Monday, October 31, 2005

More on Urban Warfare

You are a commander on the ground in Iraq and your are tasked with taking back the city of Fallujah. Seizing a city by military force is never a pleasant activity. Of course, war has never been pleasurable, but fighting inside in an urban environment is particularly unpleasant. A city is like a concrete jungle where structures instead of trees are the vertical obstructions that you have to deal with. Except the jungle is usually sparsely populated. In the city you have to deal with people. Non-combatants. Civilians. In recent conflicts one of the challenges has been to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. It happened in Somalia. It happens in Afghanistan. And of course, it happens every day in Iraq. Imagine the difficulty of using not only ground troops to take a city, but also using airpower to accomplish the mission. And by the way, both your land power assets have to be in close coordination with your air power assets. The risks of fratricide and collateral damage are compounded in an urban environment. You think about Stalingrad in 1942 and how the Germans sent a thousand planes to bomb the city into rubble, all to see the Russian resolve actually increase; Stalingrad was the beginning of the end for the once invincible German army. Fast forward to the dawn of the 21st century, the year 2000, and now the Russians are bombing Grozny into rubble. The key to success for airpower in an city fight is to conduct operations in an urban environment and not against an urban environment. More on this in subsequent posts.

Keep up the good work.

John Robb
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