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Keegan on the Surge


I love John Keegan, but this just seems daft to me:

The object of the surge deployment should be to overwhelm the insurgents with a sudden concentration, both of numbers, armoured vehicles and firepower with the intention to inflict severe losses and heavy shock. The Mahdi Army in Sadr City should prove vulnerable to such tactics, which would of course be supported by helicopters and fixed-wing aviation.

Hitherto most military activity by coalition forces has been reactive rather than unilateral. Typically, units have become involved in fire fights while on patrol or on convoy protection duties. During the surge, the additional troops would take the fight to the enemy with the intention of doing him harm, destabilising him and his leaders and damaging or destroying the bases from which he operates.

The cost of such tactics is likely to be high but not unbearable if enough armoured vehicles are used to protect the attacking troops. The advantage of committing recently arrived troops to such operations is that they will come to operations fresh and enthusiastic. Though there is the disadvantage that they may not be familiar with local conditions or topography, this need not be a disqualification since the purpose of a surge strike would be to create a shock effect, not to alter local conditions by informal action.

More here:

The surge reinforcements may therefore have a dual purpose to cover the reduction and also to deal final blows at the source of the disorder prior to departure. American commanders certainly will not wish to leave Iraq, tail between legs. We may therefore confidently expect to see the number of American troops in the theatre increase suddenly from 150,000 to 200,000, if only for a short time.

ME: He doesn’t seem to understand that we are not fighting a conventional enemy that you can smash with armored attacks or deal any decisive “final blows,” at least any time soon. (Although if the Mahdi army did stand and fight, we would knock the hell out of it.) The purpose of the surge will be to clear and hold Baghdad neighborhoods, a long-term task that, unfortunately, is unlikely to involve inflicting “severe losses and heavy shock” to the enemy.  


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