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Weapons: A Loud Failure
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June 24, 2007: Roadside bombs, or IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) have been the most successful terrorist weapons for injuring American troops in Iraq. Currently, over two thirds of American casualties are caused by these weapons. Getting these bombs made and placed is the single largest expense for the terrorist organizations. But there have been some disturbing trends in the IED department. Three years ago, for each IED used, one American was killed. Now it takes six IEDs to kill one U.S. soldier or marine. The countermeasures to these weapons have been formidable, and this has forced the terrorists to place more and more bombs, at greater expense, and to employ them more effectively.

 

The main problem with this is that you cannot win a war with IEDs. In Vietnam, IEDs were used, but as a minor, secondary weapon. The Vietnamese communists knew they had to drive the Americans out before they could take over. When that effort failed, North Vietnam made peace, and once the American troops left, the communists launched two conventional invasions across the border. The first one, in 1972, failed, but the second one, in 1975, succeeded. The Sunni Arab terrorists have no such invasion option. They have to drive the U.S. troops out and then, vastly outnumbered, take over the government. Many Iraqi Sunni Arabs believe they can do it, with the help of a media campaign that convinces the world that the elected government of Iraq, and their American allies, are the bad guys. This is all absurd, but the Sunni Arabs are spending over two million dollars month to build and place IEDs, just to inflict casualties on American troops, in an attempt to achieve their impossible dream.

 

Over the last three years, the Iraqi terrorists have largely scaled down other forms of attack (assault rifles, RPGs, rockets), and concentrated on the IEDs. There's a very good reason for this, building and placing an IED is much less likely to get you killed, than having a shootout with American troops. The terrorists will still attack with rifles and RPGs, and still get killed in large numbers when they do so, but the word is out that this approach is basically suicidal. So a great deal of effort, and resources, has gone into building more, and better, IEDs. In the three years, the number of IEDs used has increased by more than five times. The only downside to this is that an increasing number of IEDs don't hurt American troops. Most fail to hurt anyone. Instead, they are discovered and destroyed, or dismantled by an American forensics team, in order to help in the search for the groups that specialize in building IEDs.

 

That raises another important issue; IEDs are big business in Iraq. Most of the Iraqis making and planning these bombs are not doing it for free. They get paid, and the bomb building industry generates over twelve million dollars a year in revenues for Iraqi individuals and contractors. For a Sunni Arab who once worked for Saddam, this is one of the few good employment opportunities available. Moreover, the low risk aspect has brought out the "Geeks-for-Saddam," crowd and resulted in many snazzy instructional DVDs and videos for wannabe bomb makers. Excellent graphics, and everything is in Arabic. Many of these items have been captured, along with a few of the geeks. The educational effort was supported by the terrorist leaders because it was obvious that, without constantly improving the bomb designs and planting tactics, the failure rate would soon get to 99 percent, or worse.

 

The organizations that provide the money for bomb building, and help with obtaining materials (there's a black market for everything in Iraq, everything), are also evolving. They have to, as the management of the IED campaign have look been considered prime suspects, and much sought after by U.S. troops and Iraqi police. But you don't hear much about this in the media, for the simple reason that American intelligence does not want to let on how much it knows and how close it is getting to the  IED kingpins. That's very much a war in the shadows, and one that extends into neighboring countries. A number of the IED gangs have been destroyed, or severely damaged. But while attempts are made to decapitate the IED campaign, work continues at the grassroots level to detect, disable and destroy those that are placed. Currently, there are 10-12 American combat casualties a day, with two or three of them being fatal. About two thirds of these casualties are caused by IEDs. Troops are most vulnerable to IEDs when they are on combat operations. The supply and transportation troops have their regular routes (especially the MSR, or Main Supply Route highways), very well covered. IEDs rarely get a chance to go off, or even get planted, on those roads. But for Sunni Arab areas, not visited until recently by American troops, there are more opportunities to place an IED that won't be discovered, and will get a chance to kill and wound Americans.

 

Actually, the biggest victims of IEDs are Iraqis, especially civilians. The terrorists must go to great lengths to place IEDs in populated areas, where all the structures and clutter along the roads leaves more hiding places. But the local Iraqis are not keen on having a large bomb go off in their neighborhood. The terrorists often don't give the locals much choice. After all, terrorists know how to terrorize, and they usually start with uncooperative Iraqis living around them. IEDs place in rural areas are much easier to spot by the Americans, and all their UAVs, electronic gadgets and sharp eyed soldiers.

 

The U.S. is spending over four billion dollars a year to develop new technologies for thwarting roadside bombs. This is revolutionizing warfare, because the electronic devices, sensors and reconnaissance systems developed have many  other uses in combat. So while the Iraqi IEDs are useless as a war-winning weapon, the countermeasures are very valuable, and the impact of this new tech will be highly visible in any future wars.

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sclayton    How do you define Failure?   6/24/2007 4:59:21 PM
A Failure?

You say:

- They spend $2M a month on these bombs - We have spent $4 billion for counter measures;

- 2/3 of the US 3,500 soldiers killed and 25,000 wounded come from these bombs.

The folks using these bombs as their primary weapon have held down most of the US Army
and Marine Corp  for 4 years in a war costing  the USA $2B a month and around 700 US
casualties  a month.  At this point the people using the bombs seem to have a very good
potential to outlast  the political will  of the US electorate to prosecute a war against them.

It is comforting to read your opinion that they are failing and their bombs are "useless as a
war winning weapon."  We would be in bad shape indeed if they got their hands on  some
"useful" weapons.










