The Problem with Elite Units? Or is there a Problem?

I was thinking about this the other day while watching The Pacific on DVD. The Pacific is a pretty good series although I found Band of Brothers to be better based on pure entertainment value. What made me think about elite units was a short piece in one of the episodes where they show a picture of what to me looked like some Marine Raiders. That got to me to thinking about Rangers, Green Berets, SAS/SBS, Commandos, UDT, Spetznaz, and other historical elites and whether they represented a good investment for the militaries that create them. My gut reaction is that in general they are not although there is a role for such … Read more…

The First Battle of the Marne & the End of the Schlieffen Plan

Combatants at 1st Marne-2

The first Battle of the Marne was fought from 5-12 September, 1914.  It was the turning point of the opening campaign in what would be known as the Western Front during World War I.  First Marne represented the death of German hopes for a repeat of 1870 and ensured that Germany would have to face every German planner’s nightmare for over a century, a two front war. The Schlieffen Plan was supposed to allow Germany to defeat her two great enemies, France and Russia, one after the other in sequence.  The greatest flaw in the Schlieffen Plan was actually the plan itself.  It was an attempt to move huge masses … Read more…

When the Tigers Broke Free – Rape in World War Two

I am afraid that the top side is not completely satisfied with my work… They are naturally disappointed that I failed to chase the Hun out of Italy but there was no military reason why I should have been able to do so. In fact there is no military reason for “Shingle”. – Major General John P. Lucas     The Royal Fusiliers Company C were not the only men sacrificed for the imbibing hereditary duke beyond the Cliffs of Dover. The Battle of Monte Cassino and its sub theaters were a great multicultural event. The last time so many nations had uplifted and hurled themselves at an object was … Read more…

The Christ of Nations, 1920

In Polish history, war usually comes down to two conflicting scripts. From the Polish side, pushing geographical boundaries out in all directions, as far as possible. From the opposing side: eliminating the irritating roadblock begrudgingly acknowledged as “Poland.” This theme is perennial. It has not only been steel and fire that has determined if the land of the White Eagle was to be a flesh and blood state, or merely a state of mind; it was also the petitioning of the fighting spirit through ideological appeal. Literature in Poland has served such a purpose. Polish literature is not meant to appeal to outsiders. It is generally so nationalistic that neighboring … Read more…

Nicholas Lambert’s Planning Armageddon

Here is a link to an excellent review of Nicholas Lambert’s Planning Armageddon a new book about British strategic planning prior to WWI.  It sounds like an excellent read and a book that has to go on my wish list.

Barbarossa/Eatern Front Timeline in WWII

Berlin-1945

Over the past few days I have had an email conversation with Mr. George Toomes, one of my readers, and he brought up a very interesting question. It started with asking if I had or knew where to find a map of the Russian counter-attack outside Moscow in the winter of 1941. In a follow up he mentioned that he was trying to get an idea of when and where the Germans and Russians stopped in their various offensives and counter-offensives in the war in the East. I don’t think I have ever seen a video or graphic that lays out the back and forth of the eastern front in … Read more…

Honey or Salt?

There is an old adage that “you can catch more flies with honey than with salt.” The truth of that adage is being put to the test daily in Afghanistan and being to shown to be false under certain circumstances at least. ISAF is not winning currently, but they are not exactly losing either. At best from what I read, see, and hear ISAF is fighting a delaying action against the inevitable fall of the central government and rise of whatever Islamic extremist group bubbles up out of the morass of internal Afghan politics. I can almost guarantee it won´t be the Taliban, but probably someone very much like them. … Read more…

Tactical Aspects of Battle: A Discussion

Image from the Broadside Blog at http://www.militarytimes.com/blogs/broadside/2011/11/01/halloween-and-military-tactics/

There is a very interesting pair of essays in the Baen free non-fiction compendium for 2011. The essence of these two pieces is the geo-strategic position of the United States in the early 21st Century and what the American prospects for maintaining global dominance are. This piece is not necessarily about geopolitics but it did get me thinking about another idea I have been tossing around in my head for the past few years, and that is tactics. Specifically tactics and the way their use affects the course of battles both classical and contemporary. Too often, tactical considerations are given short shrift in accounts of battle. For example, it is … Read more…

