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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Navies in space

Foreign Policy interviews a naval analyst concerning what science fiction gets right and what it gets wrong about warfare, especially from the naval perspective upon which so much fictional space war is based.
FP: The United States is in the midst of a major debate on what our defense policy, especially given shrinking budgets and the rise of China as Pacific sea power.  Does sci-fi offer lessons on how the United States can resolve this?

CW: Fiction does not replace policy analysis.  But science fiction is the literature of "what if?"  Not just "what if X happens?" but also "what if we continue what we're doing?"  In that way, science fiction can inform policy making directly, and it can inform those who build scenarios for wargames and exercises and the like. One of the great strengths of science fiction is that it allows you have a conversation about something that you otherwise couldn't talk about because it's too politically charged. It allows you to create the universe you need in order to have the conversation you want to have. Battlestar Galactica spent a lot of time talking about the war in Iraq. There were lots of things on that show about how you treat prisoners. They never came out and said that directly. They didn't have to. At the Naval War College, one of the core courses on strategy and policy had a section on the Peloponnesian War. It was added to the curriculum in the mid-1970s because the Vietnam War was too close, so they couldn't talk about it, except by going back to 400 BC. 
I'm a big believer in the martial utility of wargaming, but as the article notes, most wargames and all science fiction tend to completely omit the more tedious elements of war, especially logistics and bureaucracy.  Unsurprisingly, wargames tend to do a better job of addressing strategic assumptions and strategic goals than other entertainment media, although even the wargaming implimentation are usually built into the game design rather than left up to the player.

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56 Comments:

Anonymous Kickass September 30, 2012 8:25 AM  

And logistic can make or break you.
This reminds me of the other ways humans have devised a means for conversations about things they dare not speak. Like codes hidden in spirtuals and dances that are thinly veiled protests. Then it flows to the Bible and how there are layers and layers that make no sense until you have eyes to see and ears to hear.
This leads me to ponder if I have looked at life wrong and should enjoy the gaming aspect of it. Too many are drawn into battling in virtual worlds. We lose the mind of the warrior and we lose the soul, the surrender happens to the soundtrack of the internet.

Anonymous scoobius dubious September 30, 2012 9:06 AM  

"Battlestar Galactica spent a lot of time talking about the war in Iraq."

When it should have spent its time talking about the deliberate, conscious, purposeful, genocidal destruction of the white race --- which is our top story for the past two or three decades, and the next two or three at least.

"most wargames and all science fiction tend to completely omit the more tedious elements of war, especially logistics and bureaucracy."

Maybe more war colleges should be studying Sergeant Bilko, Stalag 17, King Rat, McHale's Navy, and Hogan's Heroes. Or they could cut to the chase and just study SEIU and AA bureaucracies in majority-A-A cities. If nothing else it would put them on par with what your typical white college student is looking at. And therein lies a major lesson, or what, I believe, the communications-studies people call an "arc".





Anonymous scoobius dubious September 30, 2012 9:11 AM  

Neglected to mention A) that Battlestar Galactica should have spent more time discussing white genocide because that was its implicit major theme, and B) that war colleges should study SEIU, ACORN, and AA bureaucracies because we are in fact in a war right now, which we are losing quite badly, and those bureaucracies are major theaters in this current, present, non-military-yet-nevertheless-all-too-real war.

Blogger Lovekraft September 30, 2012 9:11 AM  

I recently read the book "Cannibal Reign" by a police officer about a meteorite hitting earth, devastating all, and a group of ex-Navy Seals taking steps, in advance, to refurbish and stockpile an abandoned nuclear missile silo.

Quite technical and in essence filled with hints on how to survive any Major Catastrophe.

Anonymous Stilicho September 30, 2012 9:24 AM  

Logistics is always key. Starving soldiers, troops with state of the art weapons but no ammo, tanks without fuel, etc. win no battles.

Anonymous The other skeptic September 30, 2012 10:39 AM  

Speaking of things military, compare today's chest salad to that of 60 years ago or so

Blogger Professor Hale September 30, 2012 10:48 AM  

This this certainly explains why those episodes of BSG sucked so much and always had the feeling of a story line that was forced into the BSF universe against its will.

