Monday, March 12, 2007

Army Strong, Army Dumb

The Guardian Unlimited reports that at an Association of the Army meeting in Fort Lauderdale, FL last week, top U.S. generals admitted that Iraqi rebels are smarter than they are.

Did these "top U.S. generals" honestly think the rest of us hadn't noticed that?


From the Guardian:
In Vietnam, the US was eventually defeated by a well-armed, closely directed and highly militarised society that had tanks, armoured vehicles and sources of both military production and outside procurement. What is more devastating now is that the world's only superpower is in danger of being driven back by a few tens of thousands of lightly armed irregulars, who have developed tactics capable of destroying multimillion-dollar vehicles and aircraft.

One three-star general at the conference told the Guardian that "Iraq and Afghanistan are sucking up resources at a faster rate than we planned for."

That kind of razor's edge analysis is the reason those three-stars make the big bucks.

The same three-star also said, "America's warriors need the latest technology to defeat an enemy who is smart, agile and cunning--things we did not expect of the Soviets."

The Guardian article doesn't identify this three-star (of course), but it doesn't matter. If guys like him are making three-stars in the U.S. Army, it's little wonder the U.S. Army is getting its chin socked by numerically and technically inferior force.

The U.S. Army already has the latest technology--at least the latest technology that has been fielded. If an Army three-star thinks mo' better technology will make up for lack of smarts and agility, well, we may as well disband the Army.

Bullets versus Arrows

We developed our World War II and Cold War military to counter adversaries who had significant and organized air, land and sea forces.

Technological advances aside, the basic components of today's U.S. military are the same as the force we had in the latter portion of the 20th century: armor, artillery infantry, special forces, aircraft carriers, surface combatant ships, submarines, fighter and bomber aircraft, air and amphibious assault.

The adversaries we're fighting today don't have any of those things, and they're kicking our cans up and down the sidewalk at will.

High tech, mobile forces are designed and trained to defeat other high tech, mobile forces. Insurgencies, they don't do so well at. In multi-sided Hobbesian conflicts like the one we're witnessing in Iraq, they positively suck. The U.S. Army hasn't been worth a spit shine at fighting asymmetrical, counter-insurgency style wars since it won the west from the Indians.

Planning for Failure

General David Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, will attempt to execute the Army's new counterinsurgency doctrine (which he played a large part in formulating) in that country, but even he reportedly gives the "surge" plan only a one in four chance of succeeding.

How are things going? This from Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post :
Soon after arriving in Iraq, [NBC News anchor] Brian Williams was listening to an Army colonel describe how much safer Ramadi had gotten when another soldier shouted that it was too dangerous to stand there and hustled them inside the military outpost.

Days later at the Baghdad airport, Williams and his team heard five explosions, saw smoke rising near the taxiway in front of them, and were relieved to board the Fokker jet that carried them out of the country.

I wasn't at all surprised to read in the Los Angeles Times that…
American military planners have begun plotting a fallback strategy for Iraq that includes a gradual withdrawal of forces and a renewed emphasis on training Iraqi fighters in case the current troop buildup fails…

If the man in charge says there's a 75 percent chance of failure, it's a good idea to plan on him being right.

A senior Pentagon official told the LA Times "This part of the world has an allergy against foreign presence," and that the chances of the surge's success may be diminishing. "You have a window of opportunity that is relatively short. Your ability to influence this with a large U.S. force eventually gets to the point that it is self-defeating."

It's too bad we didn’t think about that "allergy against foreign presence" thing before we decided to become the presence that caused the allergy. And it's entirely tragic that we committed our "best-trained, best equipped" force into a situation where it was all but guaranteed to defeat itself.

It's sadder still that after spending itself into the sand on a low odds escalation strategy, our land forces will adopt a periphery redeployment posture sometime in 2008 that resembles what Congressman Jack Murtha (D-PA) proposed in November of 2005.

Time flies when you're having fun, doesn't it?


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.


  1. Bacon's Rebellion12:19 AM


    If you've ever watched the happy-talk briefings by general officers emanating from either the Pentagon or the "Emerald City" then you have a pretty clear idea of what sort of officers are being promoted to flag rank these days. I gather that one of the seminal criteria for flag rank today is that you must be very tall. I cannot ever recall seeing so many very tall general officers or so may incompetent and stupid ones either. It is almost as if the drawings of the late H. Charles McBarron had suddenly been used as the template for deciding whom would be selected for senior flag rank.

    Admittedly very tall general officers do look impressive when "trooping the line". That is provided that they have at least the minimal intelligence required to keep in step with the band music. It almost brings back visions of Frederick the Great's Potsdam Grenadiers. They weren't really very useful either but they certainly were tall.

    All of this would be a lot more amusing if these towering clowns and buffoons that currently style themselves as general officers weren't getting a lot of soldiers and Marines shot up and shredded on a daily basis.

  2. "The same three-star also said, 'America's warriors need the latest technology to defeat an enemy who is smart, agile and cunning--things we did not expect of the Soviets.'" Never waste an opportunity for sales & marketing of the so-called Future Combat System, I guess. Clearly an array of "net-enabled" complex vehicles will do the trick against irregulars. Just keep the taxpayer dollars flowin' our way, folks. We know what's best.

