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@RVN SF VET According to Sean Naylor Rumsfeld specifically nixed artillery from the TIPFID, believing them unnecessary due to air power capability... And then the A-10s and fast movers could not stay on station long enough and the AC 130s could not operate in daylight. Suddenly the most powerful military force in the history was pinned down without fire support, and the Taliban had artillery. Shameful and astounding. If Naylor's account is accurate of course.
1 year, 1 month ago on Access denied | The Best Defense
@Rubber Ducky @oldtanker Agreed. But Westy got his 200k, just not the next 200k he asked for. The 101st was denied an artillery battery in the initial Afghan operation. That is like 150 guys and eight guns. In 2009 the president did not draw the line at another 200 thousand men, he cut an already small request by 20 thousand - an amount that made no real difference politically or financially, but a tremendous number if you are trying to hold on in Helmand Province six months later. These choices became so critical, and yet represented relatively minor troop numbers. And that is command failure.
Degrees of possible culpability aside, sometimes a message must be sent. I suspect this was received loud and clear.
That said, Gurganus requested additional forces on multiple occasions. So did TF Ranger in Somalia (specifically the USAREUR ready mech platoon which was literally waiting on the phone call). So did Petraeus in Afghanistan, and many others. And the politicians made the political calculus and said, "no."
At some the leadership in both the Pentagon and the White House must take responsibility to ensure that adequate military force levels accompany political goals. From the 101st lacking fire support in Operation Anaconda, to the waive off of the 4th ID prior to the invasion of Iraq, to far more examples from the past 12 years than I care to count... politicians and political appointees have made political decisions that have unnecessarily cost American soldiers their lives.
Granted, this is not a new occurrence in American military history, but the trend line seems to be increasing. and in the past it was often due to the simple lack of resources, rather than as a result of a political unwillingness to go all in.
When I made the very difficult decision to leave the active Army in 1994 I knew one simple fact: It would be 5-10 years before I could know for certain if I had made the right decision. Now granted, I had not done two tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. But I had recently seen the less than scenic parts of Kuwait, Somalia, and Bosnia. The promise of more of the same left me looking for another life plan.
Now, nearly 20 years later I know that my decision was sound... But there are times when I miss the directness enabled by a clear chain of command and the camaraderie of the profession of arms, an experience that can come from no other endeavor.
1 year, 2 months ago on Access denied | The Best Defense
Perhaps if the intervention is "unbelievably small" is only a little undemocratic.
Imagine if Patton, Bradley, and Eisenhower (and hundreds of other officers like them) had bailed after WWI, concerned about budget cuts and the failure of the Army to move in what they perceived was the correct doctrinal direction.
So while I value the insight, I'm just not sure that a junior officer's perspective on these larger issues is relevant. As a lieutenant and captain I only had a vague sense of these larger issues, in both peace and war. The job of a junior officer is to dig in, to learn your craft, to suffer - and to be ready to lead again when your time comes.
1 year, 4 months ago on Access denied | The Best Defense
If you only read one thing his year, make it the Epilogue to this final volume. I was prepared for the typical 'what I think of all this after 10 years' conceit. Instead I discovered a quiet, contemplative, and deeply moving coda to the story of a horrible human event. The book's final sentence moved me to tears. History books don't normally do that, but great books do.
1 year, 5 months ago on Access denied | The Best Defense
@kosmosioux You are sadly mistaken in the idea that you are missing nothing here. I found all three books in this trilogy full of new facts, details, and clear-eyed analysis. After more than 30 years of reading WWII history in detail, writing and conducting research at the National Archives on the subject, I learned from each book. This series stands with any other in the genre, and marks an impressive achievement.
Sadly, the famous story of Fidel Castro getting a tryout of offer from either the Washington Senators or (then) NY Giants, despite detailed articles in Harper's Magazine and other sources, is just a good story. Though this is a fun baseball card: http://www.infinitecardset.blogspot.com/search/label/Fidel%20Castro
That said, I understand Che' had a good short game and could putt with some accuracy...
I read Swiss and thought Swede... this Alzheimer's thing is nasty.
