On War #296: Responses

William S. Lind
March 17, 2009

As regular readers of this column know, I usually do not see responses to it because I will not use a computer. (I explain my reasons for that in a forthcoming book, due out in April, The Next Conservatism.) A colleague at Zossen recently put together some responses to two recent columns and sent them to me via the Reichspost. I was pleased to find that virtually all were thoughtful, and here I would like to comment on several.

Most related to On War #293, “The Price of Bad Tactics”:

  • Boris M. wrote, “I wonder if this is the result of bad tactics or the logical consequences of the zero (American) casualty policy followed by the US since the Vietnam war.” Emery Nelson added, “The question that needs to be asked is, ‘Would you rather win with higher casualties, or lose with few casualties?'” I am not sure adopting Third in place of Second Generation infantry tactics would result in higher casualties. It might do so in individual engagements, but it might reduce total friendly casualties in the war. Air strikes serve as one of our opponents’ most effective recruiting tools, both because of the civilians killed and because when you attack someone from an invulnerable position, i.e. 20,000 feet up, you make him want to fight you all the more. If we deprive our opponents of the recruits our airstrikes generate, might not our total casualties go down?
  • Bob P. writes, “We call for airstrikes because that’s what you do to equalize combat power when you are outnumbered.” Later he added, “Most AARs in Afghanistan start with a platoon getting ambushed by approximately equivalent forces, then the enemy forces, through various means (the part I won’t discuss) obtain local superiority. Platoon calls in airstrikes…” I find it interesting that our opponents appear better at concentrating forces at the decisive point than we are. I wonder if two 3GW tactical concepts might help us, namely Schwerpunkt and the importance of maintaining a strong reserve (normally at least one-third of available troops). In contrast, 2GW tactics scatter forces in penny-packets and regard troops in reserve as “wasted” because they are not engaging the enemy. Does that describe what we are now doing in Afghanistan?
  • Jeffrey R. writes, “I do not agree that our officers are not well read and educated on ‘good’ tactics. Remember, they have to operate in a ‘system’ that does not reward innovation and success.” That is certainly true of our system. But it is also true that the U.S. military’s educational system offers little real education. Mostly, it just trains people in one way to do something. If an American officer wants broad education in alternative tactics, he has to educate himself.
  • Sven Ortmann writes, “The light infantry approach doesn’t help much in a terrain that doesn’t offer enough concealment, though. It’s no solution for all problems… Tanks in an assault gun role could handle the problems that plague light infantry in open terrain.” This is correct, in that light infantry is terrain dependent. That is why it seldom fights “pure,” but mixed with heavy infantry (now motorized/mechanized) units. However, those heavy infantry forces also need 3GW tactics, which are simpler versions of Jaeger tactics. In the 1980s, some military reformers, including John Boyd, asked German General Hermann Balck why so many of the best Panzer commanders in World War II had been light infantry officers in World War I. He replied, “Because it was the same.” As to tanks, I would say instead, “infantry guns.” These may be tanks, wheeled assault guns or towed pieces, depending on the situation. Their purpose is to provide heavy direct fire, which in many cases could replace airstrikes with less risk of collateral damage.
  • Max writes, “Somebody was saying there’s no way the current US force of occupation in Iraq could be seriously imperiled by any force on earth.” That bit of hubris is common in Washington, and it has given me many a bad night. If either the U.S. or Israel attacks Iran, we could lose the whole army we have in Iraq. Such a defeat would be our Adrianople, or, given the degree to which we now resemble Imperial Spain, our Rocroi.

The package from Zossen also included some responses to my message to Kaiser Wilhelm on his birthday.

  • R.M. Hitchens wrote, “I’ve always wondered why the very serious Mr. Lind would invoke the spirit of the utterly unserious and notoriously shallow Kaiser Bill…” Martin van Creveld agrees with me that this common view of His Majesty is unfounded. On the contrary, Kaiser Wilhelm was right far more often than were his advisors. He deferred to them too much, it is true, but he explains that in his memoirs on the not unreasonable ground that he was a constitutional monarch. In fact, Kaiser Wilhelm was the most intelligent head of state in Europe in 1914. The greatest fool among the key players in that fateful year was Sir Edward Grey.
  • Nimbus 48 wrote, in kindly fashion, “For many years I have profited from Bill Lind’s articles but I can’t help wonder just what the structure of his ideal monarchy would be.” As conservatives know, there is no ideal structure, in the abstract, for any government. A country’s government must be shaped by its own culture and traditions. For Saudi Arabia, that means an absolute monarchy, and for Britain, a constitutional monarchy, although Commons has grown so powerful compared to the Queen and Lords that it has effectively abolished the British constitution. I also suspect Heaven wants two countries to be republics, Switzerland, to show that it can be made to work, and the United States, as a warning to everyone else.

