2008/12/17

The American Way of War (tm)

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I am experiencing positive feedback and confirmation with greater regularity than ever before for one opinion of mine in the past months, so I think it's about time to engage the topic directly.

"With the Osprey ... I think the fast forward flight mode of the Osprey -- man, you could put forces on the battlefield where they need to be in a big hurry," White said...But read carefully what he says next...

"I think the enemy has it templated out where ... they know how long it takes for [fixed wing] air to check on station and start working. So, man, I think those Ospreys you could set some blocking forces behind some enemy and I think you could really be able to out maneuver them and gain the upper hand pretty quickly. So I would look forward to the opportunity to work with the Osprey..."
http://www.defensetech.org/archives/004591.html

So this officer needs high-tech tilt rotor planes in addition to his other first class equipment and support to decisively defeat guys in pickups in skirmishes?

That's exactly what's in my opinion wrong with the American Way of War(tm). A huge material input is required to solve troubles with feeble Third World opponents.

The USA had some extremely costly (and unsuccessful) wars in the past decades with no more opposition than merely light infantry.


The USA defeated the badly overstretched (way beyond the culminating point) North Korean infantry forces early in the Korean War after initial debacles.
- - - - - - - -
The USA lost against the PR Chinese (an infantry-strong force with little artillery and tanks and no air support) in the Korean War after being initially overrun.
This defeat (net change since Chinese intervention; retreat from North Korea's northern border to South Korea's northern border) is being sold to the world as a draw by looking at the whole war instead of only at the period that included the PRC's PLA involvement, though.
- - - - - - - -
The USA defeated the Vietcong in South Vietnam tactically, but never strategically.
- - - - - - - -
The USA lost to North Vietnam's NVA (again few support arms) strategically (broken will, it's plain like that).
The actions in Vietnam have badly damaged the USA's reputation and created hundreds of thousands of additional opponents.
The Americans fell back to insist that they were never defeated by Vietnamese in battle - as if that meant anything any more once the war was lost.
- - - - - - - -
The USA (as a so-called superpower) invaded successfully the Third World midget island state of Grenada, but not without several casualties.
The cost of the invasion was likely greater than Grenada's GDP.
Congratulations.
- - - - - - - -
The USA as superpower successfully invaded the small Third World state of Panama in a war of aggression (also using a land connection to its bases in the Canal zone).
Congratulations.
- - - - - - - -
The USA - together with many allies - defeated the inept Iraqi army in 1991.
The Iraqi army was doctrinally no more advanced than the French army in 1918, though.
The cost of war was greater than Iraq's GDP.
- - - - - - - -
The USA - again with significant allies - invaded successfully the much disarmed and embargo-weakened Iraq in 2003, immediately failing in the 'control' mission once arriving in Baghdad.
- - - - - - - -
The USA successfully invaded with truly significant allies Afghanistan and with the help of several neighboring countries against the Taliban - a motorized infantry Third World militia whose warfare skills were comparable to the late 19th century Boers at most.
- - - - - - - -
The USA failed pretty much during the occupation of Iraq, resulting in more than six years of civil war (at least three more to come), unchecked ethnic cleansing and violence and vastly different development in Iraqi politics than intended.
The war cost was not only greater than Iraq's GDP, but likely on the order of one or two decades worth of Iraq's GDP. The war cost (fiscal and other, including attention) badly damaged the USA's fiscal health and inevitably also its economy.
The ground forces became worn out to a significant degree and lost much of their conventional war 'skill'.
The actions in Iraq have badly damaged the USA's reputation and created tens of thousands of additional opponents, including a brand new Iraqi AQ branch.
They're selling this now as a U.S. success/victory to the world.
- - - - - - - -
The USA failed so far in the occupation of Afghanistan. AQ and Taliban leaders slipped away. The Taliban are in the process of regaining control of much of the country, establishing shadow administrations in rural regions. Again, a huge expense and material effort failed to break the enemy's will - instead, the actions helped the enemy with its recruitment and fueled the civil war. Furthermore, it destabilized the neighboring nuclear power Pakistan.


The U.S.Americans have no doubt a great talent for PR (public relations) and most of them seem to be convinced of their armed service's superior quality.
You do certainly know at this point that their PR talent failed on me.


Many Americans believe that their allies should look at the U.S. Armed services and learn.
I believe that these allies should better look at examples of military efficiency, not at an example of excessive military spending for losing wars. Well, unless they want to know what to avoid.
There are impressive examples of military proficiency and efficiency in European, Eastern Asian and South African military history that offer many lessons for land warfare. Lessons that are actually worth to be learned.

