American strategy, then and now.

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I wonder, from the comfortable position of an armchair tactician both untrained and disconnected from war, whether American strategic planning has of late been less effective. Perhaps there are some real soldiers out there who would know this in better detail…

Looking at the Navy SEALs and other such elite units, I notice that sometime after the Cold War the trend in the American military has been to develop small, highly trained and (expensive) units. This is actually pretty much the opposite of how they worked in WWII. Shermans were greatly inferior to Tigers, and the American commanders knew it, but refused to upgrade (apart from caliber) because they knew numbers would win out over quality. True enough, the Germans lost the war partly because of their impractically expensive (but unbeatable) Panzers. So I do wonder why American strategy in recent years has taken such a radical turn.

I also wonder if it works. Does it really matter how well trained a soldier is? Is survival in warfare really a matter of skill rather than sheer, blind luck? A misplaced artillery shell will kill a 1st Recon scout sniper as easily as a clerk in the National Guard.

 
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I think this should go into Serious Discussion, not off-topic.

And during a warfare situation, street fighting in Baghdad, or where ever. A Commando has a far less chance of dying than an unexperienced greenhorn. Imo.

 
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Ryan002:I feel theres only 2 points in your conversation
First, Is the war going well? That is both yes and no. The recent “Surge” thats been going on for the past several months has worked well. Civilian and military deaths have been halved compared to before the “surge”. Bu the point of the “surge” was to give the Iraqi government breathing room so it can establish itself as a more well trained government to defend itself against terrorist orginizations operating in the area. The Iraqi government has done nothing though but sit on its hands. So in that sense, it has been a failure…. but not a military failure.

Second off the military invests in more elite trained soldier because modern combat has greatly changed since WW2. If you view all wars since WW2 you will see a similar style of combat. Usually the enemy has adopted a style of guerilla warfare that makes moving large amounts of troops to combat areas a ineffective way to combat a enemy. Instead we use information and bombs along with specailized infantry to locate small clusters of guerilla forces and take them out with little or no civilian causalties.

I hope this helps you better understand why it’s hard to invade a country nowadays.

 
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I think it’s mostly to do with wanting to keep your death count low. If you can train 10 people to do a job with 1 person dying, it is better than sending 100 people in with less training, but having 50 people die. That is, provided the money is there to pay for the extra training.

 
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I think the change obviously occured in Vietnam where thousands upon thousands of raw recruits were sent in and thousands upon thousands came out in bodybags. Mobile warfare (Tanks) were obviously pretty much useless in that environment and it was probably noticed that the longer you survived by chance, the more chance you had of surviving by skill.

However I think it probably has gone way too far the other way. Vietnam was a unique environment (also the pacific campaign during WW2, Korea etc) when we come back to Iraq – it’s not much more than a wide open flat space, mostly desert. small squads of well trained men simply can’t cover that expanse, in the Iraq campaign you need numbers. Different battlefields require different tactics and the Pentagon still haven’t realised this. Put five squaddies on the corner of every street in Baghdad, and the enemy cannot move, but there are not enough troops to do this so the enemy can stay in control of everywhere outside the Green Zone. It’s no good having 500 commandos if they can’t get outside their own bunker.

I’m not for the war in Iraq. But if the Pentagon had had any kind of military nous at all they would have ended this at the initial invasion, which would have been the best possible outcome. Because they are morally, militarily and politically redundant they have messed it up beyond belief.

 
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Two things that I have never completely grasped about small unit tactics (why may be why I can’t see their efficiency) are these:

(1) Even if guerilla warfare is effective because it allows one to engage the enemy in superior numbers and conduct surgical strikes, where is it going in the long run? Small, elite units, very much like guerillas, rely heavily on sudden ambushes and lightning fast strikes and I understand the advantage is very much on their side, but how does that ultimately win a war? As terrelbot mentions, its hard to invade (and presumably) occupy a country these days, but I kind of feel this is caused by the overuse of such tactics. Eventually some sort of decisive battlefield confrontation must be neccessary to truly crush opposition completely. Otherwise it will just be a case of I-zap-one-squad-and-you-zap-one-squad etc. without end.

Secondly, as Caractacus has pointed out, small numbers of elite troops can’t cover large ground. As such, they can’t execute take and hold strategies. NAVY Seals and the USMC are devastating on the attack, but how are they going to secure what they’ve taken? Won’t they just end up repeatedly assaulting and moving on and assaulting the retaken ground until they are all whittled away?

