ComNavOps has frequently extolled the virtue of numbers, even over quality. As the old adage says,
“Quantity has a quality all its own.”
When I advocate greater numbers, one of the common counter arguments is that we no longer engage in attrition warfare. Supposedly, we now engage in maneuver warfare to paralyze our enemies and bring them to their knees with no casualties on either side. Ahh … the ideal war! Or so the story goes.
The reality is that war is all about attrition. We’ve just forgotten that. You know, there’s another old adage,
“The enemy gets a vote.”
The enemy gets a vote, yes. Sometimes, though, we can minimize or marginalize the enemy’s vote.
got a vote in Desert Storm but it
didn’t amount to anything. However, when
it comes to attrition warfare, the enemy’s vote trumps ours. Huh???
What does that mean? Iraq
It means that if an enemy is willing and determined to engage in attrition warfare, it’s almost impossible not to become inextricably involved in attrition warfare. When the enemy sends a human wave attack at your troops, you ARE engaged in attrition warfare whether you want to be or not. When the enemy is willing to send waves of aircraft at your ships to wear down your defenses and, eventually, sink your ships, you ARE engaged in attrition warfare whether you want to be or not.
Maneuver warfare will only work until you come into contact with the enemy and then, if the enemy so chooses, it becomes attrition warfare. The hope is that your maneuvering put you into an advantageous position so that you’ll win the attrition phase of the battle but, barring Saddam Hussein type stupidity, you can’t avoid an attrition battle if the enemy wants it. I don’t think
or China are going to be that obligingly
and China .
What are their single biggest military advantages? That’s right … numbers. Russia
The biggest numbers advantage
and Russia have is manpower. They have, literally, billions of people to
throw at our forces and they have the required inhuman insensitivity to actually
do it. Such a tactic is abhorrent and
almost unimaginable to us. I say
“almost” unimaginable because we actually saw the Chinese do it as recently as
the Korean War and the Russians did it during WWII. Given China ’s uncaring attitudes towards human
rights, as demonstrated repeatedly in modern times (recall the massacre of
several hundred protesters in the China Tiananmen Square incident), does anyone really
believe that wouldn’t hesitate to employ
attrition tactics? Given China ’s uncaring attitude towards human
rights as evidenced throughout their history (Stalin, KGB, Siberian camps,
etc.), does anyone really believe that Putin wouldn’t hesitate to employ
attrition tactics? Russia
In fact, from a purely military perspective,
and China would be foolish not to employ
attrition warfare. Russia
, their numbers advantage will soon
extend to aircraft and ships, if it doesn’t already. And, unlike us, they tend not to early retire
and throw away perfectly serviceable aircraft and ships. For example, they have a very large
contingent of second and third line aircraft that would work quite well as
attrition fodder. If they can throw
early generation MiGs at us and destroy, say, a single F-22 for a loss of 10
second/third line aircraft, that’s a win for them. Yeah, but that can’t happen, you say. Even 10 MiG-21’s can’t match a single
F-22. Well, they don’t have to match the
F-22, they just have to soak up the F-22’s missiles and distract the F-22 so
that the first line Chinese aircraft can destroy the F-22. Consider …
the Chinese have reportedly (Wiki) built 2400 MiG-21s and they are still
operational. That’s a China LOT of aircraft to conduct attrition
warfare with! We have 150 or so
Warfare IS attrition. We’ve just forgotten that in our desire to pursue clean, neat wars where everyone goes home at night, takes a hot shower, eats a good meal, watches some TV, and then gets up the next day and goes to work to conduct another neat, clean patrol or aerial strike while carefully avoiding collateral damage or casualties to either side.
We need to start imagining what the next war will really be rather than what we wish it would be. Brutal, ugly, and lethal. That’s what it will be and that’s what we need to be.