[FoRK] Westmoreland Dies...
Ian Andrew Bell 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
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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