[FoRK] For those indoctrinated by the military

Owen Byrne owen at permafrost.net
Wed Jul 21 05:20:40 PDT 2004


An alternative perspective. You should try to cultivate more of them.
Attack helicopters - I guess that would be one of the things the Russians
copied from Vietnam - dumbasses.
Owen

> http://slate.msn.com/id/2103552/

> *For Want of a Bolt ...*
> How the Iraq war could have been lost.
> By Fred Kaplan
> Posted Wednesday, July 7, 2004, at 4:53 PM PT
>
> For all the talk about "military transformation" and the "cybernetic 
> battlefield," the war in Iraq—the battlefield phase of the war, fought 
> in March and April of last year—was won (and could nearly have been 
> lost) as much by nuts, bolts, and logistics as by computers, smart 
> bombs, and grand strategy.
>
> Such is the conclusion of an official 542-page report, written by a 
> team of U.S. Army colonels at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., who conducted 
> 2,300 interviews and examined 119,000 documents. The study was 
> declassified over a month ago, but has received scant attention—a 
> single story (albeit on the front page) by David Zucchino in the July 
> 3 /Los Angeles Times/ 
> <http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/front/la-na-lessons3jul03,1,1251309.story?coll=la-headlines-frontpage>—mainly 
> because the Army released it in a way that seems designed to impede 
> its discovery and, on the chance that someone does find it, inhibit 
> its digestion. (For the document, click here 
> <http://onpoint.leavenworth.army.mil/> or here 
> <http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/2004/onpoint/>. 
> For more on the study's release, click here 
> <http://slate.msn.com/id/2103552/sidebar/2103564/>.)
>
> The report, cryptically titled "On Point," is generally positive. It 
> properly hails the U.S. armed forces' decadelong development of a new 
> war-fighting doctrine emphasizing "joint" (i.e., interservice) 
> training, coordination, and operations. It salutes the high quality of 
> the troops, the resourcefulness of staff officers, and the ingenuity 
> of commanders. And, even though this is an Army report with a clear 
> Army bias, it sings the praises of the "precision-guided munitions" 
> (or smart bombs) fired by Air Force pilots.
>
> Continue Article <http://slate.msn.com/id/2103552/#ContinueArticle>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> And yet, it also concludes that things could have gone very wrong—and 
> that, in any case, the lightning victories along the long sprint to 
> Baghdad depended on conditions "unlikely to be replicated elsewhere."
>
> The most critical of these possibly unique conditions was the massive 
> military base that U.S. Central Command had been constructing over the 
> previous decade in neighboring Kuwait—consisting of a maritime port, 
> an international airport, and Camp Wolf, where hundreds of thousands 
> of troops could hook up with the equipment that had been flown or 
> shipped in.
>
> Yet the report notes that in the months of the U.S. military 
> deployment leading up to the war, "Iraq made no direct effort to 
> impede the buildup." Our own military planners, the authors gulp, 
> might "wonder what the outcome would have been if Iraq had attacked 
> U.S. forces in Kuwait before they were ready."
>
> Even with the relatively free running start, crucial parts of the 
> military machine creaked nearly to the point of breakdown. For instance:
>
> The distribution system for spare parts "never worked, despite heroic 
> efforts." Thousands of tons of parts successfully made their way to 
> the theater from military bases in the United States and Western 
> Europe only to gather dust on Kuwaiti warehouse shelves.
>
> "Literally every" commander in the 3^rd Infantry Division—the Army 
> unit that swept up the desert to Baghdad—told the study group that, 
> without more spare parts, "he could not have continued offensive 
> operations for another two weeks."
>
> "Fortunately," the report goes on, "major combat operations ended 
> before the failure of the parts distribution system affected 
> operations in a meaningful way."
>
> Other logistical supplies were distributed at "just barely above 
> subsistence levels." The supply of food "barely met demand"; some 
> soldiers occasionally went without MREs. Petroleum supplies often had 
> to be foraged and drained from Iraqi vehicles. Engineering explosives 
> were often captured from Iraqi troops or improvised. On a few 
> occasions, the 3^rd Infantry had to ask the 101^st Airborne Division 
> for extra ammunition. The medical supply system "failed." There were 
> not enough trucks; there was no single cargo distribution manager.
>
> The report's authors don't ascribe blame. This is just the way of 
> large-scale military mobilizations in general:
>
>     The deployment system is large, complex, and sensitive to mistakes
>     and serendipity. A unit that shows up at the airfield out of
>     sequence or late causes a ripple effect that can take days to
>     overcome. Weather delays, vessel breakdowns at sea, and a host of
>     other problems are common, and have similar effects. … Many things
>     can go wrong.
>
> In the case of this particular war, one aspect of the troops' 
> success—the unprecedented speed with which the 3^rd Infantry (and the 
> 1^st Marine Expeditionary Force) dashed through the desert toward 
> Baghdad—exacerbated these problems. The supply lines grew too long, 
> too quickly, for the suppliers to catch up.
>
> The speed also took a toll on tactical communications systems, which 
> relied mainly on radios and phones with line-of-sight antennas. It was 
> like moving in and out of a cellular telephone network without a 
> "roaming" capability; the gaps in coverage were extensive (though, 
> apparently, never critical).
>
> The point is that, to a far greater extent than the Pentagon's 
> theoreticians would like, war in the early 21^st century—while 
> certainly altered (and, yes, in some ways "transformed") by high 
> technology—remains, at bottom, a hard, bloody, boots-on-the-ground, 
> wheels-on-the-road enterprise.
>
> A couple of the report's more digressive topics also make for 
> instructive reading. Far more firmly than any previous U.S. Army 
> report I've read, it criticizes the performance of the Army's AH-64 
> attack helicopters. It recalls in great detail the disaster of March 
> 23-24, when 32 AH-64s mounted an offensive against Iraq's Medina 
> Division and 31 of them came back shot up; the other chopper was shot 
> down. It took a full month to restore the regiment to full combat 
> capability. The report blames the failure on delayed convoys, 
> confusing terrain management, and "an indomitable warrior spirit to 
> get into the fight"—a trait that the report describes elsewhere, less 
> euphemistically, as "the human ego in war."
>
> On the other hand, the report notes the critical role played by air 
> power—especially by the Air Force's A-10 attack plane, the only 
> aircraft in the U.S. arsenal designed explicitly and solely for 
> supporting troops on the ground. It quotes Lt. Col. J.R. Sanderson, an 
> Army task force commander, as saying, "The F15s and F16s were good. 
> The A10s were absolutely fantastic. It's my favorite airplane. … You 
> can move, and when that A10 starts his strafing run, you can do 
> anything you want to do … because the bad guy's head is not coming off 
> the hard deck."
>
> These two points are remarkable, in two ways. First, here we have a 
> team of Army officers criticizing the attack helicopter—the Army's own 
> weapon of air support—while gushing over the Air Force's weapon. 
> Second, the A-10 scarcely exists anymore 
> <http://slate.msn.com/id/2081906/>. The Air Force, which never wanted 
> to build it in the first place, stopped production in the mid-1980s 
> and would have melted them down to scrap metal had they not performed 
> so well in the 1991 Gulf War.
>
> The latest military budget, just passed by Congress, contains plenty 
> of money for more attack helicopters—none for a resumption of the A-10 
> or something like it. Here's one place where the lessons learned from 
> Gulf War II could be applied to great effect.
>




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