Blogger Bob Wallace September 30, 2012 10:49 AM  

Jerry Pournelle has done a very good job of dealing with future war, empire, and strategy. But then, he was involved with the Reagan administration and Star Wars, so I guess he would know. His son, I believe, is also an officer in the military.

I believe the late James P. Hogan once told me his son was wounded in Iraq.

Blogger John Cunningham September 30, 2012 10:51 AM  

I checked out "Cannibal Reign" on Amazon, it looks pretty interesting as a post-apocalyptic book. Have to see how it compares to "Lucifer's Hammer," my standard for that genre.

Anonymous E. PERLINE September 30, 2012 11:14 AM  

Battleships are platforms for guns that need stability. But they are a target too. (You can imagine how surprised the military traditionists were when carriers become the dominant naval force in WW2!)

But carriers also were easy targets. They carried no fictional "force fields." They could be sunk by--of all things--suicidal pilots.

The answer is not to build pretentious fortresses on the oceans, or in space. We must build launchers that are a devil to detect. Missile technology allows them to pack more power than the old 16-inch naval rifles ever could.

An intercontinental nallistic missile, like a gun amongst swordsgmen, makes it the great equalizer among nations. I don't know if our military experts, who were brought up on Star Wars, have realized this yet. The smallest nation with the ability to deliver scores of nuclear bombs, has become just as formidable as the biggest nations on the planet. It just doesn't pay to have a big war anymore. Will this finally be the end of them?

Anonymous paradox September 30, 2012 11:27 AM  

scoobius dubious September 30, 2012 9:11 AM

Battlestar Galactica should have spent more time discussing white genocide because that was its implicit major theme...


I think the series answered that with whitey must assimilate (breed) with the Cylons.

Anonymous Crusader Corim September 30, 2012 11:30 AM  

Actually, the rise of carriers surprised absolutely no one who was at all familiar with Naval power at the time. The vulnerability of battleships to carriers was also recognized very early. The famous losses of battleships to carriers were all where people:
A: disregarded their established anti-plane doctrine on the battleship.
B: were caught in port (where any ship would die)
C: were so outgunned they just threw the battleship in as a last ditch effort.

The US Navy laid down 18 carrier keels well before WW2 because we weren't stupid, we knew where the future of Naval Power was, and we intended to be there first, and we were.

Also, no fleet carrier was ever sunk by a Kamikaze. Ever. Even the St. Lo, the famous "example" of a Kamikaze sinking a carrier was an escort carrier.

And the ICBM is only useful if you're ready to go for WWIII. The Aircraft Carrier is pretty much always useful.

Anonymous The other skeptic September 30, 2012 11:37 AM  

Combines all the elements

Anonymous Apeman September 30, 2012 11:44 AM  

If the standard for science fiction is "how does it help us understand our own time?" then "A Canticle for Leibowitz" is a far better book than "Lucifer's Hammer."

I always thought it odd how the people in Lucifer's Hammer had so little food they were worried about making it through a winter but they were smart enough to store up an endless supply of birth control (keep track of how many females get banged post disaster with out getting pregnant). One of Pournelle's consent themes throughout the book is that you can only have as much as morality as you can afford. But he seems to forget that female sexuality was tightly controlled in the good old days for a reason.

And I only wish that a bunch of black cannibals would be the biggest problem post disaster. It is an easy problem to deal with if you are a mostly white rural culture not with standing Pournelle's heroic attempts to make you believe that they are a real threat. Easy target identification at a distances and no real worries about betrayals or defections.

A real threat would be a bunch of Navy Seals with the idea that they were special and they deserved to rule and have what woman they wanted. Then you would be faced with the fact that many of your "friends" might decided to go over to winning side and it would not be so easy to tell friend from foe. Historically speaking, this is why when the Roman empire collapsed you got feudalism (although as the Swiss show, it did not have to be like that).

But Pournelle has a big military audience so it would not do to show that elite military units can (and often have) turn on the people when the going gets rough. And most of his suburban readers are already afraid of the black man, so from business point of view, the bad guys are a no brainier.

Anonymous Apeman September 30, 2012 11:49 AM  

I agree with Crusader Corim that the rise of the carrier suprised very few people. But one should not think that carriers would be useful in outer space.