The issue may be a moot point, as the opportunity to engage diplomatically and in a limited military fashion has now perhaps past. The proxy forces that have joined the conflict on both sides are far beyond any US diplomatic engagement, and militarily the situation is now so muddled that intervention would simply place us in the middle. Or place weapons in the hands of groups that we would usually cross the street to avoid.
The president's 'policy,' such that it is, has utterly failed. His speeches and proclamations have landed without impact, leaving his rhetoric empty and unsupported by any concrete initiatives. The justifications used for intervention in Libya - primarily related to saving innocent lives - apparently have no legitimacy in the Syrian conflict.
Speaking at the National Defense University in March, 2011, the president declared, “To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and — more profoundly — our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are... Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different.” Or not.
And yet the Syrian conflict has shown a much greater potential to kill innocents, and additionally to destabilize the entire region. And this region has been defined as vital to the interests of the United States since the Carter administration. Iran and Hezbollah - clearly defined enemies of the United States - are directly involved in this war. The conflict is on the verge of spreading to Lebanon, Jordan, and to Turkey, a NATO ally.
The president's options have dwindled from slim, perhaps a limited no-fly zone and a refugee safe zone as we successfully did in Operation Provide Comfort, to none. If we had engaged, and built a base of goodwill by doing exactly what the president described in 2011, perhaps now we would have some leverage. But we did not, we do not. Begging the Russians to be reasonable is not actually a policy. We 'led from behind,' and were left behind. Mr. Irrelevant. Failure.
The multiple re-edits of the original post, to include deletion of the author's name and of the ridiculous charge that Rangers units do not "develop leadership...," does serious disservice to this forum's credibility.
Mr. Ricks, you perhaps need to address your thought process and standards related to these alterations.
NCIS? Wow, is Abby doing the forensics?
@majrod I certainly understand that... and worked closely with 2/75 at Fort Lewis. Again, to say that Rangers are not about leadership is just plain strange.
To state that Ranger units are "not about leadership and development" is a bizarre and wildly inaccurate assertion. Ranger school was the single best leadership training event I ever endured.
That said, the time has come when a non-combat arms officer of either gender could and should command at a service academies.
On a personal note - as a young officer I took an assignment on a division staff, my first time out of 'the trenches.' The biggest challenge I faced was learning to interact with female soldiers. In retrospect there were moments when I was unknowingly (or just stupidly) inappropriate. Eventually I figured it out, but it was not easy. A few years later commanding a logistics company I had a female first sergeant, at the time the only one serving in the 9th Infantry Division! She was the best ass-kicker I ever saw and we were a great team. The foolishness and mistakes of youth usually provide the experiences for understanding. But it does not happen overnight.
@Jackrabbit Neither remorse nor jubilation is required. However there is little doubt they have learned both a lesson and a standard. The institutional failure represented by their stupid email requires an institution-wide solution, not a few heads on pikes along the Palisades Parkway.
The proper treatment and respect for female service members, to say nothing of blatant sexual harassment, is a serious issue with which DoD is still floundering. But in this specific case it seems like some people want to swat a fly with a Claymore. It is wrong to wield a bigger hammer simply to make a point - particularly against junior members who are products of a culture that has not yet evolved.
It does sound like West Point dealt directly and formally with the issue. The "Maoist" indoctrination event may not have necessarily had a direct effect on the individuals concerned (other than time and trouble). But the no doubt very direct counseling by senior officers along with the disbandment of the team sends a loud and clear message to both those individual cadets and the institution at large - to say nothing of the direct message imparted by the Commander-in-Chief at the Naval Academy and the SecDef at West Point.
What more does anyone want from this specific instance? These cadets/second lieutenants will never forget this lesson, even if they were allowed to graduate on time. Trying make a wider statement with harsher punishment - the Eddie Slovik model - is unfair, and potentially unjust... particularly when the crime was an ill-thought email, rather than a camera in a female locker room, the rape of a recruit, or a parking lot assault. Those direct events deserve the harshest punishment under UCMJ. Not this.
LTC Fivecoat makes this assertion early in the article, but without citing a source:" The Army’s decision to allow underperforming division commanders to complete their deployment, rather than firing them midtour, minimized disruptions to divisions fighting complex insurgencies at the “graduate level of war.”
