Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What if the "worst-case scenario" happens?

When conducting war games a wise commander will ensure that he plans for the enemy's most-likely AND most-dangerous course of action. The purpose of war games is to include possible enemy actions in the planning process.

Our Army was forbidden to plan for the "worst-case scenario" in occupying Iraq. In fact, the Army was forbidden to plan for the most-likely scenario as well. Why? Because it showed the true cost of the Iraqi invasion at a time when the war was being sold as cheap and easy, a Desert-Storm II. The Army was ordered to assume that our likely enemies would instead welcome us. They are still welcoming us, every day, with bombs and bullets.

Are we planning properly today? It is hard to over-emphasize the danger of a "fighting withdrawal," (a "retrograde movement under enemy pressure") either when discussing the possible casualties, or the effect it will have on our foreign policy goals and objectives.

If we have to fight our way out of Iraq - and that possibility exists - then we need to do it as masterfully as the initial invasion in 2003. That takes planning, it takes preparation, and it takes training and equipment.

We are not preparing at all. And it gets scarier - what if, instead of fighting our way out of Iraq, we find ourselves under attack in Iraq - by Iran? Unlikely? No, it isn't. We are face-to-face with Iran and Bush is not backing down. During the Korean War we were face-to-face with the Communist Chinese, but everybody knew they would not dare attack us. Until, of course, they did just that.

If we find ourselves facing Iranian formations (most likely called "volunteers" similar to the Chinese "volunteers" we faced in the Korean War) we risk a repeat of the Chosin Reservoir debacle, except that this time we have no reserves left. There is a real possibility that we will find ourselves drafting young Americans and throwing them into combat with a bare minimum of training, just as we did in the Korean War only a few years after we had finished WWII with some of the best-equipped, best-trained, and toughest, most lethal soldiers in the world. Just a few short years later and we had Task Force Smith, and then the failure of our under-trained and unprofessional Army at Chosin. We have the same risks today.

While we debate whether to pull out of Iraq now or later, we are not discussing the very real and very possible risks our nation faces. Our Army and Marines are not as effective as they were in 2003 - not by half. They don't train for even mid-intensity combat anymore, much less train for high-intensity manuever warfare. We are so short-handed and so over-committed that we train our troops only for the low-intensity warfare they face in Iraq against irregular forces - and we don't even have the time to train them adequately for that, with units returning to Iraq with only a year to refit/re-equip/retrain after their last Iraqi tour. Thus our troops may know how to fight when they outnumber the untrained enemy in urban terrain - but what about a trained formation, that outnumbers our forces, when our supply lines are cut and our troops find that they are under determined attack for days, even weeks, at a time? Do we have a plan to deal with that possibility?

We are now vulnerable as hell. The truth is that we have pissed off the world, we are rattling the sabers again with Iran, and we have over 100,000 men pinned down and under fire today on the borders of Iran. That and we have no strategic or operational reserves left.

We were surprised when the Chinese "volunteers" poured into Korea and slammed us so hard. Later, historians wondered why the hell we were surprised.

And now we think the only possibility of a war with Iran is Bush deciding to start one. But what if they expect him to do so, and hit us first? The Chinese did just that. And only a few years after we had fought WWII, we found we had no trained troops to send to Korea, drafted kids and sent them to combat with only weeks of training. Some of our conscripts never qualified with their rifles before seeing combat. One tank battalion gathered together for the first time on board a ship enroute to Korea, and only six weeks after being formed they were in combat (no, they did not do very well). We pulled Sherman tanks out of museums and dropped engines in them and sent them to Korea. And we got our ass kicked, losing tens of thousands of men. And we were pushed out of North Korea with repurcussions that last to this day.

Guess what? In 2003 we had the most powerful force the world has ever seen. WE DON'T HAVE THAT FORCE ANYMORE. And now we may face Iranian formations attacking our troops. Are we prepared? Or are we just assuming that they wouldn't be that "crazy" and dare attack us? Well, they might, and we aren't as powerful as we were just four years ago. As I said, we are vulnerable. What are we doing to ensure the national security of the United States? Is the Army even being allowed to plan for such a possibility? Has the Army planned for how to withdraw from Iraq, on the assumption that it just may happen? Or is the Army forbidden to plan because planning a withdrawal, it is assumed, may somehow make it more likely to come to pass?

With that in mind, this from Medley Global Advisor's Policy Monitor. The article was written by Colonel W. Patrick Lang, US Army, Retired:

Iraq: Convoys under attack

While most of the media reporting and politics in Washington is focused on the flailing "surge strategy" in Baghdad and the Sunni "Triangle of Death" just south of the capital, well-placed US military sources report an ominous rise in the frequency and sophistication of Shia militia attacks on US supply convoys from Kuwait. The attacks on the convoys -- which are almost daily and can comprise up to 500 trucks at a time -- have in recent days led to fewer hot meals or fresh fruits and lettuce available to US troops.

An unclassified notice went out on Monday on "Theater-Wide Delay in Food Deliveries" warned that MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) will have to take the place of at least one hot meal a day. While in itself not an undue hardship, it does mark the first time
the US military was not able to maintain its supply lines since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which is raising eyebrows among Army logistics planners working with troop levels already stretched.

