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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.

     Where i really disagree, is that Dover will be receiving "thousands of metal caskets."  If there is one thing our military leadership has proven, it's that they refuse to expose large scale concentrations of American GI's to situations that could cause mass casualties. When we invaded Iraq the first time, the disparity of firepower and Armor was so pronounced, that a rout was nearly inevitable. I believe that the Pentagon planners are no more likely to engage in "risky" operations now, then they were then, so the likelihood of large scale American casualties is quite remote, in my humble opinion.

   Also, while I agree that the "Axis of Evil" is a politically motivated creation, I cannot help but feel the world would be a better and safer place if these Nations (well, the leadership anyway) are hammered into oblivion. Just look at the hundreds of billions of dollars the US has spent safeguarding S. Korea since the 50's, and it makes sense to "Make that bill go away".  

     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.

                                                                                                      Bill Clarke

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 project.  We 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 countless graves.

                                                                                        Mahboob Khawaja

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.

Soldier Franks

     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 rank upward.

     This weekend's Washington Post account of what Afghan allies are saying (which boils down that Americans are led incompetently into land battle) leads the sensible reader to ask whether these Afghans have any sound reason for lying; or the Washington Post reporters for fabricating the Afghans' remarks. Well, none that I can discern. The sensible reader then asks whether that the Afghan leaders say will be used to help or protect our soldiers. And here, the sensible readers, in light of recent events, says well if you mean the supply of entrenching tools, probably no; but if you mean ensuring that Afghan leaders never speak to American reporters again, probably yes. This latter course would be of limited value to the allied soldiers, but might make Gen Franks more comfortable as he changes into his Washington combat camos.

                                                                                 Name Withheld

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

                                                                                  Name Withheld

Ed. That bungled operation violated at least three of the four rules I wrote about last year; read: Update 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

     In the U.S. Army’s latest Afghan adventures that went by the title of “Operation Anaconda,” we have a metaphor for much that’s wrong about the U.S. military. An over-reliance on technology coupled with an attempt to control the information. Army Public Affairs Officer’s (PAOs) tried very hard to change their rhetoric as reality started blowing holes in their original stories, but this only damaged army credibility. When reporters finally gained access to the area their sense of skepticism at Pentagon, CENTCOM and Bagram press briefings proved entirely justified. Lot’s of ordnance was dropped and many claims were made but not many bodies and only one prisoner were found. It’s clear that the Mujahideen dispersed and escaped once again.

     Anaconda was originally described as an attempt to encircle, then destroy and capture “thousands” of al Qaeda troops who had been massing for an offensive in the Shah e Kot region. As of now there's no evidence to suggest we accomplished our original goal. This operation was specifically meant to correct the errors of the operation at Tora Bora, where the Mujahideen had disappeared, supposedly because our inadequate Afghan allies had failed, allowing al Qaeda to escape. At Anaconda our smart weapons, high tech intelligence methods, Special Forces and indigenous forces operating on the ground, were supplemented with a brigade of U.S. army ground troops from the 101st Airmobile Divisions and the 10th mountain Division. In the end the result was the same at Shah e Kot as at Tora Bora, a few dozen bodies and lots of empty caves.

     We've developed an almost cult-like belief that our high technology systems and information control can bring us victory. Information control can cover up our high tech failures for a while but eventually the press is going to find out when the enemy turns up alive. One only has to read the before and after coverage of Anaconda to realize that the press is already starting to have grave doubts about DoD provided information. Then there's the object of all this disinformation, the American people. No one expects the Army to tell all, but if it looks like the government is covering up its own incompetence then the administration will pay at the polls and eventually support for the military will dry up. There's a lot of information to suggest that if Anaconda wasn't run incompetently, it was at least run without enough thought.

     We've been through this before in Vietnam and didn't learn anything. A strong case can be made that the military's reaction to failure is exactly the opposite of what it should have been. Somehow we've come to believe that our high technology, mainly in the form of air power, didn't fail because of over reliance but because we needed more. The American people didn't withdraw their support because we lied in Vietnam but because we didn't control the information even better (a lie isn't a lie, it's bad spin). DoD can turn reality on it's head for only so long before the bill comes due.

                                                                    Emery NelsonGIF Photo

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 this soldier.  

American Light Infantry

      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?

                                                            Chris Louviere

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

Can Americans Handle the Truth?

      It's nice to know that the lost art of thinking logically is still out there somewhere. Unfortunately, most Americans are still drunk with nationalism and can't handle certain truths.  Thanks for seeing things the way they actually are.

                                                              James Pruitt

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.

                                                                 Reid Smith

Ed. Bullhorns would also be great for artillery units so gun crews can wear full hearing protection and still hear commands.

Hearing Aids

     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.

                                                                  Bill Tharp

Supply Bombs and Barges

     The concept of cargo bombs is nice, but there are some things that can be improved on it.  Couldn't napalm tanks or big drop tanks be adapted fairly easily? They're big, light, built to be filled and then dropped and they should be readily available. Also, these things should be guided and retarded. Preferably GPADS-L or similar should be built in. That way high altitude deliveries should be doable without too much scatter.

     For a really wild idea, are drop tanks big enough to take a soldier and his gear? Think of it as the ultimate in deep penetration troop insertion.  Dropped from high altitude, a trooper drop capsule could be built to open up in midair at 5,000 foot AGL or thereabouts. You would just need a drag chute on the capsule instead of a guidance system. You would also need almost suicidal troops, but it would be one hell of a ride.

     The fuel barge idea also seems to have a lot of merit. If you have a river available, you should make every effort to use it as a bulk transport route, not just for fuel. You say the barge you mention is self-propelled, but just how fast is it? I assume that for any long riverine trip it would have to be pushed or pulled by a tug. A proper riverine tanker might actually be preferable.  With the landing pad added on, it makes some sense to base the CH-53F Dragon Cows you proposed on them.  What could also be done is tie the fuel barge to a second barge with stores and a helipad. That way you can base a Cow on the fuel barge to make fuel deliveries and still have fly-in access for visitors. Fuel can simply be pumped across.

   The fuel barge idea can also be combined with the LSB you mentioned last month. I don't know if you could just lay out some big fuel bladders in an LSB's hold and put a TEU filled with pumps on board, but it shouldn't be too hard to find out. If it isn't possible, how many full 20' bulk liquids containers or PLS fuel tank flatracks can be carried?

   With this you can swat several flies at once. You then have an ocean- capable ship capable of being quickly rigged as a freighter, tanker or vehicle transport. It can have a helipad and can even be beached to offload its cargo (whatever type). To top it off, the type is already in service.  Hell, the LSB could even serve as a surrogate roving PX, as per your December article.

                                                                                       Name Withheld

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. 

                                                                Bjorneby Walter

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.
See <> for there concepts.



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

The Missile Defense Agency has moved a lethality test of the Airborne Laser, originally scheduled for late fiscal year 2003, to the first quarter of FY-05 in an attempt to lower program risk, according to an MDA spokeswoman and budget documents. The lethality test is designed to prove ABL's ability to shoot down a Scud missile-like target.

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."