Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Air Supremacy

I think the United States Air Force is far and away the best air force in the world. (Our Navy comes in second). Nobody else comes close. Our F-15 and F-16 aircraft are aging but they are still in the same league as the newest of anybody else's, and combined with command and control, training, targeting, electronics, and armament, are head and shoulders above the rest. The power of the Air Force is far greater than the sum of all its parts.

Which makes it difficult to see why the F-22 is needed. The high tech stealth fighter was supposed to fight the next generations of Soviet fighters and make them wet their pants at the thought of going up against Americans in the air. We're also building the F-35, the Joint Strike Fighter, which will be the low cost (relatively speaking) fighter-bomber that will have a world-wide appeal as other nations seek to replace F-16s. Now, I support the JSF. We'll build thousands of them. We need some new stuff. But the F-22? I'm not convinced we need it. Maybe in very limited numbers but even that is a hard sell for me. While the Air Force has been singing the praises of air power's ability to do it all, from Desert Storm through two campaigns in the Balkans, to Afghanistan, it has never faced more than token opposition in the air. If we need a high end fighter, why not reopen the F-15 line for the Air Force? That solves the aging airframe problem. Brand new F-15s. Shoot, the South Koreans just decided to buy them, they can't be that bad. It would sure undercut their accusations that they were unduly pressured to buy the F-15. With updated avionics and missiles, the F-15 will still be a hell of a fighter for another twenty years.

I suppose what really convinced me that the F-22 fighter is not desperately needed to own the skies is the article I read that said the prime contractors (Boeing and Lockheed Martin) argued they could configure the F-22 to carry bombs internally (so it won't mess up the stealth) so it can bomb stuff. First of all, this seems like an admission that air-to-air combat is not likely to be a strain on the F-22. Second, perhaps unfairly, I immediately recalled the Me-262 rolled out for Hitler, who was very impressed with this jet. He then said to make it a bomber. The world's first operational jet fighter was to be made a bomber. That would have been a waste had it been ultimately done (although to our benefit, it delayed the fighter) in World War II; and it would be a waste now to turn the latest fighter into a very expensive substitute for what our fifty-year-old B-52s are--bomb haulers. Plus, I hate to bank so much on stealth. It's been around a while and others claim to have built radar to detect it (and it still emits sound, who knows what you can do with that?). Maybe we've overcome that and are ahead in the game, but we no longer have the element of surprise with stealth. Shoot, in 1999 we inexplicably failed to bomb one into oblivion when it went down in Serbia. Who knows what we lost there? And what did they know that let them shoot it down? Was it just dumb luck? And if we are ahead in the stealth game, the F-22 is one plane that will not be sold to anybody else for a long time. It would be ridiculous to let that technology loose. So we're the only customer for it and it will be very expensive.

I do want an Air force second to none. Air power is indeed critical to success. But when we are head and shoulders more powerful than anybody else, why spend the money? Bottom line, as a hedge against the future I'd want some F-22s, but more than a couple wings would be a waste of resources. To be fair, here's the Air Force Association's arguments for these planes.

[NOTE: This is from the former Defense Issues category from my original blog. Also, all the links from the original post are dead so I didn't try to enable them.]

Red Team Analysis

Graham T. Allison has given a red team analysis of Saddam deterring an attack. For Saddam, deterring an attack is the best course. Why? Because once the American military machine is set and ready to attack, Iraq's military will be steamrolled. So what if we are not deterred? If I was in charge of the Iraqi program to fight an American invasion, I'd defend against an invasion with several efforts. Most are what the experts call "asymmetric" approaches. That is, don't fight us where we are strongest.

The first element would be disrupting American deployment. Covert forces and special forces would be detailed to attack American pre-positioned material in Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Diego Garcia. I don't know what kind of civilian shipping travels to Diego Garcia, but I'd lease a few. Use of persistent chemical weapons with short-range missiles are an option for Kuwait. Aircraft might sneak in for a quick surprise strike on the Gulf sites. Chemical weapons and covert attacks should also be used against port and airfield facilities in the Gulf. Mines around the Gulf and a ship sunk in the Suez Canal would also round out the effort to deny the ability of America to deploy ground forces rapidly into the Gulf and inflict casualties in the early stages of war.

The second element would be digging in loyal infantry in Baghdad and other major cities, well stocked with ammunition, food, and water. And mines, lots of them. These troops would be the Special Republican Guards, Republican Guards, and other loyal security personnel. The civilians can starve--as long as CNN and al Jazeera can film it. This hard core of resistance will be meant to deter final assaults by guaranteeing a lengthy fight, heavy American casualties, and heavy civilian casualties.

The third element would be a screen of infantry divisions on the border dug in with, of course, lots of mines. With uncertain loyalties, they would better serve as a trip wire that would die early in the war. If they surrender, so what? They will hinder the invasion more as POWs to be transported, fed, and housed then they will as Iraqi soldiers. Commando brigades will deploy behind them to kill deserters.

