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?