When I was in the army my battalion commander was from a West Texas football town. If you've ever seen Varsity Blues then you know that Football is everything in West Texas. Conveniently for my BC football has been everything for the Army for some time, as well. The concept of rushing troops across terrain, making an end-run for Baghdad, is simply appealing. Throw in a complex series of rules, a pile of armor, and... wait, I'm confused. Are we talking about football or war?
It's easy to see how this model for warfare came to be. It's the 1980's, fourth quarter of the Cold War, and the Eagles are up on the Bears by a field goal. Both teams line up along the line of scrimmage (a.k.a. Iron Curtain), and Pentagon commanders call plays. The bad news is that the Bears conceded victory on that one, so we never got to see the mother of all superbowls. Instead we had to settle for Iraq I, but that's okay because Stormin' Norman was even good enough to name his strategies after football plays. Between that and CNN cum ESPN (of war) the first Iraq war was better than watching the UT Vols during the Peyton Manning years.
Fast forward a decade. Same basic strategy. Roll 'em up across the desert. Baghdad's the goal line. Woohoo! Touchdown! Wait, why aren't they running off the field? Oops. This is a rugby match. If you've ever clicked over to ESPN 2 at 1 AM then you've seen rugby. It's what football was during the Precambrian period, back when the other popular sport was dinosaur jousting. The basic idea is that the ball stays in play. Forward passes are against the rules, so no gaining ground quick. You've gotta run the ball. There are no downs, no field goals, no punts, just a bunch of guys playing offense and defense at the same time, constantly trying to adjust to the other team and passing backwards in order to get a shot at a few steps forward. Sound like fourth generation warfare? Oh, and these guys don't wear helmets.
Any further comparison would be pointless. The last thing I want to do here is convince anyone that rugby is the way to think about war. What I do want to do is to make the point that in order to prevail in this conflict we must shake ourselves of the mindset that there are periods of down time, that we could conceivably call a time out, and that running the ball to the goal line warrants a silly dance. Like rugby, this game is constantly in play, and there is no easy way to get to the other end of the field.