The fourth element would be forces outside the cities. Mainly, I'm referring to the Republican Guard and regular heavy divisions. Based in villages and next to mosques and hospitals, these forces would hunker down to absorb the aerial assault. Air defenses would emulate the Serbs and husband their forces, looking for opportunities to shoot down American planes. Their very existence will hinder the air effort to pummel the main force units. These force could deter mass defections by the regular infantry divisions and serve to counter-attack small American attacks or to hunt American special forces teams trying to target Iraqi units. They would also slow down the attackers as they approach the cities. I did mention mines, right? Lots of them. Defending barriers and never in the open, they are to delay and cause casualties against a major invasion. Use of chemicals is pretty likely. They are scary and say, "I'm friggin' serious about killing Americans." These forces could also make a lunge to capture Kuwait. Anthony Cordesman cites a horrible possibility that the Iraqis might then begin slaughtering Kuwaitis until America backs off. You'd also want to slowly begin destroying oil fields in Kuwait and maybe Iraq. Fear of oil shortages will make oil prices skyrocket.

The fifth element is missile attacks against Israel. While a long shot, mobilizing the Arab "street" by drawing Israel in might, with everything else, tip the balance in Iraq's favor. Related to this is another element to mobilize the street. Bodies. Lots of bodies. The Iraqis should freeze every natural death or industrial accident victim. They did this in the war with Iran in the 80s after particularly bloody battles in order to space out the casualties being sent home for burial at a more "decent" rate. Plus, just make it up. The claims don't have to stand up to the test of time. Who cares if historians in a year or ten years conclude you lied?

Overall, the idea is to delay American deployment, inflict casualties, and publicize Iraqi casualties whether they exist or not. You want to influence American, European and Japanese, and Arab opinion. Only time can save Baghdad. Time to sow anger and fear to a degree that America will stop the war. Once America is stopped, Saddam Hussein and his sons will be safely entrenched. There just won't be a third try absent use of nuclear weapons against us.

It's pretty scary, but war always is. If you look at our ideal scenarios of Hyper-Desert Storm II or Expanded Afghanistan, those work pretty well on paper too. Shoot, even the inside-out strategy looks good if you assume Iraq sits and takes it. A lot of elements in the Iraqi counter-measures have to work to buy the time needed to make America flinch. The probability that America's war plans will work as anticipated are most assuredly higher. And remember, in the summer of 1990, some respected analysts at the Army War College concluded that America could not deploy and sustain a ground force large enough to defeat Iraq (this was before the invasion of Kuwait). We will beat him.

Still, we have to plan against what Saddam might do. We can't count on him to just sit and take it like he did in the First Desert Storm. He might think it will work this time around. I just wouldn't count on it. That being the case, what do we do to thwart Saddam's asymmetric options?

Counter-measures against the first element, delaying American deployment, are possible. First of all, security needs to be tight as heck, with Patriots guarding the skies and soldiers guarding the perimeters. I'd be shipping in troops a company at a time to marry up with the equipment and deploy into the field. This will be slow enough to avoid undue attention and with a little luck, timed with a troop rotation that doesn't actually rotate any troops--just adds them--we'll have three brigades of heavy Army armor in Kuwait plus a Marine Expeditionary Brigade before anyone really notices. Troops from the 101st Airborne could quietly move in as well under cover of troop rotations from Afghanistan. Then a surge of airlift to get killing power to the Gulf fast; and a massive sealift for the offensive power provided by more heavy armor. Air Force expeditionary wings will fly in under a rotation cover and aircraft carriers, at least three initially, will converge on the region. Carriers will be needed in case some air bases are attacked. Air Force planes will be needed for the volume, but secure floating airfields are a must just in case. They carried the initial burden in Afghanistan before the Air Force could deploy and will again. Indeed, the proliferation of precision weapons will make carriers more valuable than in the past since limited ammunition stowage won't limit their operations as much. Intense surveillance to prevent the Iraqis from dropping mines in the Gulf will be necessary too. Chemical clean-up gear and engineer units/contractors to repair port and airfield facilities will minimize the effect of Iraqi attacks. Combined, these efforts should blunt efforts to foil American deployment to the Gulf.

The second element, defending in the cities with loyal infantry. First, just because Saddam thinks his Republican Guards are loyal doesn't mean they will be. The Special Republican Guards will probably stay loyal, but maybe some will defect. Psychological operations to undermine their will be necessary. Targeting the headquarters of the Republican Guards to leave the lower echelons leaderless may make them more open to defection. We will need civilian contractors with lots of humanitarian MREs, water purification equipment, and tents following in our Army's wake. Civilians in the cities will need to know they have someplace to go. We need to get them out of the way. If our allies are wary of fighting, they will do critical work by keeping Iraqi civilians alive through taking the lead in this humanitarian effort. Our media offensive must show our efforts to minimize civilian suffering and place the blame squarely on Saddam for the suffering he compels his people to endure. Also, there is probably no need to go into every city. Baghdad will likely be Saddam's last stand so every other city can probably be sealed off. Maybe we could be really daring and drop small arms and food into the cities and see if the population will revolt. Be worth looking into anyway.

