RANGER AGAINST WAR: There is No Finish Line <

Monday, June 03, 2013

There is No Finish Line

--There is no finish line
--could be the tagline for the Phony War on Terror 

That's what these soldiers were asked to do:
Defend the indefensible
--President Obama at SSG Romesha's Medal of Honor ceremony

Everybody's gotta learn sometime
Everybody's gotta learn sometime
Everybody's gotta learn sometime 
--Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime, Beck

I had a brother at Khe Sahn
Fighting off the Viet Cong
They're still there, he's all gone 
--Born in the U.S.A., Bruce Springsteen

Fighting and dying for indefensible terrain is the perfect metaphor for the war on terror.
The President's utterance reveals the military's policy to be corrupt as a Bernie Madoff scam.

Ranger is discomfited because he remembers when soldiers trained to fight wars in order to win them, a goal not achieved in his lifetime. The spirit of the Army is the offense.  On Day One we learn that we have one function in life -- to take the battle to the enemy. This is far different thing than sending them across the world and slapping them into defensive positions. Wars are not won by defensive action.

As mentioned in "Defending the Indefensible" pt. I, the Army defends to buy time for reorganization and reconstitution, and to prepare to go on the offensive.  Until Counterinsurgency theory, everything was based on the attack to destroy the enemy or his will to fight. Now we call defending terrain indefinitely a "win", and occupy command outposts designed for no military purpose other than to have an option available for troop postings

While the defense of COP Keating in Kamdesh, Nuristan Province, was planned, it was not properly coordinated. In classic theatre-level ground combat there are a few rules for the defense: defense is planned or hasty; co-oordinated; mutually-supported; in -depth and strong enough to hold or attrit an enemy. At Keating, there were 52 soldiers but no reserve forces present that could have been utilized to influence the fight.

The defense was not in-depth as the soldiers had no secondary line of defense, nor could they fall back when pressed to nearby friendly units or alternate preplanned fighting positions. COP Keating was just like Wanat and Waygul: the only options were to fight to the death, or to surrender. These soldiers were decisively engaged before the first round went downrange.

Historically Infantry and Cavalry defenses are synergistic, interlocked and support one another by fire, whether direct or indirect, a fact which seems to elude United States Army planners in the PWOT© . Simply put, no commander should put a defensive position anywhere unless there is mutual support, secondary positions with adequate escape routes.  Also, there should be friendlies to act as reserve forces in a timely manner. The Quick Reaction Forces (QRFs) which arrived thirteen hours after the fight began does not qualify.

Why does the U.S. see fit to place soldiers in indefensible outposts?
  Did these fights lead to a transition to offensive operations? Why does an Army defend a piece of terrain for no purpose? Why does the U.S. Army continue to do a job the Afghan Army should be doing? The U.S. military did the same thing in Iraq and Afghanistan as it did in the Republic of Vietnam (the 1st spectacular failure for the U.S. of COIN policy) -- we fought for terrain that did not affect the outcome of the war.

It is clear we can  attack and destroy the infrastructure and governments of places like Afghanistan and Iraq with less than a theatre-sized Army, but it is further clear that winning the invasion and regime change do not equal victory. Destroying a regime does not equate with creating a meaningful peace.

The failure of mighty U.S. Army in a site like Kamdesh gives lie to the idea that the U.S. is the sole Superpower in the world. Power comes in many guises.

An aside: It is interesting to note that three of the four living Medal of Honor recipients from Afghanistan chose to leave active duty. This is odd considering the status that an MOH winner has in the armed forces, which is basically holding a sort of godhood. Could this be a comment on the perception of the war on terror by those who have fought it?

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Blogger no one said...

Nice piece. Unfortunately, for all of the insights and spot on questions, we have no answers - and none will be forthcoming. Aside from the purely military issues and the loss of life, the lack of answers is, to my mind, the greatest tragedy here.

Interesting that the CinC notes the indefensibility of Keating, yet what does he do about it? Did heads roll or were there promotions? Doesn't he owe it to the families of those killed and to the men that fought there and lost buddies - not to mention men stuck out on other similar COPs - to make an effort to see to it that that kind of military blunder is less likely to happen again?


Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 7:50:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

There are more posts in this thread.
One determines if a position is defensible BEFORE it is occupied.
There is a logic to killing and fighting as soldiers.
If it's worth dying for then it's worth retaining.
In Lang Vei, Mogadishu,and now at Keating after the killing the post is abandoned.I could expand this list exponentially , but what's the point.
Obviously nobody gives a rats ass.
This makes the violence every bit as senseless as the violence of terrorism. Factually it's worse because we are supposed to be the nation of humanism/liberalism and of a christian heritage.