Finally, as the rector of my church in Cleveland (St. James’ Anglican Catholic Church; if you want to see how a high mass should be done, visit us some Sunday) says, “I am a monarchist because God is.” And I am by choice a subject of Kaiser Wilhelm II because, in all probability, the very last chance Western civilization had of surviving was a victory by the Central Powers in World War I.

William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

To interview Mr. Lind, please contact (no e-mail available):

Mr. William S. Lind
Free Congress Foundation
1423 Powhatan Street, # 2
Alexandria, Virginia 22314

Direct line: 703 837-0483

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Filed in Uncategorized | 21 responses so far

21 Responses to “On War #296: Responses”

  1. rmhitchenson 17 Mar 2009 at 1:29 pm 1

    When I am reproached not only by Mr. Lind but by the august Martin van Creveld I must certainly re-think my criticism of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Apparently I have not drunk deeply enough; the Kaiser does not come off well in many of the histories I have read. But admittedly the political and military leaders who wielded the real power in Germany (and the rest of Europe) were sadly lacking in judgment and prudence, and no one can doubt that the Kaiser’s heart was (for the most part) in the right place.

    But, while a statement such as “A country’s government must be shaped by its own culture and traditions” is inoffensive on the surface, it raises all sorts of objections in practice and historical experience. The absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia reflects only the masculine elite, as did the pre-reform British constitutional monarchy. “Culture and traditions” led conservatives to resist the abolition of slavery, the enfranchisement of women, civil rights for African-Americans, and the (near) universally-accepted social reforms of the New Deal and Great Society. Why do conservatives see only their own culture and traditions as worth defending? God is a monarchist, but we Christians also believe that he is a God of justice. Culture and tradition that exclude so many people belong on the ash heap of history.

  2. tedschanon 17 Mar 2009 at 7:04 pm 2

    Why do conservatives see only their own culture and traditions as worth defending?
    This isn’t Mr. Lind’s point — the corollary that he would have us draw is that the form of government is not something that can be imposed on a people by an outside force.

    God is a monarchist, but we Christians also believe that he is a God of justice. Culture and tradition that exclude so many people belong on the ash heap of history.

    Whose justice? That of the classical liberals?

  3. EmeryNelsonon 18 Mar 2009 at 12:50 am 3

    Mr. Lind said:
    “I am not sure adopting Third in place of Second Generation infantry tactics would result in higher casualties.”

    I’m not sure it would either. However, it might and in the eyes of our leaders, both political and military, even the chance of high casualties is too much risk. Fighting a 4th GW opponent without Sky God might lead to front loaded casualties amongst infantry. For instance, in Iraq if the casualties had been 4000 dead and 30,000 wounded the first year and none the following years I’m guessing our leaders would prefer to stretch it out over three years. Winning with high casualties, or the possibilities of high casualties, isn’t an option.

    Mr. Lind said:
    “As to tanks, I would say instead, “infantry guns.” These may be tanks, wheeled assault guns or towed pieces, depending on the situation.”

    Another item that’s ignored at all costs by the army, although, they may be on the right track with the MGS. That remains to be seen. Something tracked or towed of the same caliber would go a long ways towards giving our light infantry the striking power it needs. The Russians and Germans both proved the value of assaults guns in the Second World War, but this seems to be ignored. For all the talk about the Tiger being a superior tank far more Shermans met their doom from Assault guns way before a Panzer of any make was seen.

    Towed guns are perfect for insurgencies because they are easy to hide and inexpensive to operate. I’ve been speaking of this for years and at one time we could build about twenty towed guns for one tank. Don’t know what it would be today, particularly if the army and GD got on it (before they were done it would likely exceed the cost of an M-1). We need to rethink this option for our light infantry. And I do mean option. It’s a tool, like a socket wrench, and not for all jobs.

  4. EmeryNelsonon 18 Mar 2009 at 12:56 am 4

    Need to add; Even the cheapest of optical systems on an infantry/Assault gun can out range any RPG and remain virtually hidden from observation. Anti personal rounds (canister) is extremely affective and doesn’t do so much damage as to destroy entire masonry buildings.

  5. loggie20on 18 Mar 2009 at 6:06 am 5

    It is a shame the US press did not cover the border wars in South Africa in the 80-90’s.

    They used a lot of tactics, light infantry, indirect fires from 155mm guns, small use of helos and a lot of seat of the pants tactics.

    Their logistics is a lot easier, otherwise they know how to deal with insurgents.

  6. senor tomason 18 Mar 2009 at 7:56 am 6

    “if the casualties had been 4000 dead and 30,000 wounded”

    Not only would casualties in these kinds of numbers cause political and social backlashes, they would also create a logistical problem. The all-volunteer recruiting system would not be able to replace the dead and wounded bodies fast enough. Only a conscripted military could sustain these kinds of casualties and still keep functioning.

