An Iran Scenario


When I was in high school, I was one of the founders of the “Military History Club” – which meant: “the nerdy guys who play Diplomacy and Jutland and Dungeons & Dragons all day. We had a small room in the attic of the school where we could leave our game-boards down and nobody would mess with them.

From that little group, we turned out a US Navy officer, a marine lieutenant, a physicist, and two software entrepreneurs. We went our separate ways and didn’t talk except on very rare occasions when we bumped into eachother out in the world, which was basically never. I bumped into the navy officer about 10 years later (1994) and we had some pizza and catching-up and it turned out that he had parlayed his interest in wargaming, at one point, to participating in some of the navy’s formal gaming exercises – he thought they would be interesting.

He told some funny stuff about how the games are rigged through a process of negotiating the rules of the scenario. For someone like us, high school board-gamers, it was very familiar: someone advocates a rules exemption or modification in favor of their favorite ${whatever}. When we used to play Squad Leader we had a table of adjustments that we applied against the German troops because we collectively felt that the game designers had over-rated them. We doubled the track failure rate of Tiger tanks, if I recall correctly, and Dave W came up with some really clever ways of increasing the chance of a track failure if a tank did a rapid reverse to avoid opportunity fire.

Before games were computerized, they were a more or less simple set of rules and then a scenario (battlefield) and force structures (units) that created an emergent simulation of a battle. The whole process fascinated me deeply, as a kid, and did a tremendous amount to self-train all of us in the MHC to lateral thinking and strategy. I think it was valuable experience that taught the bunch of us a lot of useful life-skills. So, wargaming was a strategic life-exercise, of sorts, for the same reason that the German high command under Moltke and Ludendorff began training their officers to solve logistical problems of troop movement using wargames (“kriegspiel”) as an abstraction.

Anyhow, the US Navy officer told me some funny stories about some of the games he participated in. I don’t have his exact words so I’m going to try to channel them as he said them, filtered through decades of my memory:

The way it happens is that the submarine guys request a special tweak to the hypotheticals because of this or that or the other thing. Let’s say that they have a new torpedo that acts differently, presumably better, so they say “Our new torpedo can sink any Soviet ship with one hit, 20% of the time!” and there’s maybe some argument and maybe the rules get updated a bit. But then the Aircraft Carrier Mafia step in: “OK, your torpedo can sink the Kirov [USSR’s only major aircraft carrier] with one hit, but a comparable USSR torpedo cannot sink one of our carriers with one hit because our carriers are vastly superior!” And there’d be more argument and the rules would get updated. By the time the rules had all been lawyered, we’d start the scenario with a US fleet that was defined as inherently invincible against a Soviet fleet that was a turkey shoot.

That’s one of the things I find really fascinating about wargaming: the relationship between inputs and outputs and how they control each other but are not predictable; the outcomes are deterministic but not pre-determined.

In a nutshell, that’s war: the outcomes are deterministic but not pre-determined. Unless, of course, you’re the US, which is so massively overpowered that the rules say we will win all the time.

Let me digress for a moment [That means we are now in two levels of digression!] I realized the other day that the US’ military isn’t that great, but what really makes imperial America so powerful is that its war-making is always completely unrestrained. The US way of fighting war is to immediately get to the nastiest part of the sewer and start there. Anyone preparing for conflict with the US needs to expect a maximum effort because we will bomb your civilians and will instantly start with war crimes and go downhill from there. In a posting over at Mano’s, Dunc [mano] hypothesized that it would make no sense for Iran to mine the Strait of Hormuz because they need oil money and they’d be shooting themselves in the face – but when you’re dealing with an unrestrained, over-powerful foe, sometimes shooting yourself in the face is the best option. That’s why Saddam Hussein set fire to Iraq’s oil wells when the US came to take his country and its oil: he raised the cost and the unpleasantless factor as high as he could with what he had. None of that was going to help, because Imperial America cannot be deterred by little things like the likelihood of causing other people misery – I’m sure he’d have dropped some artillery on New York if he’d been able to, but his only option was some minor scorched earth. Also, if you recall during the invasion of Kuwait, Bush made a big deal of going on television and saying “don’t you dare light the oil wells because if you do, we’re going to fucking crucify you!” [nyt] And eventually Hussein was hanged for that and other crimes.

