23 January 2013

Strategy fail

 Can you think of the last time when "attacking the enemies infrastructure, transportation, and communications networks was decisive?  Gulf war?  Nope, think again.  Civil War?  Closer, but no cigar.  Napoleon's march to Moscow?  Closer still, but not quite.

In truth you have never been able to win a war, or end a conflict, through air power or attacking the enemy's logistic support.  You can weaken them, you can make them mad, but you cannot win solely be concentrating on that which is not decisive.

All this comes about because of this comment, left by Anonymous.  Much like the myth of 20 million deer hunters spontaneously rising up and actually protecting freedom, this myth of "victory through logistics" doesn't seem to die.
Destroy economic infratstructure along with transportation and communications infrastructre and you will bring authority to its knees. Bridges, powerlines, dams, tunnels, food processing plants, waterways, power plants. Then hit the personnel. Watch the wheels grind to a halt. You don't need to eliminate the head. Mostr revolutionaries go after low level authorities and soon there is no one to cooperate with the Obamaists.
Clearly we are in the presence of a military genius, and yes that is a sarcastic insult.  I mean, it isn't as if we tried to stop the Ho Chi Minh trail, or bomb German ball bearing factories and oil refineries.  No, dominating the Confederate States of America in the "Anaconda Plan" did nothing but SET CONDITIONS for an actual confrontation between the field armies of the Union and Confederacy.

 The history of warfare is rife with examples of why sieges are the last desperate act of an army too stubborn to settle for peace.  Most wars that end in long sieges also end in a bankrupt state, as Sun Tzu taught all those thousands of years ago.

You know where the power lines are in your neighborhood, why don't you shoot them?  For the same reason you don't shoot your own foot.  You know where the bridges, dams, tunnels, and warehouses are, why don't you destroy them?  Because you travel on them, get power, water, and food from them.  And so do your neighbors.  And so do your families.

The truth is that if you hate someone else badly enough to destroy the thin veneer of civilization, you have already chosen barbarism.  And while the barbarians may be able to sack an empire, it doesn't happen overnight.  And the barbarians can never set up a better form of government than the one they just destroyed.

In an insurgency the decisive terrain is the hearts and minds of the people.  If you fight the empire, even as a barbarian, expect to lose.  There are exceptions, but they are extraordinary exceptions.  Chief Joseph failed.  The Indian victory at Little Big Horn did not change the outcome of the Indian Wars.  Stay focused.

When I was last in Afghanistan the Torkum Gate was closed for several months.  The logistic wizards made sure that the soldiers going outside the wire didn't notice the closing of the one major land line of communication.  Attacking the logistics of your enemy is a sideshow, at best setting conditions for something else.


Ryan said...

"Attacking the enemies infrastructure, transportation, and communications networks" is about setting conditions but does not in and of itself guarantee a win.

AM said...

How long have we been conducting "attack the network" and "cache clearing operations" in the current conflict? So far that hasn't been a working strategy for us, and despite setting fire to fuel truck going through Pakistan, it hasn't been a working strategy for them.

They can't face us in open battle, we can't spare the manpower, expense, and betrayal of public goodwill needed to take the fight to where they are.

One of the classic blunders...Never get involved in a land war in Asia....

Chris said...

The Air Corps Tactical School and Col John Warden disagree with you, sir! For indeed, without the doctrine of strategic attack, why would we need a separate service for the Air Force? :-P

More seriously, the doctrine of Strategic Attack is useful when the attacker has limited objectives. If the goal is to force Saddam Hussein to stay in his box, play nicely (enough) with the Kurds, and not shake up the neighborhood then yes, air policing with jabs at key nodes from time to time works fine. We did it for a decade after Desert Storm. Today, Israel combines a blockade with occasional airstrikes on key targets and it seems to keep Gaza bottled up just fine. Limited political ends can be achieved with limited/less decisive military coercion.

If the goal is a high-end political objective like "regime change" or "territorial concessions" then you will need to have a more decisive effort to compel the enemy to submit to your will. In that case "strategic attack" (or most unconventional warfare in general, doctrinally speaking...) is an indirect effort that sets the stage for a decisive main effort (sounds like something B. Liddel Hart would concur with).

Chris from AK

AM said...

The air war has never decided a war without nukes. Victory through air power has been shown false by history, hell I have a copy of "Victory through air power" around here somewhere, and it reads like a dated science text proven wrong by research. TF Ferhrenbach's famous quote about boots on the ground has been proven true.

The air war is useful for dominating the battlefield for the boots on ground to engage decisively. Unless you want to use nukes, you can "win" a war that way if your goal is the destruction of the enemy.

Anonymous said...

Still I don't think the well fed denizens of a far off political entity should be allowed to live the high life in their gilded capitol.

In AfPak the fleas have a fine time shooting up convoys, then they extort a higher price for safe transport, it sounds like the mob.

On NatGeo's YT channel they allow you to watch the "Battle of Marjah" and the Marines grind the Taliban out of some strategic town. Later they point to some line in some field telling us the limits of control, and at the end they let us know that the villagers who cooperated with the US forces literally lost their heads. Is that what we get for a billion dollars a day?

So are we talking "friction" as the strategic concern here? robroy

AM said...


The level of "logistic destruction" that irregular forces can bring to bear on regular forces is about the equivalent of a squirrel getting into your garden.

