Sunday, May 29, 2005

Keeping the Pressure On

For those interested in things military Belmont Club is almost always worth a visit. Wretchard's most recent post analyzes the significance of the increase in operational tempo of Coalition forces in Iraq. In his concluding paragraphs he writes:

The US ability to increase tempo effectively means that it has more troops, even though the actual number of personnel may remain the same. When 'toothpaste' is corralled faster than it can ooze, using the metaphor of the Iraq expert Toby Dodge, the insurgency will be forced into lower and lower energy states. The surprising thing about this up-tick in tempo is that there are actually fewer American troops in Iraq today than three months ago: it stands at 138,000, down from February's high of 155,000. The downside of increasing tempo means US troops are working at a faster clip and are exposed to more combat situations.

But high tempos may also cause a gradual breakdown in the enemy response times which may save lives in the long run. Historically, the winning force has sought to speed up operations once it felt the measure of the enemy. One of the best examples was the US Navy practice of using the same ships under different admirals during the Pacific War. Ships would sail as the 3rd Fleet and after their mission pick up a new command group to re-sortie as the 5th Fleet: "the same team of horses with a different driver". The practice was hard on the USN sailors but catastrophic for the Imperial Japanese Navy because the blows arrived faster than they believed possible. Historically, an acceleration in operations has often marked a discontinuity in what seemed to be static situations. While not always the case, it often signals that a crisis is approaching. Things will become clear soon enough.

Faster operational rates also suggest that our intelligence has markedly improved. We know who and where the targets are to a greater extent than we did six months ago and we're not giving them time to catch their breath. It's also a sign that Iraqi troops are much more competent and numerous than they were six months ago and are able to shoulder much more of the load. All of this is very good news, indeed.