Monday, September 18, 2006

Digging a Ditch Around Baghdad: Life Imitating Art?

In a novel twist, a strategy has been announced to protect Baghdad from insurgents and car-bombers with a 60 mile long ditch. As reported:
"CBS/AP) Iraqi security forces will dig trenches around Baghdad — a distance of about 60 miles — in an attempt to prevent insurgents and explosive-laden cars from infiltrating this city of 6 million, the Interior Ministry said Friday."
But can a ditch work? Will this settle the Iraq conflict and make the Capitol safe from violence?

Army Ants on the March

It struck me that this strategy had been tried before. I had read a short story in Junior High about such a strategy. In this case it was Leiningen fighting off Army ants
"This water-filled ditch was one of the defence measures which Leiningen had long since prepared against the advent of the ants. It encompassed three sides of the plantation like a huge horseshoe. Twelve feet across, but not very deep, when dry it could hardly be described as an obstacle to either man or beast. But the ends of the "horseshoe" ran into the river which formed the northern boundary, and fourth side, of the plantation. And at the end nearer the house and outbuildings in the middle of the plantation, Leiningen had constructed a dam by means of which water from the river could be diverted into the ditch.

So now, by opening the dam, he was able to fling an imposing girdle of water, a huge quadrilateral with the river as its base, completely around the plantation, like the moat encircling a medieval city. Unless the ants were clever enough to build rafts. they had no hope of reaching the plantation, Leiningen concluded."
Leinengen even built an inner-moat:
"Finally, he made a careful inspection of the "inner moat"--a smaller ditch lined with concrete, which extended around the hill on which stood the ranch house, barns, stables and other buildings. Into this concrete ditch emptied the inflow pipes from three great petrol tanks. If by some miracle the ants managed to cross the water and reached the plantation, this "rampart of petrol,' would be an absolutely impassable protection for the beseiged and their dwellings and stock. Such, at least, was Leiningen's opinion."
Unfortunately, like this misbegotten strategy, Leiningen fared poorly:
"The ants responded to these vigorous and successful measures of defence by further developments of their offensive. Entire clumps of huddling insects began to roll down the opposite bank into the water. At the same time, Leiningen noticed that the ants were now attacking along an ever-widening front. As the numbers both of his men and his petrol sprinklers were severely limited, this rapid extension of the line of battle was becoming an overwhelming danger."
Has our military strategy been reduced to a Junior High School short-story? Can we withdraw just into the city of Baghdady and build ditches to prevent the insurgents from entering?

It seems that America deserves better. We deserve leadership that recognizes the difference between military strategy and folly. We deserve direction in times of war and not the never-ending unchanging "stay the course".

It is time for a change in direction.



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