Defeated by Inferior Technology

by Timothy Chilman


“We were defeated by one thing only – by the inferior science of our enemies. I repeat – by the inferior science of our enemies.”

from Supremacy, by Arthur C. Clarke.


Some of the 1,500 men of the mighty Eastern Caribbean Defense Force, which confronted the majority of the world's defense spending in Grenada

Between the end of the Vietnam War and the invasion of Grenada in 1983, nobody considered the U.S. military unstoppable, but times change. U.S. defense spending dwarfs that of the next six biggest spenders together. U.S. military hardware is considered the best. The United States, however, would be deficient in key respects against a serious opponent, mostly from high technology and complacency, however in isolated cases enemy hardware is technically superior. The U.S. military is actually not that great, and the conspiracy is that nobody talks about it.


Gulf War II brought us “shock and awe”. White men do it to towelheads. The United States, however, may be making itself more susceptible to shock.

As many as ten revolutions occurred in military thinking: battles between

The Battle of Agincourt

disorganized masses; knights fighting individually; disciplined infantry acting in unison as with Henry V at Agincourt; gunpowder; conscription with revolutionary France‘s levee en masse, fast-forwarding to the machine gun, Blitzkrieg and nukes.

Our latest is digitization: reliance on sensors and networking. Many arms of the U.S. military have already gone this way.

Digitization gives top brass more information than subordinates, showing where both allies and opponents are located and allowing more effective resource use and shortened decision-making time.

Violent collision causes shock. Neither Field Manual 100-5 (Operations) nor any other U.S. military literature mentions shock, but it used to be highly significant in warfare.

Pickett's Charge

Shock favored attackers during Pickett’s Charge in 1863. The understrength 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was exposed, outnumbered and facing attack by Colonel Robert Mayo’s Confederates, the leftmost brigade of Pickett’s Charge. Retreat across open ground was suicidal, as was remaining, so Lieutenant Colonel Franklin Sawyer ordered an attack.

Sawyer’s 180 men met Mayo’s 600. The latter broke and fled, having already taken heavy artillery casualties. Had Sawyer moved slower or not head-on, his weaker force would have been appreciated and the illusion wouldn’t have held. Pickett’s Charge failed. Later, Pickett reported to General Lee, who asked him to prepare for counter-attack. Pickett replied, “General Lee, I have no division now”. He lost almost 3,000 men, more than half his command.

The Battle of Waterloo

Shock favored defenders at the culmination of the Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon’s Grognards attacked British positions, but repeated fire brought on the cry, “La Garde recule!” and they retired.

Shock results from a visible threat soldiers can’t face, causing fear, against which training is difficult. Air power or artillery is relatively ineffective but imagine how German troops felt at Amiens upon first encountering the tanks that were impervious to the machine gunnery that decimated a generation.

Sound exacerbates shock, like the siren of the JU-87 Stuka dive bomber in the

The Ju-87 Stuka

Second World War, or the drumbeat of Napoleon’s armies, to which they marched in step while chanting, “Vive le France!” Visual cues work, too. In Somalia, rioters were unconcerned by U.S. troops moving in small packets to avoid confrontation, but ran from platoon- or company-sized groupings, at least until cottoning on to U.S. rules of engagement (ROE) forbidding opening fire on sight.

Medical records from the War of Northern Aggression, known less informatively as the War Between the States, proved that most wounds sustained on the wrong side of a bayonet charge weren’t from bayonets – units disintegrated before making contact with the enemy after Chinese whispers brought bad news from the front. Digitization may open a new channel for this bad news: consider a tanker in his Abrams, consulting his Intervehicle Information System. Technology permitting a soldier to know exactly where everything stands means he’ll know his troop of four tanks is facing an enemy regiment. A youth reared on PlayStation or XBox will fully appreciate what his VDU is telling him.

