Saturday, February 4, 2012

Yom Kipour War and lessons we can learn.

War is deception.  From Sun Tzu to "Stormin Norman" Schwarzkopf, deception is an absolutely vital part of fighting any war.  In October 1973, the Syrian Army launches an attack on the Golan Heights, and Egypt attacks the Sinai this attack was a surprise to the Israelis, and because of that the Israelis reacted poorly.  What is amazing about this event is that the Syrians had geared up and looked like they were going to charge the boarder.  Several times, only to go away.  This played into Israeli beliefs about how Arabs fight, and their abilities. 

In the Battle of the Golan Heights, in the North the Israelis barely held on in the Northern front by their fingernails.  In the South the Syrians tore through the Israelis like tissue paper.  Now the biggest problem for the Israelis is that their reservist were put together piecemeal and thrown into the fight in sheer desperation.  Because of this their tanks were poorly prepared, and their accuracy.  If Israel were ever to lose their sovereignty it was in the opening hours of the Yom Kipour War.  Eventually through sheer dumb luck, and dogged determination, the Israelis managed to hold on, and counterattack, and win out in the end.  The casualties for the Israelis were incredibly high.   

What can we as Americans learn from this war?  That any potential enemy can never be trusted.  Every time you get an "indication" that you enemy is going to make a push, you have to treat it like they will attack.  Recently we have had issues with the two remaining members of the so called "Axis of Evil".  Both could, if they were so inclined, really screw up local forces, and indeed a lot of our main forces if they were so inclined.  North Korea has something along the lines of 1 million artillery tubes.  Now we have not seen employment of so many Arty Pieces since the Battle of Kursk, which was literally the largest land battle in human history.  Iran, for all the American bluster is determined and worse fanatical.  Their military is decently well trained, indeed better than the Iraqis, and the Revolutionary Guard or Quds, are unbelievably scary people.  They gave Americans fits in Iraq, and continue to in Afghanistan.  

Th recent bluster of Iran threatening the US should we be "foolish" enough to try to send a Carrier Air Group into the Straits of Hormuz.  The USS Enterprise (CVN-65) the oldest and most Storied US Carrier, on its last deployment, was sent in.  Have no doubt that the carrier was on high alert.  Why, well if Iran really want to, the Big E and all her escorts would sit at the bottom.  The Carrier battle group is not the unassailable formation that once existed in WWII, or even as late as Desert Storm.  One Cruiser two destroyers, and 2 Los Angeles or Virginia class Hunter Fast attack Subs.  While I have no doubt that all these ships would be hard as hell to sink, they would all bow (eventually) to the weight of firepower that Iran could bring to bare in the extremely narrow Straits.  Small little PT boat like craft were sent out, challenged and returned without a fight, but this should not be seen by Americans as a clear sign that Iran won't fight.   For too long we have seen the Carrier as this invincible broad sword, and US presidents have slowly lowered the size of the fleet, relying on these massive floating middle fingers.  But this has only made them extremely vulnerable. 

I don't know who really wants a war with Iran as Ron Paul seems to suggest.  Rest assured that if we were just going to wipe the floor with them, we could.  Not easily, but we could invade, and destroy whatever military they have, but we could not stay.  There would be no way to sustain any operations with the forces we have now in an area the size of Iran.  You'd essentially have to deploy the entire Army and Marine Corps Active duty forces for the duration, and rely on NG and Reserve units to fill in gaps.  Essentially there would be no one left to fight, or be in reserve anywhere.  So for all intents and purposes that form of war is out with Iran.  

Since we have no intention of actually invading Iran, and since we expect everyone to play nice and obey boarders (which they never do) we are totally unprepared for any major Iranian intervention.  The same too can be said of North Korea.  We used to have a whole Division and support assets in South Korea.  Now it's just one Brigade.  Now I do believe that, should the North Koreans attack the ROK Army will fare far better than they did in 1950, but that does not mean that Seoul, or the US troops currently in Korea will survive the experience.  The DPRK would no doubt pay dearly for any gains made, but, as with most dictatorships, what are a few thousand men for the lasting glory of the Leader?

Again we run into some of the same issues with North Korea that we do with Iran, except there's another huge elephant in the room.  China. . . In 1950 China got involved and steam rolled American troops.  You can talk for days about how well the Marines and Army troops fought in the Chosin, or how the Army bravely fought its way out of encirclement in the west (where Charlie Rangal got his Bronze Star btw)  but like it or not the Chinese corn cobbed the Americans.   Any conflict with the DPRK runs the very real risk that the PRC will get involved, and where the US barely held on in 1950, now, with the RIF's about to happen. . . I think it will look like Custer's last stand on a much grander scale. 

Then there's another card on the table.  Both Iran and North Korea, have or soon will have Nuclear Weapons.  Any incursion made by US forces, runs the very real risk of being destroyed by tactical nuclear weapons, and both DPRK and Iran have people at their heads crazy enough to use them.  Sure, you say, we could Nuke them off the face of the planet.  No big deal.  Only it would be a huge deal.  Nuclear weapons have not been employed since 1945.  By and large the fact that they're even there has cause a lot of conflicts to pull short.  Do you think we could have avoided a world war with the Soviets if there were no Nukes?  What happens to all the regional powers when they see the US say "fuck it" and just plaster their enemies under Nuclear fire?  It is entirely possible it might spark regional wars, or even full on Nuke exchanges. 

The sad fact is that both North Korea and Iran are in the positions of the Syrians and Egyptians in October 1973.  They could push hard, and really screw the American allies and interests.  Indeed what American forces lie in their way will no doubt fight well and die hard, but should either (or both) decide to make an issue of it, we are so unprepared for it, that it is a forgone conclusion, what will happen.  Perhaps we should start taking lessons from the Israelis when it comes to strategic thinking.  Its looking more and more like thats the position we're going to be in in the near future. 


Ben King said...

How do u think Drones have influenced this battle space. From the tactical to the psychological...... The fact that we can reign fire down from the heavens in ways that would make Zeus jealous.....has got to make today's battle scenarios very different from situations past.

That said, I image we are at "war" with Iran already and barring a truely horrific event would never commit sustained ground troops.

The Mad Medic said...

Air powers is a force multiplier, not s substitute. The Drones are a symptom of a larger problem in that presidents are afraid to get in close and engage the enemy.

Even when not trying to kill or capture the enemy, you have to engage. Do any of the Drones, have the ability to stop orbiting, and check out a weapons Cache? Or ask a local villager what he saw last night? Or preform a Civil Affairs mission? Further while it might seem that the drone has a God-like view of the battlefield, it has a very narrow view field. Anything outside that view, they are essentially blind to.

Drones give Commanders and worse the Political critters that command them the (very mistaken) belief that they can accomplish the mission with little to no Risk, or troop involvement. This leads inevitably to a time when a commander doesn't send enough troops thinking that the Air Power will protect them. This damned near happened in the Ia Drang, and it did happen in Operation Anaconda. My belief is that this will only get worse as we rely too much on our "God-like" ability to call down fire and not enough on our human-like abilities, and senses.