Re[2]: Cannon Fodder

James Rogers
16 Jan 2003 20:07:45 -0800

On Thu, 2003-01-16 at 17:22, wrote:
> I'm assuming this was a change made recently?   I.e., it wasn't
> something that occured during Vietnam, or WW2.

I think it was fully realized conceptually during the Vietnam War, when
they realized that they could do a lot more with a lot less if they
selected the right people, based on certain experiments and examples of
the time.  It really went into full swing during the late 70s and early
80s.  Rumsfeld was really hot on the idea back then, and the military
has really redone its force structure around the idea and has fully
institutionalized it.

> Just curious how 'selective' the military would be were they faced
> with similarly situated examples of warfare.    For the Persian Gulf
> War and this tiff in Iraq, I can definitely see your point. (tho some
> of the marine grunts I've run into might prove counter to your
> proposition (at least in a mental sense.)

The way it usually works is that elite forces are used for assault and
the standard combat troops are used to hold positions already taken by
the assault troops.  Since assault is far more dangerous than defense,
we typically only use our most highly trained troops for this mission. 
Although the aggressor is supposed to be at a substantial disadvantage,
the elite units of the US military take very few casualties during an
assault.  As a result, the total body count for the US tends to be
extremely low, and most of those are from the elite combat units.  This
is also why there is almost no limit on the amount of money the US
military will spend on increasing the force multiplier for elite units. 
It is relatively cheap because there is a relatively small number of
soldiers they have worry about, and it reduces the potential body count
to the minimum possible in combat.

So we actually reuse the same small number of elite troops over and over
again as the fighting edge of the military and then backfill with more
conventional units.  It is a quality versus quantity philosophy taken to
its logical end.  Never send a division of run-of-the-mill troops to
take a position that a battalion of elite troops can.  Maneuver rather
than attrition is the object, and exploiting force multipliers wherever
possible minimizes the body count (for the US side, at least).

Every branch of the service, particularly groundfighters, have a
hierarchy for combat units that have different personalities between
services.  The Navy (SEALS, Marines) guys tend to have reputations for
being very tough but not very clever, which is fine as these are our
primary frontal assault troops.  The Army (SF/Delta,Rangers,Light
Infantry) tends to be smarter and more distributed as they are used
primarily for fast and light maneuver.  One of the innovations of the
modern US military is the elimination of the concept of "lines of
battle". Our ability to insert troops anywhere in a theater without
regard for where the "front lines" nominally are has been used to great
effect.  Most militaries view theaters of war with a kind of
1.5-dimensional view of the game board, whereas the US tends to use a
2.5-dimensional view of the theater because we can play the game as
though it is a 2.5D space.


-James Rogers