The main advantage of carriers is the planes fly in the air and don't try move in the water. In space smaller vessels have few if any advantages over larger ones.

Anonymous Salt September 30, 2012 11:54 AM  

The Aircraft Carrier is pretty much always useful.

Better to have a few subs.

Anonymous Crusader Corim September 30, 2012 12:09 PM  

Salt, tell me a mission where a "few subs" can replace an aircraft carrier that doesn't involve starting WWIII. Nothing focuses a nation's attention like an airbase with more planes than their entire air force sitting off of their shores.

Anonymous Nah September 30, 2012 1:07 PM  

But carriers also were easy targets. They carried no fictional "force fields." They could be sunk by--of all things--suicidal pilots.

Only small carriers were sunk by kamikazes. No big carriers were sunk -- i.e., they were not easy targets at all.

The Aircraft Carrier is pretty much always useful.

Better to have a few subs.


Better for what? The British had "a few subs" in the Falklands War, but those could not have been used to recapture the islands. The landings required carriers to support them.

Anonymous Nah September 30, 2012 1:15 PM  

Pournelle has a big military audience so it would not do to show that elite military units can (and often have) turn on the people when the going gets rough.

That's pretty much the plotline of the Falkenberg's Legion stories. From wiki,

"Through the stories, one theme is dominant. The CoDominium is shipping large numbers of voluntary and involuntary colonists to the colony planets. The involuntary colonists cause the most trouble, being used to a welfare state existence in government ghettoes known as Welfare Islands where drugs and entertainment, paid for by the remaining productive members of society, keep them pacified. Relocated to the colony worlds, they gather in city centers and shanty towns. Idealistic reformers take up their cause against the original colonists, who are mostly farmers and large landowners, purportedly in the name of liberty and equality. However, the inevitable outcome would be a short-lived welfare state followed by economic collapse and starvation.

Falkenberg and his people are thus on what some would call the wrong side. They act to suppress bandits, rebels and insurgents who prey on landowners, and who may be in cahoots with reforming politicians bent on industrializing the economy. Partly this illustrates the soldier's dilemma, having to obey orders without regard to the rights and wrongs of the cause. It also illustrates Jerry Pournelle's convictions, which echo those of Robert A. Heinlein, that democracy is not the only proper form of government, nor is it always the best given the realities of economics and ecology."

Anonymous JI September 30, 2012 1:16 PM  

"...science fiction ... allows you have a conversation about something that you otherwise couldn't talk about because it's too politically charged"

So, are our leaders going to actually discuss black-on-white crime, reverse discrimination, the loss of constitutional rights for men if a woman complains about him, destruction of our culture by millions of descendants of the Aztecs, etc..., via science fiction? At least then they'd be able to talk about these subjects, according to that naval analyst who is embedded in the politically-correct culture of Washington.

Anonymous Anonymous September 30, 2012 1:19 PM  

You misspelled implementation.

Anonymous The other skeptic September 30, 2012 1:35 PM  

Both Jerry Pournelle and David Drake have used this historical event as the basis for one of their stories. Drake did it in one of his Hammer's Slammers short stories. Pournelle did it in one of the Falkenberg stories. The one that is chronicles Falkenberg's first engagement after being cashiered under dubious circumstances from the CD Marines.

I have a suspicion that "Never will I see the day when I am not saluted as empress." is the sort of sentence Michelle would utter.

It also seems to me that we are seeing event take on an eerie similarity to those in during the Byzantine Empire of 531 AD. Perhaps those hundreds of millions of rounds purchased by various FedGov departments will be doled out to supporters. Maybe that is what Fast and Furious was about.

Anonymous Josh September 30, 2012 1:41 PM  

Aircraft carriers are useless as instruments of war.

They are incredibly useful for playing Empire and projecting power, though.

Which is why we still spend billions on them.

Anonymous Crusader Corim September 30, 2012 1:47 PM  

Yeah, aircraft carriers are so useless as instruments of war that every major navy has one, and the Chinese are making one so their navy will be competitive.

Aircraft carriers aren't even useless in WWIII situations. Seriously, do you think you're somehow smarter than the entire US Navy? They aren't stupid people.