Now the war-drums are beating and the US is thinking out loud (in violation of international law) about attacking Iran. If that happens, the Trumpists are going to discover something very upsetting, like Bush did before him: the US military will take 9-12 months setting up for the attack. Remember that’s what happened in the previous two gulf wars: war is a subset of logistics, not the other way around. The US has two options:

  • The Powell doctrine – overwhelming force applied with a tiny bit of restraint
  • The Rumsfeld doctrine – just enough force to win every battle and lose the war

Both of those will “work” for some value of “work” – for all intents and purposes, the US cannot be defeated as long as it doesn’t admit defeat; that’s why we’re still in Afghanistan and that’s why leaving Vietnam was so traumatic.

But what about when it doesn’t work? The British empire experienced a horrific shock when their incompetent battlefield tactics resulted in unexpected mass casualties in the Zulu war, at Isandlwana and in the Boer war at Spion Kop. Those reverses did not sink in, thoroughly, until World War I because apparently Britain’s aristocratic pinhead-heavy command structure did not put things together until it was too late and they lost their empire. Let me say this succinctly: Britain’s military strategy depended on not concerning itself with casualties among its non-English troops and when the casualties started to mount, they collectively lost their shit and threw strategy out the window.

The US hasn’t experienced that, except for in every small war since World War II; we’re just so stupid and ruthless that it may never sink in. So let’s talk now about a learning experience from which the US managed to learn nothing. I am referring, of course, to Millenium Challenge 2002 [henceforth: MC02] which was a wargame that was run in order to train against some hypothetical scenarios in which the US went to war with Iran, except it was not called Iran. The wargame was a logistical experiment and an opportunity to explore the force structures that might be involved in such a war – basically, it was the kind of “overpowered side against underpowered side smack-down” my high school friend experienced. I’m mostly going to quote from Wikipedia about this [wik]:

Millennium Challenge 2002 (MC02) was a major war game exercise conducted by the United States Armed Forces in mid-2002. The exercise, which ran from July 24 to August 15 and cost $250 million, involved both live exercises and computer simulations. MC02 was meant to be a test of future military “transformation” – a transition toward new technologies that enable network-centric warfare and provide more effective command and control of current and future weaponry and tactics. The simulated combatants were the United States, referred to as “Blue”, and an unknown adversary in the Middle East, “Red”, with many lines of evidence pointing at Iran being the Red side.

The idea was to be able to make some assumptions about how great a smackdown it was going to be. You know, one of those “we send an aircraft carrier and a bunch of F-35s and they scrape the air clear of other aircraft and then we fly endless strike missions against our cowering and defenseless foe, off the gigantic steel runway we parked right in their armpit.” Basically, that was Gulf War 2, except F-35s didn’t exist yet. So MC02 assumed a US carrier task force group – a carrier and missile boats, tenders, scout ships, aircraft, the whole bit. And it assumed a surface strike component: several large ships carrying basically the entire US Marine corps and supply train. By the way, the current scenario that the Trump administration is pushing is exactly the opening moves of MC02 except for the ground component.

Where things went wrong: they hired the wrong asshole to play the opposition. Enter Paul Van Riper. [wik] Basically, Van Riper is a great big asshole, he’s just really good at it. Van Riper was commander of the opposition forces, and decided to pull a Captain James T Kirk Kobayashi Maru sort of maneuver on the whole exercise. And he crushed the US (“Blue”) team so conclusively that they had to re-start the exercise, declare “that thing that just happened did not happen“, get Van Riper out of there, and then play the happy smackdown scenario.