Here's a (humorous, but true) example:
(The irony of history: The Russians tried to succeed against the Finnish Jäger/Jääkäri light infantry with high material effort and superior numbers.)

Sven Ortmann

29 comments:

  1. "US Americans" have failed in Afghanistan? Letting people escape?

    "German Special Forces in Afghanistan Let Taliban Commander Escape."
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,554033,00.html

    I really doubt this story, I doubt they let him escape, I doubt they even left their base to search for him. Or anybody. Since the KSK returned home with a grand total of 0 missions accomplished. In 3 years. The best Germany has to offer NATO, now the laughingstock of your near useless military. You should probably just eliminate them entirely and save the tax money. It isn't like they could provide any effective defense for your country. Poland's army could probably be in Trier before the Bundeswehr found the keys to their tanks.

    Maybe you should stick to your silly economic theories that are obviously ridiculous to everyone, since you can't avoid letting your anti-American (sorry, anti US American) viewpoints cloud what little credibility military wanna-bes like you EU Germans actually have.

    Tell us something about the tire pressure in military trucks or how much a bullet costs, stuff you can copy and paste from somewhere and not be wrong, because your strategic and historic viewpoints are laughable.

    ReplyDelete
  2. LOL, it took 4:53 hours for the first troll, that's slower than anticipated.

    The KSK was reportedly not on combat missions because the OEF command didn't give it any combat missions. There was some not so nice talk about the KSK /OEF thing that could be used to answer and wouldn't look so well for the others.
    It all comes down to the fact that Germany isn't at war and there's for good reasons a 63 years old global consensus that this a good thing.

    Your comment is just a collection of what could be considered anti-German bashing (we Germans don't really use such stupid terms, consider it as an analogy).

    It is telling that you didn't use the direct approach with a critique on the actual blog text.

    ReplyDelete
  3. A slower than anticipated response because fewer and fewer people read your nonsense?

    Your comment shows you still don't understand the division between OEF and ISAF in Afghanistan, until you comprehend that perhaps you could refrain from making any comments about subjects you don't understand? Ah, but then there would be no blog.

    Maybe you could tell everyone about the OB of a German Panzer division, or how many gold
    dress tunic buttons a German infantry brigade is authorized, the kind of smallminded, useless and pointless minutiae in which you revel.

    My critique of what you wrote? Drivel. Quatsch. Verbal diarrhea.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The page views and unique viewers per day doubled in the past six months, thanks.
    I discuss the topics more often by e-mail than in comments.

    - - -

    Your comment shows that you don't know much about the German state.

    We are not at war. Our parliament declared no V-Fall and we didn't declare war on anyone.

    Feel free to ask the German embassy whether Germany is at war:

    Address / Info
    Botschaft der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 4645 Reservoir Road, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007-1998. USA

    Telephone Number
    (German Embassy, Washington)
    (001 202) 298 4000

    Email
    info@washington.diplo.de

    ReplyDelete
  5. Then perhaps you should read the North Atlantic Treaty establishing NATO, you obviously aren't familiar with it at all.

    You had better pray Germany never has to declare war on anyone, or never has reason to need their armed forces for anything other than a flood on the Rhine, because you will be waiting a long time for any allies to show up. Other than American allies I mean, we stand by even our fair weather friends.

    I'm waiting for the answer about those gold buttons.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think you're a classic troll, as you didn't write anything substantial about the text itself.

    I remind you of the comment policy:
    http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2008/05/comment-policy.html

    Yours was the last anonymous comment in this topic that I don't delete.

    - - -

    You've apparently not read the NATO treaty yourself. You would be surprised about the real text.
    http://www.nato.int/docu/basictxt/treaty.htm
    Look at article 1; it was violated by the USA for at least six times more often than by most other members. The USA is a lousy ally (the fact that it planned to annihilate the German population with nuclear weapons in the event of war for decades adds to that).

    But I guess you referred to article 5; read carefully:
    "..., such action as it deems necessary,...".
    Germany could abort its ISAF and OEF missions tomorrow and would not violate the North Atlantic Treaty - unlike the USA, which did so in 2003.

    The North Atlantic Treaty is lower rated than our constitution, though - and even cursory knowledge of our constitution would tell you that Germany cannot be at war.

    - - -

    Listen; I understand that this topic and many of my other topics are unpleasant for some people - unpleasant truths in my opinion.

    A primitive reaction like anonymous personal attacks on the author and completely unspecified attacks on the blog are very low level behavior, though.

    There's no reason for dropping manners overboard just because someone else expresses an unpleasant opinion.

