Clarke's Law, Applied

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Strategy Page's Iraq entry for January 2 discusses a series of raids targeting rebel leaders:

"These operations leave the Iraqis somewhat in awe of American military prowess. That's because U.S. troops prefer to operate at night, where convoys of armored vehicles and trucks can move rapidly down roads with no lights on. The troops use their night vision goggles to see the road, but to any Iraqis, it's just these dark shapes hurtling through the night. Even scarier is the precision with which the troops appear to operate. The vehicles surround a village or large compound and dozens of American troops dismount, each one quickly going about a specific task. No shouting (many troops use personal radios or hand signals), and no milling around. And no lights. If the people the troops are looking for try to escape out a back door, American troops swiftly cut them off and arrest them, or shoot them if there is resistance.

. . .

The troops practice their raiding drills beforehand, and are briefed on the "game plan" before each operation. The commanders back at the base have access to live video from a UAV overhead (which is displayed on large, flat screen TV monitors), and Blue Force Tracker shows all commanders the position of all vehicles and helicopters at all times. Sometimes the Special Forces has the target under observation before the troops show up, as does a UAV overhead. There are also electronic intelligence troops listening in on any cell phone (or other radio) signals coming from the target location. Detective work tries to find out exactly who is in the buildings to be raided, and who is in charge. Interpreters or Arabic speaking G.I.s will then call for the senior Iraqi to let them know why the troops are there and to avoid any resistance. This is shock and awe."
You remember Clarke's Law, right? Sufficiently advanced technology...
"Story telling is an old tradition in Iraq, and the stories of these raids get embellished. While Iraqis like to emphasize how these American barbarians searched women for weapons (leaving out that usually only a metal detector is used), the "magical" manner in which the troops come out of the darkness and grab exactly who, or what, they want, never fails to impress [emphasis added]. It sounds like a fairy tale, but it's real."

This reminds me of an article titled "Great Satan's" Scary Secret Weapon written by Tony Geraghty and published in Defense & Diplomacy magazine just after Gulf War I. I couldn't find it online (except for a mention in a Gulf War bibliography), but I can excerpt from a copy I have:

"One imaginative airman posed for the camera in full flying kit and a mask that lent him the appearance of a zombie or a vampire.

Soon afterward the photograph - in sanguinary red-and-white, blood-and-death - came my way [Geraghty was serving as a Squadron Leader in the RAF in the Gulf at the time]. At the same time, there was much talk of Satan around Arabia; even the Great Satan, personified in simple minds by America.

It seemed to me that there was an opportunity here to turn this obsession, which confused the un-Islamic with the diabolic, to some use.

. . .

The cover story, I suggested, would be that the diabolic Pentagon had got into bed with Haiti's equally noxious Tonton Macout to sign up the Undead for service with the U.S. Navy. As they flew the first missions against Baghdad, these worthy monsters would fear nothing worse than the long sleep they so earnestly desired in any case.

. . .

I have no way of knowing whether this scheme bore fruit but I am in no doubt -- had the war lasted a little longer -- that it would have confirmed in Iraqi minds the nature of Allied air as a power that could operate as a force of darkness (a spooky phenomenon) as well as with Stealthy invisibility by day.

A rational man might pooh-pooh such ideas, but people under stress of battle, in the desert or urban air raid shelters, tend to be what the Irish call 'daytime atheists.'"

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This page contains a single entry by Chris published on January 4, 2004 4:55 PM.

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