At this point, the exercise was suspended, Blue’s ships were “re-floated”, and the rules of engagement were changed; this was later justified by General Peter Pace as follows: “You kill me in the first day and I sit there for the next 13 days doing nothing, or you put me back to life and you get 13 more days’ worth of experiment out of me. Which is a better way to do it?” After the reset, both sides were ordered to follow predetermined plans of action

One of the US military’s big “edges” over the Soviet military was always claimed to be the flexibility and adaptability of its less top-heavy command structure. Do you still want to buy that? When the exercise conclusively demonstrated that combat operations are unpredictable and a dangerous enemy with a good strategy can fuck all your shit up the US military’s reaction was a mulligan. In the real world if the scenario happened that way, Van Ripen’s forces had just inflicted the greatest defeat on the US that it had ever suffered – a disaster that makes Dien Bien Phu, Spion Kop, and Islandlwhana, rolled up together, look like a sunday picnic in comparison.

So here’s what Van Riper did: he knew that the US strategy was going to assume total surveillance dominance, so his team established a fake communications infrastructure for them to listen to, and relied instead on battlefield couriers on motorbikes carrying hand-written orders like a napoleonic-era force. That technique worked fine for Wellington and it worked fine for Van Riper. Meanwhile, the US forces were sitting there plotting the smackdown and getting reports about the “red” units desperately building a defense. What they were actually listening to was a bunch of reservists who had been ordered to set up defenses, talking to a bunch of Van Riper’s command team who were responsible for appearing to be setting up defenses – they were encouraged to sound as doctrinaire and predictable as was reasonable. Meanwhile, Van Riper’s team set up an attack, based on publicly available information about the US force structure opposing him. The destroyers protecting the carrier had so many guns, so many missiles, such and such a detection range, etc. Van Riper assembled a virtual army of small boats loaded with explosives, RPG teams, and suicide bombs that they overwhelmed the command/control capability of the US force:

Red received an ultimatum from Blue, essentially a surrender document, demanding a response within 24 hours. Thus warned of Blue’s approach, Red used a fleet of small boats to determine the position of Blue’s fleet by the second day of the exercise. In a preemptive strike, Red launched a massive salvo of cruise missiles that overwhelmed the Blue forces’ electronic sensors and destroyed sixteen warships. This included one aircraft carrier, ten cruisers and five of six amphibious ships. An equivalent success in a real conflict would have resulted in the deaths of over 20,000 service personnel. Soon after the cruise missile offensive, another significant portion of Blue’s navy was “sunk” by an armada of small Red boats, which carried out both conventional and suicide attacks that capitalized on Blue’s inability to detect them as well as expected

Damn look at those medals!

This is not a nonsense scenario. Iran has large numbers of not particularly good cruise missiles. But quantity, as Stalin said, “has a quality of its own.” The problem with hauling a carrier task force group up into the Straits of Hormuz is that they’re under the cruise and ballistic missile envelope of Iran, and you can’t sink a country. Of course “red” took horrific casualties, as the Vietcong did at Dien Bien Phu, and the Zulus did at Isandlwana , and so on – but these massive reversals are asymmetrically expensive. “Red” could lose 500 small boats and their entire inventory of missiles for what a single Aegis boat would be worth.

In the MC02 scenario, the “five of six amphibious ships” that were ‘destroyed’ were carrying most of the US Marine Corps, who wanted to be represented in the smackdown and were terribly disappointed.

Iran will lose if the US attacks, unquestionably. Because the US will never play ‘fair’ and will attack with overwhelming force and a complete lack of restraint. But, when you hear people going on about what a great big smackdown it’ll be there are two things: one, a lot of innocent people are going to get hurt and two, war is never a sure thing. Americans don’t seem to have figured out that we lost in Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan – there’s a broad trend-line here that anyone can read, which is that high tech militaries don’t win insurgencies. They just don’t. Because they are the wrong force structure to win insurgencies – to do that you need The Red Army and the political will to commit genocide.

Van Riper had a stellar career in the military, and taught the military a valuable lesson in MC02.

Van Riper was extremely critical of the scripted nature of the new exercise and resigned from the exercise in the middle of the war game. Van Riper later said that the Vice Admiral Marty Mayer altered the exercise’s purpose to reinforce existing doctrine and notions of infallibility within the U.S. military rather than serving as a learning experience.