    Your laughable depiction of my blog ("gold buttons") only adds to this very poor impression that you give.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Valentin Korabelnikov17 December 2008 21:02

    I agree with Anonymous, how much does the GRU GSh pay you to write this stuff, is there a lot of money in it for you?

    ReplyDelete
  8. This one?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GRU

    You think the Russian state pays me to remind the world about their debacle in Finland?
    I wrote about the need to better protect the Baltic members of the NATO and to focus more on conventional warfare - do you think that's in their interest?

    OK, tin hat season is over. Back to reality.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hello Sven,

    While some points can certainly be disputed, I tend to agree with much of the basic thrust of the post. Certainly, Western European public opinion in general takes a dim view of anything to do with war. An end result of the two World Wars was the effective destruction of any willingness to go to war, and utterly entrenched through the realization during the Cold War that if the balloon ever went up in Europe, even a victory for NATO would almost certainly be a pyrrhic one for NATO's European members. Most Europeans were keenly aware of this probability even if many Americans were rather less so. And with the end of the Cold War, Europeans just want to avoid anything like armed conflict in general. Isolationism, something the US was often accused of before WWII. Funny how things change. Now it's the US taking the lead in going out to deal with the sorts of world-wide local threats that some (like the Brits, Belgians, Dutch, and French, etc.) of the Europeans used to deal with until well into the 1970's.

    I would note that NATO countries contributing to Afghanistan do tend to feel that in the wake of Operation ANACONDA and the escape of the Al-Qaida leadership (as well as that of the Taleban elsewhere), the US more or less neglected Afghanistan and NATO, leaving them more or less to their own devices instead of the Americans staying put and pouring in the necessary troops and resources to finish the job once and for all. With tens of thousands of NATO troops deployed in the Balkans (both then and now), there just wasn't much else available for the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Only the US had the necessary resources.

    As to the American Way of War, it remains the same as when Grant definitively established it back in the 1860's, with its emphasis on superior firepower, manpower, and logistics, and especially its particular emphasis upon the peculiar American genius for technology. Admittedly the U.S. Armed Services have never achieved the level of skill and professionalism that the pre-Cold War German Armed Forces (the post-WWII German Armed Forces are a completely different matter) did, or even for that matter that of their Commonwealth counterparts.

    But that's not their strength, and they learned from the Civil War that it's better to use bullets instead of bodies, and the American Way of War definitely revolves around America's predilection for technological innovation. Americans just naturally take to technological solutions, not least because they can afford it. Other countries usually can't, and as a result, some of them place more emphasis upon and more resources into individual and small-unit leadership and training than the US normally does.

    For example, a US Army infantrymen now receives 18weeks' initial entry training, and a USMC infantryman now receives 20 weeks'; their British Army counterpart now receives 26 weeks, and to generally higher standards than their American counterparts, while their Canadian counterparts now receive 33 weeks' intial entry training, and Australian and New Zealand infantrymen each receive 25 and 26(?) weeks' intial entry training. The Royal Marines of course have their 32-week syllabus, which is the most rigorous initial entry course in the English-speaking world. Just examples of the very different approaches - and capabilities - that even the two main English-speaking military cultures - the American on the one hand, and the Commonwealth on the other - exhibit; Commonwealth Infantry Battalions normally perform in roles that are usually reserved for SOF in the US Army or USMC, not least since their Armies are so small that to have anything more than rather modest-sized SOF is practically impossible and unaffordable, so regular Battalions must be able to perform many tasks that their American counterparts restrict to dedicated SOF.

    However, neither the US nor the Commonwealth of course matches the overall excellence of either the Reichswehr or the Wehrmacht (or even in some ways the Bundeswehr in its early days, perhaps) back in their day - and from whom vital lessons are still to be learned by others.

    Best,

    Norfolk

    ReplyDelete
  10. Tactical quality in WW2 and of today aren't really comparable any more in my opinion. Too many things changed (or should have changed).

    - - -

    Your comment reminds me of an author's statement in a book about German WW2 artillery. The author recounted how many German officers in WW2 despised the huge ammunition expenditure of the Americans and Russians to make up for infantry quality weaknesses.
    The author meant that the generous use of firepower was apparently the right way to go because shells save blood.
    The optimum was clearly to combine both and have the right tool in every situation.

    The firepower reliance doesn't seem to have delivered good results post-45, though.

