Everyone has their hobbies. One of mine is warfare.
Not that I presently indulge, you understand. But warfare is such an essential part of human history that I think everyone should study it, if only a little. So I find myself now and then going over the specifications for fuel-air weapons, watching Mail Call, and otherwise understanding the astonishing variety of means by which human beings with emotions, aspirations, faiths, cultures, and families as individuated and dazzlingly complex as snowflakes are turned into shreds of rapidly decomposing meat.
Today, between bites of lunch, I found myself watching vignettes re-enacted from the "Battle for Fallujah" on HNN.
The Marines showed incredible bravery. In one instance, they had to enter a building in which their opponents, who held strong positions at the skylight and stairwell, had already shot one Marine. Several more Marines were wounded or killed in the rescue. One sergeant, though so badly wounded he was in and out of consciousness, stood off the Iraqi fighters with a pistol.
The tactics the Marines use are impressive. Even taking into account this is a re-enactment, the squad-level coordination is amazing, especially as firefights unfold in a matter of seconds or minutes and coordination must be done under intense fire. (The anti-mine hoses described here
are another example of very clever tactics and if one wants to read an after action report, the following purports to be a description of the tactics used by Marines in Fallujah
But the one thing that most struck me was a statement by a Marine captain at the end. The Marines had gone in division strength against a smaller force consisting mostly of green volunteers. The Marines were supported by tanks, artillery, AC-130 Spectres
(the great grandchild of Puff the Magic Dragon
), and jet aircraft, while the heaviest weapons their opponents had were grenades, light machine guns, and mortars. The Marines were heavily armored over their heads and torsos, while their opponents had nothing but cloth to protect themeselves. If a Marine was wounded, he had doctors, hospitals, and a a pension system to sustain him, while the Iraqis had none of those. Finally, the Marines were leveling someone else's home. The Iraqis were leveling their own homes.
This Marine captain said of the Iraqis, "They didn't have the moxie to stay and fight."
I don't think any single statement I have heard, besides "Mission Accomplished!" better explains why we seem to be losing this war.
Perhaps the captain was referring only to the seemingly-mythical Zarqawi. I don't think so. But if I had his command, I would not disrespect an enemy willing to face jets, tanks, and heavily-armored Marines with light weaponry and a prayer.