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I agree with many of your points, and disagree with a few.
First, I am in total agreement with the need for armor in
Afdirtistan. A repeat of the Somali debacle is the last thing this nation needs.
The JCS reluctance to commit the necessary troop levels
to Afdirtistan, and their disinterest in preventing the Al Qaeda leadership from fleeing to
Pakistan by air prior to the battle for Kunduz troubles me to no end. It looks as if political meddling is alive and well in
the 21st century, with
regards to military operations. Alas, it appears we truly have learned next
to nothing in regard to the lessons of Vietnam and Somalia.
My problem with all this, of course, is that I do not
believe the political will is present to drive to total victory. Just imagine if we had allowed
Hirohito, Hitler, and Mussolini to remain in power after WWII!!! So if we're gonna do this, then
I say, "Fine, let's
go all the way". Unfortunately, I do not believe the will is present, and all we will be
doing is spinning our wheels.
Ed. That's the big problem with invading Iraq. If the Republican Guard stays loyal, its not going to sit out in the desert waiting to get hit. They will hide in the cities and invite Americans to come fight man-to-man, which would be a bloody mess. If that happens, the US should form a new Iraqi government with Iraqi military officers and their troops, then send them into the cities to "free" Iraq. Of course, this would take weeks to organize while politicians press Generals to finish the job. Meanwhile, the USA would become feared by friendly dictators in the region and and face expulsion from bases.
The "North Korean Threat" is one of the biggest lies in America. South Korea is five times stronger than the North, but powerful people make billions of dollars a year off this lie, (read The Mythical North Korean Threat)
Thank you for your implicit reflection on the War of
the so few. Seemingly, Afghan war appears irrelevant
to 9-11 events in NY and Washington. Like the Gulf War
91, it is an adventure complemented by corporate greed to foster new conflicts in support of economic
development and global influence. To American
strategists, the dilemma is how to end the game with
some rational conclusion. It is a formidable task and
continue to live in an age of rising expectations.
Sadly enough, America lost another opportunity to
RETHINK its role as a peacemaker and reassert its
vitality as the only surviving superpower for the best
of mankind, certainly not as a world leader bombing the already deprived and dead people and their
Ed. If you want a quick view of what's happening in Afghanistan, go to your video store and rent "Go Tell the Spartans", a brilliant movie about US Army advisors in 1964 Vietnam. This Burt Lancaster movie was too realistic to garner awards.
I don't claim to have any particular knowledge of today's
soldiers, and I gather from military briefings by Rumsfeld and a man named Franks who
believes in dressing up like a soldier-in-action for the short walk from
his Washington office into a Washington press briefing room -- I gather from
these briefings that even the word "soldier" is out of fashion; but I
am confident that men who go into combat today are pretty much the same as the men who
went into combat during, say, World War II ... those being deified as the
greatest generation that ever lived. I'm increasingly of the opinion that if your
boy goes to be a soldier today, he'll work his tail off, he'll be as brave and
as dedicated as his predecessors, he'll be better equipped than any soldiers before him -- including American soldiers five years ago -- and he'll be
committed to battle by fools and there, led by fools. Fools from Captain
Ed. I think today's soldier is inferior to those of WW II, primarily because the Army has become soft (e.g. politically correct.) Also, most WW II soldiers were relatively poor and happy to have three meals and a cot. That being said, most were not happy to fight. They were like Bob Dole, who managed to avoid combat duty during his first three years in the Army. He and several of his men were wounded during Dole's first taste of combat when a grenade Dole threw hit a nearby tree and bounced back.Most Americans are what imperialists call "isolationists". If Mexico invades Arizona, every American will rush to join up without pay. However, no one wants to sign up for a vague "regime change" in Iraq, or to wander the high mountains with heavy packs while crazed Arabs shoot at them from above. Keep in mind the Afghans have fought there all their lives. I'm sure if you dropped off a group of Afghans in Times Square and told them to go find and kill terrorists, they'd be frighten, confused, and prove incompetent.
General Franks seems like a decent man who shouldn't be pushed by Rumsfeld to spend several hours each week answering silly questions from incompetent reporters, that's what Majors are for. It was fun to watch him dance when a reporter asked him why American troops are fighting without armor or artillery. He said as a career artillery officer, blah, blah, blah, and that they have mortars (only 81mm) and 105mm cannon support (from occasional AC-130 gunships strikes). Armor support is now provided by Afghan T-55 tanks and Canadian APCs since the Army political machine refuses to fly-in armor and endanger its LAV program.