More ominously, military intelligence in Baghdad believe the attacks are being orchestrated by Iranian-backed Shia militias, both as "live" training in tactics should the need arise in confronting the US military more directly, and as counter signal to Washington's naval exercises with battle carrier groups in the Persian Gulf.


basilbeast said...

Hello, I just wanted to say I found your site and have placed it in my favorites list.


Sheerahkahn said...

Or Dunkirk, but as far as worst case scenario goes...don't you think we're already in it?
If I was Iran, why risk my assets in a mano-on-mano with a hyper-power when I can bleed them white with my current strategy.

basilbeast said...

Hello, S.

Would Iran just sit there and risk not getting Iraqized or "shock & awed" by the battle groups stationed off her shores?

After so many pricks by the needles jabbing and bleeding white, wouldn't the super power strike back eventually?

FDChief said...

Hey, JD. Sorry it took so long to comment, but logging into blogger is such a pain that I wait until I have a post for my own blog...

Anyway...in all honesty, I really do suspect that there are plans stashed away for this. It would be professionally improvident for JTF-I not to have a "go-to-hell" plan. And it's really just invasion in reverse, for the line doggies, innit? We can get aerial resupply in a pinch, and the guys will unass the MSRs and go cross-country if need be. IT'll be ugly but I don't see this being a Dunkirk.

BUT...I take your point about the geopolitical implications of this. Letting the world see wild-eyed GIs careening out of Ramadi in the back of five-tons is gonna go a long way - if it happens - towards encouraging the world's scumbags to take a shot at us. NOT a good thing.

But in general I agree with sheerah: I think the Iranians want to keep us tied down and bleeding in Iraq: "Keep your friends close but your enemies closer". I think we might see this if Cheney gets his airstrikes on Tehran...but probably not before.

basilbeast said...

just for you, JD, and from your favorite (?) :) political site.



bg said...

I don't know if Iran crossing the berm in a conventional fight is really the MDECOA as the administration might see it. Sure, we have 100,000+ Ground Troops pinned down in Iraq, but the Air Force and Navy are more than ready to partake in some desert target practice.

Surely there is no way Iran would launch a conventional "surprise" attack, there would be warnings and indicators that would allow the US time to reposition forces. Iraq in the 1980s was able to hold of the Iranian hordes, I somehow suspect that even today's US Army, as beaten down as you suggest it is, could handle the fight. I suspect there are some who are not just planning for it, but are hoping for it. It would make things a lot easier to justify any intervention in Iran.

Nope, sorry JD, where I totally agree with your assessment about how we failed to plan for a worst case for the invasion, I have to agree with Sheer and Basil, I don't see an invasion as even being a realistic scenario worth even a war game until we start seeing some serious indicators and warnings.

I think it is more likely that Iranian agents in Iraq are testing weapons and tactics as they prepare for what they consider to be an inevitable invasion on their soil. I believe they are using Iraq (and Afghanistan) as a test case for how to defend themselves against us. (EFPs are not offensive weapons, they are defensive)

bigTom said...

I have to generally agree with fdc and BG. I don't think that a direct military challenge from Iran is likely -and if so would be disastrous for the attackers. More likely just doing more of what they have been doing already. And possibly some sort of threat against oil tankers passing through the strait of Hormuz. They probably can't fully close it, but missle attack threats would certainly raise tanker insurance to a very high level, and likely reduce tanker traffic.

So the risk is more that our bellicosity, will cause the Iranians to ratchet things up, and our response will be more of the same, until someone miscalculates...

Well IEA (International Energy Agency) thinks oil demand/supply is going to be severly strained within five years, this could just bring that world economic challenge forward by a few years.

1138 said...

I'd wished I'd known you were back posting.
Hope you post more soon.

Charles Gittings said...

God I wish people would quit looking for excuses to start something with Iran. What we should do is normalize our relations with them.

Publius said...

JD, I'm with those who believe this threat is overblown. I just don't think it will happen because, as has been pointed out, everything is already going Iran's way the way things are. The unfortunate reality is that those wily Persians are smarter than those currently leading our ship of state.

Sure, Iran is causing mischief in Iraq. One would expect nothing less of an aspiring power operating in its own neighborhood. I think BG has it exactly right in guessing that what they're doing in Iraq is refining tactics for use in the defense against an invasion by the U.S. And, OBTW, do you military guys recall just who's got the advantage in something like an Iranian invasion scenario? Something about the defense, if I recall what I learned many moons ago.

I also think that despite whatever rhetoric we may hear from the politicos, U.S. commanders are prepared for a "Chinese coming across the wire" scenario and for retrograde operations if needed. Even this crew of generals isn't that irresponsible.

But Iran ain't coming. They're smarter than that. In fact, they're so smart that, as Charly points out, normalization of relations is the indicated course. So why don't we do it? Ask the deciderer and the lady who's ever so discreetly floating trial balloons about her qualifications to be VP in a McCain administration. I'm sure they'll give you some straight answers. Probably something like why our Cuba policy continues as is.