  3. Anonymous9:41 AM

    Where does the fun go when you're doin time? (in Iraq)

    MeMyself Eye

  4. I'm still shaking my head about needing more technology to beat a smarter enemy.


  5. More & expensive tech as the universal problem-solver seems to be the legacy of Rumsfeld. It seems that the word assymetric in the term assymetric warfare just doesnt ring any bells at all among your planning staff.

    What youre involved with in Baghdad is basically a five ways+ gang-fight, much better analyzed as a free-for-all mafia war than as a conventional set-piece battle. Technology will not give you control of the streets. By this point, I doubt anything will.

  6. Anonymous1:25 PM

    This just in from the AP:

    It looks like we are, in fact, planning to hit Iran.

    WASHINGTON, March 13, 2007

    AP) Democratic leaders are stripping from a military spending bill for the war in Iraq a requirement that President Bush gain approval from Congress before moving against Iran.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other leaders agreed to remove the requirement concerning Iran after conservative Democrats as well as other lawmakers worried about its possible impact on Israel, officials said Monday.

    The overall bill — which requires that the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by Sept. 1, 2008, if not earlier — remained on schedule for an initial test vote Thursday in the House Appropriations Committee.

    The measure provides nearly $100 billion to pay for two wars and includes more money than Mr. Bush had requested for operations in Afghanistan and what Democrats called training and equipment shortages.
    Still, House Republicans said they wouldn't support it and the White House threatened a veto.

    "Republicans will continue to stand united in this debate, and will oppose efforts by Democrats to undermine the ability of General (David) Petraeus and our troops to achieve victory in the Global War on Terror," Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement.

    Vice President Dick Cheney criticized supporters of the bill's withdrawal provisions, declaring in a speech Monday that they "are telling the enemy simply to watch the clock and wait us out."

    Pelosi issued a written statement that said the vice president's remarks prove that "the administration's answer to continuing violence in Iraq is more troops and more treasure from the American people."

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement that America was less safe today because of the war. The president "must change course, and it's time for the Senate to demand he do it," he added.

    The Iran-related proposal stemmed from a desire to make sure Mr. Bush did not launch an attack without going to Congress for approval, but drew opposition from numerous members of the rank and file in a series of closed-door sessions last week.

    Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said in an interview that there is widespread fear in Israel about Iran, which is believed to be seeking nuclear weapons and has expressed unremitting hostility about the Jewish state.

    "It would take away perhaps the most important negotiating tool that the U.S. has when it comes to Iran," she said of the now-abandoned provision.

    "I didn't think it was a very wise idea to take things off the table if you're trying to get people to modify their behavior and normalize it in a civilized way," said Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y.

    Several officials said there was widespread opposition to the proposal at a closed-door meeting last week of conservative and moderate Democrats, who said they feared tying the hands of the administration when dealing with an unpredictable and potentially hostile regime in Tehran.

    Public opinion has swung the way of Democrats on the issue of the war. More than six in 10 Americans think the conflict was a mistake — the largest number yet found in AP-Ipsos polling.

    But Democrats have struggled to find a compromise that can satisfy both liberals who oppose any funding for the military effort and conservatives who do not want to unduly restrict the commander in chief.

    "This supplemental should be about supporting the troops and providing what they need," Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla., said Monday upon returning from Iraq. Boren said he plans to oppose any legislation setting a clear deadline for troops to leave.

    In his speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Cheney chided lawmakers who are pressing for tougher action on Iran to oppose the president on the Iraq war.

    "It is simply not consistent for anyone to demand aggressive action against the menace posed by the Iranian regime while at the same time acquiescing in a retreat from Iraq that would leave our worst enemies dramatically emboldened and Israel's best friend, the United States, dangerously weakened," Cheney said.
    © MMVII The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

  7. Cheney said: "Anyone can say they support the troops and we should take them at their word, but the proof will come when it's time to provide the money."

    It's times like this that it's really hard to support democrats. Instead of dealing with this blowhard, they fold like a cheap card table.

    Not a single one of them thought of calling his bluff. Where were the calls for doing it right. Proper training and equipment. Raise recruiting standards, and increase pay to bring in the troops we need. Fully fund the VA, including mental health services. While we're at it, we can show the responsibility to pay off the debts that were mistakenly run up before.

    To pay for this, we’ll just cancel all those tax cuts. Anyone can say they support the troops and we should take them at their word, but the proof will come when it's time to provide the money

  8. Jeff, the successful counterinsurgency ops I've read about -- the Nazis in WWII Europe, Imperial Rome in most places, for example -- have invariably hinged on use of tactics like collective punishment, mass public executions, razing neighborhoods and villages, and other, similar actions we now classify as war crimes.

    Obviously Gen. P. doesn't have these tactics available to him and from what I've seen he has yet to explain exactly how his own, new tactics have more than a zero chance of success.

  9. Sam,

    The Brits are generally said to have figured out the insurgency code, but in my mind (such as it is) there is no such thing as a "good" way to work counter-insurgency.

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