With all due respect (non thank you very much) to the late Sadam Hussein, Desert Storm which he sold to his people as the "mother of all battles" was not even close. Indeed his defeat was one of the most lopsided victories against numerically superior forces in history. Even though he had more troops, and pretty good equipment (for the time), and had a pretty battle hardened army, he received the biggest bitch slap in human history. How did we win? We used tactics pioneered by Erin Rommel, the "Desert Fox". No the title of Mother of all (land) Battles goes to the Russians and Germans at the Battle of Kursk (the Largest Naval Battle was the Battle of the Philippine Sea between the USN and the IJN).
How big was the battle of Kursk? Well to be honest it was a 100 mile wide battle, but that's just the size. Take a look at the German Forces: 780,900 men, 2,928 tanks, 9,966 guns and mortars, and 2,110 aircraft. That's about the size of the current incarnation of the entire US Army, and US Air Force. But then look at what the Soviets brought to bare: 1,910,361 men, 5,128 tanks, 25,013 guns and mortars, and 2,792 aircraft. To do a little math that's a total of: 2,891,261Soldiers, 8,056 Tanks, 34,979 Arty pieces/Mortars, and 4,902 aircraft. Now if you can find any battle in history that is that big, I will gladly shut my yap on historical matters. Even the Battle of the Bulge was small by comparison. Now the causalities: The Germans lost: 203,000 casualties, 720 tanks and assault guns, and
681 aircraft. The Soviets lost: 863,303 casualties, 6,064 tanks and assault guns, 1,626 aircraft and 5,244 guns
Why am I talking about this battle? Aside from the fact that you can always expect totalitarian militaries will have huge militaries, there is actually a larger lesson that the US can learn from from this battle. Well for one, we need to be very cautious when engaging a totalitarian regime. The Soviets won, largely because they mobilized the civilians, into a massive work force. They used this force to essentially build 100 miles of fortifications which the Germans cut their teeth on until they were very bloodied. I could talk about one of the largest minefields ever deployed. This should give everyone pause when talking about war with Iran or China.
But the larger lesson is that while the Soviets were getting battle hardened, they were also not nearly as professional or well trained as the Germans. They had better planes, they had tanks that could hit harder, and had better armor, and they could maneuver far better. They still lost!
Right now the US Army is second to none, in ability, and training. One has only to go to any base and train with active troops to know that they are training all the freaking time. Even MOS' that traditionally only practice rarely (Artillery/Mortars) are as professional as possible and always training. I can not speak for the Marines, but I can tell you that the Army knows it stuff, and each private is expected to have a cornucopia of skills. Everything from tactics, to basic vehicle repair. In some cases they even use their own God given talents to improve the tactics and equipment. This is expected of privates. The days of the dumb knuckle dragger are long over.
But the US army is small, and getting smaller. To put this into context, we have 10 divisions now, with enough separate brigades for another division and a "pocket" division. There are 500,000 soldiers. That sounds like a lot, but that's 500,000 period. That's not just shooters, and that's not just Active Duty. 60% of that is Reserve or Guard. The Wehrmacht at Kursk outnumbers our entire Army, and the Russians outnumber the entire DoD.
We are (not morally) in the position of the Germans. No one can argue that in '43-44 the Wehrmacht Luftwaffe and Waffen-SS were not the best in the world (the Kriegsmarine isn't really worth mentioning because aside from U-boats, their contributions were quite minimal). The Russians, won Stalingrad more for Hitler's errors than for their actual fighting ability. We are potentially thinking about taking on Iran, which I believe we could defeat, and possibly China (which we would only be able to defeat in my opinion if we allowed for the use of tactical nuclear weapons). That doesn't include the myriad of other countries that we might have to engage. Everything from Chad, to Uzbekistan. We simply can not do it with what we've got. We should also be very aware that if we get into a serious all out brawl like the Battle of Kursk, our soldiers will fight and die hard. The outcome though is very questionable.
We as Americans need to seriously reexamine our role on the international stage. We can be the white knight that comes to the rescue, or the distant parent that scolds the children but not if we keep cutting our defense budget like we have been. There will come a time very soon where we may simply not be able to do the mission anymore. How many soldiers we lose then, may truly appall the American public.