Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Surge in Stupidity

The idea of “surging” troops into Baghdad seems to be gaining popularity. That’s unfortunate, because it’s a bad idea.

Various numbers are in play, but they tend to range from 20,000 to 40,000, or two to four divisions. That might be enough to make a small difference in just Baghdad for a time, but it won’t help the overall situation. Consider the higher number. I’ve seen various tooth to tail ratios, usually 1 fighter to 3, or 4 or 7 supporters. In my unit I’d estimate it was closer to 1 to 1, or perhaps 1 to 2. Much of the support work has been contracted, leaving soldiers to be soldiers, not cooks.

Assume 1 to 2. That leaves 20,000 soldiers available for duty. If they work 12 hour shifts every day, that leaves 10,000 available for patrol at a time. 12/7 is unsustainable for long. Soldiers need to eat and sleep and maintain weapons and vehicles and plan and practice for the next operation, so more likely is three 8-hour shifts daily, which puts about 6700 soldiers on the street.

Soldiers run in packs. We wouldn’t leave the FOB with less than 9, and that was for a routine op. 4 HMMWVs, each with 5 soldiers, makes 20 per patrol, or checkpoint, or something small like that. Even at a checkpoint you have to have sufficient firepower that the soldiers can’t get overwhelmed. They have to have enough security to hold off an attack until a quick reaction force arrives. I’d want 20 soldiers at a check point. So the 4 divisions can set up 335 checkpoints, in a city of 5-6 million. That won’t have a momentum shifting impact. It might stabilize a small area, until they leave, but that’s it.

Even worse, I don’t hear any analysis of how they pick the number. You don’t just throw in some troops and hope they make a difference. You start with an objective and plan what it will take to achieve it. Example; in armored combat static defense has a 3 to 1 advantage over the attacking force. One battalion in defense can stand off 3 attacking. So if you know the size of the enemy force you’re attacking, you know the size of the force to attack with.

Some smart Army planner somewhere has, I guarantee, made a plan to secure Baghdad, or at least discrete chunks of it. How many roads in, how many soldiers per checkpoint per road, vehicle and weapons system needed, operations tempo (8 or 12 hour shifts, or whatever), etc. I was a planner for 3 years and did this all the time, our plans shop did it constantly, it’s a very well developed skill of the Army. I suspect these plans won’t see the light of day because they will either show the fallacy of sending in just 4 divisions, or will show how small an effect the 4 divisions will have.

I think Americans don’t support the war because it is pointless. If we had a true plan, clear objectives and timetables, I think most folks would sign on. They won’t support the current open ended no-plan plan. And of course, the big question is, what exactly are we getting for lives and money? Save face? Is that it?


Anonymous said...

The surge is working.

Holly Aho said...

Hi Alan, it's Holly :-)
Just checking in to see how you're doing. Hope all is well.

Tim said...

Dont worry your not alone.When I was in the Air Force I was stationed at Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois. During the winter of 1971 there came a typical winter with a mean temperature of about 30 degrees.The Air Force said they would not issue liners for field jackets due to the fact we were students and would not be there very long and therefore did not need them. I guess according to their logic we were not cold. It all comes into the old oxymoron of Military Intelligence.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Is this blog still active? The bloggers contributions seem to be interesting, thoughtful, well-informed.
It is nice to stumble on pieces like this from time to time.

alan said...

My blog, as you can see, isn't really active. It was mostly about my deployment, and since that ended, the reason for the blog ended.

I'm still in the Guard, actively, but it's just not the same, so I don't post much.

Thanks for the comment and interest.

Anonymous said...

Yeah that surge really did not work out did it...

Redeye80 said...

Wow, great analysis. How do you think the surge worked out? Bad guess! Maybe I'll follow you to Vegas and bet opposite of whatever you do.