"Sgt. Giunta's fair fight"

By Robert H. Scales and Paul van Riper

Scales and van Riper do correctly point out that peacetime efforts of armies are supposed to give an unfair advantage over the enemy in wartime. They complain that this was not done for modern infantry, as evidenced by (in their opinion) fair infantry combat in Afghanistan.

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I would like to point out several problems in this article:


Is infantry combat in Afghanistan really "fair"? They appear to have very high expectations, for I would count bulletproof vest plates, marksmanship training, indirect fire support and air support in the available quantity already as very unfair.


They appear to have believed in the Revolutions in Military Affairs (RMA) fashion's promises, have observed how RMA largely failed in Iraq and Afghanistan and now they aren't irritated by the failure the slightest bit. Instead, they demand a greater push for RMA (for perfect situational awareness thanks to robotic eyes in the sky). This appears to be a 'little bit' inflexible. 
Granted, they also point out movement mistakes (not securing the high ground), but those movement mistakes are a result of the addition of heavy hard body armour.


"Yet as a proportion of total combat deaths, infantry deaths have increased from 71 percent in World War II to 81 percent in wars fought since."
This doesn't seem to be a proper remark because this statistic is dominated by  the wars in Korea and Vietnam, not by the two 2000's wars. The infantry's share of losses has in fact dropped to a low recently because the enemies target everyone who's on the road, not just and not primarily infantry. Non-infantry units had to serve as auxiliary infantry and had casualties in those missions as well.


How exactly do these two quotes fit together without a serious dissonance?

Too often defense gurus inside the Beltway still view war as a science project.

After nine years of war, no small unit in such peril should ever cede the high ground to the enemy, particularly when unmanned vehicles are capable of monitoring constantly overhead and transmitting clear pictures of the surrounding terrain.

Ortmann to Scales and van Riper: You should not blame technology whores and then propose a high tech fix yourself!


They should be asking why the richest nation on Earth could not have done more to help this small infantry unit spot the enemy ambush from the air and defeat them with overwhelming killing power.
Did they seriously suggest that the U.S. should spend more on the military? The quote certainly sounds as if they blame the civilian world for the infantry's woes. This sounds ridiculous with the incredible spending levels in the background. They should rather blame the dysfunctional procurement system and the military service itself - than the nation.

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Here are my proposals for fixing the problem:


Don't fight stupid, useless wars of choice.

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OK, maybe readers would want to read alternatives just in case
someone really believes the occupation_war_against_the_guys_
the_guys_who actually_attacked_the_U.S._many_years_ago (and
died in the process) is a war of necessity even many years after
they lost power:


Don't red tape them with excessive force protection requirements (armoured vehicles which cannot leave the 'roads', heavy body armour plates, airspace deconfliction).


Don't force them into stupid behaviour (commute to war, predictable patrols).


Re-structure the ground forces if you're in a multi-year fight in order to meet the demand for military police and infantry troops (instead of retaining the peacetime all-round structure).


Re-think the American Way of War, which fared poorly every time it faced infantry-centric forces which were neither trapped on small islands nor composed of elderly and boys. Produce something different than the extreme caricature of this way of war that is known as "RMA".


Think about diversifying infantry into light and heavy again - for combined operations, not for very different battles. The fight for hill and mountain tops was the job of lightly laden light infantry before the 19th century when all infantry became standardized. The skirmishers with their light weapons and no or light armour fought for the hill tops and ridge-lines, the heavy infantry with body armour and large shields advanced in the valley and was sent into the larger fights.
Maybe modern infantry could split up into lightweight and full kit as well to be both superior in firepower+protection and in positioning?



  1. Point 1.
    The War may be unfair with the advantage to the Americans, but that specific battle was quite different (I assume, I havent dug out the reports), with the insurgents having both high ground, position, surprise, ect.

    Point 2.
    The RMA isnt quite what was hoped for, but had this isolated patrol left one member back at base, and that one member was controlling a high endurance UAV with a thermal camera, the ambush would have been spotted and counter ambushed.
    I read the high ground bit as the high ground should have been under constant guard.

    Point 3.
    I dont have any numbers

    Point 4.
    Are UAV's high tech? I supopose it depends what you're comparing them to.
    A flying thermal cam is relativly "low" tech (cost?) compared to an F16 or a Hypervelocity Cruise Missile.

    Point 5
    The US military budget is actualy quite small and the cost of Platoon Level UAV's is miniscule.