  7. EmeryNelsonon 18 Mar 2009 at 10:58 am 7

    “Not only would casualties in these kinds of numbers cause political and social backlashes, they would also create a logistical problem.”

    Exellent point ST. I’m not sure we couldn’t get around it but it would certainly cause some serious problems, not to mention our this would likely entail a lot of material and ammunition usage which our system would have a hard time handling for very long.

  8. Rob Pon 19 Mar 2009 at 12:59 am 8

    The Marine Corps purchased a 120mm(?) towed artillery piece (and something that suspiciously looks like a Jeep) to handle rough terrain IDF and artillery missions. It is designed to be quickly employed in rough terrain that are current artillery (155mm) could not physically handle. The artillery piece looks goofy but the troops generally give it a thumbs up. Not sure if it is fully fielded yet and I was assigned another mission that keeps me away from my old artillery buddies. I am looking forward to seeing it on a mountainous battlefield one day soon. If I find details (again) I’ll post them here.

  9. Maxon 19 Mar 2009 at 9:42 am 9

    “The Marine Corps purchased a 120mm(?) towed artillery piece (and something that suspiciously looks like a Jeep) to handle rough terrain IDF and artillery missions.”

    “Shoot and Scoot” I love it ! Similar with rockets used
    very effectively by Humas against the mustle bound Isrealis.

    That could work for the USA, and NATO in Afganistan.

    However first. Every shell must be re-fitted with a
    $ 25,000.00 GPS reciever. So it can be steered and tracked.

    We must launch a series of dedicated near earth sattelites
    on which to base this “system.” At a cost of,,,oh,, let’s
    say, $ 250 billion, plus 120% overrun.

    We;ll need a new command center stateside, say,
    $ 400 million ++.
    A forward near theatre operating center, say $ 120 million,
    plus $ 300 million in bribes to a neutral middle eastern conunty to host it.

    But before all that a new launch vehicle must be developed,
    $ 330 Billion, + 340% overun, and the facilites at Vandenburg must be upgraded, $ 180 billion + 240% overrun.

    Total cost including overruns, say something like $ 1.1 trillion USD.


  10. loggie20on 19 Mar 2009 at 3:08 pm 10

    USMC already has a towed 155MM.

    The 120MM needs a whole new line of ammunition.

    There are all kinds of rounds for the 155 and the towed version is quite mobile.

    The 120MM is coming in with the Army Future Combat System, I do not know the facts but the design trade is likely the Army could not put a 155MM recoil on the light chassis required to make the vehicle air deployable.

    I would not hold my breath that the 120 MM will ever be deployed.

    While the M-1 uses a 120MM it never developed a line of munitions for indirect fires.

    The munitions development is daunting, and the main reason for the 120mm is the airlift muddle.

  11. weson 19 Mar 2009 at 9:10 pm 11

    I found an overview of the 120mm piece that I believe Rob P was talking about: http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2004armaments/DayII/SessionII/07Lindsey_Dragon_Fire_II.pdf

    Looks pretty neat, actually. But I’ve no idea what the pricetag is. It says this about the ammunition: “…Since DF II uses both rifled and smoothbore 120mm ammunition it can use _anybody’s_ ammo”.

  12. Alturukon 20 Mar 2009 at 4:16 pm 12

    this new gun reminds me quite a bit of a russian Vasilek mortar.
    At sixhundred something kilo the Vasilek might be even possibly moved by the crew for short distances.
    At 120 mm the new gun ought to be heavier. The only adantage I could see would be direct anti-tank fire and that would mean that we are seeing the return of the AT gun. Interesting, but not really a light infantry thing

  13. loggie20on 20 Mar 2009 at 8:35 pm 13

    I am not an ordnance guy. But….

    Artillery is the Queen of the battlefield.

    The FCS went 120mm. Does not nean there is any ammo for it. Ammo cannot be imported; it is not strategically useless boondoggle, French air refueling tanker.

    The US had an AA gun in 120mm caliber. Years ago.

    The 120mm on the M-1 is smooth bore. Rifling is needed for range and accuracy, if I remember my Physics I.

    The family of rifled ammo in the US is either 105mm or 155mm.

    Developing the same variety of rounds for a rifled 120mm is a fairly large investment.

    My feel is keep the 155mm and drop the air mobile requirement.

    There is no way C-130s can bring in the ammo, fuel, bullets and blood to sustain the FCS anywhere that Military Sealit Command ships cannot get them the stuff.

    And Manas AB is closing down.

    FCS, the 120mm indirect fire boondoggle is the Army version of Star Wars, take resources away from real need.

  14. senor tomason 21 Mar 2009 at 2:03 am 14

    “this would likely entail a lot of material and ammunition usage which our system would have a hard time handling for very long.”

    Yep. The United States military in its current form could not handle a symmetric conventional war against an equal opponent. Sad to say, if we picked on someone our own size we would have to go nuclear.