Anonymous The other skeptic September 30, 2012 1:51 PM  


Seriously, do you think you're somehow smarter than the entire US Navy? They aren't stupid people.


And, because of their diversity, they are incredibly strong. Believe it!

Soon they will have female submarine commanders.

(Who would want to serve under such when they are on the rag?)

Anonymous Crusader Corim September 30, 2012 2:19 PM  

The US Navy is the least diverse branch of our armed forces.

I'm not arguing they're always right, but I am arguing they're not full of stupid people. It turns out that people do know how to think out alternate outcomes. And the fact that women are being foisted on submarines by idiot politicians hardly spoils my point.

Anonymous stg58 September 30, 2012 2:20 PM  

Enough about navies in space. Let's talk about some really important.

JEWS..IN...SPACE..
space...
space...

Anonymous The other skeptic September 30, 2012 2:41 PM  

The US Navy is the least diverse branch of our armed forces.

How much diversity does it take to reduce the effectiveness of the US Navy against a serious opponent by 50%? 5%?

Of course, the US Navy has not had a serious opponent for some 60 years (Even the navy of the USSR was not too effective, it seems to me), and it does look like it will be another 10-20 years before there is a serious opponent.

Anonymous YIH September 30, 2012 2:52 PM  

What's up with Vox? No NFL thread?

Anonymous jay c September 30, 2012 3:36 PM  

OT: I posted Christians and the Law: Answering the Objections, part 3 & 4 in response to Vox's blog entry on the same subject.

Anonymous Josh September 30, 2012 3:42 PM  

Aircraft carriers aren't even useless in WWIII situations. Seriously, do you think you're somehow smarter than the entire US Navy? They aren't stupid people.

Missile equipped speedboats destroyed a carrier group in wargames several years ago.

Lets see...a few really, really expensive weapons...or many really, really cheap weapons...

Cheap and numerous always wins.

The reason the Navy still likes aircraft carriers is because they're still planning on fighting WWII, and because of bureacratic inertia. Same with the Air Force and hugely expensive manned fighters. And the Army and self propelled howitzers.

Anonymous Crusader Corim September 30, 2012 4:06 PM  

Which is why the Iraqi Army that outnumbered the US beat us so badly in Desert Storm and Iraq 2. Cheap and numerous doesn't always beat few and expensive, anywhere in history. Numbers are nice to have, quality is nicer. Both is best, and gee, the US has that!

Yes, you might (might) be able to disable one carrier with missile boats in a surprise attack. Then your country will go away when we send the other 10 in.

Anonymous Apeman September 30, 2012 4:22 PM  

I think to a certain extent the defender and detractors of carriers are talking past each.

Carriers are offensive weapons. Most people here don't believe there is a valid reason for the US to wage an offensive war. Moreover, it is hard to imagine the US waging a serious offensive war that stayed conventional.

However, if it was your job to figure out how to wage offensive war in a conventional manner against a near peer (China), you would have to concluded that carriers are necessary not withstanding their many flaws and vulnerabilities.

For all of carrier's problems, trying to wage offensive warfare without air cover is worse. And for all of carrier's problems, land bases are even more vulnerable.

Sans satellites (and they would be the first thing to go in a modern conflict) it is almost impossible to pinpoint a Carrier sailing in the deep blue sea in order to hit it with a conventional weapon. Even the fancy radar guided missiles need to be in the ball park before they can find the target. Subs have troubling getting close enough without being heard if they are trying to chase a Carrier down. If they can wait for one, it is a different story. But the deep blue sea is big enough that it is hard to know where to wait unless you have really good intel.

Josh's example is not really valid. Yes, war games have shown that you can kill a carrier in the Persian gulf with cheap missile boats. But that is just about the most stupid place to send a carrier short of parking it with in visual range of China coast with a target strapped to it.

Anonymous Josh September 30, 2012 4:23 PM  

Which is why the Iraqi Army that outnumbered the US beat us so badly in Desert Storm and Iraq 2. Cheap and numerous doesn't always beat few and expensive, anywhere in history. Numbers are nice to have, quality is nicer. Both is best, and gee, the US has that!

How are we doing against the Taliban in Afghanistan? Desert Storm and Iraq were both instances of conventional warfare. Note that once Iraq was conquered, we couldn't stop an insurgency composed of IEDs and RPGs.