    By the way; some military historians see the roots of the American Way of War rather in 1917.
    The U.S.Navy entered WW I as apprentice of the Royal Navy and the U.S.Army entered WW I as apprentice of the French Army.
    They used translated copies of some French army manuals as their own official manuals till the early 30's.
    The firepower in the American Civil War was quite 2nd class in comparison to the contemporary conflicts in Europe.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Valentin Korabelnikov18 December 2008 05:39

    "their British Army counterpart now receives 26 weeks, and to generally higher standards than their American counterparts,"


    It's about time the myths about the superior quality of European, especially British troops are put to rest. After their surrender in Basra, Americans or Iraqis won't rely on them, after their surrender in Musa Qala, Afghanistan won't rely on them. The Danish aren't real happy with them either.



    "Poor training, confusion and friendly fire, the real story behind brave Apache rescue"

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/aug/16/military
    .afghanistan


    "UK troops are 'poorly trained for insurgency'"

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/
    article3250841.ece

    ReplyDelete
  12. In a previous life i spent years on this subject with no real answers. American infantry won't fight without massive superiority. This is a political decision based on the problems with high casualties in "interventions".

    There's a strong strain of isolationism in the US (count me as one) and the only way we can fight these wars at all is if casualties are low. Sixty-one percent of the American people were against the war in Iraq after two years and 2000 dead. The number is about the same now but no one cares as our casualties are down to an acceptable several hundred dead a year.

    The political answer is to throw money and technology at these problems and as long as the money is available the technology will flow and our infantry won't be very affective. I've argued for years that if we really wanted to win these wars we need to accept a lot more dead infantrymen. I used to pose the question: Would you rather lose with 2000 dead or win with 6000 dead?

    The answer is that win or lose no one's going to accept 6000 dead. We are winning by losing in Iraq. Democracy, our stated goal, is dead there and the old system of Sheiks has returned. We could have done that within the first few weeks after the end of the invasion. The one thing we will never do is risk soldiers beyond a politically acceptable number. That's all we need to understand.

    ReplyDelete
  13. "It's about time the myths about the superior quality of European, especially British troops are put to rest. After their surrender in Basra, Americans or Iraqis won't rely on them, after their surrender in Musa Qala, Afghanistan won't rely on them. The Danish aren't real happy with them either."

    You are mistaking recent conditions brought on by the Government's failure to provide adequate continuing funding for training at unit-level for an indication of the quality of Regular Army initial entry training; the dramatic increase in reliance upon half-trained Reservists (as opposed to fully trained Regulars) to keep regular units up to strength; and the utter unwillingness of the Government (due to hostile British public opinion) to bear the casualties and expend the resources necessary to get the job done. In particular, what occured in Basra was pure political, and British commanders knew their hands were tied by the Government.

    As for Afghanistan, it was after the failure to capture the Al-Qaida leadership at Operation ANACONDA that led the US to request British and other troops to deal with the tougher nuts around Afghanistan, as they possessed necessary skills that US units found that they lacked during ANACONDA.

    It stands that the Regular British Infantryman (as an example) is very much better led and trained than his US counterpart at the individual and small-unit levels, both straight out of initial entry training, and in his unit - provided that sufficient funds and resources are available to provide proper training at the unit-level. The cumulative effects of Government defence cuts in recent years have hobbled unit- and formation-level training, and the influx of partially-trained Reservists (who only receive some 14-weeks' intial entry training, for example) have weakened regular units. This (hopefully transitory)
    state of affairs does not excuse the comparative neglect of individual and small-unit leadership and training in the US Army and to a lesser extent, the USMC.

    EN's comment immediately previous to this one sums up the training dilemna perfectly. What is politically possible has a critical impact on what forces - and their circumstances and condition - can and will do. In the American case, they tend play to their greatest strength - putting resources into technological solutions - to solve problems. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Other countries don't have those resources, so they must either rely upon superior training, or simply refrain from risking battle.

    Best,

    Norfolk

    ReplyDelete
  14. One tragedy is that the U.S. doesn't have the resources as well.
    Budget and trade deficits clearly prove that the nation is living beyond its own means.

    The other tragedy is that the resource-intense way wasn't very successful since generations.

    The third tragedy is that too many NATO countries look at the U.S. armed services as a possible model.

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  15. A classic example of the political nature of American (and in all probability, everyone's) infantry structure took place during the invasion of Iraq. The supposedly elite 101st AB division was given several missions as follow on forces to by-passed RG units defending cities. The so-called "operational pause" took pace because the much heralded General David Patraeus kept saying, "What's the hurry?" He knew damn well that his unit could take care of anything in its way but lacked the armor and firepower to do it without high casualties. High casualties would translate into a short career. So, he pushed for an operational pause which would allow the Air Farce to bomb the shit out of what was left of the soon to be needed Iraqi infrastructure. This prevented him from having to take (career ending) casualties... although, it also prevented us from having a chance of winning hearts and minds because of the severe damage done by our Air Farce.