The third element, the front line infantry divisions, are the easiest to cope with. We can pound them and destroy their offensive capacity. When necessary, we will plow through them just as easily as we did in 1991. Our special forces and Iraqi exiles must be ready to organize light infantry battalions of defectors to throw them into the city fighting, which will also undercut the second element by having Iraqis fighting Iraqis. We can turn these guys to our advantage. Just as special forces gave Northern Alliance forces an air force, our special forces will provide firepower to the light infantry battalions of Iraqi defectors. They can be the cannon fodder to shield our own infantry. Watch out for infiltrators though! The Iraqis could put loyal enforcers into the rabble infantry units with orders to get captured with them. That's how the North Koreans caused problems in POW camps during the Korean War. Separate out anybody that the lower ranks seem to be afraid of.

The fourth element to take on is the main force heavy elements of the Republican Guards and regular army. Dispersed to ride out an air offensive that will be far better than what they endured in 1991, the conventional forces of Iraq will fall prey to American heavy brigades buttressed by air mobile infantry and Marines who will be used to breach water barriers and other bad terrain. When the heavy stuff tries to move, air power, tube artillery, and rocket artillery will decimate them. Our heavy armor will cut apart what is left. Moving fast and engaging the Iraqis will also make it difficult for the Iraqis to target our forces with chemical agents. If we are hit with them, we are better trained to cope with chemicals and continue fighting than they are. We might have to consider using our own small nukes if chemical use is large enough and if we don't win in 100 hours. If we are basically besieging the remnants of the Iraqi army in the cities four days after we cross the border, the pressure to respond with nukes will dissipate. If the war is looking tough? I sure hope we have some neutron weapons in our stockpile. Little radioactive fallout, great against massed armor. And it is scary, too, since it is a nuclear weapon. The biggest challenge would be holding if the Iraqis strike first and drive on Kuwait City again. We could be driven back if we don't get enough stuff on the ground first; but if we do get four brigades on the ground backed by air power plus the small Kuwaiti army, we could most likely hold them short of the objective. Lots of disinformation to stall an Iraqi attack as we deploy will be necessary (does this explain "inside-out" and "we can just contain them" leaks?) A Turkish corps attacking down toward Mosul would help us too by threatening their rear. If we have to pull a Dunkirk, that would be "bad." Assuming we hold, once we counter-attack, the Iraqis will be more vulnerable to air attack. If we can hold them in place as they batter against our defenses trying to break us, our air power can slam them, and the counter-attack back north would be into a virtual vacuum. An aerial Inchon with the 101st and light armor might bag a whole lot of the most loyal survivors. As to the slaughter of civilians, I guess we better not lose the first battle. Same with the issue of Kuwait oil fields. Iraqi oil fields would need to be captured to save them. The solution for these problems is basically to move fast and win fast. We can't afford to waste time. We need to endure casualties to purchase speed.

The last element will require us to lean on Israel to stand down. They may not after they did so in 1991. They think they let a bad precedent stand by doing nothing. They may even be right. Still, I'd rather they stayed quiet. The best remedy for this last problem of coping with the "street" is speed. Do it fast and win decisively and the Israelis won't need to retaliate. Win fast and the protesters will have lost their reason for protesting. Cheering Iraqis freed from Saddam's grip will make this problem vanish.

Overall, the antidote to Iraqi defenses is speed. We may not be able to afford a leisurely 37-day bombardment before we send the troops into Iraq. It all depends on whether the Iraqis actually do just sit and take it or manage some surprises as I've suggested. If they really do fight dumb, we can afford a little more time to soften them up. Still, it would be better to get it over fast. A lot of things can happen if enough time passes. A lot of those things can be bad for us. Push north, bypassing resistance and pummeling those bypassed with artillery and air power. Drive on Baghdad and try to bounce it before the Iraqis get set to defend it. I know the 2001 QDR says we no longer need to fight and win two nearly simultaneous major theater wars, but do the North Koreans agree? Let's not give them the time to mull that one over.

To paraphrase Napoleon, if we're going to take Baghdad, take Baghdad.

Monday, July 29, 2002

Dien Bien Phu II?

I’m having trouble believing that the administration is considering an "inside-out" strategy of dropping paratroopers into Baghdad and taking Iraq from the core outward. The idea is to drop on weapons centers and command centers to decapitate the military and deprive it of chemical weapons. Assuming we even know where all of the chemical depots are; assuming we can actually blanket Iraq and capture Saddam, and assuming we could possibly assume Iraq has no alternative means of command and control(and assuming that standing orders don’t just tell them to withdraw into the nearest city), what are we thinking?

