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Lord Guthrie Explains Modern War

March 21, 2010

It just seems so logical you would build weapons and equipment for the type of wars you fight. The other way is unaffordable and technically impossible, as we continue to see from complicated weapons that provide us only with continuous delays. Older weapons are forced to soldier on decade after decade, fueling the admirals’ and generals’ false hopes.

Listen to the entire lecture at the Centre for Policy Studies.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Hudson permalink
    March 23, 2010 1:27 am

    Brief Thoughts on Modern Warfare

    What we generally think of modern warfare is technological warfare. The nation state that develops the more advanced weapons and manufactures and deploys them more quickly and massively than its enemies, is likely the victor in war. This principle applies to pre-modern times as well: the samurai with his advanced blade, the medieval knight with articulated armor and horse armor, the conquistador with horse, gunpowder, and sword, all prevailed over less advanced peoples with lesser weapons.

    In WWII, the Japanese relied more on fanaticism than samurai excellence, and lost to the U.S. in the Pacific, when we cracked the Japanese naval code, deployed radar early, proximity shells, more advanced ships and planes, and finally, the atomic bomb. In Europe, the Germans mastered the essentials of jet engine technology two years before its enemies, yet failed to deploy these planes in a timely fashion. Nazi Germany produced excellent planes and tanks, but, as Mike likes to say, “quantity is its own quality,” and its superior Panther and Tiger tanks were defeated by the less advanced but more numerous T-34 tank and the crude but effective IL-2 Sturmovik ground attack plane, which Stalin considered to have been the decisive weapon of the war. The Russians challenged the the dictum that the most technically advanced side wins.

    We are now at a phase where the West has achieved massive superiority over all potential rivals with large stores of nuclear weapons, and frightful non-nuclear weapons like fuel air explosives and cluster bombs. Yet it finds itself confronted by limits of its own making in the use of these weapons, getting rid of chemical and biological weapons, and napalm. The politicians have hamstrung their armies with repressive rules of engagement in fighting ruthless enemies who cloak themselves like assassins and gnaw away like rats at the West’s will to fight, its finances, while the West holds its most powerful weapons in abeyance.

    We are at the point in warfare when we must now consider whether or not the West can afford to continue to fight with one hand tied behind its back. Either it must obtain maximum bang for the buck, or fight its wars more on the terms of its enemies, and accept military defeat or stalemate for what it imagines to be political gain.

    A note on terminology: The word “modern” comes from the Roman “modernus,” meaning “just now.” So, in a sense, we have been engaged in modern warfare since Roman times.

  2. March 22, 2010 4:32 pm

    Resources not religious and/or political difference will drive the war of the near future.

    Security in the West is viewed through a liberal lens. The West plays nice; no mines, calling back to division (even corps or minister) before a place of worship is targeted as it is being used by the enemy, etc. etc. And Western voters sit in judgement of the actions of their armed forces as if these armed forces came out of a vacuum and not from the general population.

    I wonder when the resources begin come scarce will the Western voters who face going hungry or cutting back on any aspect of their lifestyle will they still be as squeamish? It is the simple question of “us or them?” and the Western voters will demand action. Are modern weapons in effective in today’s wars. Only because the ROE restrict their use. I am not saying shelling civilians is good idea. But the willingness to inflict and take casualties is what the limits the weapons. See the USMC decision to start fielding hollow point ammunition.

    The Chinese to secure their supplies will need a blue water navy. At the moment their inroads into Africa are purely political. If it came to a fight the Chinese would be swept back to China. Apart from some prestigious projects and formations their armed forces are 1940’s/1950’s relics. And against modern weapons “human waves” will just result in wholesale massacres.

    We are heading for an era in military affairs that mirrors pre-Napoleon era. Small, expensively trained and equipped forces will come together as points of political tension and fight limited engagements before the politicians order a cessation and a return to negotiations.

    Take the liberal West’s obsession with the Israel / Palestinian problem. Do you think once the oil has gone and the Middle East recedes back into historical obscurity that anybody in the West will care?

    The Chinese make progress in Africa because they ignore human rights. In A-stan the West is trying to force democracy onto people who neither want it or (beyond the elites) understand it by fighting an unpopular war? How the Chinese are acting now is the West model for the future. Look at the craziness of the situation in A-stan where we pay poppy growers not to grow poppies. The heroin not the Muslim extremists are the threat to our Western security; but liberal craziness means we accommodate the drugs trade.

    I have moaned enough!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. March 22, 2010 10:00 am

    yeah Mike pretty much punted on that one. you knew the context of my words but chose to ‘spin’…you’re better than that.

  4. Jed permalink
    March 22, 2010 9:25 am

    No no no no no – “That is wrong on so many levels, I’ll just leave it at that.” – not good enough Mike, explain your position in simple words of few syllables for us please, with cogent articles of your own, no just regurgitating Lord Guthrie.

    I am all with you on not needed to gold plate everything, both the US and the UK need a shake up in defence procurement – but where would the US have been in Iraq or Afghanistan without the AH67 Apache ? MMmmm’ OK, so thats one expensive cold war anti-armour weapons system that is doing a pretty good job at the COIN war eh ? There are many others too – as Smitty noted, its easier to reconfigure from high end to low end, than it is the other way round !!

  5. March 22, 2010 3:09 am

    Didn’t the French Maginot line do exactly as it was designed to do?

    The Germans never breached it and rather sneakily went around the sides :)

  6. Distiller permalink
    March 22, 2010 1:19 am

    Option 1: Scale back ambitions.

    Option 2: Euro-Wehrmacht.

  7. Chuck Hill permalink
    March 21, 2010 11:30 pm

    Inn the 20s and 30s the US fought a series of counter insurgency campaigns in Latin America and the Philippines. Good thing we did not “build weapons and equipment for the type of wars you fight.”

  8. B.Smitty permalink
    March 21, 2010 10:27 pm

    We just can’t forget that we DO fight high-end conflicts.

    You CAN take a high-end force and adapt it for COIN rather rapidly. You CAN’T do the opposite.

    It takes a long time and a lot of money to build and maintain high-end capabilities. If you let them atrophy, you risk another Task Force Smith.

  9. Mike Burleson permalink*
    March 21, 2010 8:35 pm

    “Planning to fight ‘the wars we fight’ is a recipe for failure.”

    That is wrong on so many levels, I’ll just leave it at that.

  10. March 21, 2010 6:23 pm

    Doesn’t history fight against what you’re saying? Historically the static field fortifications that the French depended on at the beginning of WW2 were designed for the wars we fight. They proved to be a disaster.

    Planning to fight ‘the wars we fight’ is a recipe for failure. After all the Chinese are planning to fight a blue water war, not littoral combat.

    This should be recognized for what it is. A shot at the budget. The British Army is seeking to get a bigger piece of the pie. Your support for this general is curious because he’s actually seeking to take a huge chunk away from the Navy and force it into a coastal patrol force. I can’t see you supporting that.

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