A Brief Digression On Conventional Warfare

Continued from here.

Wars are due to great patriots who are willing to fight for principle, i.e. the idiots who couldn’t see a better way.  True, there was often major push from the other side, e.g. King George III, a prototypical ‘difficult person’, generally referred to as an asshole. The species is ubiquitous at all social levels. The problem of assholes is entirely due to humanity’s impatience with putting up with so many in that intimately social form of terrorism, so we eventually give in or have a fight, neither optimal outcomes.  These results are especially true when the asshole has a power advantage in the relationship.  That social escalates to international when they begin convincing each other of untruth.  At some point in the escalation, assholes begin shooting people, which could never happen in a world anxious to defend itself and neighbors.  How could there be an attack?

Thus, war always has assholes on both sides. Fortunately, by 2016, war of any conventional sort is no longer feasible, although this is not yet true for our brethern.

Warfare in 2016 has evolved to very expensive stalemates because of accurate weapons, penetrators beating armor ever-more decisively, cheap explosives, inexpensive automation and the expense of the most sophisticated sensors. The dismal sequences of all of the recent military conflicts illustrate these trends and explain them.

Consider the US experience in Afghanistan and Iraq. IEDs made the occupation too expensive. US forces continued to lose people to IEDs, and it cost $1B to equip the armoured vehicles with each successive round of upgrades of the sensors and other modifications needed to defeat the insurgent’s latest masking of IED control technology. The same is happening in Afghanistan. So cheap explosives + cheap automation + motivated insurgents + expensive sensors and expensive troops, the US was priced out of the market for fully imposing our oligarchy on the nation of Iraq, although it appears Israel’s Ynon Plan is going well, as Iraq is probably now pieces.

Yemen was intelligent motivated rebels with guided standoff anti-armour weapons who ambushed Saudi forces even inside Saudi Arabia. Sensor technology to pick up a slinking squad on the other side of a ravine in mid-summer day might exist, but the Saudis haven’t deployed that yet. The attacks were on spread-out convoys, and no defense was made in the videos I saw.  Indications are that a thin supply line of anti-tank weapons into Yemen + guerilla tactics are producing major casualties in Saudi forces.  Already we see speculation about how long the Saudis and US can continue to fund the losing campaign, to cover the costs of losing troops by the hundreds in engagements by ballistic missile.

The Ukraine had both sides initially armed with the same weapons, but the East had a better supply line of anti-tank weapons, from the dead armor pictures.

Syria was the same : the direction of advance of the 2 sides reversed exactly when Russia provided better distance weapons via artillery and bombs, and guided anti-tank weapons, which the early Kurdish videos showed being expended on fleeing units of 1 and 2 jihadis. Advancing on such battlefields will be expensive, and any organized campaign must encounter prepared battlefields bristling with such. It is very difficult to be profitable pursuing such a war, as the Israelis, US and Saudis are all showing, and the Ukrainians have shown. Note how nobody is stepping up as willing to run the Ukraine? Not profitable, even their oligarchs have taken big losses. The pursuit of war and occupation has divided all of those societies because of the costs.

So what can you do now with conventional weapons? Not much that can be cost-effective, I think. As an offensive force, you are vulnerable to ambush while moving, Saudi, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria show that to be expensive on both sides, all phases of the war. As a defensive force, you are vulnerable to a local concentration of forces : ditto. If the other side has a bigger supply of longer-range weapons than you have, you get chewed, and there is no way to avoid that. Local concentrations of enemy strength with standoff precision weapons, and thus heavy losses in that local garrison, are hard to avoid for either posture.

So war is now attrition, with high marks awarded for logistics and position. If you have the high ground or rough terrain or a cityscape, the other guy has to have a long-enough range weapon to get you out. But if you are equal in weapons and supply, position wins. If unequal in supply and even positions or equal supply and uneven positions, the side that expends weapons to best effect the fastest wins. Sure, there will be commanders who turn out to be good at that, but who can afford them?

If you owned the defensive positions for long enough and can anticipate attack and occupation, with or without automation you can make it very expensive to take them back and occupy the area. Unless the other side has longer-range weapons sufficient to destroy it all, in which case ?how did that pay?.

Drones are ways of adding reach to those wire-guided weapons, as are suicide bombers. Neither has proven sufficient to take and hold ground. Both suffer from discrimination, and tend to add opposition faster than they eliminate it.

I conclude that fighting to take or hold the ground is now a dumb idea.


In psyops, the message is the op.

*Generalissimo Grand Strategy, Intelligence Analysis and Psyops, First Volunteer Panzer Psyops Corp. Cleverly Gently Martial In Spirit

Added later, a link to using an anti-tank weapon against infantry, there were a ton of these.  From the timing and the side presenting it, this may be the result of our newest special forces help to the anti-Assad forces in Syria.

2 thoughts on “A Brief Digression On Conventional Warfare

  1. “I conclude that fighting to take or hold the ground is now a dumb idea.”

    Poole had some thoughts on this in “Phantom Soldier: The Enemy’s Answer to U.S. Firepower.” The idea was not his, he was just reporting on the tactics.


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