Wikipedia concludes:

Van Riper also stated that the war game was rigged so that it appeared to validate the modern, joint-service war-fighting concepts it was supposed to be testing. He was quoted in the ZDF–New York Times documentary The Perfect War (2004) as saying that what he saw in MC02 echoed the same view promoted by the Department of Defense under Robert McNamara before and during the Vietnam War, namely that the U.S. military could not and would not be defeated.

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Here is a somewhat controversial position that I hold: certain acts that are dubbed “terrorism” by the US are actually acceptable military responses to a military occupation. I.e.: the attack on the Cole was a military attack on a military target. I know the US historically has a lot of trouble telling military targets from civilians (it’s that or we just like to kill civilians!) so it’s worth clarifying that. Occupying military forces are fair game. You don’t like that? Get your troops home. The terrorists in Afghanistan are US Marines.

Comments

  1. bmiller says

    Maybe losing a good portion of the Marine Corps would finally teach us a lesson? No, of course. It would just mean doubling down. God’s Favorite Country, led by the American Hezbollah (God’s Own Party) CANNOT lose. By definition.

  2. says

    bmiller@#1:
    Maybe losing a good portion of the Marine Corps would finally teach us a lesson? No, of course. It would just mean doubling down.

    That was what got me thinking about the US’ unofficial policy of unrestrained warfare. If some country had the colossal misfortune to wipe out the Marine Corps, they’d be genocided. Carthago Delenda, etc.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    This explains (part of) disinformation repeated all over anti-war discourse in the notorious run-up to Bush’s ’03 attack on Iraq: Saddam’s suicide speedboats would send the US Navy scrambling. I for one felt no surprise at all when that didn’t happen.

    The other great military-prediction failure from that movement at the time had it that airborne sand would ground Cobras, Apaches, and all other US war-copters. That one I’d thought more plausible, but it seems the mechanics had it all in hand.

  4. Sean Boyd says

    The war games crap reminds me of some of my dad’s experiences at Fort Irwin, CA, where he was a medic in a tank battalion, prepping to go to Vietnam. This included training, of course. In the desert. Preparing to go to a jungle. So, for instance, he’d be with his unit, and they could see the “opposition” force 50 yards away, but they were required to pretend they didn’t know that, because of all the trees that weren’t there save for in the rule book. The whole idea of tanks in the jungle is, of course, another story…suffice it to say that they spent a lot of time stuck.

    Even with the Red Army and the political will to commit genocide, Afghanistan was still too much for the Soviets to handle. They learned that lesson quicker than we have (than we will, actually, assuming we ever do learn it).

    Your “controversial position”, for me anyway, highlights the absurdity of declaring war against “terrorism”, as W and cronies and Dems did. It legitimizes those acts in the sense that it officially recognizes them as part of a defined conflict between competing forces, rather than as mere criminal acts perpetrated by small groups. If your country is fighting a war against “terrorism”, and a “terrorist” attack of some type is perpetrated against your country, that’s now simply an act of war, something we ought to be very familiar with. That we refuse to see the contradiction in our actual position (us kill: good, them kill: bad) is really frustrating and disheartening.

  5. says

    Sean Boyd@#4:
    It legitimizes those acts in the sense that it officially recognizes them as part of a defined conflict between competing forces, rather than as mere criminal acts perpetrated by small groups.

    Well, the Marine barracks that was truck-bombed in Beirut (1983) is a good example, as was the Cole what about either of those was not a military target? The marines were “foreign occupation troops” and the Cole was a hostile naval vessel at ease with its defenses down. Was it somehow wrong to use a truck bomb instead of a JDAM dropped from a standoff distance?

    When the US got thoroughly stuck in Vietnam and was losing troops hand over fist, the main complaint that the US military mustered was that those rotten Vietcong just would not fight fair! I assume a “fair fight” for the US means standing up in lines and letting yourself be mowed down, like the Germans did in WWII? Oh, you mean they didn’t, either? It appears to me that the US’ idea of a “fair fight” is actually “a extremely lopsided fight, with all the terrain being in our favor.” So nasty of them to not lose gracefully, like gentlemen never did. (as if Martini-Henry rifles against spears is somehow “fair”)

  6. says

    Pierce R. Butler@#5:
    State Dept Orders All Non-Essential Embassy Staffers In Iraq To Leave Country

    Sounds like they’ve got some intelligence that maybe someone plans to attack some of the US occupation troops. And why wouldn’t they, if they’re vulnerable?

