Thursday, April 28, 2016

Encouraging Disorder

Without ammunition, you can't fight to win.

We have a problem:

American military leaders are going public about how their complaints about smart bomb and missile shortages are being ignored. In 2015 over 25,000 smart bombs and missiles were used by American (mostly) and allied (NATO and local Arabs) warplanes operating over Iraq and Syria. Nearly all weapons were supplied by American firms and American politicians and military leaders can’t agree on how to get the money to replace bombs being taken from the war reserve stocks (large quantities of munitions and spares stockpiled to keep the troops supplied during the initial month or so of a war).

I know the Air Force mentioned the ammo shortage before. But I had wrongly assumed that war reserve stocks were safe. So I guess I didn't mention it.

If you think wars end because ammo runs short, you are wrong. Horribly wrong.

Ammo shortages just mean the war can't be won quickly. So it drags on longer, with more casualties the result.

In World War I, ammo was running out for the big guns as the short-war assumptions were destroyed by 1915.

So shooting slowed down, and ammo production was rushed (and I'm assuming it wasn't always up to standards in the rush). But by then everyone was dug in on the Western front (and Italian front) and so attrition raged.

And it gets worse (back to Strategypage):

In Europe the attitude seemed to be that the Americans would be able to supply smart bombs in a crises. For a long time that was the case, but with the Americans now running down their own war reserves and deadlocked over what to do about that (which is currently “not much”) American allies are getting anxious.

This is another problem with our ammo shortage. Allies need access to our war reserve stocks to fight. So allies need us to defend themselves even if we don't put boots on the ground. That need for our disappearing ammo is bad when you consider we call nations allies because we believe their survival is important to us.

Who cares, you say? Just make our allies buy their own damned ammunition! If we fail to maintain adequate war reserve stocks, allies will figure out that they need to build up their war reserve stocks. Perhaps they will now. That's great, right?


And then it gets worse.

This is really a case of putting allies on a leash rather than allied "free riding." If allies need our ammo to fight a war, they can only fight a war we approve of, eh?

And so if allies build their own war reserve stocks, allies will be able to wage war for their own objectives regardless of whether we approve or think it is wise.

As I've said, the problem with "leading from behind" is that allies capable of taking the lead may decide they don't care to follow the directions of the backseat driver.

For want of a war reserve stock, the global system we built (and benefit from) will fall.

UPDATE: Remember, the system we built but are now reluctant to defend because it seems so natural benefits America:

The economic, political and security strategy that the United States has pursued for more than seven decades, under Democratic and Republican administrations alike, is today widely questioned by large segments of the American public and is under attack by leading political candidates in both parties. Many Americans no longer seem to value the liberal international order that the United States created after World War II and sustained throughout the Cold War and beyond. Or perhaps they take it for granted and have lost sight of the essential role the United States plays in supporting the international environment from which they benefit greatly. The unprecedented prosperity made possible by free and open markets and thriving international trade; the spread of democracy; and the avoidance of major conflict among great powers: All these remarkable accomplishments have depended on sustained U.S. engagement around the world. Yet politicians in both parties dangle before the public the vision of an America freed from the burdens of leadership.

The system didn't happen by itself. We built it. And it will be dismantled by those who would rather we not benefit from it if we don't maintain it.

Read it all, as the expression goes. You don't have to agree with every particular to appreciate the benefit of the current system.