  15. Maxon 21 Mar 2009 at 9:30 am 15

    Max on 19 Mar 2009 at 9:42 am

    “Total cost including overruns, say something like $ 1.1 trillion USD.”

    Maybe you thought I was joking ?
    Using hyperbolic exageration to get a laugh ?



    “the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecast Friday the deficit could hit 1.845 trillion dollars this year under the Obama proposal, quadrupling the 2008 record shortfall.”

    Now this;


    “Like the Pentagon, the defense industries also have a plan for space. They’re working 50-75 years ahead of the rest of us. They understand the enormous costs involved. They are moving to secure a funding source and working to bring “reliable allies” into the program to help pay for Star Wars. They’ve learned to dress up key aspects of the program as defense, as in “missile defense.””

  16. Maxon 21 Mar 2009 at 9:37 am 16

    Gerald V. Bull Genius Of Artillary development.
    Interesting reading.



  17. Sven Ortmannon 21 Mar 2009 at 2:51 pm 17

    Dragon fire II combines an autoloader with the French rifled 120mm 2R2M mortar that was a huge export success for decades.
    It’s compatible to fin-stabilized NATO 120mm mortar bombs, but has its strengths (small dispersion) with special rifled ammo.

    The army introduced 120mm smoothbore CARDOM mortar (Israeli design. automatized elevation and traverse, manual loading, firing pin function unknown to me) on the Stryker, a less complex and in my opinion superior system, albeit it would be even better if it used the 2R2M’s barrel.

    FCS includes a 155mm SPH version (apparently 39calibres barrel only and probably no all-round traverse as i M109) with likely inferior range to several modern SPH designs (except if vastly superior ammunition is being used).

    FCS also includes a 120mm mortar version, usually depicted as a turreted mortar system similar to the 1980’s BAe AMS. That might be smoothbore or rifled, but my 2 cents are on smoothbore.

    Dragonfire and Dragonfire II (the latter can also be lifted on a vehicle and be fired from the vehicle) are USMC experiments.

    Earlier US Army experiments for 120mm mortars included an extremely lightweight composite barrel that was apparently unnecessary because 120mm mortar ammo and gun are heavy enough to require either fixed or vehicle-supported operation anyway.

  18. loggie20on 21 Mar 2009 at 7:12 pm 18

    A retraction, googling Non Line of Sight Cannon I find that the FCS design is a 155mm gun.

    I am happy, range and lethality won over.


    Dragon Fire II is a mortar limited in range and lethality compared to the 155 series. But it can fit in an Osprey.

  19. EmeryNelsonon 22 Mar 2009 at 7:59 pm 19

    An Assault gun’s main purpose is direct fire. It must support the infantry to take out point targets and tanks when necessary. It should be simple and cheap (Don’t let GD touch it), and shouldn’t be used for indirect fires, that’s not its role. The Wehrmacht had an entire Motorized (semi) light division (90th?) devoted to this in North Africa and it was highly affective. Each infantry squad had a gun. The Russians had many of these guns which proved terribly affective in urban settings as well as static defense. I remember reading about the numbers of these towed guns attached to infantry companies at Kursk and it was mind boggling. They are cheap and can be affective, particularly in urban COIN.

  20. loggie20on 22 Mar 2009 at 9:45 pm 20


    Good points.

    I might observe that the range of the 120 mm mortar is 11 km (14 km with a rocket assisted round).

    The rifling is for greater accuracy, there are other silutions to accuracy.

    One comment, the selection of 38 or 39 caliber for the FCS Non Line of Sight Cannon (155mm) may be an issue with using different projectiles for added range, but that is a marginal highly technical issue.

  21. Rob Pon 23 Mar 2009 at 7:37 am 21

    Took a look at Loggie and Wes’s links. The Dragon Fire II was the piece I saw. It was being towed by what looked like a jeep. Basically the USMC wanted a vehicle that could fit in a MV-22 and tow the Dragon Fire. So it looks like someone dusted off the cover of the old venerable jeep design and submitted that.

    I like the employment possibilities of this system; quick to set up, quick to employ, quick to break down, and quick to go. This could solve a lot of problems in isolated areas like Afghanistan where you could never put up enough FOBs to cover potential hot spots with arty. You should be able to run a mobile fire base with this system.

    For some reason, I’ve never seen the Army’s mobile batteries setup and fire any faster than USMC towed pieces (ref to Loggie’s link). From what I saw (once) the USA mobile pieces were hampered by maintenance issues and needing too much level ground, one space for gun vehicle, the other the ammo loader, and both need to be together and touching. It also took time to link the two vehicles up. I guess if the terrain’s right, then the USA mobile battery was superior.

    Thanks for finding the link, Wes. Been alittle too busy training up for the next deployment to really dig into this.