    See, the problem is that the US just thinks it’s got a right to be there, therefore anyone attempting to do anything about it is evil, wicked, mean and nasty. Is Iran perhaps aiding and fostering resistance? Why on earth wouldn’t they? They have a superpower occupying their neighbor and encouraging the world to blockade them economically. They have a right to resist.

  7. says

    Actually, the US’ idea of a “fair fight” is “we drop high explosives on you from high altitude where you can’t touch us” because: military bravery is such great stuff.

  8. bmiller says

    “Those rotten Vietcong just would not fight fair! I assume a “fair fight” for the US means standing up in lines and letting yourself be mowed down, like the Germans did in WWII? Oh, you mean they didn’t, either? It appears to me that the US’ idea of a “fair fight” is actually “a extremely lopsided fight, with all the terrain being in our favor.” So nasty of them to not lose gracefully, like gentlemen never did. (as if Martini-Henry rifles against spears is somehow “fair”)”

    Funny. This sounds exactly like the mythical British complaints about American rebels during the Revolutionary War!

  9. says

    When the US got thoroughly stuck in Vietnam and was losing troops hand over fist, the main complaint that the US military mustered was that those rotten Vietcong just would not fight fair! I assume a “fair fight” for the US means standing up in lines and letting yourself be mowed down, like the Germans did in WWII? Oh, you mean they didn’t, either? It appears to me that the US’ idea of a “fair fight” is actually “a extremely lopsided fight, with all the terrain being in our favor.”

    I frequently hear people talking about fair fights, but I believe the whole idea of a fair fight is silly. A fair fight is just inherently impossible.

    Does one of the sides have more soldiers? Not fair.
    Does one of the sides have better equipment and weapons? Not fair.
    Does the terrain favor one of the sides? Not fair.
    Does one of the sides have better trained soldiers? Not fair.

    How do you even make a fight fair? Turn it into a literal boxing match with weight classes and doping control where soldiers fight one on one with bare fists? Even then it wouldn’t be fair, because some people just get lucky to be born with slightly different genes that make their bodies more suited for fistfights.

    More importantly, nobody has ever wanted a fair fight, because that would be a bloody massacre with an immense amount of casualties. When it comes to wars, everybody wants unfair fights because that’s the only way how their side can easily win. Still, for some odd reason (namely propaganda), everybody keeps talking about fair fights and how their opponents happen to not fight fairly.

  10. says

    Something else that may not go according to plan is what our allies do. They’re already pissed about Trump revoking Obama’s nuclear deal. Yes, as part of NATO they are supposed to support us if we are attacked. But what if we do the initial attacking?

    I suppose they could “support” us but slow-walk it. And after the WMD fiasco in Iraq, I also would not expect them to accept at face value ANY supposed evidence that Iran was planning something.

  11. Sean Boyd says

    Marcus Ranum @6,

    I wasn’t disagreeing with you: I’ve had more or less the same general opinion myself. I was (poorly) complaining about the hypocrisy of the US saying “we’re at war with terrorism” out of one side of its mouth, while out the other came “how dare they use IEDs and suicide bombers”? From the context of citizens of occupied countries, of course, that purely verbal distinction doesn’t mean anything: they’ve been at war all along and they know it. Sorry for confusing the issue in my previous entry.

  12. sonofrojblake says

    “You kill me in the first day and I sit there for the next 13 days doing nothing, or you put me back to life and you get 13 more days’ worth of experiment out of me. Which is a better way to do it?”

    That actually makes perfect sense. However, the very next sentence is…

    After the reset, both sides were ordered to follow predetermined plans of action

    This is not “13 more days’ worth of experiment”, this is 13 more days of me smashing my Hulk action figure into your Loki action figure and declaring victory every day because hey, HULK, amiright?

