I've read about Stalingrad, I've studied Stalingrad and Baghdad – you're no Stalingrad.
Posted by aogSaturday, 05 April 2003 at 07:57 TrackBack Ping URL
As the Coalition forces close in on Baghdad, the pundits are now comparing Baghdad to Stalingrad [source]. This is of course not because there are any similarities in the military situation but because the Battle of Stalingrad was a disaster for the attacking side. I've mentioned elsewhere two of the key differences between the upcoming Siege of Baghdad and the Battle of Stalingrad:
  1. The defenders of Stalingrad had supply lines to bring in fresh troops, weapons and ammunition
  2. The attackers were on the clock. The overall course of the war at that point was shifting toward the defenders so that the longer the battle went on, the better the situation of the defenders
Clearly our war planners have studied this battle. As I've said before it seems like an excellent plan to rush up to Baghdad and then hold back while the rest of the country is invested. With no country side under control of the Ba'ath and therefore no supplies, supply lines are irrelevant (#1). It also puts the defenders on the clock. As time marches on, the Coalition is assuming control of ever larger portions of Iraq, grinding up the Ba'ath who are outside of Baghdad (#2). This is very important because it means that the Coalition forces attacking Baghdad can be patient and wait for the right moment. If some attack looks dicey, they can just hold off because tomorrow they'll be better rested, better supplied with more troops. The defenders on the other hand will have less of all of those.

The original article makes one other major mistake. Its primary thesis is that the Republican Guard units have gone to ground and are waiting in hidden revetments to strike out at the Coalition forces in a giant pincer movement like the one that doomed the German 6th Army at Stalingrad. This ignores a fundamental fact. While the original Soviet forces weren't a match for the Germans, by the time of Stalingrad the disparity was no longer that great and the Soviets were in rough parity, close enough so that numbers could make up the difference. I see no evidence that the Ba'ath have improved at all since the invasion started. My opinion is that as long as the troops stay alert they will chew up that kind of attack. Even if the ground battle doesn't go well the Coalition forces just have to hold on long enough for the air boys to even things up. The Soviets faced a similar problem but the disparity wasn't nearly as great and they had the troops to burn. The Ba'ath don't. Once those Republican Guard units are gone, that's it for significant Ba'ath ground forces for the rest of the war.

There are serious risks involved in the Siege of Baghdad. But the idea that it will be anything like Stalingrad is just (death)wishful thinking on the part of frustrated anti-war fanatics.