Anonymous Cheddarman September 30, 2012 4:48 PM  

I hope we have war gamed a conflict between the U.S. Navy vs Iran in the Persian Gulf and surrounding region.

No one doubts that the U.S. would win, but a determined enemy with cruise missiles or explosive packed remotely piloted speedboats could put a serious hurt on the U.S. Navy.

Throw in some efforts to confuse the defenders, such as "chaff" and swarming tactics, and the U.S. gets a standing 8 count in round 1.

Anonymous Crusader Corim September 30, 2012 4:59 PM  

Josh, you appear to have confused me with a supporter of our imperial adventures in the Graveyard of Empires. I am not any such thing. But on strictly military grounds, the Taliban is one of the worst resistances ever. The Filipino Moros were way better, to name an enemy America has fought.

Anonymous Apeman September 30, 2012 5:22 PM  

Josh,

You should not confuse political problems with military problems. If the US Marine Corp wanted to kill everyone in Afghanistan there is not thing the Taliban could do to stop them. The fact that America is choosing to be just brutal enough to piss everyone off and not brutal enough to be effective/feared should not be confused with the Taliban being militarily successful. The very fact that America has been able to hang out in that country for more than a decade with barely over 2,000 casualties shows that the Taliban don't know what they are doing.

One of things that amazes me is that the Taliban have not bothered to train men to reliability hit man sized targets at 500 meters. The rifles that can do this are not expensive and you can use iron sights. Ambush at that range. Kill your man and scoot. Such a tactics would be much more effective than planting mines and hopping someone steps on them.

From what I read they are just starting to use these tactics. But it does not speak well of them that it has taken them over a decade to figure it out when it is the historical tactic they used against the British.

Blogger Joe Doakes September 30, 2012 6:46 PM  

Best logistics training video game ever: Oregon Trail.

Anonymous The other skeptic September 30, 2012 7:10 PM  

One look at this GDP data from '38 to '45 tells us that FDR and his administration knew what the outcome of WWII was going to be from the start.

Today's figures are also interesting.

Anonymous Cheddarman September 30, 2012 7:28 PM  

One of things that amazes me is that the Taliban have not bothered to train men to reliability hit man sized targets at 500 meters. The rifles that can do this are not expensive and you can use iron sights. Ambush at that range. Kill your man and scoot. Such a tactics would be much more effective than planting mines and hopping someone steps on them.

From what I read they are just starting to use these tactics. But it does not speak well of them that it has taken them over a decade to figure it out when it is the historical tactic they used against the British. - Apeman


Apeman,

- Using IED ambushes is a great strategy and tactic. It is winning the war for the Taliban.

- On the tactical level, It bleeds and kills your enemy, and preserves your own fighting strength.
- Planting IED's can be done by the young, old and women, so the tactic is a force multiplier.
- Our army fights by calling in firepower on targets. The IED does not leave a target (i.e. a sniper at 500 -1000 meters) that can be annihilated by a barrage of 155 mm artillery.
(when the army does have targets to annihilate, it is not uncommon for there to be collateral civilian deaths/casualties)

On the strategic level, it demoralizes your enemy on the battlefield, and at home in the political arena. It also makes your enemy look ridiculous, as they are being beaten by a bunch of goat herders.

Think of David and Golaith.


Sincerely

Cheddarman

Anonymous scoobius dubious September 30, 2012 7:38 PM  

Re the carrier question: this really isn't very hard.

1) Carriers are extremely useful diplomatic tools for all sorts of weird circumstances that can, or will, or may arise, short of World War III.

2) Carriers are extremely flexible doo-hickeys that provide a tremendous number of options. They are also very good for promoting international goodwill, both of the coerced and the kumbaya varieties. Recall the positive role played by US nuclear carriers in disasters like the South Pacific tsunami back a while ago. Recall also how good it is to be in a country that has a huge fleet of carriers, when most other countries have none. This makes a palpable difference. It's a little like being the guys who actually landed on the moon. It makes a very large swathe of the illiterate worthless low-IQ shit-colored global monkey population think that you're the people Who Can Do Fucking Anything, even if it's obviously not true. What matters is that they think so.