    Proposition: the Falklands War was a fair fight. Discuss.

    (The islands are about 300 miles off the coast of Argentina (the aggressors) while the UK had to send a taskforce about 8,000 miles. The Argentines had advanced fast jets armed with Exocet anti-ship missiles and plenty of warning the ships were coming, while the only planes the UK could send were Harriers. Arguably the forces the British sent were better trained, being an entirely professional army as opposed to conscripts. Etc.)

  13. says

    Fast attack boats armed with antishipping missiles have been a worry in some corners since the ’70s. To date how much of a real threat to a navy like that of the US they are has yet to be proven, simply because no one has actually tried to use them against a major navy. The Russians built a lot of them, but of course they never went to war with the US.

  14. bmiller says

    Is the reason we don’t use the small fast boats methodology that they are cheap and can’t be larded up with gizmos?

    The P35 Attack Boat is the latest high tech small attack craft that is guided by Artificial Intelligence to outwit our nefarious enemies! Sadly, it is easily swamped in any sea rougher than “glassy smooth”.

  15. says

    I began a search for the documentary about the MC02 incident A Perfect War(2004) and it turned up a few other things including an interesting similarly titled documentary on the failed promise of technology in Vietnam. If any of you have access to strange collections of media, and can put your hands on A Perfect War I would like a copy. (And if you find one for sale, I will buy it for us all)

    This is a more in-depth article and it’s pretty clear the Wikipedia page is plagiarized from it:
    [war on the rocks]

    There are some good bits, below:

    Van Riper’s red team prepared itself for an amphibious assault by the Marines. He knew that the first wave would include the V-22 Osprey, a multi-mission, tilt-rotor aircraft that the Marines had in the pipeline but would not actually field for another five years. The V-22’s twin 38-foot propellers gave the transport aircraft a notoriously large identifiable radar signature that could easily be identified and tracked with crude radars and surface-to-air missiles. The red team was ready to begin shooting down the V-22s when Van Riper’s chief of staff received a message from the white cell. Hostile fire against the V-22s or blue’s C-130 troop transport planes was forbidden. The white cell also directed the chief of staff that the red team had to position its air defense assets out in the open so the blue forces could easily destroy them. Even after some were not destroyed, the red team was forbidden to fire upon blue forces as they conducted a live airborne drop. Van Riper asked the white cell if his forces could at least deploy the chemical weapons that he possessed, but he was again denied.

    The Osprey’s weakness against ground fire has been demonstrated in Yemen, where the locals are not playing by the rules.

    The final JFCOM report on MC ’02 ran 752 pages long and was not released to the public for 10 years. The report detailed how the OPFOR had initially caught the blue team off guard, in large part because the blue team stuck closely to well-known and practiced U.S. military tactics.

    The JFCOM report is here; it sounds like it might be a good read.

    Once U.S. forces were within range, Van Riper’s forces unleashed a barrage of missiles from ground-based launchers, commercial ships, and planes flying low and without radio communications to reduce their radar signature. Simultaneously, swarms of speedboats loaded with explosives launched kamikaze attacks. The carrier battle group’s Aegis radar system — which tracks and attempts to intercept incoming missiles — was quickly overwhelmed, and 19 U.S. ships were sunk, including the carrier, several cruisers, and five amphibious ships. “The whole thing was over in five, maybe ten minutes,” Van Riper said.

    Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention the bit about commercial ships. One of Van Riper’s innovations was using normal shipping traffic as launch platforms for wire-guided anti-tank missiles, like the Kornets that Houthi insurgents used on the Saudi Arabian ship a few years ago. Since they completely lack any fire control that is detectable, a target could come under attack from a fishing ship, a motorboat, or a guy with a pickup truck on the shore. That was another point: a modern howitzer can place half of the Strait of Hormuz under its fire-arc. A modern howitzer would fuck up a naval vessel like a Marine Corps landing ship, at very very low cost. And every round would waste ammunition from the Close-In Weapons Systems (CIWS) which would be the only thing that could stop a Kornet inbound. One side-effect of such attacks would be that the US Navy would close the strait, itself, since it would be unable to sort friendly commercial traffic from commercial traffic with missiles on board. Modern mortars like a typical 120mm can throw a round almost 1/4 of the way across the strait, which also pose a horrific problem. An American carrier task force group low on ammunition for its CIWS would be lunchmeat for cruise missiles.

