Saturday, November 22, 2008

Logistics

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And ye shall beat your swords into plowshares and your spears into pruning hooks; neither shall you study war any more. Variously attributed to the prophet Isaiah, the prophet Micah and numerous non-religious wise men through the ages.
And the last thing we'd want to do is leave all those swords and spears laying around on the erstwhile battlefield after the soldiers have headed home, some horizontal, some addled and broken, others hooting about "Mission Accomplished".

Is anyone gonna clean up this mess?



Yes, of course. That's called Logistics.
I became an expert in questions of movement of armies and Bonaparte's dictum that armies travel on their stomachs by referring often to the astonishingly tragic and heart-breaking story told in this graphic by Charles Joseph Minard. The subject: Napoleon's Moscow campaign of 1812.
They were no match for the vicissitudes of weather, terrain and fleas. Typhus-ridden fleas which Grand Armee bedded down with in the countryside as they foraged their way into Russia that summer. Fleas probably killed more of Napoleon's men than the Cossacks did. And each new day brought the choice: ride that horse or eat it.
The Czar's crafty military strategy was to stay fifty miles ahead of Napoleon's column, slaughtering and burning everything edible, a day or two before the enemy planned to capture and eat it.
Fast forward 200 years.
Merely looking at the map of Iraq suggests the difficulties in removing hundreds of thousands of men and women and $$$Tens, probably hundreds, of Billions $$$ of materiel and equipment from that place. Iraq's bordering states: Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia present a simple fact: everything has to leave by way of the single port on the Persian Gulf, on ships that must travel practically within hollering distance of the Iranian coast, then make a hairpin turn while wriggling through the 30-mile-wide Straits of Hormuz.

With the shortages of enlisted troops, my guess is that the Armed Forces of the US have been paying scant attention to training for the coordinated withdrawal of all those people and all that gear.

It's "physically impossible," says "a top officer involved in briefing the President-elect on U.S. operations in Iraq," according to Time Magazine.

In a nutshell, the Pentagon's argument couldn't be simpler or more red-bloodedly American: We have too much stuff to leave Iraq any time soon. In war, as in peace, we're trapped by our own profligacy. We are the Neiman Marcus and the Wal-Mart of combat. Where we go, our "stuff" goes with us - in such prodigious quantities that removing it is going to prove more daunting than invading in the first place....

Some have estimated, however, that simply getting each of the 14 combat brigades still stationed in Iraq on January 20, 2009, out with all their equipment might take up to 75 days per brigade. (If you do the math, that's 36 months, and even that wouldn't suffice if you wanted to remove everything else we now have in that California-sized country.)

Read the whole story by Tom Engelhardt here at Truthout.

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Of the biblical allotment of three score and ten I have lived only three of them more than a bicycle ride from one of the Great Lakes. I grew up ten blocks from Lake Erie in the (once Irish/Italian ghetto, now newly-hip) "Near West Side" of Cleveland. I can still cycle to the Milwaukee lakefront in an hour and a half; but, a round-trip has always been more than I would (noror ever did) attempt. -0- I'm a "...somewhat combative pacifist and fairly cooperative anarchist," after the example of Grace Paley (1922-2007). -0- I'm always cheerful when I pay my taxes (having refused--when necessary--to pay that portion of them dedicated to war). -0- And I always, always vote.