Discipline and training make a man stand and fight despite the consequences, and the U.S. excels here. Since the beginning of the Second World it has been rare for an entire battalion to quit the battlefield. It was hard for dire tidings to pass from men in contact with the enemy to those behind. Digitization will enable this again, and the United States will face the music first.


Admiral Sergei Georgievich Gorshkov, supreme Soviet naval commander of the 1970s, said, “The next war will be won be the side that best exploits the electromagnetic spectrum.”

In the Warsaw Pact, a soldier violating radio voice procedure would find himself in Siberia.

You’d think the world’s richest, most technologically advanced country, would reign supreme, but no. The most axiomatic forms of electronic warfare (EW) are jamming and listening. Every item of Soviet radio equipment used to bear a plaque: “Every transmission is treasonable. The enemy is listening.” A NATO soldier violating voice procedure would get his wrist slapped. A Soviet in the same position would end up in Siberia with his hands over his groin (the warmest part of the human body, followed by the armpits).

A recording used to circulate in British military circles, radio-chatter of an officer who didn’t use BATCO (Battle Code), broadcasting his location, strength and intentions for all to hear. He even mentioned the kind of road he was standing on: a “candy stripe” – road 13-19.5 feet wide. You could even tell what he was when he said “two three” and not “twenty three,” an artilleryman’s habit. After much postponement, NATO radio signals are now encrypted, but this encourages users to talk more, revealing their position. Better to follow ex-Soviet doctrine.

Broadcasting static or recordings of earlier conversations jam in ways not immediately obvious to listeners. Jamming reveals one’s position plainly, because the signal must be stronger than that of the target. The solution is “jam ‘n scram” – jamming for short periods and then absquatulating. The British Army uses single Land Rovers, with Russians preferring the Hip helicopter.

A British Army radio

The British respond to jamming by working through it until the opponent tires or dies. The American response is to boost signal strength, advertising location. American radios’ power settings would burn out British sets.

Russians signal by flags or by runner where feasible. During the Cold War, the United Kingdom’s communications-monitoring Government Communications Headquarters was the acme of its intelligence effort. Often, however, it was down to James Bond at the British Exchange Mission to find out what was really going on – the Soviets could fake troop movements with signals traffic, or conceal true movements by communicating using non-electronic means. A British Royal Signals officer once told me that had the Cold War hottened, EW was the wildest card.

When the United States prepared for Iraq with a war game in August 2002, the Opposing Forces (OPFOR) commander, General Paul van Riper, used motorcycle couriers instead of radios, thwarting jamming and eavesdropping. Van Riper later resigned in protest at the constraints that had been placed upon him in order to allow the Good Guys to win.

If things went this way in the United Kingdom, you could expect to see Regional Commissioners once more.

Flags and couriers are fine to company level, but less so higher-up. Would this be a problem? In “Thriving on Chaos”, Tom Peters cited the British Empire as one of the most effective organizations in history, because its primitive communications controlled a goodly chunk of the world. In a post-apocalyptic “Mad Max” situation, the United Kingdom would do the same again, devolving power to Regional Commissioners.

U.S. signaling invites attack. Devolution, flags and runners defend against U.S. E.W. Devolution is at a premium in the totalitarian states upon which the United States could declare war next week, but in the Second World War, even Stalin saw the light.


The U.S. military relies much more on satellites than anyone else. Sailors, polar explorers, ranchers, medics, and women alone at night couldn’t live without them. The satellite-driven Global Positioning System, GPS, guides cruise missiles to the enemy’s door. Satellites are central to U.S. digitization efforts and anti-ballistic missile defense.

Satellites are undefended. There has been talk of a “space Pearl Harbor,” a story told well by Larry Bond in the short story “Lash-Up.” All that’s needed is a satellite containing nuclear or conventional explosive or a Scud missile with a nuclear payload detonating in low-Earth orbit. Not long ago, China accomplished this, becoming the first nation to deploy an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon.

The Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty forbids space-based weapons, and the UN disapproves, too, but disarmament never works. Sailors were safe when the United Kingdom patrolled the seas, but not today in the South China Sea. The 1928 Kellog-Briand Pact outlawed war, leaving Hitler undeterred. Treaties only work with outré systems like unreliable chemical weapons.

A military satellite

Nuclear-hardening is useless against conventional ASAT weapons like Larry Bond’s. Maneuverability inflates a satellite’s cost, as do decoys, with the latter more cost-effective. Jamming is useful. Zap guns can’t be countered, but they’re happily beyond the capabilities of non-Americans. Commercial systems provide redundancy and camouflage (in Russian, “maskirovska”). Unhidable ground-based facilities will be forever vulnerable to governments or terrorists.

The weaponization of space, more slavering U.S. unilateralism, is prudent. U.S. moves to defend its satellites may initiate a new arms race. There would be the most dreadful brouhaha from foreign governments and, worse still, California City Council, whose Resolution 61744 made “the outer space above the city… a space-based weapons-free zone.” And I say: fuck ‘em.


A Boeing C-17 Globemaster

Air-transport and the need for mid-air refueling constrain U.S. adventurism. Only the U.S. C-5 and C-17 airlifters can carry the Abrams tank, the Bradley APC and the Stryker deathtrap between theaters. Neither lands on an improvised airfield. The United States boasts 126 C-5s, but few landing-strips in the world accommodate them. The C-17 is more flexible, but there are only 120. There are 600 C-130s.

Very fast water jet-powered ships could get around this problem, but the United States doesn’t yet own any and I’m not even sure they exist.

Mid-air refueling was necessary when the United States bombed Libya, when Israel destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor and during the 1982 Falklands War.

In Simon Pearson’s excellent Total War: 2006, published in 2000 and well ahead of its time, Islamic terrorists native to NATO countries destroyed most of NATO’s aerial tankers on the ground. It is hoped that the enemy didn’t read it.


The United States has media freer than those of any power it might fight. While British soldiers have been dying somewhere in the world every year since the Second World War except 1968, the United States is unaccustomed to the casualties its media will present.

Again, just remember Vietnam.


Top Gun: the shades were great, that song was great, the film was not

The film, “Top Gun,” was noteworthy for a great song by Berlin, unsurpassable sunglasses courtesy of Randolph Engineering, and an illuminating introduction:

“During the Korean War, the Navy kill ratio was twelve-to-one… In Vietnam, this ratio fell to three-to-one. Our pilots depended on missiles. They lost their dog-fighting skills.”

Several explanations exist for this poor performance. At its peak the PAVNAF (People’s Army of Vietnam North Air Force, or Quan Chung Khong Quan) possessed 200 airplanes, and there were many more U.S. than enemy aircraft in the sky. ROE had pilots avoid fratricide by identifying targets visually prior to engagement, requiring proximity. Sayeth one pilot, “The ROE were such that I sometimes felt I needed a lawyer in the back seat, instead of a WSO.” In Kosovo, NATO aircraft stayed above 15,000 feet to avoid anti-aircraft artillery (triple A), saving aircrew at the expense of Kosovan civilians and accuracy.

U.S. failure was part-doctrinal. At first, the F4 Phantom lacked cannon, relying solely on air-to-air missiles (AAMs). All of a sudden, Vulcan cannon pods seemed a good idea.

Lessons learned early in the war led to the Post-Graduate Course in Fighter Weapons, Tactics, & Doctrine at California’s Miramar Naval Air Station – “Top Gun.” Here, enemy-like aircraft were used, e.g. an unladen A-4 Skyhawk behaved much as a MiG-17.

Only two Americans were “aces” with five or more kills: Randy “Duke” Cunningham (USN) and Steve Ritchie. Sixteen Vietnamese managed it, being outnumbered many times over and with only death taking them out-of-theater. The celebrated Colonel Toom wasn’t one, never being more than a legend.

We’ll look at how the United States would perform against North Korea.