This point is central to his overall thesis. However, without specific reference to a Department of the Army of Chief of Staff policy or decision his argument has no basis in fact. The difference in promotion rates that he cites, in such a small sample size, could simply be a random anomaly or attributed to a couple of commanders deciding to cash in private sector opportunities following a lifetime of hard service.
1 year, 6 months ago on Access denied | The Best Defense
Nixon was a paranoid and petty man, altogether the worst president in history. And yet his administration's record on issues from social welfare to foreign policy is in many ways outstanding. Obama is not the low person that Nixon was, but his accomplishments are few and his failures growing. Above all, his emphasis on politics over governance has led him down many empty paths. Nothing is ever his/his administration's fault. He got elected blaming the other guy. His signature achievement was produced with simple parliamentary tricks. Noble ideas perhaps, but clearly bad legislation. It is going to be a long 3.5 years.
Perhaps I don't live in the real world (anymore), but shouldn't the alarm 'an embassy is being overrun!' cause emergency operations centers to kick into overdrive, aircraft to warm up, and operators to start loading magazines? Then the response, whether a pre-planned special op or an ad-hoc team of truck drivers and cooks from Aviano, catapults itself into the fray, by C-130 or Cessna.
Of course there are real-world realities: the response may be late, it may not work, they may get killed. But those are not the relevant problems. The most important outcome of that response - everyone knows that we moved mountains to defend ourselves. If I recall, it was that sense in the aftermath of Somalia and Kenya/Tanzania, that the US will not forcefully respond, will not defend itself, that helped to embolden Al Qaeda in the first damned place. Over 200 years ago Thomas Jefferson understood that simple reality. And eventually the Barbary pirates - in Tripoli - came to understand this new American nation would not pay the ransom, would not leave their people to rot. Same S#%!, different day.
So... I guess the 2008 riddle of who is "best ready to answer the midnight call" has been answered... Neither of them, and it doesn't matter since the call is never made.
@JPWREL One of the reasons I own one ;-)
Lord Randolph Churchill was famously furious when his son did poorly at Sandhurst. He had arranged an appointment to one of the better Guards infantry regiments, but would now have to pay the extra cost of the mounts and polo ponies a cavalry officer was expected to have.
Let us also recall that Churchill, attached to the 21st Lancers at Omdurman, participated in what was apparently the last cavalry charge in British army history. A few year previously he had injured his shoulder and had difficulty wielding a saber on horseback. Approaching the enemy mass, Churchill sheathed his sword and drew the 7.63mm Mauser M96 'Broomhandle" his mother had purchased for him. Those 10 rounds may well have saved his life, as much of the squadron was wounded or killed when the enemy force hidden by a depression turned out to be much larger than expected.
@JPWREL @Hauptfeldwebel @shadowcloud88061
@shadowcloud88061 Tom - That is a fairly major error that needs quick correction.
@Tyrtaios Well... we either have a leadership role in the world, or we don't. Having spent time in some nasty corners of the globe, I have no thirst to send younger men and women to do the same. But would we not rather have a role and some voice in this rapidly disintegrating mess, or simply react to the consequences.
As for the neighboring countries you mention, they have many different reasons for their current courses of action or non-action, overt or covert. In Tom Friedman's flat world your border question has only notional relevance. Chemical weapons, as the Germans learned in WWI, go all over the damned place. And no country outside the US (with NATO support) has the capability to enforce a no fly zone.
Sadly, our opportunity to influence events, if it ever existed, has perhaps passed.
Sadly the window for the US to influence events, if it ever existed, has probably closed. A Turkish border region humanitarian assistance mission, backed by a no-fly zone (modeled on Provide Comfort) might have both saved lives and put US forces in the region with a positive mission. That opening may have provided the opportunity to develop relationships with rebel groups in the early stages of the conflict. If the decision came to provide weapons, we might then have had a clue about who to arm. Lots of 'ifs,' of course.
Now we have only bad choices, none of which seem to provide the opportunity to really influence events. 80,000+ are dead and the region is creeping towards implosion, with not just Syria's integrity at serious risk, but Lebanon and Jordan threatened. And we have no influence.
We are not leading from behind, we have been left behind.