    The nastiest thing a defender could do, though, would be to sneak and zero a couple of mortars on some of the rear echelon airbases. A mortar round anywhere near a supply aircraft or a bomber is going to create a horrible and very expensive mess. That is a lesson the US Marine Corps failed to learn from Khe Sahn, and the French absolutely learned at Dien Bien Phu. Alternatively, a few Kornet ATGMs on board a fishing boat, could instantly inflict catastrophic damage to a docked aircraft carrier in Qatar or Bahrain. Someone using insurgent-style tactics would have no reason to limit their targets solely to ships on a clear attack vector. And, remember, it was an excess of caution about exactly this scenario that is why the Vincennes shot down an Iranian airplane full of civilian passengers. There are few things that will survive getting hit by a civilian aircraft full of fuel, as we all learned on 9/11.

    I wish John Bolton could experience the consequences of his actions, but I suspect that he’ll die comfortably in bed – unlike the people who follow him and their victims.

  16. says

    bmiller@#15:
    Is the reason we don’t use the small fast boats methodology that they are cheap and can’t be larded up with gizmos?

    Remember that the US Navy’s “littoral fighting ship” was intended to a fast, stealthy, attack ship that packed a punch – and it turned into the Zumwalt which is now designated a cruiser, because it costs way too much to be a destroyer. Or something like that.

    The US Navy still wants to fight the battle of Jutland. Or perhaps Trafalgar.

  17. xohjoh2n says

    Both of those will “work” for some value of “work”

    That would be the value of “work” where a lot of people die, but the execs of B, LM et al. get to use loose handfuls of Benjamins as wank-rags?

    And it assumed a surface strike component: several large ships carrying basically the entire US Marine corps and supply train.

    I do like the quote “No, I like all you Navy boys. Every time we’ve gotta go someplace to fight, you fellas always give us a ride.”

  18. springa73 says

    Yeah, from what my non-expert eye can see, it looks like a war with Iran would not be an easy walkover, but rather something likely to bring US casualties on a level not seen since Vietnam. Iran is quite a bit stronger than Iraq was either time the US attacked it. Also, it seems criminal to introduce rules into war games that probably make them less realistic when the whole point for the war games is supposed to be to give an idea of how an actual war might realistically unfold. I guess people have tacitly decided that the point is rather to always justify decisions that have already been made. Finally, it strikes me as an incredibly bad idea to just assume that your enemy will always act stupidly.

  19. says

    springa73@#19:
    I guess people have tacitly decided that the point is rather to always justify decisions that have already been made.

    A slightly more generous (but not much) is that a bunch of decisions were made, and the wargame was a test-run to validate/tune those decisions. In the case of MC02 the principle was that the “new force realignment and network integration capability” resulted in a new form of highly mobile, highly leveraged warfare(*) with inter-service operations being more effective as a result of tighter integration. And by “tighter integration” that means that the Navy gets the Marine Corps killed much more efficiently than it normally would. Or something.

    If you dial your scope way back and look at the MC02 scenario, it’s basically D-Day, Iran: loads of marines in boats ready to come ashore after the beach gets an artillery pounding from the boats and air strikes are launched against all the things. Then, the Marines hit the beach and special forces drop behind enemy “lines”(**) in bulletproof Ospreys and go on a mad kill-fest of slaughtery carnage. Just like D-Day. After all, it was their finest hour and they want to re-enact it endlessly, because re-enacting Pickett’s charge is not as fun.

    The test run did not validate their assumptions, but the money had already been spent. Also: a wargame that cost $225 million, is one heck of a boondoggle. Maybe I could get them to try World of Warcraft instead.