Do we assume victory so much that we think the sight of American uniforms in Baghdad will lead the die-hards to just give in? Do we trust airpower so much that counterattacks by the Iraqis are discounted? Do we really prefer to abandon our strong suit of air supported armor to focus on city combat right off the bat where we will endure casualties? Has anybody heard of Dien Bien Phu? During the First Indochina War when the French where trying to keep their colony of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, the French prayed that the insurgent Viet Minh would just stand and fight. The French dropped paratroopers deep into Viet Minh territory to block a supply crossroads and figured they’d hold out against anything the Viet Minh could throw at them. The Viet Minh did indeed stand and fight. Unable to withdraw, unable to reinforce sufficiently, and unable to wield enough firepower to stop the Viet Minh, the French were killed or captured. The French got their wish. The French lost that war. I sure hope this is just a ploy to make the Iraqis worry about our capability to drop deep. Just hope we don’t actually do it.

The only thing this has going for it is that it silences critics who believe heavy armor smashing its way to Baghdad is "unimaginative." Otherwise it is a recipe for disaster. Yeah, we’d most likely recover from it and win, but casualties would be high. Dropping troops by parachute or helicopter in the enemy rear is great, but just make sure heavy armor is marching fast already to link up with it. Don’t assume victory. Plan like they are tough and if we are lucky, enjoy an easy victory made easier because we never gave the enemy a chance to fight on even terms.

Friday, July 26, 2002

Invasion Update

A recent article from UPI says we will use seven divisions to invade Iraq. With 101st Airborne withdrawing from Afghanistan, that portion of the invasion force is getting ready. Since 82nd Airborne is replacing the 101st, that division will be unavailable for Iraq. Since we are using minimal force in Afghanistan, having that elite parachute division there will work just fine. Two divisions of Marines will provide a good infantry capability for urban fighting and of course can use helicopters to insert infantry and artillery behind the Iraqis (which the 101st will do as well). The UPI article says the Marines will use amphibious assault but that makes no sense. Why go over the beach on the small Iraqi coastline when the Army will sweep past it on the first day? Still, Marines will be a welcome addition. With an extra division than what I thought we'd need to win (two heavy, one air assault, one light, one Marine, and one airborne in reserve), we have plenty margin for error. I'm assuming three heavy divisions, one air assault, one light, and two Marines now) Sending so many divisions to Iraq, plus Afghanistan (and Bosnia, Kosovo, Korea, and the smaller packets elsewhere) means National Guard combat units will have to be mobilized as a strategic reserve, and not just the reserves combat support and combat service support units (which must be mobilized for anything bigger than a Grenada-sized operation).

Plus, looks like we'll have a British brigade or so, plus special forces from a bunch of allies.

My bet is we start moving in November and strike in January.

Monday, July 22, 2002

Declare War on Iraq Addendum

There certainly seems to be some movement in congress to debate what to do about Iraq, although it is not a declaration of war debate. I would note that we did in fact invade Panama in 1989 to get rid of a leader, so going after Saddam would not be the first time as Senator Biden asserts. Nor should Senator Levin's comfort with deterrence dictate whether we should attack Iraq. Saddam Hussein has used chemical weapons repeatedly and his restraint says more about whether he thinks he can get away with it more than any moral qualms. The Iranians are lucky that Iraq did not possess nuclear weapons during their war in the 1980s. Even in 1991, the speed of our advance may have had a lot to do with Iraq's failure to use chemicals rather than the deterrent value of our threats to possibly use nukes in retaliation.

The urge to consider the "complexity " of the issue is, on the face of it, reasonable. In practice, it is merely condescending and an excuse for inaction. Thank God we didn't have deep thinkers urging us to consider the complexity of aiding Soviet Russia in their fight against the Nazis. Talk about "blowback." We defeated National Socialism in Germany only to aid Communism enter the heart of Europe. Maybe we should have had more complex thought patterns in World War II. By all means, debate what we should do. Reasonable people can disagree with methods and even the overall question of whether to do anything active at all. But spare me the superiority of your "complexity" versus my "simple-minded" certainty. Robert Kagan manages to discuss the need to consider the complexity without looking down his nose at the non-French trained intellectuals.

Of this I am certain: If Saddam could get away killing thousands of Americans, perhaps by slipping a weapon to others to use so he can deny responsibility, he will do so. If a nuclear device goes off in one of our ports and we do not have radar tracks showing it being launched from Iraq, what would we do? Survival is not Saddam Hussein's number one goal. Grandeur is his goal. Making Iraq great is his number one objective, with history remembering him as the architect of that glory. America stands in his way and we are a target. He even expects us to attack and with that attitude, we would be foolish to avoid conflict. Take him down before he gets the big opportunity that he craves. He will show no mercy if we give him the chance. Neither should we. Debate the need to wage war. Debate the form of the war. Debate what we do after the war. Do all that. Then take him down

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Declare War on Iraq

The United States Congress should declare war on Iraq.

Already, the Bush administration is reinforcing its policy that regime change is necessary, although there are no plans on the "president's desk" (but check the credenza under the copy of Certain Victory). We are making plans for establishing an Iraqi administration after the conquest, and even the Senate Democrats are lining up for war one hundred percent. We are going to war. Michael Kinsley is disturbed that we are not debating whether to go to war. Although he has a point, I think that the lack of debate stems from the high degree of consensus that war against Iraq is necessary. Few flatly oppose it, and many are probably not "for" war if asked now, but when we attack, they will agree with the decision. Still, the debate Kinsley wants would be useful if only to impress the international community of our resolve.

