15 August 2006

The Future is the Imperfect Past

Delays and cost overruns are affecting the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems. I first became aware of these when I was asked to prepare some sample spreads for a book about 21st century warfare. The idea never sold, and I had forgotten about it.

However, I found this quote reminded me of something:
...the Army has been developing a new generation of tanks that is supposed to be faster and more maneuverable, but will have far less armor than many battle tanks of the past quarter century. That idea has already been thrown into doubt by the devastating effectiveness of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs in Iraq.

The Sherman tank was noted for its propensity to burn when hit, but the real problem was the lack of armour. The Sherman was kept relatively lightly armoured because American planners knew that more than likely it would have to be shipped overseas, and thicker armour equals a heavier weight and fewer tanks per shipload. Furthermore, American tank doctrine of the Second World War envisaged a mobile role for tanks. Enemy tanks were to be engaged by tank destroyers.

It seems the M1 Abrams may represent an evolutionary dead-end for the U.S. Army. It was designed for the anticipated tank vs tank engagements on a narrow front along the Inner German Border, which actually was historically uncharacteristic of U.S. armoured doctrine. We're looking at a future for the armoured forces the way Himself might have envisioned it.

12 August 2006

What kind of conflict?

One of the facts selected for heavy emphasis in the recent transatlantic air plot was that the alleged plotters were one and all British subjects. Whether the conflict between Britain and al-Qaeda is a war or not is an interesting question, in this context. Of course, siding with the enemy of one's country in war is one of the classic examples of treason, as specified in a longstanding English statute.

In previous conflicts, the British state has had to cope with a similar situation to today, in having a a large pool of potential enemy sympathizers. Perhaps one parallel is the treatment of Oswald Mosley and his fascists in 1939. But perhaps one must look elsewhere for a better parallel. We need an internationally recognized regime, confronted in war by an extra-territorial organization, that is liable to recruit combatants from citizen-sympathizers, who may receive support from an external quasi-military formation: This parallel involves "the trials of 135,000 French people, the internment of 70,000 `enemies of the state', the complicity of the French police and the Milice in suppressing resistance" (quoted from here). It's not really a pretty picture, and is another of the many reasons for ordinary people, who will suffer most on a daily basis, not to enter into war eagerly.

11 August 2006

The New Frontier of War History

Most readers of war books are driven, at least in part, by a desire to know what it was like. How many of these people will stick with books in this Internet Age when you can watch it like any footage on the History Channel? And where will this leave future historians, wanting to find some War Against Terror equivalent of the letters that can make wars like the American Civil War so poignant?

05 August 2006

Propaganda, Old and New

I came across this article, which possessed this amazing quote:
In this decade, these Shiite mullahs...reached across the world to forge close military ties with nuclear-armed Asian states like North Korea and oil-rich enemies to our south like Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela.

The clause after the ellipsis is at the end of a laundry list of hostile acts directed by Iran against the United States, dating back to 1979. Apart from its paranoid association of natural rivals al-Qaeda and the Shia clergy, this linking of Hugo Chavez with Islamic militants as "close military allies" beggars belief. In some quarters of the United States' media, a kind of wartime paranoia has taken hold, and material like this can be dismissed entirely as propaganda, as opposed to the reasoned analysis it purports to be.
The shrill tones of this kind of propaganda do shame to an art that at its best achieves an understated elegance. While President Chavez has certainly made no secret of wanting closer commercial ties with Iran, that's not the same thing as Ms Lerner asserts. Chavez and the current American administration are locked in a cold war of words, and people would do well to remember that wars, hot or cold, are known to make strange bedfellows.