I wrote this several years ago during the earlier years of Iraq. This schema has to do not with grand strategy (COIN, etc) but what happens when the recipients of blankets, welldiggers, medical clinics, etc., say "to hell with this" and decide to fight you. Tactics. This is about tactics. I was an officer of this regiment.pl
Ground combat is not like sensitivity training where the idea is to insure that everyone's self image is preserved in an atmosphere of "consideration for others." No, engagements in ground combat are supposed to be conducted in such a way that you and your comrades survive and the other side does not. This is definitely a "zero-sum game."
In every well run ground engagement, there are two parts to the friendly actions/plan:
1-Fire (a hopefully withering barrage of bullets, artillery shells or aerial ordnance which either incapacitates the other side or forces him to take cover so that he can not shoot at you effectively. While that is going on –
2-Maneuver takes place. In other words while one group does the cowboys and Indians thing of "Cover Me," the other group "goes for" the enemy on the ground, hopefully not frontally. That's how things work.
Fire and Maneuver. Every soldier with any real knowledge knows that's how it works. It doesn't matter if the force engaged is a Rifle Squad (11 men) or an Army Corps (many, many men). That's how it works.
If you try to do it some other way, for example, not have enough available fire support to "shut the enemy down," then the enemy is going to be free to shoot the hell out of you and you can expect to loose a lot more people while trying to maneuver if you can maneuver at all.
Why am I going on about this? It is because I have finally grasped the fact that US ground troops in Iraq do not have anything like the fire support available to them that people of my "primitive" and backward generation were used to having.
Here is how things worked when I was young and spry. There would be a "meeting engagement." (troops meeting) The friendly commander would immediately request fire support from supporting artillery through his Forward Observer or an Air Force liaison officer. The first "ranging" fire from the artillery would arrive quite quickly. The fall of the shot would be adjusted with a round or two more and then "fire for effect" would be requested followed by a lot of shells falling all over the target area, maybe with some smoke thrown in for good measure. While that was going on the enemy would stop shooting, and our side would get up and "go for them." All of this would take place at a really low level of coordination with no seniors involved at all. This was routine AND the way to stay alive.
Apparently this is not the case in Iraq where "fire missions" seem to be approved at division level, far, far above the level of the action. From everything I can learn there is already a shortage of tube artillery in Iraq and as a result troops are often outside the "range fan" of friendly guns, a situation I was never comfortable with. Airplanes are nice but not all that reliable as to timing when you need them. They also often have a bad tendency to mistakenly drop their ordnance where it is not required.
To compound this problem, a desire to win "hearts and minds" and not to anger people by killing their relatives has made it a major issue as to whether troops engaged in a built up area should be given fire support that might (probably) would kill civilians. After all, the best text books on how to do counterinsurgency tell you that you can't upset the civilians. Sounds good.
As you think this over, I will give you my opinion that to be honest (intellectually honest) you have to accept the fact that by not making as much fire support available as is needed up front (as opposed to in the rear at Hq.) you are making a decision to have more Americans killed and wounded. Its a trade off.
Out in western Anbar, the Marines don't seem to be so sensitive since they shoot up towns as needed with artillery and their own dedicated air. They seem to have followed the same rules at Falluja as well. Primitives. (bless them)
Some Arab gentlemen with whom I was lunching today politely listened to this rant, and observed correctly that "no one in the Arab World would believe that we are holding back like this," especially at the expense of our people. They are right. No one in the Arab World would believe that, but it seems to be true. If it is not, let me know.
I would estimate that our casualties in killed and wounded would have been lower if it were not for this. Of course Iraqi casualties would have been higher.