3) Should carriers be the bedrock of a nation's naval doctrine or integrated national defense doctrine? This depends mostly on circumstances outside of the existence of carriers. Even if carriers turn out to be foolhardy (and they may well be) from the standpoint of an advanced (and clear-sighted) view of cutting-edge military doctrine and tech advancements, regarding a possible World War III, they remain a useful, flexible tool for all circumstances that are not World War III. So long as the USA can continue to afford a fleet of carriers, it should do so for those reasons alone, and develop an advanced naval doctrine for the other circumstances.

4) But, given a "both/and" recommendation, can we actually afford to continue sailing an overwhelming-advantage fleet of carriers? Depends on one's priorities. Given the choice between, say, sailing an impressive fleet of potentially useless carriers, and using the same monies to instead fund the endless care and feeding of an endlessly multiplying brood of useless, illegal and unwanted invading Mexican shit-monkeys, I'll take the carriers, thank you, even if the Chinese sink every single one.

5) Besides, the building and maintenance of carriers provides valuable human capital in the form of ensuring we continue to have people capable of doing such complicated tasks as building and maintaining carriers.

6) Conclusion: even if they turn out to not be game-changers in future wars due to future mil-tech and strategic evolution, carriers are nevertheless extremely useful to have, so long as we can continue to afford them. On current lines of development of course, in 50 years time or so the US fleet of carriers will probably have devolved into a bunch of half-rotted floating favelas and maternity hospitals so that pointless useless latinos can continue shitting out their pointless mooching little grease-blobs at the expense of the vanishing US taxpayer. Avoiding that outcome, and also avoiding World War III, is the historical sweet spot where carriers remain a good investment.

7) The ways to win World War III are two-fold:
a) is to cleverly prevent it from happening in the first place (carriers useful); and
b) is to reverse and somehow win the demographic world war which is at present being waged, and won in an absolute rout, by enemy forces; and which will, if successful, make carriers irrelevant anyway, because impossible to imagine or build, impossible to afford regardless (see favelas), and even if they miraculously did appear, would be sailing in a future world devoid of white people: viz., a world not worth sailing in nor defending at all.

8) Are carriers useful or not? At the substructural level, the real answer to this question is, somehow figure out how to get white women to have more white children, and force brown shit-monkeys who don't belong in this country to pack up and return to Monkeyland. Then, carriers will be useful. And if not, not.


Anonymous st September 30, 2012 8:30 PM  

Profound. Pure genius. Your logic is like a bolt of pure white light emanating from your mouth and/or brain.

BRAVO!

Anonymous stg58 September 30, 2012 8:31 PM  

I said that last thing.

Blogger ajw308 September 30, 2012 8:31 PM  

Carriers project power. Staying power. Drones can't park off a coast for months at a time, satellites can.

Missiles are a game changer. They make carriers vulnerable. Don't put to much faith in the Phalanx system. Martin can only ship them after each system passes a target lock test, but many systems fail the test many many times before it qualifies to ship. When used in anger, they'll only get one chance to work, not days of chances.

Tom Clancy fortold the vulnerability of big ships in Red Storm Rising (or was it Hunt for Red October) in a chapter called Vampires (Vampyres?). The chapter scared me, that's one reason I remember it, but they only people who can really do anything about it have their careers tied up in not doing anything about it.

In the next war, missiles will be a bigger factor than drones, I think. And the guided missiles have had a long history. The Germans were using remote control glider bombs with onboard cameras in WWII and we though they were cool in the First Gulf War.

I think the biggest impact drones will have on us is funding the budget for a bunch of wannabe pilots who are in the gang of wannabe soldiers who won't use them to catch criminals, but rather create a new class of criminals.

Anonymous AdognamedOp September 30, 2012 8:57 PM  

"Dance of the vampires", RSR.. Great chapter, great book.

Anonymous Apeman September 30, 2012 9:29 PM  

Cheddarman,

I don't know how carefully you have been following the war in Afghanistan, but causalities caused by IED has dropped sharply both in real terms and as a percentage of total deaths. See http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57469054/ieds-becoming-less-deadly-in-afghanistan/. Americans might not be the smartest people in the world,but keep using the same old tactic over and over again and it does not work very well.

