April 23, 2002

Jenin and Black Hawk Down

Jenin and Black Hawk Down - In my review of the ultra-realistic war movie last January, I pointed out the inherent dilemma that a superior military has when invading a city whose armed men are willing to fight from their own homes with their women and children by their sides. Do you send in lightly armed infantry to spare the non-combatants, but suffer a lot of losses yourself (as we did in Mogadishu in 1993)? Or do you go in heavy and flatten their homes, but suffer a PR disaster? In my review, I discussed these alternatives in the context of an assault on Baghdad, but, clearly, the Israelis ran into this same tough choice in Jenin. They appear to have started out light, but after losing men, switched to heavy tactics, using bulldozers to flatten Palestinians' homes so they could avoid the boobytrapped streets. Israel won the battle, of course, but at the cost of diplomatically catastrophic TV coverage. We need to think hard now about which we would choose in case the Iraqis use Somalian-Palestinian methods to defend Baghdad.

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