Sunday, April 13, 2003


Arsenal Of Technocracy
It has been a very busy 3 weeks at work, a whirlwind of activity covering the weapons and tactics of coalition forces from here in DC. I wish our publication had made a decision to embed with one of the aviation bases out in SW Asia, but ironically staying in Washington kept me abreast about the use of some of the most interesting weapons in our inventory -- such as the dual-guided GPS/laser-guided EGBU-272,000-pound Enhanced Paveway III bombs we used last month to open the strikes on Baghdad and the Brits' exquisite new Storm Shadow cruise missile.

That said, the one true asset of the coalition successes in this conflict was the American and Brit fighting soldier/sailor/Marine/airman. The 3rd Infantry Division and I Marine Expeditionary Force's sweep through Iraq to Baghdad was the sum of all hopes for military futurists -- combining the ingenuity of on-the-ground battlefield commanders and combatants with the most advanced collection of weapons and accompanying systems the world has ever seen. And all of this occurred without the presence of our most technologically endowed formation, the 4th Infantry Division, largely sitting out the majority of the fighting given the collapse of diplomatic traction with the Turks.

It is the fighting man and woman, who came from all points from the Republic, that constituted the awesome power of this force. They made the Longbow Apaches lethal weapons. They flew A-10s so low over Baghdad they were cutting grass. The men of the 7th Cavalry made their forefathers proud, dashing against the choking, swirling winds and excruciating heat of the Iraqi desert to reach Baghdad. As the massive Abrams tanks and Bradley IFVs scoured the desert, the 101st Airborne hopped all over the desert in their Black Hawk helicopters. The Marines of I MEF moved swiftly as well.

And what of the Russian "consultants" and Syrian guns and suicide bombers shipped over to frustrate coalition battlefield efforts? There is something fundamental about the nature of the Brit-American-Aussie-Polish fighting force that separates them from potential competitors. In a general sense, our fighting systems allow for creativity and adaptability on the battlefield. The patient British approach on Basra successfully combined one of the world's most capable amphibious commando forces -- the Royal Marines, with the impsosing Challenger 2 tanks of the 7th Armoured Regiment, the "Desert Rats." British commanders showed the coaliton's dexterity and imaginativeness against the stubborn Fedayeen Saddam irregulars.

Conversely, 3ID made some daring command decisions. As the U.S. Army goes, 3ID is one of our heaviest units, but showed some agility and sheer gutsiness riding Abrams tanks into downtown Baghdad. Urbanized terrain is a tank's worst operating environment, but the presence of a tank -- such as the intimidating M1A1 Abrams, can also provide its own shock value. The immense sight of hurling 70 tons of armor at an enemy position so quickly multiplies the Abrams' lethality.

Iraq did not fight with entirely inadequate weaponry. Our adversaries had the tools of maneuver warfare -- Russian-built T-72 tanks, BMP fighting vehicles, perhaps even the lethal Kornet anti-tank missile. Conversely, they got terrible, self-defeating advice from their alleged Russian aides. The Soviet generals of WWII understood maneuver warfare, planning for offensives hundreds of miles in depth against Nazi Panzer units. Massive force met forceful planning. However, in the post-Soviet era, the Russians seem increasingly one-dimensional. They razed Grozny during the Chechen conflict but sent their own soldiers into a meat-grinder. The Iraqi armed forces entered this war with sufficient weaponry, more troops, but less imagination.

The coalition military success is the product of not only democracy, but of an educated, intelligent and thorough one. Its soldiers -- from the tankmen of the Desert Rats to the cook serving in 3ID, all come frome free-thinking, imaginative technocracies that produced the fighting machines for this effort. The wave of steel combined with the surge of information. The coalition performed military tasks even some of our NATO allies cannot implement.

That, more than anything else, should give the West continued hope in the face of the bin Ladens and Saddams of the world. Our victories are born of our commitment not only to freedom, but to creativity.

On Abrams' Back
So in the battle between Rumsfeld vs. Armor, who won out? On the surface it appears that SecDef was correct in sending a smaller force against the Republican Guard, but both sides came away with enough to ensure the debate between heavy and forceful on one hand and agility and speed on the other will continue for years to come.

Where you stand depends on where you sit.

It is likely that the earlier presence of 4ID or the decision to commit either 1st Cavalry or 1st Armored could have resulted in an even shorter war than the three week one coalition forces fought. An extra division -- including a tank-heavy unit like "America's First Team" (1Cav) or "Old Ironsides" (1AD) could have swept to Baghdad faster.
Indeed, I think it is safe to say that a lighter force, absent say I MEF or the 1st UK Armoured, could have run into a serious stalemate.

The 7th Cav. regiment turned the M1 Abrams and the smaller Bradley from stalwarts of the long-distant memory of NATO war planning into the new hot rods of the U.S. Army.