North Korea’s tortuous hills render AAMs useless. Combat would take the form of “snuffballs” – close-range engagements mostly using cannon. Missiles can’t engage a target on the other side of a hill and have a minimum range.

A MiG-21

North Korea, the soi disant Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (DPRK), has about 550 fighter aircraft to its name. It makes none itself, only some spare parts. North Korea’s most prevalent aircraft is our good friend the venerable MiG-21. Decrepit aircraft cause problems, but since U.S. aircraft are jam-packed with gadgetry, the MiG-21 is shorter, has a higher ceiling and heavier cannon. It’s also more maneuverable: “Top Gun” instructed its students to never, ever get into a turning contest with a MiG-21.

These things have no air-to-air armaments.

Stealth technology might not help. The F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter has no air-to-air armaments, relying on invisibility. Even this is imperfect – British naval radar detected F117s in Gulf War I, and technology is afoot to detect stealth aircraft by the disturbances they make to electromagnetism, e.g. television waves.

American decadence favors the dastardly NorKos. Late in 1966, F-105 patrols didn’t vary their time of travel, routes or callsigns. The North Vietnamese intercepted them, shooting down 14 in return for no loss. Neither is American decadence solely aerial: in the Cold War, Americans troops were followed by the accompanying trail of coke cans and other litter.

Would the NKAF even get off the ground? Sadly, yes. Hardened underground shelters could accommodate most NKAF fighters. These would be vulnerable to nuclear bunker-busting bombs, but nuking a nuclear power with an unhinged leader is perhaps unwise. Private vehicle ownership is forbidden in the North Korean worker’s paradise, but many roads like the superhighway between Pyongyang and Wonsan are concrete-surfaced, usable by aircraft. Failing that, the MiG-21’s wheels are large enough for it to take off from a field.

The emblem of No Such Agency

DPRK places half its fighters near the border with South Korea. …Ideal for a sneak attack, just like last time: after the treacherous William Weisband leaked cracked codes to the Soviets, Washington had no inkling of an impending North Korean attack before its commencement. The secrecy-sheathed National Security Agency (NSA, or “No Such Agency”) described this as “perhaps the most significant intelligence loss in U.S. history.”

And what of training? DPRK is an economic basket case unable to nourish its people, never mind its aircraft. It has an unknown complement of flight simulators, inadequately replacing live training. NKAF pilots likely receive more than the annual seven hours flying time sometimes claimed, but restricted flying time and outdated doctrine lead to death in combat or accident. Lack of fuel could be circumvented – while thousands died from sanctions, Saddam Hussein still displayed obscene wealth.

Lacking training, North Vietnamese airmen were “vectored” toward U.S. aircraft by skilled ground controllers the United States didn’t target for fear of killing Chinese or Soviet advisers. They attacked from on high, being able to fly higher than the U.S. aircraft, as today. They came from multiple directions, never awaiting retaliation, desiring only that U.S. airplanes jettison their bombs. As always, U.S. opponents don’t have to win, just keep fighting until the casualty-averse United States wearies.

The U.S. Air Force is the greatest aerial threat to U.S. soldiers.

But let’s say the United States achieved air supremacy. What then? Carl Bernard, a retired U.S. Army colonel who fought in Korea and Vietnam, alleges that he received airborne attack more than any other living American soldier. Most of these attacks were from stray U.S. aircraft. “The first thing we Americans learned about American aircraft, while they might be lost and shooting at you, they didn’t hit you. And that’s the big secret. They don’t hit you….”

During the Kosovo War, NATO claimed destruction of over a hundred tanks, but the number of Serbian vehicles emerging from Kosovo post-bellum with high morale was roughly the number that entered, and NATO revised the number of ex-tanks downwards to twenty.

Serbians concealed themselves in houses, moving at night and employing Albanian civilians as cover. Crude simulations of military vehicles, bridges, and roads appeared. The sun heated hefty drums of liquid, attracting missiles at night upon cooling. Damaged equipment was bombed repeatedly, inflating NATO’s tally of success. There’s also the minor matter of fog.