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  16. "It stands that the Regular British Infantryman (as an example) is very much better led and trained than his US counterpart at the individual and small-unit levels, both straight out of initial entry training, and in his unit - provided that sufficient funds and resources are available to provide proper training at the unit-level."

    And if pigs had wings they could fly. I haven't seen this leadership you describe. You talk theory, and read books, I've been to Camp Bastion, to Kandahar and was at Bagram during Anaconda. The misconceptions about that operation linger to this day, but not with me. What happened there, at that time, would have produced the same result nobody who was in the field. There were SAS and SBS, Nordic forces and Polish forces, their abilities at altitude were severely limited. Everyone's were. At that time putting a huge blocking force on the Pakistan side of the line might have made a difference, that wasn't doable politically.

    I've seen none of your examples of individual leadership, other than people like Stuart Tootal and others. Unfortunately they would rather give up and quit instead of staying and trying to make things better. If you consider that leadership, then I guess you're right, the Brits are better led.
    In the field, however, it isn't so.
    If you want more examples of feckless British military "leadership", read The Prince of The Marshes.

    The initial British effort in Basra and Maysan, getting out in the public wearing berets rather than helmets and body armor was ineffective, until finally they were run out of town. Probably would have been better to man up, stay and make a difference, rather than "redeploy" to Basrah and Shaiba Air Station.

    When the chronicle of the British "victory" in Iraq is written, it will resemble Kut-al-Amara a lot more than Waterloo. All for lack of leadership, political and military. And lack of effort.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I don't think you are sufficiently aware of just what political and resource limitations the Brits were already operating under even at that time, and progressively ever more since. And the initial British effort in Basra, while flawed in the long-term, did keep the peace for quite some time while the US zones sank into an insurgency; only rather later did violence in the British zone get out of control. In any case, the Brits knew full well that they did not have the troops to assert control over Basra back in 2003 (or since), let alone while providing thousands of troops to Afghanistan. The Brits were and are overcommitted. And the situation in Iraq only turned in the American zones due in large part to the excesses of Al-Qaida, turning many of the tribes against them and towards the Americans as allies.

    Had Al-Qaida not given itself over to its own excesses, there would have been no Awakening, no Sons of Iraq, and the Surge would have been pointless. But the US had the resources to turn things around when the aforementioned coneditions occurred. The Brits (and other NATO countries) certainly do not. In such situations, where resources are simply unavailable and public opinion at home is inveterately hostile, what may be possible is simply unequal to the task. British commanders knew this, and did the best they could. They clearly understood that no additional British troops or resources would be available to root out the Shi'ite militias and gangs, and they did what they could to preserve their forces as best they could. It was a no-win situation for them.

    As I alluded to in a previous comment, the Brits are under even greater strain than the Americans, with the result that the Army has more or less been hollowed out over the past several years. Reular Battalions lack the funds for even much basic kit, let alone unit training after initial entry training, and contain increasingly higher proportions of partially-trained Reservists. This is a temporary (hopefully) condition, and certainly does not correspond to the Regular Army's normal state over the past generation.

    As for others, such as the Danes and the Canadians, there have been few complaints about their performance so far, and the latter have faced the largest Taleban units so far encountered by any coalition troops since their overthrow in 2001. Although he Canadians are facing many of the same resource limitations that the Brits do, they are at have not been grossly overcommitted to two separate missions. Their trianing and leadership, for the most part, is holding up.

    "You talk theory, and read books, I've been to Camp Bastion, to Kandahar and was at Bagram during Anaconda. The misconceptions about that operation linger to this day, but not with me. What happened there, at that time, would have produced the same result nobody who was in the field. There were SAS and SBS, Nordic forces and Polish forces, their abilities at altitude were severely limited. Everyone's were. At that time putting a huge blocking force on the Pakistan side of the line might have made a difference, that wasn't doable politically."

    Some of the Canadians present at ANACONDA were openly critical afterwards of the way the US planned and executed the operation, starting with a failure to perform proper reconnaissance and hastiness in making their attacks. This sort of thing reappeared again with American leaders at Operation MEDUSA in 2006, when Canadian troops were again ordered to advance straight into battle (and a river-crossing at that) without being allowed to make any reconnaissance. The net (and classic result) result was that a hidden Taleban force of some 100 or so ambushed a Canadian rifle company after they had crossed the river. Needless to say, after the Canadian extracted themselves, they had a little tete-a-tete with their American superiors, and afterwards they did it their way, eventually defeating an entrenched Taleban force of some 400-500 men by the end of the operation. Leadership and training is not just the problem of the British.

