the evacuation after the escape from Chosin Resevoir
November 25, 2004
Last Exit Before Gas
by William S. Lind
Between now and January, the Bush administration will have to decide whether or not to take the last dignified exit from Iraq. That is, to announce before the Iraqi elections that we will be leaving soon after them. If Bush and his neocon handlers miss this opportunity, our only choice will be to remain in Iraq until we are driven out in a humiliating defeat. Like the kid who knows he has to eat his spinach, we will be better off pretending to choose the inevitable.
We may, of course, officially deny any role in a strike on Iran, leaving Mr. Sharon to take full credit. But Iran, which expects such an attack and has prepared for it, already has said it will hold the U.S. as accountable as Israel.
Knowing nothing about war, the neocons probably expect any Iranian response to be symmetrical: an air and missile counterstrike. But Iran cannot do much that way, and surely knows it. Why shoot a few ineffective missiles at Israel when you have two juicy targets right next door, in the form of American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq?
An Iranian riposte in Afghanistan probably would come slowly, in the form of a guerilla war in that country's Shi'ite regions. That might also be Iran's response in Iraq, where it already has Revolutionary Guard troops in Shi'ite areas. But there is another possibility. Under the cover of bad weather, which winter often provides, Iran could strike suddenly into Iraq with several armored divisions. Our forces are scattered throughout Iraq, and they cannot mass rapidly because Iraqi guerillas control the roads. With skill that is not beyond what Iran might manage (the Iranian army is better than Saddam's was) and a bit of luck, they could roll us up before American airpower could get the clear weather it needs to be effective. America would not only lose a war in Iraq; it would lose an army.
At that point the analogy I have suggested from the outset would have come to full fruition: Athens' Syracuse expedition. Like the Syracuse expedition, a victory in Iraq would have given America little in the war against its real enemies, Islamic non-state forces. But a defeat that resulted in the loss of an entire army would be a catastrophe.
Unfortunately, the only Syracuse expedition most neocons will know about was a college road trip to some school in upstate New York. Take it from me, guys: the hangover this time could be a whole lot worse.
What he's talking about is a repeat of the Chinese intervention of 1950, a scenario I have raised for months. He uses Syracuse, but the spectre he's creating is one of Chosin.
(On the night of November) 28, 6 Chinese divisions attacked the 1st Marines in the area of the Chosin Reservoir. However hard the Marines might fight, they were outnumbered 6-1 or more. The Chinese attacked both at the head of the American lines and 35 miles behind. The Marines thus were forced to fight their way southward and towards the coast. The Marines first fought their way to Hawkawoo-ri, at the south end of the reservoir. Casualties were very heavy, but the battle did not end there. The troops then had to fight their way south. (Marine Gen.) Smith stated: "Gentlemen, we are not retreating, we are merely attacking in another direction." It took the Marines 13 days of heavy fighting to reach the coast. There. they and tens of thousands of North Korean civilians were evacuated to the coast.
I worry less about a destruction of the US Army than a brutal fighting retreat to Kuwait and Turkey. The scale of the disaster would dwarf Chosin because of the loss of billions of modern equipment. The policy defeat would be catastrophic as well. The Europeans clearly would be the dominant power in the Middle East for at least a decade.
posted by Steve @ 11:20:00 AM