Oh: my stars. HALO 2 comes out tomorrow. Well, I’ll buy it, but I won’t play it yet. Better to spend the hour reading news and blogs about Fallujah than to play soldier on a TV screen. This is one of the big battles of the Iraq campaign; this is where the loop that began in Somalia is closed and welded shut.
After a year-plus of waiting, the US is going into Fallujah
The U.S. military said the operation was going "smoothly" and reported lighter-than-expected resistance in Jolan, a Sunni-militant-held warren of alleyways in northeastern Fallujah where the assault began.
But heavy street clashes were raging in the northern sectors of Fallujah amid fierce bursts of gunfire, residents said. At least two American tanks were engulfed in flames, witnesses said. There was no confirmation of casualties.
It took me a moment to get Lileks' comment about "the loop that began in Somalia is closed and welded shut." The last time the US engaged in serious urban warfare was Somalia, where we took unacceptable casualties and bugged out. Back then, "nation-building" was more of a dirty word than it is today and the US didn't have the stomach to take on the nastier warlords like Aidid.
The casualties were unacceptable to the American public because we didn't value overhauling Somalia. We went in to prevent a famine and somewhat timidly tried to restore order, fearful of getting into an all-out battle. That timidity would up costing us. Note that this was the policy of both Bush 41 and Clinton, so both parties get the blame here.
One of the lessons of Vietnam (yes, I can see Lileks cringe, for he got on Paul Harvey for making a Vietnam metaphor today) that was relearned in Somalia was that you fight to win, not fight to avoid losing. Prevent defenses might work in a football two-minute drill, but there generally isn't a time clock in war.
The US military seems to be going in slowly but firmly, with as much air support as they need. This time, the US public by-and-large understands and appreciates the stakes involved; there's a lot more riding on Fallujah than there was in Mogadishu and it's of far more importance to world security.
When we do go it, we need to win, but do so with a minimum of US casualties and a minimum of civilian damage. Most of the non-combatants have been cleared out of Fallujah, so the US has a cleaner fight than if they had gone in earlier.
If they do this right, they may well put the Black Hawk Down ghosts of Somalia to bed for the most part, for we'll have seen how do to urban combat right.