    In any case, it still does not change the fact that the American Way of War still does not make a priority of providing lengthy and thorough initial entry training, or stable unit manning (except for deployed units) during peacetime; everyone has a career to pursue, and people come in and are gone by the time they actually learn their job. Not the most desirable approach. THe great reliance upon resources and tyechnology to do so much of the work is probably unaffordable in the long run, and something will have to give - either training and leadership (and unit manning policies) must change considerably, or the US will find itself having to refrain increasingly so from foreign interventions due to the political costs of sustaining casualities.

    Best,

    Norfolk

    ReplyDelete
  18. "American infantry won't fight without massive superiority. This is a political decision based on the problems with high casualties in "interventions".

    There's a strong strain of isolationism in the US (count me as one) and the only way we can fight these wars at all is if casualties are low.
    ...
    The political answer is to throw money and technology at these problems and as long as the money is available the technology will flow and our infantry won't be very affective."

    Emery, there's a gap in your hypothesis.

    You don't explain why they don't improve the training to the necessary standard to not only fight, but also win these expeditionary wars.

    Instead, I hear/read all the time statements by U.S.Americans about U.S.American troops' superior and excellent training.
    There were huge advances, not the least due to MILES and NTC since the 80's, but apparently not enough improvement to actually win wars against infantry-centric opposition ('win' beyond doubt).

    I'm actually quite sure that training and doctrine is quite poor almost everywhere, but rarely do expectations and results diverge so much as with the American Way of War.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Valentin Korabelnikov19 December 2008 03:45

    "Some of the Canadians present at ANACONDA were openly critical afterwards of the way the US planned and executed the operation, starting with a failure to perform proper reconnaissance and hastiness in making their attacks. This sort of thing reappeared again with American leaders at Operation MEDUSA in 2006, when Canadian troops were again ordered to advance straight into battle (and a river-crossing at that) without being allowed to make any reconnaissance. The net (and classic result) result was that a hidden Taleban force of some 100 or so ambushed a Canadian rifle company after they had crossed the river. Needless to say, after the Canadian extracted themselves, they had a little tete-a-tete with their American superiors, and afterwards they did it their way, eventually defeating an entrenched Taleban force of
    some 400-500 men by the end of the operation. Leadership and training is not just the problem of the British."



    Thank you for QEDing my point. What is it about this forum that makes people blame everything on the "US Americans"?

    Just a little prior knowledge, or 2 minutes of research and you would know that Medusa was a Canadian led, Canadian planned and Canadian run operation. There were some American aviation assets, because the modern Canadian Army seems to have forgotten the utility of helicopters when they got rid of theirs. Those Canadians, members of the Royal Canadian Regiment were ordered to cross that river, not by any American, but by their own general Fraser in Kandahar. To repeat, not ordered by Americans. I have no idea where you came up with your version of
    events, the Canadians admit it all, because they called Medusa a success. So much of a success that they had to redo it a few months later, this time they called it Operation Baaz Tsuka. They called that a success also.
    Cockups like that are one of the reasons for the schism between OEF and ISAF forces, when ISAF screws up and needs to get bailed out in a hurry, there may not be anybody awake back in Brunssum to authorize what needs to be done with what limited resources have been devoted to ISAF.

    You think things were peaceful in the southern provinces of Iraq? Small wonder, since it was primarily a Shia population. Sir Greenstock was the very definition of non-entity in the area of strategic thinking, in the CPA in Baghdad, and down south where the CPA gave him free rein to accomplish his mission, despite what he may claim today.

    I suggested to Comrade Ortmann that he only talk about what he knows about. Ibidem.
    You seem to know less about the situation in Afghanistan than he does, if that's possible.

    ReplyDelete
  20. You don't explain why they don't improve the training to the necessary standard to not only fight, but also win these expeditionary wars.

    Not so hard to explain. It's always a matter of time and material. We tend to put both into technology and learning to use it. There are only so many hours in the day and it's time consuming to learn all this high tech bullshit, and most importantly, to coordinate it. If it becomes necessary to change, like it did in Korea, we will emphasize what's needed. But for now we will do what we do. It's not necessarily a war winner but our casualties are low and that's that!

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  21. I try to avoid the more nationalistic arguments. But there's one thing that can always be counted on. The US is responsible for all problems in all areas of the any US inspired conflict. And that's as it should be. We run, pay for , and provide the vast majority of personal and resources. However, this doesn't mean that everyone else is doing it right. Furthermore, national identity plays an important role in all armed services. With the US being the big dog all the little dogs have a built in excuse for their own incompetence.

