The American Military

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Odd little thought. It seems to me the US military's weapon systems can be divided into two basic types. There are the "heavy" sort, designed for the Cold War with an eye to World War II-like scenarios. Big navy, big bombers, main battle tanks, all that kind of thing. These then turned out to be pretty much tactically useless against insurgencies of the type they dealt with in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan etc., although still useful for intimidating and ravaging sovereign nations.

So in response, they have developed lighter more flexible approaches such as the much-touted and much hated drones carrying bombs. In a triumph for the US military, these are only strategically useless against insurgencies.

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Western forces and their societies don't have the patience needed to fight insurgencies. When the other guys don't have tanks or artillery, strike fighters or attack helicopters, we tend to seriously underestimate them and pattern our effort to fit our predispositions.

Despite the wealth of information written from Julius Caesar on down through T.E. Lawrence, our commanders still fail to grasp the war we fight, the military war, is irrelevant and will not decide the issue. It is the insurgents' war, the political war, that is conclusive.

Our commanders, particularly Canadian generals, liked to mock the Talibs as cowards for not "coming out to fight like men." That's ridiculing them for refusing to stand up and be mowed down by superior numbers of highly trained troops with massive firepower superiority.

We can't be defeated at our war, the military war, which is why these things always drag on for years after the real issue is decided. Since they can't defeat us we think we're winning but that's not the case. We're actually marking time and time is something in limited supply in any modern, Western democracy. If you can't defeat the insurgency in a decade, the population loses interest and wants it wrapped up.

All the insurgents have to do to claim victory is be still standing in some viable form when our clock runs out and we pack up and leave. They understand that very well. General Giap wrote the manual for them.

The Americans didn't lose a single battle in Viet Nam but they lost the war. We didn't lose a single battle in Afghanistan but we too lost the war. The RAND Corporation ran an analysis and concluded our war in Afghanistan was decisively and irredeemably lost two years ago.

All the King's men and all the King's horses doesn't mean you can defeat a bunch of rag tag farmers equipped with Korean-war vintage light automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades.

The worst part is that I don't think any of these realities are sinking in with Canada's top brass.

The RAND corporation was IMO rather on the optimistic side. I might argue that the US/NATO side lost in Afghanistan as soon as they committed to installing as president a corrupt expat with little local respect or power base, backed up by a group of widely hated brigand war criminals over whom he had little control. From that point it wasn't a question of whether the government would become hated and fail, just how long it would take. The similarity with Vietnam is striking.

I think there's a contrast there with Iraq, where the government which came into power during the occupation remains in power to this day--a triumph of sorts for the US which came about due to US weakness; even while they continued to occupy the country, they had become so politically weak there that a government came into power that was not truly US-chosen. It was viable precisely because it was not the government the Americans would have preferred.

Unfortunately I doubt it's possible to learn from those mistakes. That is, the wisdom to install governments with roots in local support that would be viable requires roughly the same insights necessary to figure out that it might be a bad idea to invade other countries in the first place. As long as they're going to invade, it'll be because they want the fruits of invasion, which requires installing puppet governments which will be pliable to US wishes rather than local ones.

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This page contains a single entry by Purple Library Guy published on October 29, 2012 3:31 PM.

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