Sure, declaring war seems kind of anachronistic in an age of asymmetric threats by non-state actors. What are we to do? Send an envoy to slap Tariq Aziz across the face with a white glove? Yet why not? Iraq is a state and the tools we have to overthrow it are traditional, albeit advanced, conventional arms. We have no need to debate whether this is more a law enforcement problem or a military problem. War with Iraq is so September 10th, really. Iraq is a state with a brutal dictator who seethes with anger at us and who will not rest as long as he has a shot at hurting us. He has used chemical weapons against Iran and his own Kurds and undoubtedly still has chemicals. His ambition for a nuclear weapon is well known. He prefers to keep his people in abject poverty as a propaganda device for the gullible overseas and to make sure all paths to any material benefits go through him (carrot and stick is better than just stick--but only if you have all the carrots). At the risk of inciting the conspiracy minded, Saddam is a despot easy to hate and central casting could not have come up with a more evil villain. Only adding cannibalism would make him worse and that would strain credibility.

A declaration of war is ready made to show the world we are serious. No mere "authorization to use force in support of UN Security Council Resolution whatever," but a statement of intent from the elected representatives of the American people that this war ends with the American flag flying over whatever bunker in which Saddam chooses to make his last stand. Such a clear statement of intent will galvanize the American people and show we are united. It will put Europe on notice that we will go to Baghdad with or without them. It will let everyone who has begun to believe that they can waffle on the "with us or against us" deal that being against us bad national policy, and it will let the Iraqi military and people know that our no-fly zones are now no-resistance zones. It shows there is no turning back.

We should be prepared to march our Army on Baghdad and smash the Iraqi military; but at some point between our declaration of war and the start of the air campaign to open the war, some Iraqi general might get up the nerve and luck to put a few rounds into Saddam. The psychological warfare campaign to educate the average Iraqi soldier what it means to stand in the way of the Army might make them shatter on impact when the heavy armor rolls north across the Iraq-Kuwait border. And when it's over, they'd better cooperate in de-Saddamizing Iraq and creating a country based on the rule of law and elections if they ever want a peace treaty with us.

Yes, a device designed for waging war on another state is completely appropriate in these circumstances. Declare war on Iraq.

Friday, July 12, 2002

The Future Army

I want the United States Army of 2025 to be able to march on an enemy capital and impose peace on our terms.

The Army's post-Cold War identity crisis seems to have hindered this goal. During the Cold War, the Army's very clear and very difficult role was to halt the Red Army in West Germany and stop the North Koreans from marching to Seoul. The collapse of the Soviet Union has left the residual mission of keeping the North Koreans at bay but the confrontation lacks the urgency of Fulda Gap due to the smaller stakes and because increasingly South Korea is capable of defending itself even without our help. The Gulf War of 1991 was like the last hurrah for the warfighting mission. Its very success, routing a large foe in 100 hours with amazingly few casualties, undermined its value as a war winner.

Clearly, for way too many observers, the Army was over-prepared for likely threats. The Army was called on to intervene in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo where major ground threats did not exist. Actual fighting was done with airpower and missiles, with the Air Force and Navy arguing over who did that mission better. The Army dealt with the less glamorous mission of suppressing disorder. Simply resisting employment as peacekeepers and the siren song of embracing such missions to remain "relevant" were full time jobs. The Marines at least had the warrior mystique of the Corps to sustain it despite occasional questions about why we have a "second army." With heavy armor viewed as a relic, and war apparently unlikely, the Army set forth to build medium brigades that could be airlifted into a conflict zone to quickly put under-armor forces on the scene to back up the painfully light yet strategically mobile paratroopers or light infantry. Heavy armor, if we even need it anymore, could be provided quickly in small numbers by prepositioning; and in larger numbers more slowly by sea. The Marines, of course, saw turf encroachment on their own specialty--placing small numbers of troops on the ground with more firepower than Army light infantry. Even Army paratroopers seemed to threaten the amphibious warfare mission. As the Army moved toward an expeditionary role as the Army shrugged off the old Cold War role in West Germany, the Army planned to abandon heavy armor completely in about 30 years as it develops and builds a "future combat system" that combines low weight with lethality and survivability.

Much of what the Army and Marines do or are planning to do make perfect sense if done in appropriate doses and if the services see themselves as complementing one another rather than competing with one another. The Army does war. The Marines do battle. For brush fires that will likely not need more than a brigade of troops, the Marines should take the lead. Organizing the Marine Corps to place a brigade quickly on the scene to smother a small threat will keep the Army in the barracks. The initial stages of a war can be handled by Army light forces augmented by prepositioned equipment for the early stages and airlifted medium b rigades that hold the line until heavy armor can be shipped in to the theater. The Army can beef up the Marines with medium brigades or heavy armor if it turns out the battle the Marines are fighting is the first battle of a war rather than just a small scale incident. On the other hand, the Marines will have the numbers and skill to supplement the Army in a war that requires extra infantry or which drags on larger or longer than we hope. Both ground forces can contribute and even the Army's medium brigades, if limited in number for their bridging role, are no threat to the Marine Corps' missions.