Conversely, that said, the Americans did show us how mature high-end mechanized warfare has matured even from the Desert Storm era. Again, it helps to understand that politically the presence of an extra division accompanying the 4ID would have required the use of a larger land base -- Saudi Arabia. Since the nature of the force deployment was inherently different from Desert Storm -- there was no real pretense of "defending" like we did in Saudi back in '90-'91, the regional power brokers couldn't really tolerate another logistics-heavy division to come over the horizon.

The combat power and agility of a modern American fighting force cannot be underrated here. It is fair to ask, if we had had more troops, would we have moved as fast as the 3ID and I MEF did on their own? Can you imagine the supply line chain for not one Army mechanized division, but two? How about three, plus I MEF and the Brits?

Monday, March 24, 2003

Where Were You?
It has been a very busy and eventful couple of days, starting with the bolt out of the blue strike on Baghdad Wednesday night to the nasty fighting at Umm Qasr and other Iraqi cities. Coalition troops and accompanying forces can now strike to within 60 miles of Baghdad. This is where the war gets very, very hard.

Ernesto Cortes recounts his experiences from Texas A&M Kingsville:
"Wednesday March 19th may not be a “day of infamy” but it sure was a day that will be remembered by all Americans, and people from other countries. President Bush addressed on Monday the 17th that he was giving Saddam Hussein 48-hours for him and his family to get out of Iraq or military action would take place to get him out. As we went to our classes on Tuesday the talk of the campus was on the deadline Bush had put on Hussein. Would we go to war? Or would Hussein leave under his own will? These are just some of the questions that students, faculty and friends asked me.
Wednesday rolled around and the talk was about Hussein. Would this be the day that we declared war on Iraq? Or was Bush going to give him another deadline? As I watched the evening news that night all I could think about was what the President was going to tell the American public. Good or bad I was anxious to know what action was going to take place. Eight o’clock struck, the deadline was up! As soon as the clock turned eight my eyes were glued to the news stations waiting to find out the latest and hopefully to hear from the president. With the news stations broadcasting a live picture of Baghdad, Iraq and U.S. troops on the ground in Kuwait I knew what I was going to hear. “Nine fifteen the president will be addressing the nation” said the commentator on NBC Dateline. Again I waited for the time to come. “Raise the volume” I said “this is going to be important.” Well Bush announced that Saddam had done his last act of defiance and that we were going in to destroy his regime and make Iraq a better place…….we began the war! Wednesday night there was not too much action that we could see. Thursday morning was the day that we started to attack Iraq where it hurts. The U. S. first started by trying to take out Saddam and members of his government with the first barrage of missiles and bombs. Now all I do is watch the news and see what is going on in Baghdad. Hopefully we will win this war with the least amount of casualties."

Monday, March 17, 2003


Arrows In the Quiver
I'm writing at 2324 hours Tuesday night, slightly under the 48-hour umbrella President Bush offered to Iraqi dicator Saddam Hussein and his two sons to leave Iraq or face direct military action. I say "umbrella" and not "deadline" because like an umbrella, the time frame could fold inward if Iraq A) prepares to sabotage the country's own material wealth or B) launch a preemptive strike on Israel or coalition ground forces with chemical warheads delivered by mobile artillery pieces or SCUD-series ballistic missiles.

Coalition units have been "at war", so to speak, for at least a month. Couple the reports of American and allied special forces operators already in Iraq with the accelerated air campaign under the no-fly zones administered as part of Operations Northern and Southern Watch, and you get a better understanding of Allied efforts to prepare the battlefield for the likely hostilities.

There exists a narrow, distant opportunity that coalition forces will be engaged in combat by the time you read this. Of course, it is also possible that there could be a full day after the expiration of the 2-day umbrella before any coalition forces begin their attack. As the television pundits have noted, in a strategic vein allied planning is clear. There is no "surprise" as such. However, at the operational and tactical level, allied units still maintain a degree of unpredictability to the point where "shock and awe" can be utilized to the utmost.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003


Nashville Goes To War?
While the media fawns over stridently anti-American actors and other celebrities in the Hollywood axis of banal, country star Darryl Worley is steadily climbing the country charts with his "Have You Forgotten?", a song that reminds us of the horrors of 9.11. I wonder how much Nashville expects to go to the well on this, because that's what I think is happening.

In my opinion, the best song in the post-9.11, pre-Iraq era is Toby Keith's "The Angry American," which captured the anger and the fury of the average American. Keith said what we thought in our minds. Country music seems to be the last refuge of pro-American sentiment, however, country is also a venue for reflection and pause for the consequences of war. For example, the Dixie Chicks' "Travellin' Soldier" echoes the past -- specifically Vietnam. And, the Chicks don't sound quite as shrill as others when recalling that war. Theirs is a reflective, forlorn piece of music.