    Suggestion 1
    The Government decides who to fight and how, the authors are merely suggesting better ways.
    Customary Hospilitary is 72 hours, not decades.
    They may no longer be in power, but if the US pulled out today, they would retake it in weeks.

    Suggestion A
    Vehicle mobility is overrated, a massive amount of UK combat deaths are soldiers riding "mobile" vehicles

    Suggestion B
    But its hard to be unpredictable for 10 years.

    True, but the numbers required for occupation are immense.

    Definatly Rethink, but I disagree with your assessment of its historic record.
    The Current US military is set up to annihilate states a functional entities, and it can do that very well.
    I'd say it needs to rethink the results it wants, and then rethink how to achieve it.

    Interesting idea, but probably precluded by the extreme casualty aversion.
    Like it or not, Light infantry will be used as heavy infantry and die in droves, just like tankers are used as auxillary infantry and die in droves.

    All the two really seem to be asking for is a massive role out of UAV's, which is both affordable and effective.
    If not the best solution.

  2. 1) Technological gadgets don't help against poor positioning. In fact, they may contribute to it.

    2) Thee were enough eyes in the sky during the battle of Tora Bora and still half of the OPFOR positions were not detected before small arms fire contact.

    4) F-16's are mostly much, much lower tech (70's technology) than thermal imagers (90's tech). Both is high-tech in comparison tot he 60's infantry equipment used by the opponent.

    5) Was your remark about the U.S. military budget humour?

    Your Suggestion 1) It's a common assertion that the TB would reclaim power quickly, but there's no evidence that they could pull it off at all. It's just an assertion. Their income would drop sharply after a withdrawal be cause they couldn't blackmail the convoys any more.

    (D) Iraq's army was not infantry-centric. It had much infantry, but that was worthless either because of unsuitable terrain or because of low morale.

  3. True, they were poorly positioned, and shouldnt have been, but I was merely suggesting that in that instance, the insurgents not the americans had the advantage.

    Were there enough? There many, but were there enough?
    As I said, if it were up to me, every troop, if not section, would have a man back at "home" controlling a UAV and providing constant C4ISTAR for his little war.

    As for High Tech, You can order a thermal camera and it will be with you in a few days, most video cameras come with it. You cant order an F16 from Amazon.

    No Humour, the US military budget is quite low, both historicaly and comparitavly.
    Its higher than the current Western European average, but thats at a very low level.

    The Taliban were deprived of their major source iof funds once the Soviets pulled out, the Northern Alliance still fell to them, although it did hold on for quite a while.
    It would still have support from Pakistan and from within Afghanistan, whereas the Mayor of Kabul has no other support, except possibly India.

    Infantry are only of any use if someone wants your mud.
    They serve no function if the USAF just pummels your state back to a pre electric level.

  4. You can't order a P-51 from Amazon. That doesn't make the P-51 high-tech.

    You should seriously look at the U.S. military budget. You can't possibly think of the real world budget. It's impossible to call that one "low".
    Their bureaucracy is incompetent enough to prevent large procurements and they squander a lot of money, so they don't get as much out of it as a few decades earlier, but it's not the fault of the budget size.

    About Taliban; the Taliban didn't really exist in 1989. They were created later by the ISI and they got their support from ISI - and still get.

    A withdrawal from Afghanistan cannot be equated with a withdrawal of support for the mayor of Kabul as you falsely did.
    Besides; there are enough power in the region who do not want to see Taliban in Kabul, first of all Russia which battled Taliban-related insurgents in bordering CIS states during the 90's and which provided hardware to the Northern Alliance for their offensive in 2001.

  5. true, support doesnt just mean manpower.
    Defence of the realm did an interesting piece called 'where angels fear to tread' on the wider issue, its complicated, and would likely involve borders redrawn from the caspian to bangladesh and as far north as russia.

    The pashtun want a homeland, thats southern afghanistan and northern pakistan, if they get that, the baluchs will almost certainly kick off, by which point, pakistan barely exists.
    If iran loses its east, the kurds will take its northwest, its not a stretch to see this reignighting a war over cyprus...

  6. The Cyprus thing is about the Turkish, not about Kurds.

    Sometime in the future, one of three things has to happen in many places of the world:
    - nations/tribes lose relevance to the people
    - borders are being withdrawn to match nation/tribe borders where possible
    - people learn to live together in one state, no matter what nation or tribe

    It's a late cost of imperialism.