[FoRK] Westmoreland Dies...

Ian Andrew Bell FoRK fork
Tue Jul 19 17:20:02 PDT 2005

On 19-Jul-05, at 2:50 PM, Luis Villa wrote:

>> The original point was that I think that war is stupid, however if
>> you're going to enter a war which can be rationalized within a the
>> vox populi, it's even more irresponsible if you don't utilize enough
>> forces to:
>>      1)    Effectively deter the enemy
>>      2)    Distinguish between civilians and combatants
> I agreed with you completely right up to here... how does # of forces
> affect that ability, esp. in modern warfare, where *every* underdog
> immediately attempts to blur the line between the two?

The civilians, on the whole, will be the ones not shooting at you.   
Put a tank on every street corner and you'll figure out who's who  
pretty quickly.

To suppose that this form of guerilla warfare is somehow new and  
innovative is a fallacy.  It's been done for millennia.  There were  
guerillas facing the allies in Germany, there was obviously the  
French Resistance, there were guerilla attacks by the American  
Indians throughout the conquest of North America by whites.  Guerilla  
warfare is simply the use of "inexhaustible, primarily psychological,  
harassment ... designed to overextend the resources of the enemy."   
In theatres of truly mechanized major combat operations where control  
has been sustained by a sizeable force, it has been little more than  
a nuisance and a not-insurmountable drain on resources.

When the Allies assaulted the beaches of Normandy what proceeded was  
the unprecedented use of mechanized forces.  By D+5 the Allies had  
landed 326,547 troops, 54,186 vehicles and 104,428 tons of supplies  
on the beaches at Normandy.   Four years earlier the size of the  
rescued, /defeated/ force at Dunkirk was 330,000 troops.  There were  
850,000 German troops occupying France alone at the time, which was a  
nation of about 40 million.

The numbers involved in World War II are staggering for anyone  
watching our newer brand of modern warfare, which is fought on a much  
smaller scale.  Guerilla warfare was in its prime in Vichy France  
which, despite allegedly having more than 200,000 active and armed  
members (and pretenders) in the French Resistance, was effectively  

The war in Iraq took a much different tone for the occupiers.  In  
March 2004, the coalition had 114,000 troops in theatre.  That number  
is now growing, alas, to 153,000.  Iraq has a population of around 24  
million.  Even assuming that the Iraqi Resistance (I refuse to call  
them "Anti-Iraqi Forces") are as lightly armed as the French  
Resistance of 1941 were, which is obviously untrue, the US would need  
to have about 260,000 troops in theatre in order to effectively  
control the country.  Shinseki recommended a minimum of 300,000  
troops (before senate he said "hundreds of thousands" one month prior  
to the war) in official estimates.

In Vietnam, the population (in addition to the substantial non- 
guerilla military force of about 400,000 - 500,000) was about 42-45  
million through the 60s and 70s.  The peak force of 549,000 US troops  
(as at 1968-69) were not able to pacify the nation not only because  
of the scale of the conflict, but in part because forces from anti- 
western neighbouring countries were spilling over to join the free- 
for-all made possible by the US conveniently shipping more and more  
of their sons over to be shot at and killed.  Sound familiar?

The Allies prosecuted the European war with an air force comprising  
more than 12,000 aircraft at any given time, including D-Day, and  
while technology has had an impact (the US probably has fewer than  
500 combat aircraft available for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq)  
it is not a panacea.  Smart bombs don't keep people from looting  
shops, or women from being raped.  Predator drones (which many  
Marines quietly assert are pretty uselessly slow) can't accurately  
distinguish between friend or foe when the subject has no epaulets.

The U.S. Military has 1.4 million active troops today, so  
availability of the resources is not a key issue.  The fact is if  
you're going to deploy a sizable number of troops you're going to  
raise eyebrows that you're making war.  And this is no longer how  
politicians wish to "position" global conflicts.  World War II is  
still an effective boiler plate for how to fight a war even now, and  
despite the fact that short-sighted politicians wish to affect their  
hawkish aspirations upon sovereign nations without experiencing any  
consequences, wars can still be won in practice.

The most successful pair of generals in modern combat history, IMHO  
Powell and Swartzkopf, were successful because they did not overreach  
themselves by following two key rules of conduct:  1) Know your  
objective, and 2) Use enough force that victory is assured.  Stormin'  
Norm didn't need more than 200,000 troops because he intended only to  
drive Iraqi forces back to Baghdad and decrement their military  
strength so that they could not carry out offensive campaigns.  This  
was a victory of the soldiers over the politicians, largely because  
of Powell's skills at diplomacy.

The Bushists could not articulate their real strategy (subjugation of  
the nation of Iraq) and win the support of the people insodoing, nor  
could they muster the forces to succeed in that strategy without  
revealing their true objectives.  So, like Kennedy and Johnson before  
them, they tried to do it on the cheap and "get away with it".   
Hopefully this is the last time that politicians attempt killing  
foreigners and endangering their own people on such a massive scale,  
and hopefully we the people will come to realize that war cannot be  
entered into out of fear, anger, or sorrow alone.  Americans pissed  
off about the deaths of 3,600 New Yorkers handed Rumsfeld the keys to  
go pummel tens of millions of Iraqis into submission with a crippling  

The irony is that civilians were given control over the military, in  
principle, in order to prevent wars.  In many, many nations this has  
had the opposite effect.  War is a horrific, inhuman, and largely  
unnecessary enterprise... but if you're going to do it, you'd better  
have a defensible and lasting moral authority, you'd better know what  
your goals are, and you'd better make damned sure you can go in there  
and not only win, but establish order, quickly.  That, perhaps, is  
the Bell Doctrine.

There are no shortcuts in warfare.  Perhaps if politicians listened  
to their generals and stopped trying to cut corners and attempting to  
escape the consequences of military action, we'd have fewer bombs  
dropping and fewer deaths on the battlefield.


PS - Most of the stats above are verifiable on Wikipedia.

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