Friday, September 28, 2007

Modern weapons and tactics

Innovation in weapons and how they are used have caused massive inequalities throughout history. A classic example is the Panzer Division and how its use impacted modern warfare. The Panzer Division was a group of 200 to 300 tanks within a 2 or 3 square mile area that operated as a unit. Starting in 1939 and throughout 1941, this tool was decisive in winning battles. By 1942, all other major powers had adopted this idea and the effect was reduced substantially.

The concept of an advantage because of innovation applies to weapons as well. An excellent example is the match-up of the U.S. Sherman tank against the German Tiger tanks, 1943-1945. Many Sherman tanks were up-gunned in 1944 with the 90-mm, which helped. However, the Sherman was still far inferior in the ability to take a hit. What many people do not know is that the Tiger tanks were built with the intent to fight the Soviet T34. In 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the Germans were alarmed when they found that the Soviet T34 and KV1 tanks could drive right through its vaunted Panzer Divisions without being seriously injured. Point blank range shots bounced off. This mismatch was far more pronounced than the later Sherman-Tiger mismatch. The Sherman gun (Even the 76-mm) could penetrate even the frontal armor of the Tiger at ranges further than point blank.

I keep hearing about how our forces in Iraq are not properly equipped. Yes, they were not and probably are not today. However, this problem is endemic to modern warfare. Foresight can prevent many of these problems, but they still occur, no matter how much you plan.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Rules of warfare

Joe Six-Packs' rules of warfare:

1) Know thy enemy. Honest and informed knowledge of your enemy’s strengths and weaknesses will only help in your efforts to succeed in whatever is being attempted. This applies to any type of competitive endeavor.

2) Know thy self. Accurate knowledge of your own strengths and weaknesses will match well with rule number 1. Both of these will enable you to develop better ideas regarding what to attempt and what to avoid.

I am bringing this up because many people I have met seem to believe that they understand the war that the United States is involved in today. I have a great deal of knowledge and understanding of warfare, and I am not certain about a great many things regarding this war. The big question today seems to be: Who is the enemy? How do you identify terrorists? I am not so concerned about this. MY question is: How can we flush them out into the open? Then we can see who they are. I will be attempting to answer my own question over the next dozen or more posts.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Modern warfare

Conventional armed forces like the United States use mechanized or 'High Tech' warfare. This type of force is at it's greatest advantage:

1) Over water. It requires warships to contest the surface, aircraft and missiles to control the air above, and submarines to protect and contest beneath the surface.

2) Desert. Since the invention of the internal combustion engine, the desert has been the 2nd best place to deploy mechanized forces. It is called a quartermasters nightmare and a tacticians dream. It requires mechanization to support any forces deployed. The desert gives thermal imaging and other 'high tech' equipment one of the most ideal environments on the planet.

3) Open land. The stepps in Russia are a good example. The only natural obstacles are rivers.

Mechanized forces are at the greatest disadvantage in:

1) Mountains. Aircraft are limited in ability to maneuver. Low-tech men and weapons are more easy to hide, deploy and move. High tech weapons are far less effective, armor is less mobile and the uneven ground make line of sight difficult.

2) Swamps. Swamps are only marginally more desirable for mechanized forces to fight in. Aircraft can maneuver better than in mountains.

3) Cities and forests. Line of sight is difficult to establish along with the certainty of hitting non-armed people in cities.

I have been hearing some people say that the United States should withdraw from Iraq and re-depoly some (Not all) of the withdrawn forces into Afghanistan. Moving a 'High tech' force like the U.S. military from a desert environment into the mountains of Afghanistan would shift the fight from one of the most ideal environments on the planet Earth into the least ideal environment.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Guerrilla warfare (In general)

Guerrilla warfare has been around since the dawn of time. Typically, the match-up is between what I call conventional forces and irregular troops. Here are some common features:

1) Conventional forces tend to outnumber irregular troops. I am not speaking about popular support. I am talking combatants, men with guns.

