Thursday, May 24, 2007

Xenophon Redux: A Modern Anabasis

Also posted at Daily Kos

Conservative pundit William S. Lind, an expert on military affairs and Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation, is privately advising unit commanders in Iraq to prepare their own versions of 5th century B.C. Greek general Xenophon's classic retreat north from Persia (present day Iraq and Iran) through Kurdish Iraq and Turkey.

"Higher headquarters are unlikely to develop such a plan, because if it leaked there would be political hell to pay in Washington. I would therefore strongly advise every American battalion and company in Iraq to have its own Operation Anabasis plan, a plan which relies only on its own resources and whatever it thinks it could scrounge locally. Do not, repeat, do not expect the Air Force to come in and pick you up."
What prompts this doomsday advice?

Lind first explains the Anabasis:
"While dilettantes believe the attack is the most difficult military art, most soldiers know better. Carrying out a successful retreat is usually far harder.

"One of history's most successful retreats, and certainly its most famous, is the "Retreat of the 10,000." In 401 B.C., 10,000 Greek hoplites hired themselves out as mercenaries to a Persian prince, Cyrus the Younger, who was making a grab for the Peacock Throne. Inconveniently, after the Greeks were deep in Persia, Cyrus was killed. The hoplites' leader, Xenophon, the first gentleman of war, led his men on an epic retreat through Kurdish country to the coast and home. Surprisingly, most of them made it. Safely back in Athens, Xenophon wrote up his army's story, cleverly titling it the Anabasis, which means the advance. It was not the last retreat so labeled."
Lind then goes on to explain the vulnerability of US forces in Iraq, citing both their long supply lines through potentially hostile Shiite Iraq and the easily blocked exit through the Persian Gulf. Juan Cole, President of the Global Americana Institute, points out that the noose may already be tightening:
"Someone in the Green Zone leaked the following memo, which shows that US personnel are now actually facing difficulties in getting food by convoy up from Kuwait. They avoid local food in the Baghdad region because of the danger guerrillas will poison it."
Lind goes on to offer even more graphic advice:

What might such company and battalion plans entail? I asked that question of Dave Danelo, a former Marine captain who now edits U.S. Cavalry's "On Point" website. Dave was recently in Iraq with U.S. units as a journalist, so his knowledge is current. His suggestions include:

  • Have a route plan. Know where the safe areas are and why they are safe. For the Marines in Al Anbar Province, this could be Al Asad or Al Taqaddum Air Base. For soldiers in Mosul, it's Kurdistan. For troops in Baghdad, it's either of the above, or possibly Tallil Air Base in the south. For British troops in Basrah, who knows?

  • Apply the Joseph Principle. In the Bible, Joseph advised the Egyptians to store away their goods during the seven years of feast. When seven years of famine hit, they were ready. Husband large stashes of everything at the company/battalion levels: MREs, water, ammunition, and, most of all, fuel.

  • Iraqis, American contractors and oil companies have each developed parallel and redundant distribution systems that push fuel outside the U.S. military umbrella. Depending on who controls what in which neighborhood, these systems might remain intact if military supply lines are cut. Be prepared to commandeer these resources.

  • Learn the black market fuel system and exploit it. Although black market fuel is horrible on humvee engines, it will get your unit out of Baghdad and into a safe zone.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm doing a paper on Xenophon and the modern military. Is there any chance you could tell me where you got this from?