@RVN SF VET True... but from the article the unattended sectors were outside of the Marine's AO. They would have had to conduct a fairly insulting occupation of another countries sector in order to provide the security everyone seems to say was required. I'm not saying there was not a monumental screw up, but there was no simple solution short of confronting an ally. Not easy.
Not an excuse for such a failure during war, but... the NATO/UK element of the base on the airfield side clearly hindered the Marine's ability to provide for their own security. This seems to have been a terrible failure, with the resulting reluctance to affix blame to a particular officer due to national/political considerations. Do you really expect a US general to comment on frustrations with an important ally in a press interview?
As for publication of any security review... is there really an expectation that the military should provide detailed explanations for combat failures while a conflict is on-going? I want oversight as much as the next guy, but some things need to remain classified. Of course this assumes that a detailed investigation was conducted, but remains unreleased. And with the loss of lives and $200 million dollars of aircraft it is difficult to imagine that review is not happening.
@JPWREL Capture of Quebec... that is right up there.
1 year, 7 months ago on Access denied | The Best Defense
If we consider battles in all battlespaces, then the correct, indisputable answer is either Trafalgar or the Spanish Armada.
@AfineWhiskey You know I actually thought about that. And while Grouchy's Prussians turned the tide, the stand of Wellington's center and right flank against the Old Guard (aided of course by Richard Sharpe and the Prince of Wales Own Volunteers) may be the greatest single feat of British arms. The Prussians saved them, but they survived the afternoon. And that was the victory, as Napoleon would have turned the Prussian flank and chased them home. The contributions of the other coalition partners seemed to focus more on post-battle monument building, rather than actual military accomplishment.
So if you take that narrow 'alliance' viewpoint, then Imphal wins. But it wins because it has few competitors, rather than due to its own merit (El Alamein is a limited victory of logistics and combat weight, rather than of bravery or brilliance). Britain has always sought to fight major land wars as part of an alliance. And the power of the Royal Navy, perhaps more than the value of the British army, made Great Britain a sought after alliance partner. To only consider non-alliance campaigns significantly limits the options, making a victor in that debate dubious at best.
Tricky question, as Great Britain's greatest victories all came at sea. But this list does not seem too tricky - and I think the voting public got it wrong).
1. Waterloo (a no-brainer)
2. El Alamein
3. Imphal Kohima
@AfineWhiskey @DILNIR Where do you get uninvited? If there is a gun-wielding, bomb-throwing terrorist loose in my neighborhood the police are welcome to search my house. Any other response requires tin foil hats...
@MoneyRamp and @ everyone else in this idiotic discussion:
Did you completely miss the 250+ innocent people wounded and three dead in the terrorist bombing of a major sporting event, followed by a suburban gunfight between police officers and a group of terrorists?
The shut down of the city was ordered only after gunfights that left a police officer dead, another wounded, and a terrorist potentially armed with firearms and explosive devices loose in suburbia. How exactly should the police have responded? Some of you seem to think the police should have headed down to a judge to get search warrants for every chicken coop in a five state area! I would have gladly allowed police officers to enter my home to ensure the terrorist was not in my master bathroom.
Bottom line: No one's constitutional rights were violated. This was one of the few times the police actually needed all that military type material and weapons. A city was protected by brave men and women. And surprisingly for this political age local, state, and federal government agencies seemed to actually work together to solve a very serious situation. And politicians managed to generally not say or do stupid things in the process.
It is quite easy to Monday morning QB this event as an overreaction, but when you consider the uncertainties that faced law enforcement during the course of the week - and the death and wounding of multiple law enforcement officers, I think these criticisms are nonsense.
As for the specific charges, Tom I am surprised at your comment. Without a law degree, even I understand that the 'weapon of mass destruction' simply charge allows the feds to take precedence in the case. Otherwise this would be a matter for the Boston, MA courts system. As this was clearly a terrorist attack on a US target the feds rightly should prosecute. This was not a problem during the OKC bombing, as many of the victims were federal employees engaged in federal work. In this case the killer/murderer/terrorist (not kid or juvenile or college student) charged will certainly also be charged eventually with the specific murders and assaults from multiple incidents. This initial charge simply gets the legal process going.