2) Conventional forces have better weapons.

3) Conventional forces have better training. This is probably the single greatest reason why atrocities tend to be most often committed by irregular troops. This contributes as to why guerrilla wars tend to be 'nasty'. This also contributes as to why conventional troops don't prefer these types of wars.

4) Conventional forces have stronger firepower. This is related to number two. Better weapon systems would enable this.

5) Typical strategy of 'insurgent' side is to outlast the enemy. Get them to quit. Because irregular troops can't win conventional battles, they attempt to gain local advantages and bite off small parts of the conventional army. Pick at them until they tire of it and quit.

6) It is in the interest of the conventional army to have greater amounts of combat, not less. The more the better. Stronger firepower, better training and the ability to absorb greater losses mean that the more combat occurs, the greater the losses the irregular side will sustain in relation to the conventional side. The conventional side has the greater amout of endurance. More combat enables this to be used to it's advantage. The difficulty is in bringing the irregular side to battle.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Warfare in general

Some things I have found. Most are obvious.

1) All wars are unique. Like fingerprints. Many similarities can and do exist between wars, however their are ALWAYS significant differences. One common mistake (Generals are only a little less likely to make this mistake as anyone else) that is to fight the prior war again. A classic example: The construction of the Maginot line in the 1930's by France.

2) Violence goes up as wars progress. Lot's of reasons. The winner in war is determined by who is willing and able to raise the violence to a level that the other side either cannot or will not match.

3) Three levels of viewing warfare:
a) Strategic: View of entire continent or oceans. The conflict overall. The BIG picture.
b) Operational: View of individual armies and/or fleets. Divisional level and above.
c) Tactical: View of individual soldier up to divisional level. Or task force in the navy.

4) Two basic types of warfare:
a) War of conquest. Take care of the population. You want them to join you.
b) Punitive. Wipe everyone and everything out. You do not intend to stick around.

5) Political considerations are generally counterproductive in warfare. Many examples of entire armies being wiped out and wars lost because of political considerations.

6) Occupation: The worst enemy of the occupied is NOT the occupier. It is the population of the occupied that is working with the occupier.

7) Wars ALWAYS create new enemies.

8) Atrocities occur in all wars. The vast majority goes unreported for obivious reasons. One of the cleanest wars in modern history was the U.S. and England against Germany. (1939-1945) Atrocities occurred even then, on both sides. A direct relationship exists between number of atrocities and the training that a unit has undergone. The more training, the fewer atrocities committed by that unit. This applies to armies as well. (Generally)

9) Cultural wars are the most brutal. What happend to the native Americans is a classic example. Not only is language a difference, but the very habits that a population have. In war, it is necessary to dehumanize your enemy. For example, you shoot down an enemy plane or sink an enemy ship. You tell yourself that it was only a machine. You attempt to deny that it had people in it. This is a natural self-defense mechanism. Cultural difference make this easier.
"A good Jap is a dead Jap." For a number of reasons, when you found a wounded Japanese, you put a bullet in his head. Just to be sure. One potential side-effect of allowing suspected terrorists the same legal rights that U.S. citizens enjoy is an increase in the number of killing of potential prisioners. Many of the same motivations for "A good Jap is a dead Jap." exist today in the war in Iraq. Vietnam had many of the same motivations as well.

10) The longer a seige lasts, the more brutal the final outcome. In general, this applies to wars as well.

11) Inferior allied troops perform much better when mixed with more effective troops. The war in North Africa 1940-43 is a good example. German troops were much better than Italian. When mixed, Italian troops performed almost as well as the German, and the German troops who were mixed with them did not suffer any noticable ill-effects. I believe that the Roman army used this pricipal for centuries with impressive results. The rise of the nation-state has tended to install the idea that it is better to separate them, for nationalist reasons. This has been proven time and again to be a mistake.

Definition of blog

Discussion of Modern warfare and current conflicts. Conflict includes non-armed issues such as the debate about United States withdrawal from Iraq.