    I would count the British tactical sense in Iraq as a great asset. However, operationally they were a disappointment. Fulfilling even the simplest missions seems beyond them and often times they chose their own missions because they assured the US commanders that we didn't know what we were doing and if we left them to their own devices everything would work fine. When they are unable to complete those missions (which they choose) it was time to change it to something they can complete... which often times was of no value to the main effort... and still they criticized the US military.

    The Canadians did a great job in Afghanistan but like all military endeavors, nothing's perfect. They had a learning curve as did everyone else.

    One of the most humorous accounts of the entire war was from a female Times reporter who visited a hostile village with a new British unit and was present when a British Major explained to the local Pushtuns, "Don't worry, we're not Americans, we're British." Anyone who knows anything about Afghanistan or Afghans would know that they might as well have raped a twelve year old girl as to tell them they were British. I'm sure he'd been reading his own press about how incompetent and Brutal the Americans (every Brit seems to believe that we have no sense of history) are and forgot that the three wars they'd fought with the Afghans... Of course the Afghans remember it just fine and ambushed his company shortly after they left the village. Great hilarity ensued as the company ran for their lives. I always wondered how that British major addressed village elders after that?

    The Balkans told the tail. There's no will in European NATO to fight. Maybe amongst individual units and soldiers there is, but not at the senior military or civilian level. Still, this doesn't mean that the US shouldn't listen to criticism. Others tend to see us more accurately then we see ourselves and learning is the most important thing in the art of war.

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  22. Ignorance about military history is a terrible problem and I revisit that quite often here.

    http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2008/06/learning-from-past.html

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  23. "Just a little prior knowledge, or 2 minutes of research and you would know that Medusa was a Canadian led, Canadian planned and Canadian run operation. There were some American aviation assets, because the modern Canadian Army seems to have forgotten the utility of helicopters when they got rid of theirs. Those Canadians, members of the Royal Canadian Regiment were ordered to cross that river, not by any American...[] To repeat, not ordered by Americans."

    Indeed, I had misread some articles on my regimental association's website, and do indeed stand corrected on that point. My apologies.

    However, other NATO countries do not and never did possess the resources to handle Afghanistan in anything other than a very secondary role in support to a US main effort. And the effort continues. And as EN pointed out, there is little public will to really fight anyway. None of which excuses NATO lapses.

    But neither does it release the US from the increasing necessity (especially as resources grow thinner) to ensure that its individual fighting troops and small units receive much more (and more though) training from the individual through platoon and even company levels, starting particularly with intial entry training. Defense budgets are only going to get smaller for the foreseeable future, and resource-intensive and expensive technological solutions may be increasingly less available.

    Best,

    Norfolk

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  24. This is little off topic, but let me give you my military philosophy:

    "Armed forces are bad, even the good ones. They are bureaucracies of the political entities that spawned them and work no better or worse than other bureaucracies.

    Some men and units within the worst armies are good and some units within the best armies are bad.

    Armies are not sports teams. Great military victories can lead to devastation (Germany and Russia) and a losing record (the US since WW II and Britain during their colonial period) can lead to many successes. "


    At the knee of my foul mouthed and hard bitten Grandfather I learned some big truths. "A man can't believe his own bullshit!" Another one he used to throw around a lot is very useful for those of us who seem to be doing well. "It ain't easy to fuck up, it just takes time!" They were amusing when I was a child but upon entering the armed forces of my country it was clear that they were more then just amusing, they were truths that are severely neglected in military academies and university history departments.

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  25. I deleted an offensive anonymous comment in this place.