I can’t see why larger armies don’t just blockade and starve out smaller ones. It may seem like a medieval siege method, and admittedly I am a pretty lousy tactician, but it just seems so obviously effective to me. Surely if, at the end of the fights, I have more guys left than you and you can’t get any more bodies to throw at me, I’ll win.

 
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Even if guerilla warfare is effective because it allows one to engage the enemy in superior numbers and conduct surgical strikes, where is it going in the long run? Small, elite units, very much like guerillas, rely heavily on sudden ambushes and lightning fast strikes and I understand the advantage is very much on their side, but how does that ultimately win a war? As terrelbot mentions, its hard to invade (and presumably) occupy a country these days, but I kind of feel this is caused by the overuse of such tactics. Eventually some sort of decisive battlefield confrontation must be neccessary to truly crush opposition completely. Otherwise it will just be a case of I-zap-one-squad-and-you-zap-one-squad etc. without end.

They don’t win a war, but they destabilise the enemy. This makes it easier to defeat the enemy later on, or if the enemy realises this too, they might give in.

Secondly, as Caractacus has pointed out, small numbers of elite troops can’t cover large ground. As such, they can’t execute take and hold strategies. NAVY Seals and the USMC are devastating on the attack, but how are they going to secure what they’ve taken? Won’t they just end up repeatedly assaulting and moving on and assaulting the retaken ground until they are all whittled away?

True, which is why you bring in tanks and the like afterwards.

I can’t see why larger armies don’t just blockade and starve out smaller ones. It may seem like a medieval siege method, and admittedly I am a pretty lousy tactician, but it just seems so obviously effective to me. Surely if, at the end of the fights, I have more guys left than you and you can’t get any more bodies to throw at me, I’ll win.

The American public won’t go for that though. Asking people to support you sending their families where your tactics are basically we’ll kill them them before they kill us all, is not a smart career move from any President, especially as there is no need, from their own viewpoint, to conquer a country.

 
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Current Western philosophy is heavily tied to the value of human life. Not just the human lives of our soldiers, but also the lives of the innocent in battlefields and sometimes even our enemies.

This is why there is a trend toward spending tons of money on a few people who you hope will not die. The biggest reason for such high placement on human life on the battlefield though is that the wars have mostly been offensive. If you’re fighting for anything short of your absolute survival, preventing the death of soldiers becomes pretty important. However, I suspect (and hope) that different tactics would be used in a true war where the outcome decides the survival of a people.

Of course, if it takes long enough for that next huge war to happen, we might just use robots for most of the work and preserve our precious lives that way. If you nuke Washingon, we won’t be able to turn them off and our death-bots shall roam the globe destroying all humans!!

 
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Ryan (and everyone else) I suggest you read The War of the Flea by Robert Taber. It’s an excellent book showing how guerilla warfare trumps conventional warfare everytime – but only if you are defending. For offence it’s utterly useless.

Some of the main reasons.

Guerillas are not conventional uniformed troops. They are defending and so always have the support of the civilian population. Any time they become threatened by the enemy they simply hide their weapons and blend in with the civilian population in ten minutes.

Offensive troops cannot do this. They are uniformed, they do not usually have the support of the civillians. In todays world they cannot shoot civilians indiscriminately. Therefore they cannot find the enemy. This is what happened in Vietnam and is happening in Iraq.

Guerillas move on foot, they know the territory like the back of their hand, they carry small arms. They can strike and disappear.

Offensive troops have heavy machinery to bring up. Tanks etc. They are slow. If they abandon the heavy machinery, they are vulnerable.

Guerillas do not need to hold any ground at all because the civilians do that for them. If they lose control of a town or village they simply wait until the enemy passes through and then pop up behind them.

Offensive countries have to hold all the ground they take – otherwise their supply lines are cut, their troops in front of the line are lost. This becomes extremely intensive in terms of soldiers and equipment as Guerillas could attack at any point at any time.

Basically – as Taber explains in the book, Guerilla Warfare is unbeatable for defending countries. While the Iraqi army failed miserably against the American Army, the Americans don’t even know who they are fighting right now.

The last person to succesfully fight guerillas was Hitler. And even then he only had limited success. As any war film will tell you – he had no compunction about having his officers massacre the civilians in any place that resisted thereby partly removing the support base of guerilla fighters. His Blitzkrieg form of attack where communications were cut immediately also hampered resistance by stopping any weapons reaching beleagured towns before they had been taken. Afghanistan is different because the resistance is Taliban – not guerillas from the civilian population. And everyone has grievances against the Taliban.