The problem with IED's are many.For one, they don't work very well against a truly determined foe. If the Chinese ever have a mind to take Afghanistan, do you think for a movement that a paltry couple of hundred deaths a year are going to bother them? Then there is the problem of the fact that IED required very smart and talented people to construct. This is a weak point that US has been busy exploiting and one reason why that have become less effective (i.e. the life expectancy for a bomb maker has been shortened considerably). And lastly, it is has been known in military circles since forever that uncovered (i.e. no one is shooting at you while you disarm them) mines don't do much more than anyone the opposing force.

In any case, they never where that effective to begin with. It is only because people want to believe that is easy to beat an empire that we have come to consider a couple of hundred deaths a year an example of military success. By the standards of just about any historical context, that is just a rounding error. If that is all the Russians suffered, they would still be there. Russians lost almost 15 thousand in 9 years. America has lost 2 thousand over 11 years.

Yes, the Taliban is going to win. But they could have won just by calling the Americans dirty names. American can't stay there because of economics even if nobody was shooting at them, they have no real reason to stay, and they won't kill every Pashtun in the place which is the only real way to eliminate the Taliban.

As for rifle fire, you don't seem to understand how hard it is to locate someone who only fires a single shot from 500 meters or more away. The few who have the skills to do this cause the Americans no end of trouble (don't want to get in trouble with the spam bots for posting to many links, but google the two man team who were killing Brits and Americans for just one example). If they get found, they can be killed with airstrikes or big guns. But that is a big if.

American find and fix tactics work so well because the enemy insists on blazing away with un-aimed automatic fire. This makes it easy for Americans to figure out where to drop the bombs.

Anonymous stg58 September 30, 2012 9:41 PM  

and they won't kill every Pashtun in the place which is the only real way to eliminate the Taliban.

The truth no one wants to admit.

Anonymous cheddarman September 30, 2012 11:50 PM  

Apeman,

I have some Military experience, ROTC and National guard, though i was never active duty...

Snipers are always effective, but IMO takes a lot less training to build an IED than to snipe at longer ranges...you could teach a smart teenager to build IEDs in a couple of days... i am sure it takes a lot longer to train a real sniper


although deaths from IED's may be coming down, i bet that there are still a lot of casualties caused by the trauma of the blast, and a lot of guys coming back from Afghanistan with their brains scrambled...we use heavier Armored personnel carriers, they use heavier IED's...next they will be attacking us with drones





Anonymous Azimus September 30, 2012 11:52 PM  

Apeman
Russians lost almost 15 thousand in 9 years. America has lost 2 thousand over 11 years.


Apeman I have to disagree.

First, The Russians lost 67,000 casualties in 9yrs. We have lost more than 12,000 in 11yrs. You have to count the wounded as well - modern weapons break men to a point where they will never be put back together - physically and mentally.

IED's are devastating to morale. Tell me that you feel any chance of winning this war. Now drop yourself onto a "highway" in Af-Pak and patrol that highway again and again and again only to get blown up again and again and again. You don't have to kill soldiers or destroy equipment to win a war. Making soldiers terrified to take the next step down a road, who contemplate suicide (and go through with it) or think about shooting their officers to avoid patrolling will suffice. The "allied frags" with uniformed Afghanis just adds to the misery of that war, and if soldiers could vote on where they fought this war would've been over before 2003.

I'm not saying they can't be MORE successful with the long range sniping you refer to, but you can't downplay IED's.

Anonymous Clyde October 01, 2012 12:38 AM  

"...most wargames and all science fiction tend to completely omit the more tedious elements of war, especially logistics and bureaucracy.>

Sounds like how Hitler managed the Eastern Front.

Anonymous Outlaw X October 01, 2012 1:08 AM  

The whole argument is BULLSHIT. BULLSHIT I am paying to have the fence repaired from a storm and he is so messed up from Afghanistan that it hurts me. FUCK the war games what about the people. His wife just left him and haven't seen him in a week.

Anonymous Outlaw X October 01, 2012 1:15 AM  

You like vwar and gung ho America, get off your ass and go.

Anonymous Outlaw X October 01, 2012 2:32 AM  

Many may think this off topic, but it is not.


Ecclesiastes 1

1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.3 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?