The problem comes from the Army's determination to make the medium brigades (the Interim Brigade Combat Teams) the model for the future Army as a whole. The light armored vehicles are current-technology stand-ins for the future combat system that will equip the Army of the future, the Objective Force. As envisioned, the future combat system will not see the light of day. We simply cannot build a vehicle light enough to be airlifted in significant numbers yet as lethal and survivable as the Abrams main battle tank of today. Even if, with some magical breakthrough, we are able to do this, won't this same technology make tanks three times as heavy even more powerful than the Abrams and light future combat system? To work, such a magical future combat system would have to fight only 1990s-era armies.

If we insist on making all our armor light enough to be flown in to a distant theater, we will be creating an Army able to resist what we feared Iraq would do right after conquering Kuwait--march south immediately on Saudi Arabia. In practice, sacrificing power for speed will simply place vulnerable vehicles in combat outnumbered and on the defensive. Given the emphasis on overcoming distance, when we have to choose between maintaining the upper weight limits and providing firepower and protection for the vehicle, protection will suffer first. I guess all I'm saying is that speed of deployment was a unique need of 1990 (and one we did not have to meet) and the entire Army should not adapt to this scenario. A full spectrum military needs Army Rangers and paratroopers able to deploy quickly under fire, a Marine Corps capable of reaching a battle area quickly with its superior firepower and forcing entry, Army heavy brigades that can crush a conventional enemy, Army medium brigades that can bridge the gap between early arriving Marines/Army light infantry and heavy armor, and Marine and Army riflemen for dismounted combat such as urban warfare. Navy and Air Force support are of course crucial, and quite honestly, nobody out there can challenge us at sea or in the air. Such a threat is decades away at worst.

For the near term, ground threats are significant enough to keep the Army and Marines busy. Each has a role unique to its own capabilities despite some overlap in capabilities. With a real war underway and the likelihood of conventional war against Iraq soon, the Army at least does not need to search for reasons to exist. Winning wars is reason enough. As this sinks in, I imagine the chimeral future combat system will dissolve and instead we will get a new main battle tank to carry the burden of war, supplemented by a light fighting vehicle for speed of deployment and the occasional operation other than war. Go Army!

[NOTE: This is from the former Defense Issues category from my original blog]

Iraq

The question of the day of course is Iraq. The decision to topple Saddam is based on real threats as well as some basic level of sympathy for the people who live under his despotism. The main questions are how do we end his career and what do we do with Iraq after?

Some have called for the "Northern Alliance solution" with the Kurds standing in as our proxy and shield for special operations forces to call in withering fire on the Iraqi army and Republican Guards. Decimated from the air, Iraqi ground forces will be helpless to stop a Kurdish march on Baghdad. Possibly, the Iraqi military will depose Saddam on their own to forestall a Kurdish occupation of the capital.

This is unlikely. The Iraqis are better armed than the Taliban and in 1996, struck the Kurds rather than suffer their plans to be a springboard for revolt. We shouldn't count on stopping the Iraqi army in its tracks if it marches into the rugged Kurdish regions again. Without a solid shield on the ground, our special forces spotters will not be able to call in the kind of systematic aerial assault that is necessary to destroy the Iraqi army. Although we are far better than we were in 1999, I suspect an air campaign against Iraq would fail to crush the Iraqi army just as Allied Force failed to crush the Serb army in Kosovo. An aerial only campaign will also undercut our campaign to gain allies who will see failure to provide a ground option as a failure of commitment.

Lack of Saudi air space and facilities will add to the complications of an air campaign. Perhaps even Kuwait will balk. What then, a campaign from Turkey and carriers in the Gulf? Sure, we can command the force from the new headquarters in Qatar, but this will be far from ideal circumstances to wage an air warl. What if the Turks decline to cooperate? Will it be a carrier war bolstered by flights from Diego Garcia and CONUS? Time is our enemy in such a war. Unlike the Taliban, Iraq actually has air defenses so we will probably lose some aircraft and pilots. We'l certainly have to be very cautious to minimize losses. If Saddam can hunker down and absorb the casualties, filmed for al Jazeera and CNN of course, he will gain stature even as he is pummeled again. I do not wish to inflate the Moslem "street" but it would be better to do this fast rather than slow. The sheer time required to execute such a plan will deter skittish allies from cooperating even if they believe we will carry it out to its conclusion.

Invasion seems the only practical method. So, how much and from where? Invasion from Kuwait is surely the best method. The north is controlled by the Kurds and minimal forces would be necessary to bolster the Kurds given that the Iraqis would be busy fending off the southern option. A Turkish corps advancing south with America's 10th Mountain Division pushing south closer to the Iranian border would lock that region down, keep the Iranians out, and reassure the Turks that an independent Kurdish state was not being born.