Taber’s book is I believe par for the course in army training, but obviously not in Pentagon Training. Basically, it is impossible for any country to offensively occupy another country for any major period of time. Guerilla armies are impossible to find let alone rout. While Iraq was being freed from Saddam, the Americans had the support of the civilians, when it turned into an occupation then the population turned and will hound the Americans until they leave. No matter the troop surges, no matter what. The troop surge is having results, but all that is, is the guerilla fighters going to ground while there are more offensive troops around. The surge is seen to be working, so at some point it will end, and oh look, all those fighters will pop up again. The Guerillas have all the time in the world on their side. The Americans cannot stay in Iraq indefinitely. Iraq is slightly easier than Vietnam because the Iraqis don’t have the dense terrain the Vietcong did but in the long run it won’t make a slight bit of difference. America was defeated the day it stayed longer than the fall of Saddam and Robert Taber predicted it in the 1970’s. Pity George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld can’t read.

 
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Ah, now I begin to get it somewhat…

Assuming that American top brass (besides the Pres. and Def. Sec.) know this, they would have been training small units to eliminate specific targets rather than actually training their troops for a typical invasion. I had assumed that the American military planned take and hold strategies like they did back in WWII, but it makes sense that they use small elite numbers if occupation was never the original intent.

To be fair I’d point out America wasn’t the first to make such mistakes. After all the Soviet Union did try an all out occupation of the area as well (and coming from Russia, they of all people should have known why exactly it wouldn’t work).

 
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Dead soldiers make for bad press. Thousands of people die every day from sickness and automobile accidents, but their stories could never compete with the story of a single soldier captured and killed behind enemy lines. Not that I support the war in Iraq (I do not, for the record), but considering the scale of the conflict, the American deathcount is staggeringly low — yet still plenty high enough to fuel American outrage over the entire operation.

 
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The allied headcount is extremely high – however the deaths are coming from security firms like blackwater which are not reported. Take the military deaths which are reported. Times that by two or three and add the two numbers together to get a more realistic picture of the allied death toll. Plus Iraq is pretty much now in a full blown civil war between two or three or four guerilla armies – the Americans are the least of anyones problems. It’s the civilians in the middle who are dying.

 
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That book by Taper is really hard to get Caractacus. Borders is going to take 4-6 weeks to get it in. In the meantime I blew some cash on Von Clausewitz. Let’s see if there’s any insights here…

Interestingly enough, I chanced upon a book called the Blitzkrieg Myth (whose author I forget) that largely rubbished the success of Hitler’s Blitzkrieg. But I’ll get that later maybe.

 
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One thing I think everyone must have realised by now is that attacking Iraq is the worst thing Dubya has done. According to some reports from Iraq, people were happier BEFORE America and Britain attacked. Now it’s more dangerous and people are having more problems.

 
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It is true what TheDarkflame said there in attacking Iraq we traded one set of worries that being Saddam and his regime for worse ones. By overthrowing Saddam we let the terrorists out of the from underneath his iron grip. Not saying that i like Saddam or support his genocides or atrocities but in truth his evil was the only thing keeping that country together. It was the universal fear of him that kept terrorist from emerging and kept civil disorder down. With him gone the country no longer had anyone to fear seeing as America didn’t have firm enough control on the Iraq, and therefore all old grievances were being settled and many different groups were out for each others blood.

 
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Originally posted by Ryan002:

Secondly, as Caractacus has pointed out, small numbers of elite troops can’t cover large ground. As such, they can’t execute take and hold strategies. NAVY Seals and the USMC are devastating on the attack, but how are they going to secure what they’ve taken? Won’t they just end up repeatedly assaulting and moving on and assaulting the retaken ground until they are all whittled away?

I can’t see why larger armies don’t just blockade and starve out smaller ones. It may seem like a medieval siege method, and admittedly I am a pretty lousy tactician, but it just seems so obviously effective to me. Surely if, at the end of the fights, I have more guys left than you and you can’t get any more bodies to throw at me, I’ll win.



FIRST


the name of the groups of people u have hold ground after the marines come in are THE ARMY.

SECOND


the reason you cant hold and starve out enemy combatents is this thing called ‘Air Support’ and also this thing called the U.N.