"When you're a historian you get to make up words like 'orphanhood' and 'indigenists.' " --- Victoria Vergara

Thursday, March 06, 2003


Should U.S. and assembled coalition forces begin military action in the coming weeks against Iraq, the most important players won't necessarily be the fighter aircraft armed with a variety of smart weapons and precision-guided munitions. The most important single group of weapons systems will be the coalition special operations forces, the Israeli Arrow ballistic missile defense network, and the batteries of Patriot missile launchers that would back up the Arrow should it fail.

In my opinion, Saddam Hussein's likely first target for his arsenal of SCUD and evolved SCUD missiles will be Israel, perhaps within the first 18 hours or so of the first full-out coalition airstrikes. The importance of the Arrow missile system is on a paramount level, because it ensures that Tel Aviv can defend itself without having to literally enter the theater with its own combat aircraft. Hopefully our SOF professionals can destroy as many launchers before the Iraqis can juice up their weapons and fire them. Should the Arrows miss, and Iraq is lucky enough to get weapons off into the air, then the Patriots are the last line of defense.

In 1991, the SCUD hunt was considered a strategic liability vice kicking the Iraqis out of Kuwait. On the other hand, this time around, the SCUDs are part of the reason the coalition is going after Iraq in the first place.

Should conflict become a reality -- try to keep focus on western Iraq and the level of activity down there.

Wordplay Dump!
"Does Afghanistan = Hellmouth?" ZoMom Victoria Vergara
" We're dealing not with isolated terrorism...but with a broader movement to reject freedom, democracy and modernity itself." -- Robert Bartley, Wall Street Journal
"Being in the Marine Corps is like being in the Boy Scouts...except the Boy Scouts have adult supervision."--Overheard at a defense procurement conference in Virginia.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003


Chai To Ashes
Today is Ash Wednesday, beginning the Lent season. As a Catholic, I gave up chai tea and bagels with cream cheese, one of my favorite breakfast combinations. Nothing can beat the sugar rush of a grande vanilla chai from St. Elmo's down on Mt. Vernon Ave. in Alexandria.

Korean Posturing
The situation of the Korean peninsula has triggered a variety of the usual diplomatic-military moves. Earlier this week, an Air Force RC-135 recon plane was intercepted and shadowed by a quartet of North Korean MiGs. Conversely, in a pre-planned deployment, B-1 and B-52H bombers were sent to Guam. Now, this isn't exactly a "direct" response to the North Koreans' harassment of the RC-135. Indeed, if the U.S. wanted to send a clear message to the mercurial N. Korean despot Kim Jong Il, it could have added fighter escorts to the recon missions that operate in international waters.

The N. Koreans' action reminds me of the EP-3 incident in the Pacific two years ago, when a Chinese J-8 fighter collided with a Navy EP-3E maritime intelligence patrol aircraft, forcing the EP-3 crew to land on the Chinese island of Hainan and resulting in President Bush's first diplomatic test. The N. Koreans are certainly a problem, but we have a ways to go before we're talking major, war-like crisis. Granted, we can travel down that road rather quickly, but we aren't there yet.

Instead of bombers in Guam, I would have been more keen on actually providing protection for the RC-135s and other planes conducting intel missions. That would force the issue with the N. Koreans to see if they were actually serious about shooting down the aircraft. Four F-15s or F/A-18s flying escort for the recon jets would serve as a pretty durable deterrent, ensuring there won't be a "next time" for N. Korean MiGs to play chicken with unarmed aircraft.

The point here is that the N. Koreans want favorable terms for whatever constitutes an eventual "negotiating table." Kim wants the U.S. alone in bilateral talks. The U.S. is forcing the other countries in the region to deal with the Korean problem by pushing for a multilateral framework.

We were closer to a peninsula war in 1994, when the U.S. considered airstrikes to deprive the North of its nuclear reactors. Like I said earlier, the situation could deteriorate quickly, but other things have to happen -- such as N. Korean troop movements along the frontier, and if the MiGs actually fire one of their missiles.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003


Diplomat Games
The primary reason President Bush and the U.S. went to the UN Security Council for a "second" resolution authorizing force against Iraq was to offer political cover to Spain, Italy, and Britain. However, if that proposed resolution falls to a French, Chinese or Russian veto, the U.S. will proceed to act alone anyway. I think it was good sense to go to the UN insofar as that the interlude allowed the U.S. and the Brits to field major ground forces in the region.

As I said previously, Tony Blair can sustain a leftist insurrection, and successfully beaten back his own Labour party when it rebelled last week. Spanish PM Jose Maria Aznar, given recent electoral success, can ignore the antiwar leftist agitators that protest.

From a purely mechanical standpoint, this is interesting diplomacy. The French-German-Russo-Sino "axis" is organized on one common principle -- diminishing the power of the United States. This is really the first time such an axis has really taken the field. French President Chirac is risking his own country's standing. Usually, after France leaves the NATO flock, America forgives it. Whether or not the current Administration does after France's chicanery is at this juncture an open question.