In the south, two Army heavy divisions and the 101st Airborne (air assault) would suffice to drive all the way to Baghdad. An armored cavalry regiment plus a British heavy brigade to screen the western flank would help; and a Marine Expeditionary Force to capture or preferably just invest Basra and assist in the capture of Baghdad later, would be necessary. Allied infantry to help garrison the south and keep the Basra region from falling into Iran's orbit or breaking a way would minimize complications. A strategic reserve in the form of the 82nd Airborne Division could help out in Baghdad if resistance is heavy, as could elements of 10th Mountain Division. Jordan has reportedly agreed to help. Basing Patriot missiles to shoot down SCUDs and special forces and aircraft to hunt missile sites in western Iraq would be useful as would the ability to base search and rescue forces there. Apparently, the Jordanians have decided not to make the wrong choice again by siding with Iraq.

It is a major problem if Kuwait does not cooperate. We have two options: invade from Turkey to drive on Baghdad from the north; or come over the narrow Gulf front with the Marines, carve a beach head, and drive on Baghdad from the south. Could Army paratroopers drop in deeper to seize airheads? Dang, that's starting to look like D-Day. Looking at the latter option first, I initially discounted it. Opposed landings are tough and we haven't solved the problem of clearing mines quickly and thoroughly. Logistics would likely be quite the challenge too since the port infrastructure needed to ship in supplies and reinforcements would be fairly wrecked. Parachute assaults are risky too. Besides, we'd probably need to occupy Kuwait's Bubiyan Island for the duration, so some level of Kuwaiti cooperation would be necessary. If we can get that minimal cooperation, perhaps the Marine invasion will provide Kuwait the ability to deny they've helped us while quietly letting us ship supplies and reinforcements through Kuwait up the highway into Iraq.

Although I think we could do the job from the south without Kuwait, from practical as well as moral reasons, we should not unduly risk our paratroopers' and Marines' lives to allow Kuwaiti rulers the luxury of hedging their bets over siding with us. We have to make them side with us. If we have to make every foreign bank account they own suddenly disappear for a couple minutes to show them we mean business, so be it. I'd rather gain their willing cooperation, but this is too serious to allow them the option of saying no. I doubt we would need to go that far. Saudi cooperation is unlikely. At least as far as basing goes. We can operate without them. Others will give us the bases we need. Knowing we are serious and hoping for some leverage in post-Saddam Iraq, I guess the Saudis will lean our way. At the least we will be allowed to use their air space. We may be able to use their ports and airfields for logistics. We may even get to use bases for aerial tanker and support missions. The line will be drawn before allowing combat missions but that will not be a critical handicap.

One important reason that Kuwaiti and Saudi will cooperate is the prospect of an Iran-inspired revolt in the Basra region. This will give the ruling family of Kuwait the willies. The Saudis too would be darned displeased to see Shiites breaking away from Iraq to form their own state (surely, the large number of sometimes rioting Shiites in their own oil provinces loom large in their thinking. Bad precedent to let it happen in Iraq) or to request annexation by Iran. They claim they don't want that outcome. Let them back it with action. Given that Iranians seem to like us and despise their theocratic dictatorship, I no longer worry about a Shiite uprising too much. I imagine Iran will be in the win column due to Iranian actions all by themselves.
Still, I bet the Kuwaitis will cooperate. Despite the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the public waffling, the Kuwaitis are with us. We have reinforced our troops in Kuwait and the Kuwaitis have not forgiven the Palestinians for siding with Saddam in 1990. And Iraq did try to extingiush Kuwait... All in all, once it is clear we are going to Baghdad, I bet the odds are pretty good we will go in from the south with Kuwait fully cooperative and Saudi Arabia sufficiently cooperative. Other Gulf states will provide critical bases. But if not, the north will work too. It may be annoying that the Kuwaitis don't opendly side with us now, but they do have legitimate reasons for staying quiet until we move.

An invasion risks bloody combat but it also increases the likelihood of dramatic victory. At worst, we take the country and depose Saddam after destroying the Iraqi army. An invasion may actually make a revolt more likely. Who in Iraq will stick his neck out in the face of Saddam's proven ruthlessness and cruelty to even suspected opposition? Were I an Iraqi division or brigade commander, I would only surrender or defect when I could see the American Abrams coming down the road. Saddam is way too vicious to take a leap of faith at this point. Saddam Hussein has killed for mere suspicion or whim and the fear ingrained in his subordinates is too deeply embedded to overcome easily.