 
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jak267    The War   6/25/2007 12:30:30 AM
The war has already been lost. No insurgency has ever been defeated by military means - and no standing army has ever been defeated by an insurgency. Each can only win by destroying the other's base of support. The world turned its back on Iraq, the UN turned and ran, and - in case you missed it (the terrorists didn't) - the US surrendered at the last election.

The civilized world doesn't have the will to fight a traditional war, much less to do what needs to be done to win a modern one. If the West survives for the next 100 years (which certainly isn't assured), it will have to learn a basic lesson of survival all over again - and at great cost. Pity your children.

 
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sjdoc    Yeah, sure. Yank the other other one, willya?   6/25/2007 3:13:55 AM

The war has already been lost. No insurgency has ever been defeated by military means - and no standing army has ever been defeated by an insurgency. Each can only win by destroying the other's base of support. The world turned its back on Iraq, the UN turned and ran, and - in case you missed it (the terrorists didn't) - the US surrendered at the last election.

The civilized world doesn't have the will to fight a traditional war, much less to do what needs to be done to win a modern one. If the West survives for the next 100 years (which certainly isn't assured), it will have to learn a basic lesson of survival all over again - and at great cost. Pity your children.


Setting aside the unsupported assertion to the effect that "[t]he war [in the Sandbox] has already been lost," let's examine this blithering idiot's stupidity about how "[n]o insurgency has ever been defeated by military means." 
 
To the contrary, insurgencies tend overwhelmingly to be "defeated by military means."  The historical rarity, in fact, is the insurrection that succeeds, particularly without the direct or indirect support of a foreign military power hostile to the established government against which the particular insurgency has been raised. 
 
Even when such support has been made available in the past half-century and more, the ignominious failure of insurgent movements and their proponents tends to be the result.  It is perhaps the romantic appeal of those few insurrections which have succeeded (to the extent that any such fatuous festivals of slaughter and destruction can be said to have been "successful" in the decades following the close of World War II) that gives historical illiterates like the above-cited smarming asswipe to fixate without anything resembling perspective or proportion upon the concept. 
 
Theorists such as David Kilcullen and John Nagle have made such examinations, and it is worthwhile in the context of a serious discussion to take advantage of these efforts to accurately analyze the current Islamic global religious insanity and thereby better discover those measures best suited to its destruction with minimum cost in terms of blood and treasure.
 
The vulnerabilities of popularly elected governments are manifold, not least of which is the failure of "the common man" in aggregate to handle complex concepts without succumbing to laziness, cupidity, stupidity, and paranoia.  Nevertheless, the error-checking mechanisms inherent in such forms of government render them better capable of adaptation than are the more authoritarian alternatives, and if the flow of information is sufficiently free, there is greater potential for that minority of the diligent and the intelligent to think, plan, and act effectively in spite of deadweight like the current correspondent. 
--

 
 
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macawman    Missed opportunity!   6/25/2007 3:32:22 AM
It is a shame we did not have the troops and / or the mission statement to destroy all the Iraqi ammo dumps we ceased going into the 1st phase of this war.  I feel certain that fewer of our troops would be dead or injured if we had.  What was the military logic?   
 
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PowerPointRanger    Wrong   6/25/2007 3:34:05 AM
Insurgencies were defeated in the following wars:
 
Second Boer War (UK vs Boers, 1899-1902)
Philippine Insurrection (US vs Filippino nationalists, 1899-1902)
Greek Civil War (Greece, UK, & US vs communist insurgents; 1944-1949)
Hukbalahap Rebellion (Philippines vs Hukbalahap, 1946-1954)
Malayan Emergency (UK vs Malay communists, 1948-1960)
Kenyan Emergency (UK vs Mau Mau, 1952-1956)
Venezuela (Venezuela vs FALN, 1958-1963)
Guatemalan Civil War (1961-1996)
Peru (Peru vs Shining Path, 1980-1992)
Northern Ireland (UK vs IRA, 1969-1998)
 
In fact, the US lost more troops during the Philippine Insurgency than it has in the present war.
 
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macawman       6/26/2007 5:44:05 AM
"In fact, the US lost more troops during the Philippine Insurgency than it has in the present war"
 
True statement; but mostly to disease not combat.
 
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EricTheRed       6/27/2007 9:26:01 PM
but does anyone think that if we were losing more troops to disease than combat today, it would change the us publics opinion of the war? The problem as I see it is that we shouldn't be in any war because we can't stand to have even one casualty. When thats the case you are doomed. So until we learn how to fight again, (or at least until our population recognizes that war isn't pretty and that people die) we should just stay away.
    While I personally believe we are making progress, the fact remains we could have done a few things better. And I completely agree that IED's are useful as a war winning weapon because they DO erode the base of support here in the US. All the terrorists have to do (in their mind) is hold out until '08, and the americans will be gone. Because people here in the US see any bomb go off and immediately think "we're losing". Whether they know the truth or not is immaterial, because they can still vote. And the feeling I get is that they will vote for the defeatists in '08.
    "He who fights by the other mans rules is doomed to failure"  Gen US Grant

 
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Jeff_F_F       6/29/2007 9:26:41 AM
I think the US public intollerance to casualties is highly over-rated. If the American public is so weary of this war and so eager to pull out, why are the politicians trying to pull the US out of the war viewed so unfavorably by the public? Currently the US Congress has a confidence rating of 14%. To put that in perspective the current confidence rating of HMOs is 15%, and the Military's is 69%.
 
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