Book Review: Makers of Ancient Strategy – Edited by Victor David Hanson

This book was conceived as being a sort of prequel to the modern classic, Makers of Modern Strategy, edited by Peter Paret and first published in the 70’s and updated in the 90’s. As Dr Hanson states in his foreword the scholars who wrote the various essays presented in the book did so with an eye to drawing lessons from antiquity that are relevant to the challenges faced by modern states and statesmen. They have succeeded admirably. It is not as hard to do as you might think despite the fact that modern war is fought with the benefit of tanks, night vision, aircraft, and satellite communications. Modern commanders Face … Read more…

Battle Analysis-Sedan, 1870

Map of Battle of Sedan - Image Courtesy: http://www.marxists.org/glossary/events/f/pics/sedan.gif

The Battle of Sedan, fought on 1 September 1870 displayed the superiority the Prussian Army had attained over the French in the nearly sixty years since their devastating defeat at Jena in the Napoleonic wars. The battle was notable for several developments in warfare, which were showcased by the Prussian and French army’s different abilities to effectively utilize the new technologies and methods existing. The most dominant military technologies of the time were railroads, repeating rifles, and modern cannon. While the French had at their disposal the Chassepot rifle which was superior to the Prussian needle-gun, their artillery was inferior in both quantity and quality to the Krupp guns deployed … Read more…

The Decline and Fall of the United States?

There has been much talk and discussion both in editorials and on various internet forums about the pending decline of the supposed US “empire” or the USA itself. I was thinking about this on the way back from dropping my wife off at work this morning and the more I think about it, the more I think it could only possibly happen if America lets it happen. The USA is not comparable to the UK prior to their fall from Great Power status post WWII. The disparity between the size of the two nations both physical and in population is too great for their to really be a valid comparison. … Read more…

How did the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan impact the Cold War?

As the period of détente during the 1970’s continued, the rapprochement between the Soviet Union and the United States seemed to intensify and promised to lessen tensions between the rival countries.   The invasion of Afghanistan and the imposition of a communist regime seemed to signal that the communists had not abandoned their dream of global conquest.   This caused the United States to renew their efforts to halt the communist expansion by supporting the Afghan rebels in their efforts to expel the Russians. After the Soviet invasion, progress towards furthering friendly relations between the west and Soviets halted and even moved backwards.   Ronald Reagan, the newly elected American … Read more…

The Campaign in Central Mexico 1847-1848: In Search of Decision

After the northern campaign of General Zachary Taylor (1784-1850), failed to force the Mexican government to sue for peace, President James Polk (1795-1849) decided on an invasion of central Mexico with the goal of capturing Mexico City.   The planning for an invasion of central Mexico was the brainchild of General Winfield Scott (1786-1866), who prepared a series of three memorandums laying out the case for the operation, which he sent to President Polk in October 1846.[1] Scott had desired a command of his own since the beginning of the war and he felt slighted that he had not been given command of the force in northern Mexico.   Scott … Read more…

China: A Potential or Current Threat?

Chinese Type 99 Main Battle Tank

Jed Babbitt has an excellent piece on RCP today that talks about the potential threat China represents to the US and by implication, the rest of the Western world.China’s Economic Sword.   People have been pointing to the potential threat China poses for at least the past twenty+years and are almost invariably poo-pooed as being unrealistic and that China does not pose a threat to the US they just want to modernize and bring the fruits of that modernization to their own people.   I tend to think that China is indeed a threat and a threat we in the West ignore at our own peril. There are several developments … Read more…

The Fall of Qaddafi and the future of the “Arab Spring”

I wrote about the war/action/conflict/kinetic what have you in Libya when it kicked off in March, April, and again in June. With the rebels now storming Tripoli itself and being on the verge of success under the cover of NATO, the question now becomes what will the successor regime look like. I will guess here and say that it will be a notional democracy wit an oligarchy of strongmen in power. They will also make all the right noises to placate the soft-heads in the west and make them feel good about their policy of R2P. It will probably not be long before the new regime starts hunting down Qaddafis … Read more…