Friday, September 29, 2006

What kind of military do we need?

Brilliant analysis from the officers at "The whole argument over the Army’s “transformation” can be encapsulated like this: During the Cold War we needed big, heavy, divisions with lots of men, tanks, self-propelled artillery, and armored personnel carriers. We needed this because we faced a similarly equipped enemy. After the Cold War, the unchallengeable American military had nothing to template itself against. For the decade of the 1990’s, the Army downsized, still trying to figure out how to effectively organize itself. Post 9/11, the military has two recent, and different, examples of how to organize itself for war against a medium-sized third world country. The first is the “lean and mean” force the overthrew the Taliban. This force package revolves around a small, light, maneuverable, dispersed force that is backed up by a lethal reserve force of US airpower and shock troops. The “big and bad” strategy was used in Iraq, and consisted of dual heavy-armored convoys plowing through Iraqi defenses into Baghdad. Both of these strategies worked in the past, and both are used exclusively for “initial entry” into a hostile country and neither addresses the post-conflict stabilization period. A strategy for war brings with it new requirements for manning, equipment, and training –so which one worked out better in the past? Which one will be more prevalent in the future? Let’s start out with the “Lean and mean” approach. Heavy reliance on already overtaxed SOF assets would require an increase in manning for those units back in the states. Can that be done while retaining the standards these units adhere to? Also, this strategy worked in Afghanistan, where alliances between warlords could be manipulated in order to provide ground forces. Such a strategy might not succeed in a country without active opposition groups to organize, arm, train, and then deploy against their government. Another fault with this strategy is that it tends to rely less on conventional soldering and more on machines to “force multiply” the few forces on the ground. This approach means: - More troops trained in UW (Unconventional warfare) - More money spent per soldier - More high-tech equipment - Less reliance on Reserves The armored fist that broke Iraq in three weeks will go down in history as one of the swiftest military campaigns ever conducted. However, in high country, jungle, mountains, or swamps the advantage of armor drops tremendously. Also, a troop movement as large as OIF one would be vulnerable to massive enemy rear-guard action if it faced any force more organized than the Baathist collective defense. ( we got a taste of this with the Jessica Lynch incident). This approach means: -More money spent on conventional armor (tanks, brads, sp arty) -Larger force requirements -With that, more reliance on reserves -Large troops centers become targets Now that I’ve ripped both of the strategies, lets talk about where we’re going. A large chunk of the Pentagon is leaning toward the FCS (Future Combat Systems) a collection of vehicles that are supposed to “force multiply,” at the expense of, say, more people. However, despite the successes of the past initial-entry ops, current force demands for Stability and Support operations (SOSO) throw both of these for a loop. In conclusion, we always plan to win the last war, not the next one. If that’s the case, thinking outside the box, which approach is better: bigger, or leaner, or some combination of both?

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