The Wizard War
Michael Yon's ongoing account of the battle in Mosul is worth reading. He begins with an extended James Mitchenerish description of the effects of explosive on armor and unprotected human beings as a way of setting the stage about a bomb towards which his Stryker is rolling. You keep reading wondering how it will all turn out.
Forty three Americans have died in Iraq over the last 10 days, including Pvt. 1st Class Nils G. Thompson in Mosul, but 24th infantry has killed 150 in just one neighborhood in the last 10 months. So who's ahead, we ask, but keep reading. But Yon's hasn't written his last dispatch; the unit he's with detects the bomb. The triggerman is spotted, but inexplicably not killed, even though the gunner has him in his sights. He is captured. Enemy snipers covering the IED area exchange fire with Deuce Four. Rotary wing shows up immediately. An EOD unit arrives with a robot but fail to blow up the bomb. It detonates some nights later perhaps as some of the enemy attempt to retrieve it. At least there are some car parts scattered all over the block.
Deuce Four takes the IED triggerman back to his neighborhood and Americans strike a conversation with his mom. Then they take him to the local police station, but decline to turn him over to the local cops and keep custody. A couple of nights go by. Yon ends the post just as Deuce Four are closing in on a house where they think more car bombs are being assembled.
What Yon omits is as tantalizing as what he describes. A lot is happening offstage that we are not allowed to see; we are given only glimpses. There are staged IED attacks to lure out the enemy into the sights of snipers. The are constant meetings with the Iraqi police whose subject matter is never described. Inexplicable things happen, like the the IED triggerman being taken back to his neighborhood right even while fire is being exchanged at the failed ambush site by Army officers who are certainly too busy to just shoot the breeze or idly wander around town. Bombs are left on the road and just happen to blow up when the insurgents attempt to retrieve them later. Large explosive caches are discovered in ways that are never divulged. A car bomb factory is about to be raided as Yon ends the post, in the cliff-hanger manner of the Republic Serials, and we are left not only to wonder what will happen, but how the raiders came to that very door.
(Speculation alert) We are probably going to have to wait a decade to find out how the battle of Mosul was fought out. But I think it is probable that a large role will have been played by electronic warfare in particular and information warfare in general. Both sides are trying to get inside the decision cycles of their opponents and Yon's description of the failed IED ambush at the traffic circle is a case in point. The enemy covers the IED amush site with snipers and the Americans cover the area with rotary wing. Yon is afraid mortars will hit the traffic circle but lets on that the mortars are afraid of counterbattery. So they disengage. Ambush counter ambush. The enemy makes a special target of EOD troopers but maybe the EOD guys have a few tricks up their own sleeves. The bombmakers target Americans and Americans target the bombmakers. The Americans refuse to leave the IED triggerman with the Mosul cops, after trailing him all over his neighborhood. After the raid whose outcome we'll know in the next Yon installment, that triggerman may want to change his address and maybe get some plastic surgery into the bargain. I'm going to guess that Mosul is one of those engagements which will make the word 'database' a synonym for weapon and 'cover story' equivalent in certain situations to overhead cover.