A determined opponent could hold its own against the United States in the air, and even were the United States unchallenged, the ground situation wouldn’t change.


Again, we’ll use North Korea as an example. Nobody likes North Korea.

In thrall to Soviet doctrine and Korean War experience, North Korea boasts one of the world’s densest air defense networks.

Its many aircraft are well-dispersed. Command and Control is primitive but effective. Valuable targets are either underground or hardened, beneath AAA.

There are more than 8,000 anti-aircraft guns and a plethora of vehicle-mounted or man-portable surface-to-air missiles, some reaching high altitudes.

DPRK radar (which stands for Radio Direction And Ranging, in case you wondered) comprises old Soviet or Chinese models, whose vacuum tubes limit continuous operation. While susceptible to electronic warfare, DPRK air defense has perhaps enough redundancy to remain effective longer than did Saddam Hussein’s.


An M1A2 Abrams

The principal U.S. Main Battle Tank is the M1A2 Abrams. It has night vision, depleted uranium armour, a high-falutin’ target acquisition system, and an awfully large gun. And it’s too bloody heavy. Abrams works fine in the desert – tactician’s dream, logistician’s nightmare – but anywhere else, usefulness is modest. Abrams in Kosovo were too heavy and too wide for most bridges, a problem familiar since the 1950s. The Abrams’ flotation devices overcome paddy fields, but not small arms fire. Its turbine engine must be refueled eight-hourly.

The Abrams is unsuited to most terrain and elsewhere could be paralyzed with ease. U.S. terrain analysis capabilities are enviable, but in many cases no route will take Abrams its destination.

NATO armored doctrine is geared toward fighting in open fields, as in both Gulf Wars, Yom Kippur or the Battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle in history. The hilly landscape of North Korea is different. North Korean anti-tank weapons are in heavy demand internationally.

Abrams is not the only U.S. hardware to fall short of expectations. Apache Longbow helicopters look cool, but were never used in Kosovo and are vulnerable to RPG fire in Iraq. They’re inappropriate for use against a conventional opponent using hand-held SAMs and AAA. Fugeddabahdit.


The wreck of the K-141 Kursk

The sinking of K-141 Kursk in August 2000 allegedly ensued from testing a new, high-speed torpedo. U.S. businessman Edmond Pope was arrested in Moscow while supposedly attempting to buy its plans. This is Shkval – “Squall.”

While traditional undersea vessels can’t travel in excess of 80 mph, this new-fangled technology could travel faster than sound. The reason is supercavitation, reducing drag by surrounding an object with gas, the gas to hand being oxygen. This sidesteps water’s friction, 1,000 times that of air. The difference is analogous to propeller and jet aircraft, maybe even propellers and rockets.

Supercavitating torpedoes must stay within their gas-bubble or be crushed, meaning Shkval travels only in a straight line. Certain parties to be seen “rushin’ around with snow on their boots” are working on this, but Shkval is already a problem. A stealthy U.S. sub would likely be the first to get its shot off, but a noisy Russian submarine hearing this would reciprocate. Evasive maneuvering severs a torpedo’s guidance wire, not that it would help: Shkval moves fivefold faster than the U.S. Mark 48.

Nuclear weapons could also be delivered in this fashion, making a mockery of Son of Star Wars, just in case suitcase bombs hadn’t already.

Russia hawked the Shkval at arms fairs in Abu Dhabi and Athens and is believed to have sold some to Iran, while China bought Shkval from Kazakhstan.

U.S. submarines are exclusively nuclear-powered, and the United Kingdom recently sold its final diesel-powered Upholder class submarine to Canada, who broke it. Nuclear-powered subs can stay underwater for months but nuclear reactors must be active not only constantly at sea, but also for a few weeks’ warming-up before embarking. Diesels can shut down altogether. China and Iran both own Russian Kilo class diesel subs.