Annoying, but it won't make you starve anytime soon.

Another Anon said...

You are right in while direct attacks on infrastructure don't seem sound I am not sure this fight isn't closer related a 4 way ethnic cleansing campaign in the Balkans and may end up escalating into something much worse.

Still this talk of infrastructure kind of dovetails into the biggest problem I see with FreeFor, no one in that movement has any plan what to do if they actually win by force.

Its theoretically possible for them to hurt OpFor bad enough to cripple it or even kill off the intellectual and moral leadership. I'd guess its 50=50 which are pretty decent odds. Assuming this happens, Than what?

41% of the US economy is the State and worse a good chunk of the Left won't accede legitimacy to FreeFor . Chicago and NYC no more wish to be governed by Raleigh or Colorado Springs than they other way around.

Worse while the creaking rotted mess of our 2nd and 3rd rate D- (http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/ ) infrastructure might not be attacked on a wide scale basis,the complex web of systems we use to get what passes for food and utilities to the shelves and into peoples hands may well simply implode.

It does no good to have EBT if there is little food on the shelves and people can't buy goods (we don't make much) and I suspect that as soon as things go south OPFor will try this sort of thing as a false flag anyway.

Unless FreeFor has a plan to rule (and yes Federalisms and Succession are plans) they may not be able to put out the accidental "fires" much less the "arson" that always accompanies these lovely little Balkans soirée.

Like the lady says It all ends in chickens


jwoop66 said...

Didn't Mao and Lenin both win wars with irregulars. Might have something to do with the size of the country. Russia, China, and the United States are huge countries. Takes a lotta logistics to maintain regular forces.

Hows the morale of the regulars? Are they Oathkeeper types? Or will they all just blindly follow orders?

How many irregulars are there? Handful? Couple hundred? Thousands? Hundred thousand? I'm guessing these might be mitigating factors.

In Vietnam, we weren't willing to prosecute the war into Cambodia fully and for an extended period of time. How aggressive were we with Laos. Vietnam was a long thin country. It had almost unlimited access to adjacent countries that provided support. We never made a move on the northern part. How do fight someone when you can't or wont even make a serious effort at stopping resupply. Afganistan; same thing. They will continue to be supplied by Pakistan. If we won't attack Pakistan, we shouldn't even be over there.

I DO NOT think we should attack Pakistan; or continue on in Afghanistan.

Vietnam and Afghanistan are completely different than the US as far as irregulars fighting regulars.

In the US it would be more like Mao and Lenin fighting on their own home turf against their own(Culturally, nationally, ethnically) armies.

They seemed to do pretty well.

Don't know, but I'd put money on American irregulars doing just as well provided they had the right motivation and the backing of at least half the population at large.

How many trained veterans were in Mao's or Lenin's armies?

I bet, Freefor is it(?), would have a few vets. MIght also be a mitigating factor.

Nothins easy...


Dan said...

He who can destroy a thing, controls that thing.....from
Frank Herbert's Dune.

And it is a truth. If that thing empowers your enemy then destroying it MUST be an option that is considered. You DO run the risk of alienating the "noncombatants" but it's quite likely that aside from some enclaves of the rich and privileged there won't be many noncombatants. Civil war IS coming in some flavor...and since it's not going to be geographically based but racially and politically based the entire country is going to burn and suffer.

Anonymous said...

"In truth you have never been able to win a war, or end a conflict, through air power or attacking the enemy's logistic support."

... What is the definition of "winning," in this scenario? If we assume a scenario similar to the first Civil War (succession of "like minded" states), can we also assume that "winning" means sovereignty? Would we also assume that "lines" would be drawn, so that an attack from the Blue states on Houston would be "necessary," and likewise an attack on NYC by the Red States? That is to say, the maintenance of mutual affection or "hearts and minds" (such as it is) would not trump the execution of war?

If so, I think one has to take into consideration the specific socio-economic and social-political differences between 1861 and today. While the History of War is, of course, very important, I believe one also has to take the current state into consideration.

Society today is incredibly more centralized, dependent, and connected. The vast, vast majority of people in the "blue states" are 100% dependent on the "network" which provides them their daily essentials. If that network is interrupted in a signification way, then the Federal/State/Local Blue -State governments have a catastrophe on their hands. If Robert Lee could have struck at a handful of targets in 1862 that would have forced the Federal government to remobilize to NYC, or fall back to DC, in order to maintain order of the populace, don't you think he would have done so?

Today, a handful of strikes at a handful of facilities would push several very populated areas on the east coast into anarchy. It would be all the Federal government could do to maintain order, if even they could. It has been below freezing in much of the NE for 5-7 days. What would major disruption of the electricity supply during this period result in?

That being said, one could expect the same kinds of disruption of services in the "Red States."

At some point, I suppose, these "disruptions" may have to turn into decisive, actual engagements. Which is perhaps your point. However, it is my contention that, everything else being equal and mutual assured destruction being undesirable to both sides, the day-to-day "pain" of the populace in getting heat, power, water, food may, hopefully, make both sides decide it is best to go their own ways.

One of the challenges right now is convincing THE OTHER SIDE that the "mutual assured destruction" paradigm is indeed in play. I don't think they believe that it is. Perhaps the volume of gun sales and the general change in tenor of the "chatter" has pushed them closer to that conclusion.