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  26. At its most basic point I agree with your notion of an American military being too center focused on technology and materials. Technology should not be the only source of problem solving being used by the US military. Your overall point was correct but you failed to full understand the complexity of the issue. Simply scaling back the US military budget will not solve the issues that have been plaguing our military. The real problem lies in the bureaucratic policies that have hindered our military since the onset of WWII. I wish talk mainly about the US Army and USMC in particular. The high command of the US army has way too much control over the actions taken in the field of battle. The US Army is way to top heavy when it comes to handling battlefield situations. The purpose for training officers and having NCO's is to lead and mold the grunts into an effective force. This requires on the spot decisions and often unconventional tactics that will suit their present situation. The army high command do not let their offices do their jobs but instead try to make decisions for them. This has lead many officers in the US Army and Marines to take matters in the own hands and disregard orders from above. Instead relying on their training and instincts to make the better of situations. German commanders interviewed at the end of WWII would comment on how hard it was to predict what kind of force the Americans would bring to the battlefield. Sometimes they would be a complete pushover and other times they would be complete hell to fight. This drastic difference seen among American forces was reflective of how US military command structure operated. To coincide with this there is also too much of an emphasis on following protocol. i.e the enemy does this..now you do that. Following a set of guidelines on how to fight has been a foolish element of the American military. And lastly the US military's need to constantly keep units at full capacity has done nothing but cause more casualties. Replacements always have had a much shorter life span in combat. Now I have some problems with your examples used. First off I have to dispel any notion that European military forces at infantry level are better or even equal to the average American grunt. The Wehtmacht was the last European military to hold any kind of total advantage over the US Military. Lets look at the only real proof there is. Actual wars post Korean War. First off France. Indochina 1950's Dien Bien Phu total disaster. Algerian War, France Lost. Britain Mau Mau Uprising,Suez Crisis, Malaysian Confrontation, The Troubles, and the Falkland Conflict have all been meet with limited success but none have been large enough to be considered an actual war and none have been against strong opponents. Germany nothing substantial since the end of the Second World War. As far as the First Gulf war is concerned it was a US victory. Iraq war has not proved that British soldiers are any better then US or anyone for that matter. What can be said is that both American and European military forces built on Cold War style conflicts are completely inadequate in fighting insurgency style conflicts. Your Winter War example was a poor choice, because the Red Army even though they had a material advantage was in very poor fighting condition prior to the conflict. The military purge brought on by Stalin killed off large amounts of Red Army officers that would have been vital to the war with Finland. Soviet Soldiers were freezing to death fighting a war where tanks and other military vehicles were rendered obsolete in the frigid conditions. If you really want to understand the set backs that have hurt US military performance read "Fighting Power" by Martin van Creveld. I enjoy your blog and your many excellent posts but try not to fall into the same nationalistic military obsessions that befall my many American counterparts. I hate hearing misguided bullshit from them as much as I hate hearing it from Brits and Europeans as well.

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  27. I didn't meant (or write) that the U.S. Americans were inferior to Europeans, but that they're a poor example for others and that their performance is underwhelming in comparison to their boasting and self-image.

    The Winter War was a humorous example, albeit it isn't as poor an example in my opinion as you make it look like.
    The Finns were very good tactically in their few Jäger units, likely world's best in several winter & forest warfare and sniping aspects.

    Martin van Creveld's Fighting Power - read it years ago, but I have some issues with it.
    He writes about the performance of U.S.Army versus German Wehrmacht, but his analysis is about the Wehrmacht of 1939-1942, not what it really did in 1943-1945 when it confronted the U.S.Army.
    The personnel policy and command principles were turned upside down by that time.
    He provides good info, but is conclusions and suggestions are worthless because he connects what cannot be connected.

    It has become almost mainstream to complain about the U.S. focus on (standoff) firepower, force protection and micromanagement in the years till about 2005 (the attention turned to 'new' COIN strategies in 2006).
    I usually don't write about my agreements with the mainstream, but in this case I couldn't hold it back. The quote was too extreme, and it was taken at face value by others.

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  28. In the book "Fighting Power" Van Creveld compared the casualties of German and American forces in a sampling of several engagements. He did talk about the Wehrmacht post 1942 by mentioning how the fallschirmjagers continued to hold the line at Monte Cassino even though their country was being invaded by both the Red Army in the east and the Combined US, Canadian, and British forces in the west. The purpose of the book was to understand how the Wehrmacht continued to fight on even though they were faced against huge odds. The 43-45 years best exemplify this kind of "Fighting Power". Your criticism that Van Creveld's conclusion is "worthless because he connects what cannot be connected" seems extremely vague. If you could explain what you mean by this that would be much appreciated.

    Moving over points to the points mentioned in your article.

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  29. Creveld diagnosed a difference in performance that couldn't be explained by numbers, tactical situations or material.

    He went on to investigate the differences in manpower training, organization, organization and such.

    The problem with this is that his description of the Heer was about the years 1939-1942, the intact Heer and its personnel system.
    (Fallschirmjäger were Luftwaffe personnel and the Luftwaffe did many things differently anyway despite being born by the Heer in 33-35).

    He uses the Heer of 1939-1942 to explain the Heer's performance in 1943-1945 when in fact the Heer had extremely changed and many characteristics that he mentions had been turned upside down.

    That's why his conclusions are worthless, albeit his description of the pre-'43 Heer and the U.S.Army is interesting.
    In fact, his conclusions are mostly 180° wrong because very often the opposite of what he described was in place during 1943-1945.

    He missed many possible explanations for the difference in performance anyway.

    This is too much for mere blog comments.
    You can dig more into the Heer's personnel, leadership and organizational sins of 1943-1945 to learn how poorly Creveld describes the circumstances of that time.

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