Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The war in Iraq is still going, and in fact sounds like it's starting to heat up something fierce. I've been seeing reports of significant company-size engagments (here and here) on Rantburg all week. This is interesting and significant, because it represents a distinct degeneration of insurgent tactics. Attacking in multiple platoons, leaving cover to attack well-armed columns in what the media have been charitably calling "ambushes", standing and fighting - this is novel.

All the reports I've been poo-pooing about this Zarqawi associate or that minion or subordinate being captured - I think I may have been underestimating the importance of that string of captures, mostly because it never produced Zarqawi himself. But if they've rolled up the middle-management and the smart guys in the command structure, this sudden vogue for suicidal open-field attacks might reflect what happens when inept buffoons are left in charge of an insurgency. That training-camp raid - in a location which makes geographical sense, being half-way to the Syrian border, square on the smuggling routes - suggests that they're starting to work their way back up the infiltration lines, from Ramadi/Fallujah towards Qaim and the border.

Of course, the alternate theory, which I've seen aired on Rantburg, is that the insurgency is running short of IED materials, forcing them to fight with what they've got. As others have pointed out, whoever runs Iraq in the future will be finding lost and unknown Saddam-era stockpiles of munitions for the next thirty years - theorizing that an Iraqi insurgency is running out of explosives is like postulating that Pennsylvania might run out of coal. It's theoretically possible, but in no sense is it likely.

The Coalition casualty lists are shortening, which is heartening, but to a certain extent this just reflects the replacement of US and allied front-line troops with Iraqi police, special police commandos, and soldiers. The war's still very much hot, but it's starting to look like a winning fight.

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