Saturday, August 20, 2005

Don't Draw Conclusions From The Rockets

Surfing around yesterday I was struck by the desire from both the Left and the Right to draw conclusions about the state of al Qaida from the firing of three rockets in Jordan. Some on the Right wants to conclude that the ineffectiveness of the attack is proof that alQ is on it's last legs while some on the Left want us to believe that just the fact that the rockets were fired at all is proof that alQ is as strong as ever. I didn't bother collecting links, if you missed it Michelle Malkin has some, those links have other links which have links. She's right there on the sidebar.

Both conclusions are flat wrong. The first mistake both sides make is thinking of alQ as if it were one big organization. It's not, and never has been. Instead it is a loose confederation of many groups, loosely bound by by similar ideology. Some of these groups are deadly competent, others would screw up a two car funeral procession. Some have been completely wiped out or badly beaten by our, and other, military and security forces. Others have managed to avoid defeat, usually by not picking fights with the big boys. To try to draw conclusions about the whole confederation from one action of one affiliated group is a mistake.

We cannot even draw conclusions about this one small(?) part of al Q, the Abdullah al-Azzam Brigades of alQ, from this action. The only way to draw conclusions is to know the tactical and strategic goals they had in mind. From where I sit it was a miserable tactical failure. They missed the Navy's big gray canoe, and didn't draw a drop of Infidel Blood, except in Israel and that was a minor wound.

This points to some real incompetence by this particular group, if indeed the goal was to hit the boats. It starts with the choice of weapons, those three Katyusha Rockets. The Katyusha is an area weapon, designed to be used in a mass attack. It was hated and feared by Hitler's Wermacht on the Eastern Front in WWII. Mounted on those Lend Lease Studebaker Trucks, hundreds, and later in the war thousands, of them landed near simultaneously over a good-sized area. The concept was so good we Americans still have a much-modernized version in our arsenal. Yet those rockets are, unlike missiles or modern artillery guns, area weapons. An American Artillery unit, using guided shells would have gotten three hits on the boats, even using unguided rounds they would have hit with at least one.

So, if the goal was to sink the boats, utter failure. Suppose, though, the goal was simply to cause the ships to pull out of port? I can see a lot of propaganda and recruiting value in achieving that. In that case, the operation was a near total success. As I understand the Katyusha, one can set up the launchers, set the timers, which can be as simple as a long fuse, and leave. There's no reason the people that set the fuses couldn't be miles, countries or continents away by the time the rockets actually flew.

The Mideast is littered with Katyushas, both the real thing from the old SovBloc Days and homemade. One doesn't need to be a brain scientist or rocket surgeon to make them, all one needs is a rudimentary machine and electrical shop and the fuel and explosives, the Mideast has no shortage of any of those. The rockets are cheap, compared to other weapons and low risk. Put three on a truck, cover them up with cowsh, um, fertilizer, and drive them through the checkpoints, set up someplace semi-private, light the fuse and split.

So, what about this grandly named outfit that I've never heard of before? Are they dumber than a box of rocks, picking a small amount of area weaponry to hit a point target? Or are they diabolically clever fiends, achieving their goals with an absolute minimum risk? How does this relate to the overall strength of the other loosely confederated groups that comprise alQ?

I doubt even the people giving the President's Dailey Briefing know, I certainly don't. The only thing I know for sure is that I don't want to jump to a false conclusion guided only by my partisanship. I reveal enough of my own ignorance by accident. Partisan zealotry is not a replacement for solid information.

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