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Humvees and Tactical Madness in Iraq

Embedding Without Blending

by FRANKLIN C. SPINNEY

I just watched a video from BBC Newsnight showing Iraqi forces in a recent dust up near Najaf. Our Iraqi "allies" were moving about in "technicals" or small Jeep type 4x4s, some with machine guns on top. Then along came the embedded US troops in a Humvee that was huge by comparison, with a big satellite antenna, as if to set it apart even further. The Americans were a horrendously obvious target.

When embedded this way, our troops stand out like sore thumbs and will be obvious objectives for snipers and special attack squads. My guess is that our Iraqi "allies" won’t want to be close to them when the going gets tough … and it will not take the insurgents long to figure this out.

If this kind of "Humvee embedding" is reflective of the general "strategy" for embedding our forces into Iraqi units, and I bet it is, then the so-called "surge" could degenerate into a real bloodbath — both for our guys on ground and for Iraqis of all stripes when we bring in the not-so-precise "precision" firepower, especially airpower, to extricate our troops from ambushes.

If this happens, the ensuing bloodbath would certainly increase dissension at home and further repel our allies and the uncommitted, which would stiffen the resolve of our adversaries and thereby make it even more difficult to end this conflict on terms that do not sow the seeds of future conflict.

It requires little imagination to see how such an disastrous evolution would be reinforced and accelerated by the credibility crisis the Bush Administration has brought upon itself over the entire history of its Iraq debacle.

In short, embedding that does not blend is exactly the kind of tactical madness that, if generalized and multiplied, could have unintended consequences that blow upward to shape adversely the operational, strategic, and even grand strategic levels of conflict.

FRANKLIN C. SPINNEY is a former Pentagon analyst and whistleblower. His writing on defense issues can be found on the invaluable Defense in the National Interest website.