Skip to comments.Congressman Billybob Sez: The Berlin Solution to the Baghdad Problem
Posted on 04/02/2003 3:13:06 PM PST by Congressman Billybob
Washington Politics & Policy Desk, 4/2/2003, 5:03 PM
HIGHLANDS, N.C., April 2 (UPI) -- This here's the 344th Report ta the Folks Back Home from the (More er Less) Honorable Billybob, cyberCongressman from Western Carolina.
This week's column is about logic, facks, n the hist'ry ov Amurican wars includin the Cold War, as applied ta the comin "Battle ov Baghdad."
Since ma able assistant, J. Armor, Esq., izza student ov sech thangs, I'll turn this over ta him.
The Berlin Solution to the Baghdad Problem
Last week I watched many hours of press conferences in Washington and at the American headquarters in Qatar. Some of the questions asked by the reporters made me want to jump through the TV, grab them by their scrawny necks and yell in their faces, "Haven't you ever read a history book?"
Fox News ran a feature a last week, outlining the number of deaths per month in most of America's major wars from the Civil War forward to Gulf War I. The figures were instructive. Putting the war costs in American deaths side by side, this is by far the least bloody war that we have ever fought. (I did not see such an accurate and instructive comparison in any other news outlets).
Broader than casualty issues is the whole category of "bogged down" or "plan not working" questions that some reporters are asking. Here are all the major wars that the United States has fought: American Revolution, War of 1812, Civil War, Mexican-American War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War I. No one who has even dipped into the histories of these wars can find a single example of warfare in which the U.S. forces have made as much progress in a mere week, as in this war.
Only the first three of these wars involved the life or death of the United States itself. Two examples from all these prior wars will serve to illustrate the profound stupidity of such questions posed by supposedly educated American reporters.
In December 1776, General Washington's army was reduced to a remnant of about 7,000 soldiers. In battles in New York City and in its hasty retreat across New Jersey, the entire army had barely avoided capture and utter defeat. Nine months after the war began in fact at Lexington and Concord, Mass., and six months after it was "declared" by the passage of the Declaration of Independence, General Washington wrote privately to his brother that he thought the cause of American independence was "almost lost."
It was a few days later that he launched the potentially suicidal attack on the Hessian soldiers at Trenton, crossing the Delaware River in a snowstorm on Christmas Day and surprising the enemy in their barracks the next morning. That was the first victory, ever, by American troops in the field. But if that attack had failed, the cause would have been lost, then and there.
I'm old enough, sad to say, to remember the series on which Walter Cronkite cut his network eye teeth. It was, "You Are There." It recreated the headquarters of the competing sides, and Cronkite reported from each scene -- an electronically-embedded reporter, if you will. If the current crop of American reporters had been on the scene with Washington's tattered troops in Pennsylvania, or with the Congress in Philadelphia, or in the hinterlands where they fled when the British took that city, what kind of questions would they have asked?
Would they have asked whether the "plan had failed?" Would they have asked whether the "effort was bogged down?" Would they have suggested, or even stated, that America was "suffering losses that were too high" or "was being defeated in the field?"
Let's take another example from a war which also threatened the very existence of the United States. The expectations at the beginning of the Civil War were that the "rebels could not mount any effective fight" against the well-trained, well-armed Union Army. The first pitched battle between the Blue and the Gray took place just south of Washington at Manassas, Va., along a stream called Bull Run.
Because of the widespread assumption that the Confederate Army would fold in its first battle, members of Congress came out in carriages with their wives to observe the battle from the heights at the rear. But the Confederates won that battle. The "Blue Bellies" fled the field of battle toward Washington, with the congressmen whipping their horses to stay in front of their fleeing troops. (Yes, you do detect some regional prejudice in that sentence).
I know that American history is no longer a required course in most high schools today. I know that one can graduate from college, or even from Columbia Journalism School, without ever taking a course in American history. But don't these modern reporters ever read a book? There are more than 1,000 books on the Civil War, plus movies, plus TV series. Any culturally literate reporter should be aware of the assumption about how easily the Civil War was going to be won by the Union Armies. Don't they recognize that their questions of American leaders and generals today contain an eerie parallel to the assumptions of the congressmen in their carriages overlooking the first Battle of Bull Run?
But enough of my rant about the Iraq War to date. Let's look forward. And let's place some facts on the table.
The war will not be won until Baghdad has been taken. The press assumption is that this will require "a house-to-house battle" that will be a "slaughter like Stalingrad." It need not be any such thing. And Berlin provides the proper example, not at the end of World War II but fourteen years ago when the Berlin Wall and all of East Germany fell without a shot being fired.
Baghdad is not a highly urbanized city, except at its very center. Baghdad has a population of 3.8 million, the same as the city of Los Angeles. But its area is 2,100 square miles, almost five times the size of Los Angeles. Baghdad is twice the size of the state of Rhode Island. Much of Baghdad is rural or a series of single-story small towns. There are no military or economic assets of any substance in about half of Baghdad.
Furthermore, even assuming that the survivors of the current Iraqi delaying actions outside Baghdad are well-trained and well-armed (both doubtful in part), there will not be enough defenders to hold all of Baghdad against the coalition's advance. Paying attention to geography, including the course of the Tigris River, Gen. Tommy Franks and his staff can plan to take somewhere between one third and one half of Baghdad relatively easily, while leaving the remainder only for air and missile attacks -â for now.
