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The War Nerd October 3, 2007
Nahr al Bared: A Squeamish Siege
The art of the seige By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
Page 2 of 4

Even though the Brits had stationed their worst and dumbest in Dublin, it still would’ve been a piece of spattery cake for the Royal Navy to shell the city to rubble, then let the Army march through and bayonet anything left twitching. In the old days the Brits wouldn’t have hesitated to do it that way, especially with the Irish. But in the middle of the Great War they were desperate for manpower, scared to introduce the draft in Ireland, so they tried taking it back the soft way: with slow infantry advance through the streets. It didn’t work very well, and eventually hotter heads prevailed and the gunboats settled things by blasting a good chunk of the Dublin slums into rubble, which was probably an improvement. Now here’s the interesting part: the locals didn’t blame the RN, they blamed the Irish insurgents, and even spat on them when the Brits led them out of the blown-up buildings they’d occupied. So far so good, right? But then the Brits, naturally enough, shot a dozen-odd ringleaders and the Irish went crazy, wrote about a million bad poems about each dead guy, and ended up forcing the Brits out of all of the island except for Ulster.

war nerd
 Karl "Miss Piggy" Rove's idea of a siege

That’s what happens when you try to run a sensitive siege: you’re in Karl Rove’s territory, not Norman Schwartzkopf’s. You’re running a PR operation. I keep coming back to this: for the moment, war IS a PR operation. That’ll change when the nukes come out. That’s how you’ll know this military era is over: when they start selling GPS units for your car that come with a big mushroom-cloud symbol, so the screen can say, “I’m sorry, you cannot get to [name of city] because it has been vaporized. Enjoy your trip!”

Till then we’re in the Rove Era of warfare, and that’s not good news for you if you’re in a conventional army. Your mission, whether you decide to accept it or not, is to go into an urban canyon and roust out a few dozen dudes who are totally prepared to die, in fact looking forward to it because it’s easier than working a day job--and do it without hurting anybody. In fact, the Lebanese Army’s mission going into Nahr al Bared was a lot like the way the troops went into the Alien nest in Aliens: first Sarge takes your ammo, then you walk into a maze full of predators.

I’m not kidding about no ammo, either. See, Lebanon is full of Arabs, and the Israeli lobby makes sure no Arab “regime”--if it’s Arab it’s always a “regime”--gets any top-of-the-line American equipment, unless it’s the Saudis because (A) the Saudis ain’t shit, and (B) thass a whole lotta money they got. Any other Arab country wants supplies, it’s got to go through the US congress, which is somewhere to the right of Arik Sharon, especially now that he’s chasing butterflies through his Negev in the sky.

So the Lebanese Army was getting what we call mixed messages from DC. On the one hand, they’re a vital component of nation-building! They’re the glue that will draw together a new, united Lebanon! We love you little Phoenicians!

On the other hand, don’t ask us for any clips for those surplus M16s you’re using, because some congress critter might bitch about it to Likud and then we’d all get fired. Ain’t it great being the world’s only superpower?

What this meant to the Lebanese Army is that if they wanted to take the Pali camp, they were going to have to do what the Brits did in Dublin, and with pretty much the same weapons: old unguided artillery and small arms. Welcome to urban warfare circa 1916, only with better weather.

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Gary Brecher
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