government.
    We only recently managed to wrest some control of the Baghdad Airport road from a few raggedy arsed Jihadis. I’m not filled with optimism that we’d hold even the Green Zone. That’s a long LOC and it’s also the likely line of retreat.

  31. canuck says:

    Civil war in Iraq is now openly being spoken about. What would happen to that supply route if Shiites who dominate in the Southern part of Iraq turned ‘part’ of their anger at coalition forces? If that route isn’t strongly protected, it could potentially be cut off in a time of civil war. I did read today that Sunnis in the North are arming.
    Is there a possibility coalition forces could get trapped in a crossfire between the two factions?

  32. W. Patrick Lang says:

    We would be seriously f****d. As a friend of mine once said in a similar situation, “Industrial strength – Oh Shit!”
    In re your second question – yes. pl

  33. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You said you were? Functionally, not personally.
    I have driven the Kuwait City – Baghdad under various condition and it never took less than 10 hours and pretty good roads.

  34. b says:

    “What is the alternative? To do nothing?”
    Why not talk with Iran?
    The Persians didn´t attack a foreign country for some 250 years. How many did the U.S. attack the last 250 years?

  35. W. Patrick Lang says:

    My post deals with the technical but vital question of the security and safety of our forces in Iraq not with the different but related question of diplomacy surrounding the situation. pl

  36. Glen says:

    I certainly agree that the Iraq LOS is at present very exposed, and could be cut off at will by the Shia. I would expect that if the Sunni’s were able to cut it for any length of time, they would have already done so. I expect that any US action against Iran would result in further choas in Iraq with the US caught in the middle and many surrounding states entering the fray.
    With regard to the use of nukes in Iran, I don’t see the consequences as a “tactical” Iraq/Iran issue as much as a US global policy shift with unknowable results (and best discussed in it’s own blog.) Needless to say it raises the stakes on what is viewed as a possible outcome in all future conflicts (i.e if the US doesn’t get what it wants, it’s just going to nuke us.) Trying to convince the rest of the world that nukes were used because it’s a technical solution to the deep bunker problem is an impossible sell. This will result in all countries deciding that they DO HAVE everything to loose and WILL HAVE to so act as if their very existence is on the line.
    The use of WMD has always been restrained by knowing that the consequences of such is very severe. The “fairy tale” assumption was that some rogue power would eventually use nukes and be essentally taken apart by the rest of the world. Having the US use nukes in a pre-emptive strike sets this notion on it’s head. After that, it’s debateable how much of the world would view a nuke terrorist attack against the US as something we “deserved”.
    The US is currently a nation with wide open ports and borders. Any serious efforts to protect our country from rogue nuke attacks are years away (and NO serious effort has even started.) To make a decision on the first use of nukes in Iran must be considered against the LONG TERM policy implications, not just as a technical means to pop a bunker. The Bush WH has not demonstrated any ability to plan for anything more than the next election. Indeed it’s debateable how much of the current “foreign policy” is nothing but a political means to prop up the Republican party for the upcoming elections as opposed to actually finding a means to prevent nuclear proliferation.

  37. rpe says:

    The odd thing is that the bunker they are talking about nuking at Nanantz is EMPTY according to the IAEA. As in there is nothing there. When the Iranians perfect their centrifuge technology and manufacture thousands of them the plan is to install them in the bunker but that won’t happen for some years. The administration seems to be planning to destroy an empty facility while irradiating a good chunk of Iran. As the winds generally blow from the West to the East there will be lethal fallout on Pakistani and Indian Territory. Destroying an empty bunker will not impede the Iranian nuclear program in the slightest.
    Why they would do this is one of the great mysteries of this whole bizarre affair.