The recent Churchill and Seapower by Christopher Bell provides, perhaps for the first time, real, unbiased insight into the most controversial events of his career such as Gallipolli, Norway, and the loss of Prince of Wales and Repulse. The book shows that there is still so much information to mine for insight into what now almost seems like ancient history.
@DavidPan1 Both fascinating. The sea battles in Castles of Steel are riveting.
@AServingOfficer Kahalani's book was hard to find in the 1980s when I first learned of it. I finally got a copy and for the first time got a glimpse of modern armored combat. It is worth its price alone for the emphasis on battlefield replacement operations and ad hoc task organization.
Tom, I'm not sure that I follow your concern. There is absolutely nothing wrong with armor crewman and leaders focusing on core competencies after nearly a decade of regularly training and fighting as infantry. The increased emphasis on combatives, patrolling, and other infantry-type skills provides the next generation of armor leaders with a valuable baseline set of experience. But, unless somebody decides we don't need armored vehicles, some percentage of the force must focus, train, and qualify to employ that combat element.
Gunnery, maneuver, and even maintenance skills are extremely perishable. The bigger concern is not a re-focus on these, but instead the potential for budget shortfalls that dangerously limit the fuel, ammunition, and repair parts required to achieve these competencies. This is a particular concern for training at the platoon and company level. Simulators can only do so much. At some point you have to go out and burn gas and shoot bullets to train.
If not for his CIB, Secretary Hagle's qualifications for the job would look a lot like Les Aspin's did.
1 year, 8 months ago on Access denied | The Best Defense
@JPWREL @HUNTERS @Gibbon
It might not have been pretty, or particularly well-generalled; and sure the infantry was undermanned and American soldiers were occasionally a bit rude to their British hosts, and it probably was more our industrial might rather than being better soldiers than some SS fanatics... but in the end we saved the Brits, helped the Russians far more than they would (or even will) ever admit, and beat the Japanese pretty much by ourselves. End of story.
@JPWREL Time on Target, baby! Though I'm not sure your '1943 onward...' logic really works. Differences in terrain and enemy forces changed so dramatically between the Mediterranean and Northern European theaters that comparisons are difficult at best.
Simultaneously, the effectiveness of divisions such as the 30th ID improved continually from June '44 through the end of the war (ebbing and flowing of course with casualty replacement and rest/training periods). And when the different terrain challenges are taken into consideration; from hedgerow, open ground, and mountain/forest, through to urban/rubble, I'm not certain that the occasionally fashionable US infantry criticism it fully warranted. Many divisions proved their ability to adapt to challenges and conduct in theater training to overcome initial problems.
When you combine the army's overall performance with the reality of a citizen/soldier draftee force of millions pulled together in a few short years from a small professional cadre, the US Army's performance on the whole is actually quite impressive.
"There was also the feeling that we would have no commanders comparable to the British Field Marshal..."
And thank god for that.
@23rdInf69n70 Don't even get me started on tank destroyers...
My father was a sergeant in classification during WWI (stationed at the Hollywood, CA reception station!). Only when I was older that I realized the fallacy in his description of sending the lowest classification inductees to the infantry, while sending all the smart guys to the air corps.
"In June 1943, when the Army ceiling was lowered by 500,000 (from 7,533,000 to 7,004,000 enlisted men) the strength of combat ground forces planned for 1943 was revised downward by another twelve divisions (readjusted to ten) and by another 337,000 enlisted men."
And 18 months later the army ran out of infantrymen... unfortunately for Kurt Vonnegut.
When the history of this administration is written I suspect that "secretive" and "insular" will replace "hope" and "change."
@JPWREL @Another Opinion Issues, problems, crisis... simply degrees of growing challenges. For example: destruction of the Buddhas at Bamiyan certainly only looked like a minor (though regretable) incident in the spring of 2001. Now we can see them in a context that runs from the First Gulf War, through Somalia, right to today; the growth and strength of Islamic extremism. Failing to at first acknowledge, and then eventually respond to a threat simply makes you seem weak and distracted. No matter Eisenhower's brilliance at balancing his foreign policy agenda and avoiding direct involvement in a number of events, his approach could certainly never be characterized as "Leading from Behind.' One of the great oxymorons of the new century.
1 year, 9 months ago on Access denied | The Best Defense