Three 800-pound Guerillas
The result: For the past 3-1/2 years, the Iraq War has been fought entirely behind enemy lines.
The situation is reminiscent of the Dien Bien Phu debacle—March 13 to May 7, 1954—that planted the seeds of our involvement in Vietnam.
The French set up a base in the lowlands of Vietnam. The intent was to cut off supply lines into Laos of the Vietnamese Revolutionary Forces (Viet Minh). The only way to supply the Dien Bien Phu garrison was for French troops and cargo to be flown in over the surrounding hills.
The Viet Minh secretly lugged heavy artillery up the unseen sides of the high hills and positioned these weapons at the top, just out of sight of the French defenders who were now completely surrounded. Spotters took up hidden positions in the hills and began directing lethal fire into the French garrison below.
At the end of 56 days of carnage, the French capitulated with a total of 19,298 killed, wounded or captured (roughly the equivalent of our losses in Iraq). The Viet Minh suffered 7,900 dead and 15,000 wounded.
As with the French in Dien Bien Phu, U.S. military forces are completely surrounded on all sides and by violent, heavily armed fanatics. In the words of the Times’ Friedman, they “hate us more than they love their kids.”
Anyone who ventures outside the safety of Baghdad’s Green Zone is immediately subject to surprise attack from any direction.
Al Qaeda (and Hezbollah) do not engage in pitched battles with large numbers of troops. Small groups of highly trained and well-armed operatives make sudden devastating strikes and melt away to fight another day.
In his brilliant 2004 book, “Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror,” ex-CIA operative Michael Scheuer cites the first rule insurgency: “Never give the enemy a target that lets him defeat you in one campaign.”