05 April 2011

Reports from Scotland

Alex Massie has two blog posts worth mentioning this week.

The first is a good reminder that it isn't just American voters who want impossibilities:



In other words, the public has a notion that matters should, in theory, be decided in Scotland but is afraid or opposed to any actual or major differences being introduced that would increase discrepancies in the provision of these government-paid services across the United Kingdom. Again, the idea of doing things differently is enough; actually setting different tax or welfare rates is not deemed necessary.
We demand to make our own decisions, but we also demand they are the same decisions that are already being made for us!

~ ~ ~

Item two:
The Spectator | Alex Massie | The Poor Bloody Infantry Faces More Friendly Fire?

At present the army has 36 infantry battalions. If a tour of duty overseas lasts six months and the army wishes a 24 month gap between operational tours (down from the current 30 months) then evidently it takes five battalions to support a single battalion's deployment. Granted, that assumes operations may, as has been the case in Iraq and Afghanistan, last for years but such assumptions would seem, to this interested amateur anyway, an important part of defence planning.
Has this sort of thing ever been the norm before? Half a year fighting, then two years resting and training? Four units in the barracks for every one in the field? My impression is that any time before, say, 1950, you were shipped off to fight, and you kept fighting until the war was over.

I'm not saying the current system is a bad one. I'm ready to believe five battalions with only one currenly deployed is more effective than all five in the field being ground down month after month.

I'm just saying this seems like a significant change that I don't hear discussed very often. People talk about the effect of cable news, etc. on how we view wars, but I think this has just as significant an impact. Certainly it changes the political leadership's motivations when it comes to giving approval to open-ended "kinetic actions." It seems there would be a lot more pressure to identify objectives and end-game when you commit to sending young men away from home indefinitely rather than six months at a time.

2 comments:

  1. Has this sort of thing ever been the norm before? Half a year fighting, then two years resting and training? Four units in the barracks for every one in the field?

    Some points, in no particular order.

    * We train people more, now, then before. We have to: the gear is more complex. Also; soldiers are more expensive than they were in the draftee days of yore. Also; people will throw a snit-fit if they find out their soldier was hurt because he wasn't properly trained. In 1944 we could send people to war who had never fired a rifle. I don't think we could do that now.

    * You used 'in the barracks' as shorthand for 'not deployed'. Which is fair. But from experience - granted a very long time ago - training is pretty time-intensive and you don't get a lot of actual time to sit around and doze in the sun.

    * Even in WWII infantry divisions were not in constant battle. First Marine Division had a six month break between Peleliu and Okinawa, for example. Units would come off the line, rest and retrain, then go back.

    * The kind of war one fights informs how it is fought. Iraq, Afghanistan are not global war to the death kind of deals but more like the Indian Wars of the post Civil War era: relatively low-casualty, low attrition, open-ended deals. You can't enlist a guy and tell him 'you're in it until every Pashtun is dead or on the res running a casino' because we're not fighting it that way.

    I'm just saying this seems like a significant change that I don't hear discussed very often.

    It's got a lot in common with how we deployed Marines in the Cold War. You had one BLT (battalion landing team) afloat in the Med for six months. One home training. One ready to deploy. Except now the guys know for certain they'll get shot at.

    It seems there would be a lot more pressure to identify objectives and end-game when you commit to sending young men away from home indefinitely rather than six months at a time.

    Objectives. End game. Now that's just crazy talk.

    I swear, you'd think none of our Betters had ever played a board game more complicated than Monopoly.

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  2. Thanks for filling me in.

    I want to be clear that I don't think the way we do deployments is the wrong way. More maintenance of men and equipment seems like the smart move to me. I would just like to see it talked about more as a new way of doing things, with all the associated causes and consequences, rather than simply the way things are.

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