  38. Glen says:

    I did read somewhere today that the IAEA had a team in Iran doing inspections. Is that where this information came from?
    This whole Iran business has become a mystery to me. At one time (pre-Bush) wasn’t Iran regarded as the one mid-east country most likely to become another Turkey through internal change? I realize that formal US/IRaq relations have remained frozen since the overthrow of the Shah, but I did not expect this sort of confrontation based on the direction the country seemed to be moving in the late 90’s. Perhaps I was naive, but I expected Iraq to form economic ties with the west as the first step to “normalization” with the US. Now, it looks as if these ties will be to China rather than the US.
    Hopefully, we are engaged in a goodcop/badcop negotiation routine with Iran which will produce results. What scares me is that’s what I thought we would do in Iraq too. I do not consider Iraq to be “results” worth doing again.

  39. konaman says:

    I really enjoy your insights about the ME and the military. That said, the cul-de-sac of thought on this post is mesmerizing!
    A few suggestions:
    1. That people are shocked by the pedestrian revelation that the US is planning contingencies in the wake of three decades of abject hostility by the mullahs in Iran is mind boggling.
    2. It is worthwhile to think through the tripes of the Bush haters casting aspertions. May I suggest consulting for a little education on the need for low grade nukes in the first place.
    3. Oh the supply chains. may I suggest you head over to and examine a lucid discussion of the global WMD supply chain and why focusing on centrifuges may be totally beside the point. Amazing how quick the lefties are to embrace the 10 year CIA estimate in the wake of their outstanding historical track record.
    4. Next, move on to Spengler over at for a “reality” based assessment of the mullahs.
    5. Finally, protect the supply chains may mean abandoning the postmodern antiseptic approach to war. We are in a gun fight here people and you want a knife.
    6. Would it be appropriate to use nukes if a series of coastal cities were hit by a cascade of offshore nuclear detonations? Forget the cascade, focus your minds on just one city.
    People who stand in the middle of the road never go anywhere. It is why the ME has been so sclerotic for decades. Those advocating talk must have selective memories regarding the ME – remember the whole strong horse thing? Forget history; listen to the Iranians themselves regarding the European negotiations; they don’t even pretend it was a complete farce. Perhaps we should start using voodoo dolls?

  40. Glen says:

    Apologies for going off-topic.

  41. ked says:

    “People who stand in the middle of the road never go anywhere.”
    people who merely stand never get anywhere – in fact they make fine targets. the faster you wish to move, the further you wish to go, the more critical it is to reach your objective, the more you must thoughtfully plot your course to stay away from cliffs, walls & ditches.
    it would be nice if the admin could apply appropriate analogy to inform appropriate policy.

  42. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Hawaii maybe? Caffeine freak? No matter.
    My only difficulty with your comment is that you seem to still believe that we have the power to reform the ME. PL

  43. tequila says:

    I’m usually more of a doom-and-gloom type of guy when it comes to Iraq, but is Iran really capable of steadily interdicting our supply lines to a dangerous extent in southern Iraq? Cordesman @ CSIS has written that their conventional forces are not particularly capable or dangerous and would certainly be susceptible to airpower. Would the southern Shia really be all that welcoming to swarms of non-Arabic-speaking IRGC types suddenly storming into their communities, telling them that it was now their glorious duty to defend IRAN against American firepower, especially when so many Iraqi Shia died fighting just those types in the last war?
    I think they could make us and the British uncomfortable, and there would be a lot more IEDs and manpads throughout Iraq, but I have serious doubts about them actually being to seriously interdict our lines for a prolonged period of time (without suffering overwhelming losses both in Iran and on the Iraq battlefield). Besieging the Green Zone? The Mahdi Army as a serious military threat? Badr throwing away their battle against the Iraqi Sunnis to fight for Iran? It just seems a reach too far for me.