So, would a force based around a core force of an Army corps of 2 heavy, 1 air mobile, and 1 mountain division, and 1 Marine Expeditionary Force do the trick? In 1991, it took seven-plus Army divisions and more than two divisions' worth of Marines to win (with militarily significant allied help limited to the British division and small French division). The Iraqi army is 40% of its Desert Storm size. Eleven years of poor maintenance, purges for real and imagined plots, and numbing sanctions have surely taken their toll on equipment and morale. If the remaining 40% are half as effective as their 1991 brethren, I will be shocked. America in turn would go to war with an Army better than in 1991 technologically speaking. Training standards are not as high as they were when we trained to beat the Red Army while outnumbered, rather than indulging in our casualty-free peacekeeping mentality encouraged in the post-Cold War decade. Morale would certainly be better as the cause will be one clearly worth fighting for and dying for. Saving Kuwait and its oil were a national interest but not exactly high minded. (Ending slavery and not preserving the Union inspired the Northern soldiers to advance through deadly Confederate killing zones; even though preserving the Union was a good cause too.) Hopefully, our training has regained a sense of warfighting urgency since September 11. To be conservative I guess we are equivalent to our 1991 Army brethren overall. Our Navy remains uncontested and our Air Force is a quantum leap ahead of 1991. Indeed, it is far better than the Air Force that fought over Kosovo in 1999. Although I remain a firm believer in the vital role of ground power in focusing and maximizing the impact of air power--and exploiting its power while the enemy is still reeling--I would be remiss not to note that airpower is amazingly better and will increase the effectiveness of a ground invasion tremendously. Even without airpower tilting the balance our way, I estimate (and these are all back of the envelope estimates, not quantitative analysis) that a single United States Army heavy brigade could, unaided, crush a regular Iraqi army tank division; and even beat a Republican Guard heavy division. Airpower factored in will rout them. I cannot forget the ability of our 1991 heavy Army divisions, assisted by airpower, to plow through Iraqi Republican Guards in a frontal assault with barely a scratch to show for their efforts to stop us. The rank and file infantry divisions will be speed bumps and will cause us more problems as POWs than as actively fighting formations.

This is our kind of war. Five-plus American Army and Marine divisions backed by our tremendous air power may well be equal to the 1991 force of ten division-equivalents of America troops. So, we went halfway to Baghdad while defeating the best Iraq had in 1991. In 2003, an American force equivalent in power to the 1991 force will need to go all the way to Baghdad against an Iraqi force 20% as effective as its 1991 version. Yeah, we can do it. I would never assume it will be a cake walk, but we can't rule that out either. There are a lot of factors and I can't even count out defeat if the whole region went up in flames. All the more reason to do it fast.

The only potential battlefield problems are city combat in Baghdad and chemical weapons. With his regime at stake, die hards may well pull a Berlin bunker strategy and Saddam may figure he has nothing to lose by going chemical. For the problem of city fighting, remember the 82nd Airborne should be on call to aid in this. Hopefully some defectors will aid too and lead their own Iraqi troops into the city. In any case, we will need to drive on and bounce the city rather than besiege it and give the defenders time to fortify their nerves and buildings. Better some losses early than a dragged out bloody fight in that sprawling city with the accompanying CNN risk of starvation and disease plaguing the civilians. As to chemical weapons, every trigger puller in the Iraqi army and air force who might get the order to launch a chemical weapon at us must know they are dead. We don't need to retaliate with nukes or chemicals, but thermobaric bombs will probably do nicely. Of course, our threat to prosecute or kill the trigger pullers will pale in comparison to Saddam's threat to kill and torture the trigger puller and his entire extended family if he doesn't fire the chemical weapons. We shouldn't expect a lot from threatening the chemical guys. Threats must be coupled with speed of advance to give chemical troops the opportunity to stall for time and get overrun by American troops. Our threats will stall use, not deter it. We're just not as ruthless as Saddam. At worst, we are better prepared to face chemicals on the battlefield than anybody else; and against well trained and protected troops, chemical weapons are more nuisance than mass casualty inducing weapons.

Although on paper we'd still have about half of our military engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan with another half ready for another major theater war, it would be prudent to mobilize the National Guard and other reserves on a Desert Storm level of a quarter million personnel (we're at about a third of that level of mobilization now). They need not be sent to war but they should be available for contingencies until the Iraq campaign is over and the troops return to the US and recover. Some of the reservists might be appropriate to send to post-war Iraq as a stabilization force until we can get allies for that role.

One way or the other, then, we will make it to Baghdad and throw the bums out. Although some Americans must remain in a multi-national force to solidify the victory with a successful peace, we will need to withdraw much of the heavy armor to be prepared to deal with an aggressive North Korea or some unanticipated threat. A democratic, rule of law-based, decentralized Iraq will be our ultimate objective. Once again, as in Afghanistan, throngs of cheering Moslems not at all put out by their liberation from tyranny will stifle the chorus of panic from our continental European allies and certain "solidarity" organizations that will protest our "evil" for doing what is necessary.

And we will do what was necessary. We began rolling in the aisle of Flight 93 over the skies of Pennsylvania. We will roll into Baghdad in due course. I would not be shocked at all if we had an old fashioned declaration of war by Congress. Some say the invasion is scheduled for the fall. Maybe. I'd guess the new year if I had to bet now. But the fall is possible too. Giving Saddam less time to prepare is certainly a motivation to go earlier rather than later. And our time is limited. We should not be confused about that.