The confluence of technology and the philosophy of fighting irregular enemies through paid proxies have revolutionized the tactical reality on the ground, resulting in a remarkable reduction in combat casualties. The concept of war between masses of nameless troops, marching into the withering fire of entrenched defenders is suddenly obsolete, replaced by ambush and hidden mines as the primary threat to troops of the occupation forces.
The development of “smart” bombs, able to hit within feet of any target through global positioning satellite technology and the use of drone aircraft capable of sustained observation and patrol flights, allow us to selectively destroy individuals and locations specifically involved in the resistance. This not only reduced the collateral damage to civilians but put our own troops in less jeopardy.
These changes, however, depended on developing accurate intelligence as to whom and where to strike, and here it was the Iraqi insurgents themselves who gave us the clue to solving that problem. Bribes! Hard cash. Big bucks paid to the Sunni sheiks and their paramilitary units with whom we had been doing bitter battle for three years in Anbar province. In return for the bundled bills of American cash, the locals turned on their foreign jihadist allies, notably al Queda in Iraq, and killed or captured for reward the key leaders of the anti-U.S. brigades.
The so-called “Awakening” spread from Anbar to other regions, mostly north of Baghdad in Mosul and Dyalla, with mixed results. In Dyalla, the promise that former “terrorist” fighters would be incorporated into the regular Army and police has not been fulfilled. An entire regiment of former Shiite militia was arrested on suspicion of cooperating with Iranian-backed rebels and the inter-faith killings continue. But for American purposes the system is a success in that our casualties are way down in an election year.
One problem is the resentment of local populations against anyone cooperating with the occupying armies of infidels, and some significant assassinations of friendly tribal sheiks have recently been carried out. Even our own Pentagon chiefs, off the record, despise their ersatz allies as “Quislings” and traitors to their own country, of questionable reliability. It remains to be seen how loyal to our interests they will be if and when we quit paying them. Regardless of such lasting problems, the simple tactical advantage of being able to single out an enemy and murder him directly, without sacrificing legions of troops in wasteful land war, is significant. The use of small combat units, specially trained to intrude into an enemy’s home, kill or capture the target and withdraw unseen, is the new model for military ops, and soon that element may be phased out in favor of private combat contractors like Blackwater or Executive Outcomes.
“Travus T. Hipp” is a 40-year veteran radio commentator with six stations in California carrying his daily version of the news and opinions. “The Poor Hippy’s Paul Harvey,” Travus is a member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, but unemployable in the Silver State due to his eclectic political views.