As we sit on the verge of WWIII, all I do is hope that the fates smile kindly upon any U.S. forces involved because, as it is, we are set up for failure. We could stand to lose on the tactical, information and political fronts.
American leads the world at always being ready to fight the last war, but not the next one. We didn’t learn our lessons in WWI, WWII and Korea to maintain a sniper program. Meanwhile, the rest of the world was working on perfecting their long-range capabilities. We had to build our sniper force, from scratch, in Vietnam.
Under most circumstances, we would be delighted to finally fight a conventional war. Our uniformed troops against their uniformed troops. Which is what we are hoping for in a fight with Russia. However, we have been so focused on fighting insurgencies that we lost the conventional edge.
Thanks to former Army Chief of Staff, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, the Army almost totally got rid of tanks to switch to an all-medium fighting force. Was the Stryker fighting vehicle good for quickly moving troops around the desert? Absolutely. Will it work great against Russian tanks? Absolutely not. You know what is great against tanks? Other tanks. The Abrams is the greatest tank in military history and they were almost sidelined because some idiot general wanted to put “transformed the force” on his OER. He made the gamble that we would never be in a ground war against a conventional force like North Korea, China or Russia.
Over the course of fighting insurgents for 20 years, someone made the great idea of getting rid of our air defense capabilities. After all, ISIS and the Taliban didn’t have planes. Again, betting on the fact that we would never again go to war against a large force with an effective Air Force. Even North Korea, with less than 1,000 planes could wreak havoc on ground troops without the ability to defend itself. The entire MOS of Air Defense Artillery (ADA) was effectively disbanded and the most experienced soldiers were reassigned. Now, like the sniper program, we will be scrambling to get ADA assets trained up and in place. Hopefully, someone has noticed any shortfalls we have in air defense, but I am not optimistic. I suspect that it is going to take some losses so a general can get credit for “inventing” a solution rather than admit that they weren’t prepared for this.
Let’s face it, for the last 60 years our enemies have been wielding AK-47s and fighting in their pjs. Honestly, they have been doing pretty well. We have had great advances in war-fighting technology like communications and night vision capabilities, and they have still been holding their own. The only actual conventional force we have faced was the Iraqi Army in Desert Storm, and they were not the exactly the bravest soldiers in history. Now, we are going to go against an enemy that has been training to fight us since the end of WWII. Their command and control, communications, technology and equipment are on par with ours. They are ready to fight us, we are not ready to fight them.
I think the Russian warfighter is more hardcore and less reliant on toys as the average American soldier. Unless a soldier was actually combat arms, it was difficult to get them to take basic soldier skills seriously. I tried to teach soldiers land navigation, a basic skill, and was told, “that’s Infantry shit.” Those same soldiers thought that because their orders cam from Fort Bragg and Special Operations Command that they were Special Forces one removed and were hardcore AF. They were not.
In a tactical sense, this is not a good war to fight. The treaty says that only countries with coastline on the Black Sea can be there for more than a couple weeks. Russia is one of those countries. So, they can operate directly in the Black Sea. How long can the U.S. Navy be there before Russia can take direct action on their ships? There is a narrow passage from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, and bottle necks like that are great for defenders.
I like how we have conveniently forgotten that we have spent the last few years blaming Russia on interfering with our elections and using social media to influence our citizens. If there is even a shred of proof that they have that capability, they would be stupid not to level those resources against American forces. As of this writing, we are two days into the invasion, and they are already posting propaganda of Ukrainian troops shelling reporters. The video I saw looked completely staged, but I’m sure that is just the first of many. All they have to do is flood the internet with videos and wait to see what gets traction.
Of course, not all media will be targeted at Americans. That “shelling” video might have been targeted towards Russian leaders to give them the excuse to commit more forces. That isn’t to say that they have to believe it to be true, just that they can claim that there is video evidence of Ukrainian forces trying to kill Russian forces as justification to sending in more troops. They don’t have to say which video it was.
If they are half as digitally savvy as we give them credit for, expect a Tik Tok video of American soldiers murdering unarmed Russian soldiers. It will be American soldiers at a shooting range from one angle, spliced with a different angle of Russians pretending to surrender and then falling down. I am crap at video editing and I could make that video someone convincing. It will go viral before it can be revealed to be a hoax.
Russia won’t have to do anything other than post the video. FOX News will happily play that video 24/7 to show what “Biden’s military” is doing in Ukraine. It isn’t like they don’t have a former president who loves camera time ready to say how he would do it differently. Russia, as an adversary, is a lot of things, stupid is not one of them.
This is already a political nightmare. Sanctions only hurt the common folk in an oligarchy, Putin is fine. I don’t know what conversations are being had behind closed doors, but I don’t think it matters. It will be difficult to pull off a win in this. One reason is that American politicians will spend more time fighting each other than fighting Russia, but mostly because our political approach to war is the Queensberry Rules of Fisticuffs, and Russia is an illegal underground fight club.
So, say a Russian submarine sinks a U.S. ship in the Black Sea that is supporting operations in Ukraine. Can the U.S. attack a Russian Black Sea port? Will Putin consider that an attack on Russian soil and officially kick off WWII? Will rules of engagement allow for attacks against Russian warfighting assets on Russian soil? How far does that extend? How far can a Russian airbase be from the border to be safe from counter attack? However it plays out, it will be an international political nightmare. If every NATO country supports attacking Russian assets that are used in combat operations in Ukraine, it might be okay, but otherwise, Putin will take full advantage and make us out to be the aggressors.
If you want to be a good guy on the national stage, you have to follow the Geneva Conventions. Any violation is a war crime, you think Putin cares about that? Any, and every instance of collateral damage or out of line action by American or NATO forces will be amplified by Russian assets across all media platforms, while anything Russian soldiers do could get them a medal. Do you think Putin is going to let his soldiers go in front of The Hague or face a military tribunal back home? As long as they don’t murder fellow Russian soldiers or destroy some valuable Ukrainian resource, I think nothing will happen. If for no other reason that to say that Americans were prosecuted for my war crimes than Russians. While that may fall under the information warfare category, it will play out in American politics. The scariest part, is we don’t know who will first side the Russian action. Will it be democrats siding against sending forces, or republicans using the action as a way to hurt President Biden? In our upside-down political world, only time will tell.
Any way you look at it, tactically or strategically, the American military is set up for failure as soon as we put boots on the ground. I sincerely hope that it we can pull a W out on this, but I fear we won’t. maybe the best thing we can hope for is that it doesn’t become WWIII. As bad as it seems for us, the Ukrainian people will be facing the worst hell of any people in history when placed between two opposing forces. The best news is that Ukrainians are tough as nails, and provided with the right support, their military could have a decent chance.