4 One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.5 The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.s6 The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.7 All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.s8 All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.

9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.11 There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

12 I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem.13 And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.s14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.15 That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.s16 I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.s17 And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

Anonymous DonReynolds October 01, 2012 7:12 PM  

Wargaming is mostly for entertainment. Most of the video games today are simply shootem-ups with lots of eyewash. Not really a criticism, they look like a lot of fun. Most of the rest of wargames are continuing the reenactment of historic conflicts, the old stragegic simulation games. My personal preference, of course, was the old Avalon-Hill board games. While there was little historical simulation, the games always preserved the element of chance, which is a fairly accurate experience.

Battle plans go out the window once the first shot is fired. That is why we need leaders instead of planners to direct the course of the battle or campaign.

I agree with you that wargaming has value, but like the general said, I had rather have luck than think it is just about skill. There is always the unexpected and many wargames do not allow for this....most particularly, the wargames exaggerate the value and extent of intelligence on the battlefield....which is where the surprises come from.

Anonymous Apeman October 01, 2012 8:57 PM  

I don't mean to sound like one of those who think that America's military is so great. I don't see killing goat herders with 2,000 pound bombs from F16 as being a sign of military competence. I think that America's current war in Afghanistan is one of the worst run in history on purely military grounds.

My only excuse (and it is a bad one) for getting this involved in a discussion that is not even on topic is that I think that what you guys want to believe is clouding your ability to think. You want to think that it is easy for the little guy to drive off the evil empire so you look around for things that support your view. In my experience, Libertarians often overestimate the effectiveness of insurgents regardless of whether you are taking abut the American revolution, Vietnam, or the current conflict. Basic questions of fact are ignored or are distorted to support a romantic point of view (pop quiz, how much did the Viet Cong contribute to the fall of South Vietnam after the Americans left?).

For example when Cheddarman says "we use heavier Armored personnel carriers, they use heavier IED's...next they will be attacking us with drones" he is conflating Iraq with Afghanistan. In Afghanistan almost all the injured and killed come from IED's stepped on by dismounts. Unlike in Iraq, Afghan's have not mastered the skills needed to take out mine resistant vehicles with IED's (nor do they need to, nobody is going to chase them down with tanks). Everywhere from the IRA to Hamas, the bomb maker has always been a key member of the organization because his skills are not easily replaced. A bright educated teenager can make an explosive but that is not the same thing as making an IED that will reliably go off when stepped on and will not trip a metal detector. And furthermore, Afghanistan is not full of bright educated teenagers or adults. Lately a key focus of America's special forces has been to kill the bomb makers and that is usually given credit for the fall in numbers and quality of IEDs (and hence the sharp fall in casualties). If IED's were that easy to make, you would not think that such a campaign would have much effect.

When Azimus says "IED's are devastating to morale" he is telling fine story that he can support with lots of sob stories from the media. But stop losses has ended a long time ago and everybody who has been going over there is a volunteer. Maybe the dudes who were in for the first four years had no choice. But the war has been going on for over 10 years. And still there are plenty of people willing to go over and kill rag heads. Most of America seems to have forgotten that the war is even ongoing. And this is supposed to represent devastated moral? Sure, suicides are up and there are other mental problems. But from a purely military point of view, these are just rounding errors that don't impact the Army's ability to find people willing to go and fight. Bottom Line: A lot of people just love war.

I think you guys are thinking to much like human beings and not enough like the powers that be. From a human perspective, Hitler decisions to start bombing London in revenge for the Berlin attacks was a huge tragedy because civilians were getting killed. But from the powers that be point of view, it was a great thing because bombing London meant that Hitler had to let up on air bases that were actually important to fighting the war. The number of people being killed did not matter. The effect on fighting power is what mattered.

Similarly, the hundred (tops, I am to lazy to look it up) people killed by green on blue attacks matter more to the powers that be than the thousands of shattered bodies sent home because of IED's. This is because green on blue attacks have effectively destroyed the ability of the Americans to train an Afgan army. IED's have not prevented the Army from doing one thing that it wanted to do.

Anyway, I have gone on long enough. I won't bother you anymore on this subject.

Blogger James Higham October 02, 2012 6:43 AM  

What was it in 3 Days? We play games, they play games.

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