    (* That’s just a buzzword, but damn, did I make that sound good, huh?)
    (** Naturally, our enemies will just line up nicely)

  20. says

    sonofrojblake@#13:
    Proposition: the Falklands War was a fair fight. Discuss.

    It was an interesting fight, because there were complex asymmetries all over the place, which required the combatants and planners to do a lot of thinking and adapting. Which, initially, they failed to do. Look at how the Royal Navy assumed it was as safe as if it was docked at Scapa Flow, because those silly Argie pilots wouldn’t try an Exocet at extreme range. The infantry war is one I am less familiar with, though I seem to recall that it was a typical infantry war in that it involved a huge amount of walking and carrying massive backpacks. The British also had conspicuously failed to think or adapt their infantry load-out, if I recall, since they had ignored a decade of other NATO countries telling them, “no, really, your rucksacks are awful and your rifles are shite and let’s not get started on your footgear.” To that extent it was probably a more fair fight, since the British did a lot to handicap their own infantry from the outset.

    How am I doing?

    The saddest part, to me, was the sinking of the Belgrano. That was ridiculously unfair – a modern sub with a modern torpedo against a ship that was a relic of ancient wars. Wasn’t the Belgrano the ship that carried Napoleon to Elba? Anyhow, Thatcher had to give a plausible “HULK SMASH” demonstration of British resolve to carve uppity inferiors to bits. Arguably, it was the death of the Royal Navy, because the Brits realized that ships are just missile food – having ignored the lessons of the Pacific part of WWII. After watching the Sheffield burn, the US started building the Zumwalt class, because they were then convinced that aluminum is a great material for combat ships and fireworks alike.

    At least nobody bombed cities full of civilians. But that was probably christian on christian crime; they certainly would have bombed harder if the Argentines were muslims. Heck, the Americans would have probably sent a contingent to bomb all the things, if bombs were being dropped on cities.

    I rate the event a narrow victory for Argentina, because for them “victory” meant not losing too badly, whereas the British came away with global proof that the Royal Navy has a glass jaw.

  21. fusilier says

    @13 sonofrojblake:

    Proposition: the Falklands War was a fair fight. Discuss.
    (The islands are about 300 miles off the coast of Argentina (the aggressors) while the UK had to send a taskforce about 8,000 miles. The Argentines had advanced fast jets armed with Exocet anti-ship missiles and plenty of warning the ships were coming, while the only planes the UK could send were Harriers. Arguably the forces the British sent were better trained, being an entirely professional army as opposed to conscripts. Etc.)

    Reagan was providing Thatcher with (somewhat) sanitized satellite data, in particular, the location of the WWII heavy cruiser General Belgrano. A British nuclear submarine sank the Belgrano before it could reach the Falklands. Had she arrived, her 11-inch guns would have wreaked havoc on the British fleet.

    The British fleet also withdrew to _just_ outside the range of the Argentine Mirage fighters carrying the Exocets. Without air-to-air-refueling capability, they had to launch their missiles at extreme range, limiting their effectiveness.

    fusilier

    James 2:24

  22. fusilier says

    Dammit, I have to read all the comments, first.

    Sorry for duplicating Marcus’ post.

    fusilier

    James 2:24

  23. Curt Sampson says

    The saddest part, to me, was the sinking of the Belgrano. That was ridiculously unfair – a modern sub with a modern torpedo against a ship that was a relic of ancient wars.

    The ship was launched in 1933, six years after the Mark VIII torpedos that sunk it had entered service. Both received upgrades over time, but the ship much more than the torpedoes I bet. I think it’s fair to consider them more or less the same generation of weapon.

    Ironically enough, apparently a newer and more sophisticated type of torpedo wasn’t used because of doubts about its reliabililty.

    Anyhow, Thatcher had to give a plausible “HULK SMASH” demonstration of British resolve to carve uppity inferiors to bits.

    My understanding is that the British Navy was aware though intelligence sources that the cruiser had been directed to attack the Falklands the next day (as part of a larger attack) and that, despite its heading at the time of the sinking, was exactly what it was positioning itself to do. The Navy thus requested that Thatcher authorize an attack outside the exclusion zone.

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