Then, we can make sure that "free" Baghdad has electricity, water, food, medical care. We can put on the air Radio Free Baghdad and TV Free Baghdad. We can even invite in all the world's press, including the mouthpieces of Saddam Hussein, the Al Jazeera reporters, to see for themselves the difference between Free Baghdad and Saddam's Baghdad.
Most importantly, Saddam's Baghdad will have neither the equipment nor the workers nor the opportunity to build its equivalent of the Berlin Wall. Recall why the Berlin Wall was built. All of East Germany was bleeding to the West through divided Berlin, which was inside East Germany. The Wall stopped that bleeding, for decades.
But why did East Germany finally collapse? It was due to a combination of communications and transportation. One-third of East Germany could receive West German TV broadcasts. They knew what living conditions were in the West as compared to their sorry state. The East Germans were allowed to travel freely among the Soviet satellite states including Hungary. Once Austria opened its border to Hungary, East Germany was doomed. Any of its citizens who wanted to escape its poverty-stricken dictatorship could go to Hungary, then Austria, then West Germany.
Apply that history to Baghdad, two weeks from now. The civilians -â women and children first, of course -â who choose to flee from Saddam's Baghdad to Free Baghdad, will be welcomed with open arms. And any of Saddam's soldiers who obey the orders to fire on these fleeing civilians will be subject to all the might of Allied planes, missiles and troops if they do. Recall that the Vopos who obeyed their orders to shoot and kill fleeing East Germans did so within view of Allied troops. But our troops were under orders not to shoot those soldiers who were committing war crimes in front of them. There will be no such restraints this time.
And while we are on this subject, the "War Crimes Tribunal" now established in Europe has no death penalty. There is no requirement that the coalition must turn over to that court any surviving Iraqi troops or commanders who fire on civilians. We have the capacity to provide military tribunals for these men. And if they are found guilty of such crimes, we can execute them.
The reason that East Germany generally took so long to fall was that in the midst of the Cold War we were willing to permit such civilian killings to continue when the alternative was a possible thermonuclear war with the Soviet Union. No such constraint applies now.
Had we been willing to use force to prevent the completion of the Berlin Wall, East Germany would have collapsed decades before, due to the combination of communications and transportation. The East Germans were always willing to "vote with their feet." Only the Wall and the Vopos prevented them from doing that. Saddam Hussein now has his own Vopos, willing to shoot civilians. But he cannot build a Baghdad Wall, to physically prevent his civilians from fleeing. And his Vopos cannot carry out such slaughter without being targeted and shot themselves.
In short, the Berlin example shows that the coalition does not have to take all of Baghdad, house by house, in order to cause all of Baghdad to fall. They only have to take part of Baghdad, a carefully-selected one third or so, and then save thousands of lives both civilian and military, by waiting for the rest of Baghdad to fall like the rotten fruit that it is.
Do we have the capacity to take all of Baghdad, block by block and house by house, the way Berlin was taken at the end of World War II? Yes, we do. But if we do that, the civilian and military deaths will not be at the level of "another Stalingrad." Our forces are so much better equipped, trained and led than our enemy for the result to be that extended, brutal and disastrous.
The point is that we don't have to do that.
In my judgment, not as a soldier but as an historian, within two weeks there will be such a thing as "Free Baghdad." It will have humane and civilized living conditions. The press of the world will be invited in. The pressure on the rest of Baghdad will continue with selective and carefully targeted bombing. And in short order, Saddam's Baghdad will bleed nearly to death, and then the remainder will surrender.
The press, including the American press, will be very surprised. I will not be surprised. But then, I read my history books.
(About the author: Congressman Billybob is fictitious, but prolific, on the Internet -- the invention of John Armor, who writes books and practices law in the U.S. Supreme Court. Comments and criticisms are welcome at CongressmanBillybob@earthlink.net).
Copyright © 2001-2003 United Press International
There cannot be "house-to-house warfare" in most of Baghdad (as in Berlin, etc., in WW II), because there's not a lot of "house-to-house" in Baghdad. The city is twice the size of the state of Rhode Island. Large parts of it consist of lots of camels and an occasional mud hut. But reporters who haven't done their homework don't have a clue about that.
Billybob / John
When our tanks run the streets, and the remaining Saddam followers try to hide and snipe from buildings, the population will do to them what they did to those that opposed Saddam when he held power. They will point and say .. they are hiding over there.
In 1801, the Bey of Tripoli declared war on the United States. We wouldn't pay him enough "tribute" to avoid commerce raiding. We fought a protract naval war that included a few land engagements. We kicked his butt. A treaty was negotiated in 1805.
At the time, this was a pretty big deal, because we were still an emerging county and not yet a world power. The Barbary States were considered touogh enough regional powers, that the Europeans madea habit of paying tribute. Our response was, "Millions for Defence - Not One Cent for Tribute!" This is an aspect of the American character tha has not changed.
B-2 , B-1B, B-52, F-117, F-16, F-15, F-14 or A-10
Result, Black loses all his men.
Maybe we need the "Russian solution to Baghdad. Might the Kurds be our "Russian hammer on Baghdad? Interesting solution to the problem of taking Baghdad.
Amazing what one can learn from a map. And a book.
I'm convinced that most contemporary journalists are not familiar with either.
True Canadians live west of Ontario - a privilege for which we pay our eastern socialist betters dearly.
While they were still puzzled, Grant added, "However, General Lee will have to cooperate..."
Same thing for Baghdad, and the reporters haven't gotten any smarter in 140 years...
We will just consider it a " commercial break ".
Now back to Congressman Billybob.