Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Tarawa and Tora Bora

Sixty-two years ago on November 23, the Battle of Tarawa came to a close. Here is one account:

On the morning of November 23rd, the 6th Marines counted 300 Japanese bodies scattered around their positions. As it turned out, this group of Japanese had been the last large contingent on Betio with only small pockets of resistance remaining. And following a painstaking mop up of the eastern side of the island, Japanese resistance, with the exception of a few snipers who would continue to take pot shots at marines for the next several days, came to an end. For at 1:12 P.M., after 76 hours of fighting, Betio was declared 'secure'. Upon arriving at Betio that day, General Holland Smith ordered both the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack to be raised over Betio (for Betio was to revert to the British as a Pacific trust after the war). The general then toured the island west of the airport. He noted that only seventeen Japanese had surrendered while only 129 Korean laborers had survived out of a total of 4,700 troops and construction workers.

Read the whole story. Reading the history of the exploits of the Marines and the other armed services as they reclaimed the Pacific in WWII, it is hard to fathom why the senior administration did not let them have at it in Tora Bora four years ago, when the best information available placed Osama Bin Laden in that network of mountains and caves. We would have lost an awful number of brave young men, but we would have lost them in the purpose for which they joined the service.

For more on the parallels, read this excellent post (and the NYT article to which it links) at the blog, Arms and Influence.

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7 comments:

Arun Khanna said...

Even if U.S. Marines were at Tora Bora, it is likely Osama bin Laden would still have escaped. The reason is U.S. strategy of targeting Afghanistan alone, even though in 2001, that country was a client state of Pakistan. We needed U.S. Marines and U.S. Army in western Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan including Tora Bora to kill or capture bin Laden. Interestingly four years from 2001, that is still what is needed to eliminate Al Qaeda's top leadership.

Anonymous said...

War is such a tough thing. Decision-makers know people are going to die. This is a gruesome cost-benefit analysis.

This calls into question trusting locals on the ground. It looks like the U.S. trusted or relied too much on the locals when the U.S. should have done the job themselves.

War on the cheap has never made much sense to me. If you stick a lot of men half way around the world in hostile territory, you had better be ready for a variety of scenarios. Being ready means having tons of stuff - men, equipment, etc. I never believed the cost estimates provided for the wars on Afgan and Iraq.

Anonymous said...

As long as the topic is war and terror, I have more input for more influential people.

About the only country that might be able to beat the U.S. is the U.S. We are free to choose. Do we want to be a modern-day Spanish Armada?

The war before us is not a traditional war. Bin Laden or others know they can not beat the U.S. in conventional ways. This is an economic and psychological war.

Arun Khanna said...

U.S. is constrained by the fact that this country cannot afford sustained instability in the major oil producing region of the world. If and when an economically viable substitute energy source or a new oil supply source is found, a full blown response to terror policy can be adopted.

Anonymous said...

If Bush and Cheney do not catch Bin Laden by end-of-office, it raises questions. How hard can it be? Seriously, no joking. These two have at their disposal the resources of the United States.

Anonymous said...

I spent many years in Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, and learned forty years ago that the formidable superpower of the U.S. extends only so far, and for so long. Can't simply snap your fingers and make bad guys go away. But, then...it's always harder to defeat the baddies when your own 'brethren' are busy tying your hands here at home with 'protest.' The trick is discerning when that protest serves well, and when it transcends to support for your terrorist enemy. We'll win this fight when and if--and only if--we take heed of the last. My uneducated guess is, Bin Laden's bones are buried beneath thousands of tons of rocky rubble in a forgotten Afghan redoubt--having been unceremoniously placed there by a 'smart bomb.' I could be wrong.

Barry said...

"But, then...it's always harder to defeat the baddies when your own 'brethren' are busy tying your hands here at home with 'protest.' The trick is discerning when that protest serves well, and when it transcends to support for your terrorist enemy. We'll win this fight when and if--and only if--we take heed of the last."

Our troops hands have been tied behind their backs by the arrogance, incompetancy and dishonest of George Bush, and those who voted for him. Please examine the history of the Iraq war.