I was commissioned 45 years ago tomorrow and i've never seen any logical expenditure of life during those years..
That's a sad statement to verbalize and to realize.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 10:08:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous jim at ranger said...

my cmt was not from Lisa.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 10:09:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger no one said...

Well, just to play the devil's advocate......maybe these little COPs are deemed necessary as firebases. There's no way you are going to have artillery support in those extreme mountainous areas unless you have a series of strategically located firebases.

Then you assume that patrolling, air recon and other intel. assets will give you a heads up if the enemy is massing for an attack.

What choice do you have. Either concede large swaths of territory to the enemy or hope that your series of COPs can hold out and prevent their massed movements through key mountain passes, valleys and other avenues of infiltration into the populated/producing regions.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 10:42:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

"it is imperative to leave your enemy a clear line of retreat. men fight the hardest for an indefensible position."

sun Tzu "the art of war"

it appears they've misunderstood that short passage. the meaning is to allow your enemy a chance to disengage, retreat, and thus minimize the day's carnage. it means the difference between something like bunker hill and the Alamo.

it's not meant as an encouragement to put your troops into indefensible positions in order to make them fight harder.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 12:16:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

no one,
How do u define enemy?
Is this a war or a coin exercise?
These are not FSB's-they are cop without organic DS arty. Remember their mortar was knocked out in the initial bursts of rpg fire. Therefore any FSB or COP with their crew served weapons not dug in is a poor friggin' excuse for a defensive site.
Now what are we defending? If this is COIN are we defending the people who don't want our defense or are we supporting a government that won't or can't provide anything of value to the people?
As for your view i understand theater army operations , but these fights are a long shot from that concept.
When any hostiles can constitute a 300-500 man assault force to overwhelm 52 Americans and attache ANA it's cleare that patrolling didn't gather needed EEI and intel didn't do any better.
It's your turn.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 2:01:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

No argument with this post, jim, other than to note that soldiers are trained to win battles. It's up to the commanders and the political leaders to win the wars.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 2:58:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger no one said...

ouch! Jim, that was a pretty devastating take down of the official explanation, part 1, for the existence of Keating and similar COPs.

I agree, btw. Like I said, I just wanted to provoke a full bored response by playing devil's advocate.

part 2 of the official explanation has to do with COIN. If the COP is on top of the mountain, then the soldiers cannot interact daily with the indig.s. In this light the COP is akin to the CAP concept employed by the USMC in VN and maybe bears some resemblance to the special forces camps in that same war. The USMC declared the CAP program as a success in VN (not that the declaration means it was, objectively, a success).


Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 4:23:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I AM NOT FAULTING the soldiers, nor do i deny their bravery and technical skills.
Is it??!
The French built little forts like this in the 1st Indochine War with much the same consequences.
Forget the COP's- what is the Afgh gov't doing for the Afgh people? We can win or fight every day but to what purpose? Hell here at home we can't even defend Detroit. Why do we give a crap about the back waters of AFGH and all the other shit holes where US soldiers die.
In RVN we had theater army and all corresponding assets to at least provide combat multipliers to SF fighting camps. We also usually had fairly good strikers.But don't forget my one nut still swings in under wear made in communist VN.
I see the CAPS as more of a mobile thing usu secured by local US combat power.

Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 2:16:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

jim; No argument that it's not enough, and also that even on the tactical level these firebase/patrol base battles show real problems with our IPB and overall METT-T skills.

But that's an internal Army issue; we as civilians can't really have an impact on that anymore like we could when we still had our green ID cards. The Army will either figure this stuff out, or it won't. Every GI from Valley Forge to Lang Vei would tell you that the Army is as often FUBAR as not...

But on the larger issue of the "finish line", where and what it is, is something we CAN and should be banging on the doors of the Congress about. If there's no point to these pointless wars why the hell isn't the Congress - which is still notionally supposed to be declaring war and making peace - not doing something about that?

And if they aren't, what the hell does that say about the state of our "republic"? Nothing good, I suspect...

Friday, June 7, 2013 at 1:45:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger no one said...

Additionally Chief, we should be raising a ruckus with our media outlets. Maybe just boycott them.

The two major news channels, CNN and Fox don't speak a word about the war. Daily coverage of Syria (like we should care about some crazy sand wogs offing themselves), but nothing about our own war; which still claims a US life or two every day, maims a couple more each day and costs untold $billions a year. Nada, Chirping crickets.

I'm still naïve enough to think that an active and relevant free press that keeps the public up to date and properly focused is also an important ingredient of a free country.

Instead we get shills, hiding the truth for the benefit of the chocolate messiah.

Friday, June 7, 2013 at 2:33:00 PM GMT-5  

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