The Sunburn missile

In his evaluation of the Chinese navy, defense analyst Richard D. Fisher wrote, “The Sunburn anti-ship missile is perhaps the most lethal anti-ship missile in the world.”

The SS-N-22 Sunburn, Moskit in Russian, aspires to neutralize U.S. ships after the 1996 Taiwan Straits unpleasantness. It dives at almost 3,000 miles an hour and maneuvers crazily. NATO ships would tackle it with Phalanx, a pair of Gatling guns to either side of a large knob, known in the British Royal Navy as the “R2-D2.” Phalanx would have perhaps as much as 2.5 seconds to contrive a firing solution for Sunburn and its 750lb warhead.

The United States is the fount of many wondrous things. The country that brought us Mark VI dolphins guarding ships in the Arabian Gulf, Star Trek, Mom’s apple pie, the Constitution, and the Boston Strangler has the money and ingenuity to put a man on the moon, but has yet to challenge the Sunburn missile.


For months, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army had attempted to access Niprnet, a system used by policy advisers to U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates. The perpetrators were code-named Titan Rain. Recently, they pulled it off, shutting down the network partially for a week. Chinese spying software was discovered littering many German government systems, including those of Angela Merkel’s private office. Estonia was hit hard by hackers of supposed Russian origin. The Burmese government is said to have used the “Happy 99” email virus against opponents. We have Azerbaijanis hitting Armenians, Israelis hitting Hizbollah and vice versa, Serbia hitting NATO, China hitting Taiwan and so forth (today’s newspapers mention France).

As many as 120 countries are thought to be in the game, with the Chinese stating that “informationized armed forces” are a pillar of its strategy. Owning 46% of world computer capacity, the U.S. is again the most susceptible. 90% of Defense Department ‘phone calls use vulnerable civilian networks. A Russian general compares cyberattack on transport or the electrical grid to the impact of a nuclear weapon.

U.S. strategist General James Cartwright describes U.S. cyber-warfare defenses as “dysfunctional”. What damage could be done? It goes beyond the nuisance of crippling civilian infrastructure. Policy makers could be fed misinformation, or the logistical tail of frontline armed forces could be damaged. These are war-winning measures.


The likeliest future opponents of the United States would use Russian hardware according to ex-Soviet doctrine. The United States has not failed as spectacularly in Afghanistan as did the Soviet Union. Is U.S. superiority proven? Doctrine, however, doesn’t explain Soviet/Russian failure in Afghanistan/Chechnya.

The Stinger hand-held SAM is often cited as the reason the Soviets departed Afghanistan – falsely. It’s said Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev decided to pull out of Afghanistan before Stingers appeared in September 1986. The missiles initially made a huge impact, but were counter-acted by flares, exhaust buffers or terrain-hugging. The Afghan Mujahdein stopped using Stinger by 1988, despite receiving shedloads from the CIA. These missiles were later sold or secreted. We may well make their acquaintance again.

Soviet troops in Afghanistan

Up to 1985 the Soviets won in Afghanistan, driving the Muj into the mountains. But from 1985-1987 the Soviets left the fighting to their Afghan proxies, with similar results to those when U.S. devolution let Bin Laden escape Tora Bora. Let’s remind ourselves of what the Soviet High Command identified as reasons for Soviet defeat in Afghanistan:

- The word “guerrilla” means “little war”, coined during the Peninsular War of the early 1800s. The Mujahedin had popular support and did the Chairman Mao thing. It was the same with the U.S. in Vietnam, the French in Algeria and the British in the American Colonies and Palestine (but not Kenya or Malaya; Northern Ireland was a draw, OK?). Colonial misadventure in Angola led to a coup in Portugal in 1974.