  44. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I do not think the regular and revolutionary (IRGC) forces of Iran are a threat to us or the British so long as we maintain significant forces in Iraq, What concerns me is not that. The danger, in my opinion, lies in a widespread effort by civilians with guns and RPGs against TRUCKS. Civilians can not stand up to our forces nor to those of the Iraqi government, but they are perfctly capably of shooting at trucks whenever they get a chance. A widespread effort of that kind will bring the flow of supplies to a near halt. The routes are very long and can not be secured against that kind of attack except through a pervasive presence of indigenous forces or a huge foreign presence. In an effort such as the one I am talking about, people from the IRGC acting as advisers and coordinators would play a significant role. The antipathy of pious Iraqi Shia for Iranians has been much exagerated. pl

  45. jonst says:

    When you start calling for draft I will be interested. Till then, i think your talk about Iran and the ME in general is more of same ‘other guy’s kids die’ type. I would suggest we have enough of that. I know I HAVE anyway. You want people’s attention? Give them the true costs. All the tactical dangers this post highlights, or most of them anyway, spring from taking a 10 div Army on a 12 division mission.
    The rest from sheer incompetance.
    On another note, any talk about the technological aspects of using tacnukes misses, I argue, the major point…how the PR response will be spun. We will be crossing the Rubicon. Now maybe there is an argument to cross that point now. I doubt it..but maybe. But we should not delude ourselves into thinking we will not be crossing a line from which there is no going back.

  46. Larry Mitchell says:

    COL Lang,
    “I am weary of the protestations and lamentations of general officers who have discovered their duty once they are safely in retirement.”
    This may be an unfair question, but I’m wondering whether you include GEN Zinni in that group? I am currently reading his new book which has raised my interest in him. The last general’s book I read was Colin Powell’s. I’m guessing Kool-Aid symptoms will keep him from rising to this category. Too bad.

  47. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Zinni walked away from a favored position with the Bush Administration early enough for me not to include him in that group.
    General Powell has been a great disappointment to a lot of people including Colonel Wilkerson. pl

  48. rpe says:

    My source is the IAEA through various media outlets. The previous President of Iran gave the foreign press a guided tour of the empty facility some time last year, if I remember correctly. We should remember that, in theory at least; the Iranian program is designed to produce fuel for a whole series of reactors that haven’t been built yet. {The plant at Bushir will be fueled by the Russians who will retain title to the fuel rods and will reprocess them once their useful life is over}. The nuclear plants that the Iranians are in the process of contracting for from the Russians and the Chinese won’t be ready for a good 5 to 7 years down the road and, with this time frame in mind, it seems the Iranians are in no great rush to get the Nanatz plant up and running. They have the time to perfect the process in a pilot project and ramp up serious production some years down the road when George Bush is out of office. I suspect that when the Iranians go to full-scale production it will be in a new facility under several hundred meters of rock, now that some question has been raised about the survivability of the Nanatz plant.
    As for the people who thought that Iran would be the next Turkey the only word that springs to mind is “delusional”. First Turkey isn’t Turkey. The picture that the Turkish government likes to paint of a secular, pro Western, pro American, and, can we say, “European” country is nonsense. In every free, fair, and open election ever held in Turkey, as opposed to those stage managed at various times by the Kemalist generals, the Islamists have won hands down. Turkey is a deeply Muslim country that, as it becomes more and more apparent that they will not be allowed into the EU as full members, will probably revert to a stronger Islamic identity. A look at the polling data that deals with Turkish attitudes towards America and Americans is sobering, as is the popularity of the number one all time box office grossing Turkish movie “ The Valley of the Wolves” in which the villains- the vile, evil, racist, religiously bigoted, sadistic, corrupt, and all around bad guys known as Americans are hunted down and killed by a heroic band of Turkish volunteers.
    As for America’s popularity in Iran, I would like to point out that the present President of Iran, who won in a landslide with something like 2/3s of the vote, considers us to be willing slaves of the prince of darkness AKA George Bush and the font of most of the evil in the world. And isn’t shy about sharing his opinions with all and sundry.
    Since at least the time of the Elamite kingdom and the first Persian Empire, Iran’s main trading partners have been the Arabs, the Indians, and the Chinese and they are in the process of reverting to historical norms. You can make a case that much of the world – after a bizarre interlude of domination by the peoples who occupy the Western fringes of the Eurasian landmass- are in the process of reverting to historical norms.