Franks is a typical product of the US military, intelligent but not brilliant. He lives in constant fear of making a mistake or upsetting political leaders, reads very little outside the office, and wants to be liked by all. He feels his mission is to avoid casualties, cover-up mistakes, find ways for everyone to participate in the conflict, and sell the idea that a bigger military is needed to tame the world. He has never known anyone that didn't work for the government or its contractors, but is certain the civilian world is filled with inferior souls who earn too much money.
Confusion in Afghanistan
The corporate media slipped up and leaked a bit of the truth during a PBS Newshour interview:
MARK THOMPSON: Well, basically, there we were putting in soldiers who... the way we're fighting this war is we're bombing, soldiers come in by helicopter, they try to raise guys out of caves and shoot them dead, so that's sort of seesawing - it's going back and forth. And what happened here was, you had a pair of helicopters go in, they came under fire. Surprisingly, one of the helicopters jerked away.
The Navy petty officer, a Seal, fell out, didn't realize it immediately. As soon as they did realize it, the helicopter from which he fell out had been wrecked a little bit. They had to land over here. Within actually three hours they called in reinforcements. These other guys came in to try to find that guy who had actually been dragged away by Al-Qaida and had been killed. As the two new helicopters came in, and it landed pretty close to the original, where the Seal went down, they came under great fire and had a hard landing. They had a hard landing, the guys came out the rear ramp of the helicopter and-- bang-- it was almost as if... you can make the argument that it was an ambush, that they were laying in wait knowing this one guy was here, and, "Hey, more Americans are going to try to come to rescue him," and some people think that is what happened.
The full interview is at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/military/jan-june02/assault_3-8.html
Ed. That bungled operation violated at least
three of the four rules I wrote about last year; read:
Helicopter Assault Tactics.
Here's an excerpt from the New York Times
(3-11-02) about the 10th "Mountain" division's winter assault into the
high mountains: "Second Lt. Christopher
Blaha, from Great Neck, N.Y., slumping outside the tent he shares with soldiers
from his 28-man rifle platoon, described spending three nights in the open
without sleeping bags after commanders redrew the battle plan. His platoon
and troops from the First Battalion of the division's 87th Infantry Regiment
landed in the mountains with only small blankets and no rubber bed mats, he
said, and at night they huddled together for warmth on three inches of snow.
When they awoke, their water bottles were frozen."
Coming to Grips With Anaconda
Ed: The Army has decided to train an Afghan Army
while it continues to train the local militias, an obvious conflict. It
will now build Bagram into a big permanent base, something President Bush said
we would not do. Fort Bagram will need counter-battery radar to locate the
source of those mortar rounds which will soon be incoming, and 120mm mortars or
howitzers to respond. The photo to the right is an MP from the 10th
Mountain at Bagram, displaying the peacetime Army habit of mounting machine guns
on top of light trucks without gun shields. She's wearing body armor, but
I guess a helmet might muss up her hair, and women aren't allowed in combat
roles anyway. The machine gun is mounted too high for her to fire
accurately, unless an air attack is expected. I can't imagine what
primitive Afghan mountain people, who treat women like dirt, think when they see
If every time we as a military have been
beaten on the battlefield by light infantry soldiers with no armor or high tech
equipment, why is it we think that piling on more armor and more high tech
equipment is going to help us out? There is a definite pattern here.
Korea, hordes of Chinese Infantry and we have a stalemate. Vietnam, well
disciplined, trained, and motivated light infantry lacking the most rudimentary
field equipment that we take for granted beat us silly and had us shooting at
shadows, with ammo expenditures that rate up in the astronomical when compared
to actual confirmed killed and wounded...and eventually we were forced to leave
by public pressure. Somalia, hordes of untrained...undisciplined Somalis
with cell phones and dime store RPGs acting as uncoordinated light infantry and
we still lose. I can't help but ask myself why we don't just train our
light infantry to fight theirs?
Ed: America can produce excellent light infantry, but firepower saves lives. In all these conflicts we got a kill ratio of something like 10 to 1. Even still, when you start to get large numbers of casualties the American people want to know why we are there. The politicians use the "fighting for freedom" line for while, but it never holds up, so we pull out.
This reminds me of Vietnam expert John Paul Vann upsetting
people during the Vietnam War. General Westmoreland was assuring everyone
we would win because of our 10 to 1 kill ratio. Vann would point out that
North Vietnam has five million able bodied men who could fight. At that
time the US had suffered around 25,000 killed, so to kill 5,000,000 North Vietnamese
soldiers we should expect 500,000 more American dead in order to win.