- Afghanistan’s population of 17 million comprises 20 ethnicities. The largest group is the Pashtuns, followed by Uzbeks (4 million), and Tajiks (1.5 million). The Red Army confronted by the Afghans hailed mainly from non-Russian republics like… Uzbekhistan and Tajikstan.

- Soviet performance in Afghanistan showed the Red Army wasn’t invincible, making secessionist-minded republics like Chechnya or the Baltic States less heedful of the experiences of East Germany (1953), Hungary (1956) or Czechoslovakia (1968). Kentucky isn’t thus inclined, although perhaps New York is getting ideas.

- The Soviets also lost moral authority. A Red Army soldier at the time said it was like the Great Patriotic War all over again, “except this time we’re the Germans.”

- The Afghantsi, returnees from Afghanistan, formed a distinct constituency opposed to the Soviet government.

- The Afghantsi brought the Scourge of Drugs, a phenomenon new to insular Soviet society.

- The Mujahedin were supported ardently by the United States.

- Finally, the Soviet Union devoted to their Afghan enterprise much aroigevofeneh gelt – thrown-away money – and attracted U.S. sanctions. The Gipper raised defense spending by 40%, which the Soviets couldn’t match. Reagan’s warmongering hastened the Soviet Union’s end. I must get the number of his astrologer.

U.S. troops will have flak jackets but their opponents won’t. Soviet flak jackets in Afghanistan were penetrated by WWII-vintage Lee Enfield rifles. The North Koreans lacked boots in the Korean War, so they took them from prisoners. As Sun Tsu said in the Art of War, you should always rely on the enemy for supplies. Although he’d never fired an M-16.

Despite nine years and 13,000 deaths in Afghanistan, Russia had no counter-insurgency doctrine when war began in Chechnya. Totalitarian governments are maladaptive, but while Soviet doctrine wasn’t created to fight guerrillas, it was created to engage conventional forces with the United States at the forefront.

A downed Russian helicopter in Chechnya

In Chechnya, guerrillas were assisted by locals, for whatever reason. The best way to defeat an insurgency is to enclose the population within a cordon sanitaire, controlling entry by official pass – eliciting resentment. Concentration camps are another method, first used by Spain in Cuba in 1895 and later by the United Kingdom in South Africa from 1900-1902, but this causes such bad press. The Soviet regime faced international criticism, just like the United States in Iraq. Air power wasn’t decisive in Afghanistan or Chechnya.

U.S. doctrine should also be questioned. It’s best described as “unsubtle,” employing extensive munitions: in the Falklands war, one-time U.S. sponsorship led the Argentinians to expect a British landing near the capital of Port Stanley, followed by direct assault. The Argies were wrong-footed when British forces landed instead on the opposite side of the island. British troops were supposed to move across the island by helicopter, but the container ship Atlantic Conveyor was sunk along with ten Chinook troop-carrying helicopters, ammunition, spare parts for Harrier jump-jets and tents. Movement was then necessarily on foot, what the Parachute Regiment called “yomping” and the Royal Marines, “tabbing” (Tactical Advance to Battle). The war concluded before reaching Stanley.


I’m British and I look on the United States as a brother I don’t see as often as I’d like. Until a late stage, I thought the invasion of Iraq was a bit naughty, but we were better-off without Saddam. Panama and Grenada were bad, but I forgave.

My brother’s multitude of toys is expensive. As Stalin said after the Second World War, when it came to defeating Germany, “the Americans gave money, the British gave time, and the Russians gave blood”. My brother relies on his toys unduly, atrophying his abilities. The opposition has occasionally come up with superior toys, and when this is not possible it can muster enough technology to cause problems.

My brother’s complacency has brought him down in the past, and will again. Like me, he’s accustomed to instant gratification and his patience is short. He’s made unwise decisions, taking much time to correct, but first he must acknowledge these mistakes.

My brother is at the end of the information superhighway, and is just as flummoxed as I when the system goes down. He is insufficiently ruthless to withstand the damage necessary to accomplish the objectives he is set upon.

I fear for my brother.


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