  49. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Let me congratulate you on your perceptive statements regarding Turkey. You have displayed a rather rare understanding!
    There used to be a joke about USSR that even if there were free elections there it would still be a one-party state since everyone would be in the opposition party! I believe that given a free elections and free choice, in almost all Muslim States the religious parties will win except in Iran. In Iran, the non-religious parties will win!
    Muslim States cannot be successfully based on a secular Western model; that’s just not compatible with the nature of Islam where politics and religion are not separated. Looking for a secular order in Muslim societies that is not supported by bayonets is a chimera; in my opinion.

  50. tequila says:

    COL Lang – Thanks for the clarification. However, I would ask who would be accepting of IRGC coordination but Badr and Fadhila/Mahdi Army types? The latter did not prove an overwhelming tactical challenge during their brief periods of rebellion (nothing like the resistance put up by the Sunni tribesmen of Fallujah, for instance). Badr’s forces have been coopted by an Iraqi government which is embroiled in their own full-time war with the Sunnis and political competition against al-Sadr.
    If not these groups, then where will Iran find a willing corps of Iraqi volunteers for potentially costly attacks on British or American forces? I agree that it is silly to project any genuine hatred for Iran on the part of Iraqi Shia, but to fight FOR Iran?

  51. rpe says:

    I couldn’t agree more. A secular regime in a Muslim country suffers a permanent crisis of legitimacy. Pious men and women, who are most of the population, look upon the government and politicians with suspicion. I suspect this lowers political participation in the society among just the sort of good, salt of the earth people that a secular polity needs to function while drawing in far too many cynical opportunists. One of the most striking attributes of Hamas, Hezbollah, and other religious parties in the Muslim world is their reputation for incorruptibility and commitment to pious good works. When this is combined with the ferocious courage with which they battle the popularly perceived enemies of Islam you have a sure-fire winner come election time. Nassrullah’s, the head of Hezbollah, 18-year-old son was killed fighting the Israelis. The Israeli’s supposedly tried to negotiate the return of the bodies of some of their dead for the body of Nasrullah’s boy. He refused. When the boy’s body was returned along with those his comrades, Nasrullah buried him and supposedly refused to accept the traditional condolences as his son was a shaheed and was now with God. How many of the thousands of Saudi princes have died in battle against the “ enemies of Islam”? How many Assad’s ? How many Mubarrak’s ? How many Quadaffi’s? etc.etc.
    When a pious Muslim mother holds up a Muslim leader as a role model for her son will it be a man like Nasrullah or will it be one of our “friends” in the Muslim world ?

  52. tequila says:

    RPE – How, then, to account for the lack of legitimacy of the Iranian government and the unpopularity of clerics among the Iranian young?
    The Iranian election was not exactly free and fair, and I bet quite a bit of Ahmedinejad’s vote count came from IRGC ballot stuffing rather than Islamist sympathies.
    Turkish Islamism should not be underestimated, but remember that Turkish Islamism is both nonviolent despite repeated suppression by the military and has imbibed many of the goals of secular Turkey: i.e. extreme nationalism and a fierce desire to join the avowedly secular EU.

  53. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I do not think that a willingness to participate in attacks on our logistics would be particularly costly for a “levee en masse” of ordinary Shia. I also do not think that Shia hostility to us would necessarily have to be in conjunction with a conflict between the US and Iran.
    I also think that in any sort of situation in which we look weak or worse yet as drawing back from the enormous expectations of implied benefits that we have created in Shia minds, that the willingness of the shia Arab population to do us harm would be general.
    A desire to take action against us in those situations would not be limited to militias. the country is saturated with guns and men who know how to use them. pl

  54. rpe says:

    There are millions of young Iranians, it’s a young country I believe the average age is 26, and some of them hate the mullahs and wish Teheran was just like Los Angeles. Some of them enthusiastically volunteer for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. Unfortunately, if push comes to shove, we will be dealing not with the young urban sophisticates of Teheran but with the deeply devout, tough, and zealous peasant boys and urban working class kids who make up the Iranian military. As for the ballot stuffing and voter fraud you write about, I have noticed that whenever anyone we don’t like gets elected- Chavez, Hamas, Hezbollah, Ahmedinejad, etc.- we blame it on ballot stuffing and election fraud. I assume that’s because there is no possible way that any group of voters at any time anywhere in the world could ever possibly disagree with who we want them to elect. Now I will agree that it seems that a fair number of the urban sophisticates are said to have sat out the election to “send a message” and they are suffering the consequences of their electoral tantrum and so are we.
    As for Turkish Islamism, it certainly shouldn’t be underestimated and the Turks are a ferociously nationalistic people. A ferociously nationalistic people who look upon our project to empower the Iraqi Kurds as a mortal threat to the territorial integrity of the Turkish state.

  55. angela says:

    I think one concept that needs to be put into most discussions of this long war on terror is time and the power of compound interest.
    We want relatively short committments. Many of our enemies think in terms of years decades and even generations or millinium .
    “A thousand years for the Chinese, a hundred years for the French, ten for the Americans.”
    So we have to think about how well we can do when an enemy says we are going to make this cost you a bit more and it will cost you for a long time.
    Resources are strained: money, troops and production of certain items. We could probably add the 10, 20 or 30% necessary to mostly guard supply lines and some other newly vulnerable places, but it won’t be perfect, we’ll be slightly less effective, there may be places for new fronts and the enemy can possibly keep the game going for longer than is currently politically viable here.
    I see this happening in Afghanistan with yearly increases in a still small Taliban force long after we’ve declared complete victory.

  56. konaman says:

    Predictable response to the post: bush is stupid, institute a draft, ME is incapable of reform (only to have a debate erupt down the comments post about the very subject). The leftists in State have had a go at it for the past fifty years and contributed greatly to this difficult quandry we find outrselves up against. Wasn’t Bush who orchestrated our mopping up operations in the ME was it?
    May I suggest a swim in the O, though it may be too warm to have the desired effect.

  57. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Aside from Koanaman’s comment about the “O” (oddly reminiscent of Nasser’s suggestion that we should “drink from the sea” I am impressed with the enduring faith of the neocons in the possibility of reorganizing to their taste the ancient folkways of distant and alien peoples profoundly unlike ourselves.
    Joseph Chamberlain would be proud of them. I always just tried to live with them. It just goes to show you that the best and the brightest simply have higher aspirations. pl

  58. rpe says:

    The leftists at State? I thought the proper term of opprobrium was “Arabist”? Or is it “ Old China Hand.”
    Or was that a previous foreign policy disaster brought upon us by ignoring the advice of the diplomatic service. Of course we have now evolved to the point where we ignore both the diplomats when it comes to diplomacy and the generals when it come to war. Progress, of a kind.

  59. Happy Jack says:

    rpe – You forgot the scientists.
    As for Winds of Change, heads are exploding over there. They found out that Michael Yon says there’s a civil war in Iraq.

  60. jonst says:

    Yes, I would agree, calling for a draft WAS a predictable response to your post. However, I guess I’m old fashion. I believe when a nation decides to go to war,(or, “reform” the ME, as you call it) it should have the manpower to carry out its intentions. A quaint idea indeed.

  61. ali says:

    Many Shi’a Iraqis fought a tooth and nail war against Iran in the 80s and there does seem to be resistance Iranian dominance in the South. Recent reports suggest Iran is using its assets to assert political control to the extent of killing off Iraqi Shi’a that stand in their way.
    As it’s become apparent we aren’t competent to miraculously fix the country an increasingly large wedge of the locals hate the sight of us and blame us for every ill. In these circumstances even the anti-Iranian elements might join a rising against us and it’s the one thing that might unite the Iraqi Shi’a. Think Indian Mutiny not Tet.
    Never been in big battalion war but had kin stationed down South until recently, I’m glad they aren’t there anymore.

  62. W. Patrick Lang says:

    As I remember, the Iraqi Shia divided pretty evenly in the IR/IZ War between those who thought it right to fight for Iraq and those who did not. The latter were the ones who revolted after the first Gulf War. pl

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