After 50,000 dead, the American people forced our government to just let that unbalanced
domino fall over
Ed. Bush promised the military tribunals will be fair and just, but when asked about "detainee" treatment in Cuba, Bush said we should remember that: "these people are killers".Bullhorns are Great
Combat bullhorns are a great idea, anyone who has been in charge during a live fire maneuver recognizes the need for a tool like this. On most Army static live fire ranges (M-16, zero etc) due to safety reasons you can not even open a live fire range without a functioning public address system. Should maneuver ranges receive any less consideration? If anything they should receive more consideration for a tool like this.
Another thing that gets a lot of lip service is hearing protection. In combat soldiers frequently become temporarily deaf due to gunfire and explosions. This is especially acute in the MOUT environment. Of course soldiers don't use hearing protection during initial contact because they want to hear commands and the enemy approach. We always ended up compromising and used one ear plug so that we would at least have one good ear to use when things got quiet. If you had bullhorns, soldiers could use ear plugs in both ears and still be able to hear commands.
For several years now, a device has been available called the Walker's Game Ear, developed for hunters and recreational shooters, using micro electronics it can enhance hearing during quiet periods (it'd be great on LP/OP) and also block out any harmful noise levels. Best of all it is no bigger than a hearing aid. Everyone who uses them loves 'em.
Ed. Bullhorns would also be great for artillery units so gun crews can wear full hearing protection and still hear commands.
After reading your article, it occurred to me that a simple ultra-sonic bullhorn could be picked up by a "hear-aid" earpiece worn by troops. This would provide a secure, silent method of direct communication.
Supply Bombs Used Before
We did this in South East Asia - BLU1B napalm canisters were used as containers. It wouldn't be that had to rig drogue chutes on them, either. A JDAM guidance system could be used on a gliding vehicle to put a resupply container within say 100 meters.
Separate thought about Afghanistan- where are the snipers? One troop on TV said the bad guys come out of their caves after a bomb strike and dance around taunting them. M16s can't shoot that far or nobody on our side can shoot accurately? So, according to that newspaper story the troops went in to a mountain locale without taking a shelter half or poncho and nothing to keep warm during the night?
a) I knew better than that before I was ever a teenager, but then I was born in Alaska.
b) That's not very smart at all.
c) What kind of training did these troops have before going to Afghanistan?
d) What the hell kind of superior officers do they have to just dump troop into a place like that with insufficient gear? And what were the NCOs doing?
e) From what I know of the place it's pretty much the same as the Rockies just west of where I live. Nobody sane would go camping up topside of Estes Park any time of year without cold weather gear and plenty of it.
f) Back to snipers - is this another weapon we'll have to reinvent? Although I spent my 29 years as a zoomie and fighter pilot I still know how to shoot and I know what a good bolt rifle can do - until it was stolen down in Miami I owned a Winchester Model 70 Varminter in .243 that was a tack-driver right out of the box. With handloads it would put 5 rounds into a circle the size of a quarter at 200 yards. Wonder how the Army trains their infantry to shoot the M16. The USAF 'qualified' me on a 1000-inch range. Glad I already knew how to shoot and hit before I went to South East Asia. I trust the Marines still emphasize marksmanship.
Ed: The lack of snipers and sleeping bags startled everyone. The reason they are reluctant to bring in artillery and heavy vehicles is all they have is an "air bridge". If they want to send reinforced battalions on frequent "search and destroy" missions, they need an overland supply route to the sea. Of course if you establish one, al Qaeda will swarm on it. And if they want to do hundreds of helo sorties a day, they need a fuel pipeline too. Vietnam with its long coastline was far, far easier to support than this mess.
Drop Troops as Bombs
A UK company, AVPRO, has start researching this idea a couple years ago.
Ed: Last June, I attacked the Airborne Laser program as a fraud (see Airborne Laser Swindle), noting the range needed is unachievable, and stabilizing the laser beam while airborne impossible.
Inside Missile Defense -
March 6, 2002
MDA recently assumed management of the program from the Air Force, which has consistently said the program was on track for the FY-03 test. MDA spokeswoman Maj. Catherine Reardon told Inside Missile Defense March 5 that when MDA took control of the program, officials decided to lengthen the overall ABL program schedule "because our philosophy is we want to provide lower risk and higher-confidence schedules for all of our missile defense programs."