Information Warfare: April 26, 2005

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Should the United States prosecute officers who did not do all that could be done to prevent casualties from roadside bombs in Iraq? About half the American casualties in Iraq are caused by roadside bombs. Not surprisingly, American media have jumped all over this. Roadside bombs are not a new weapon, they were was used in Vietnam and World War II. But these bombs are being used much more frequently in Iraq, and the response was to put armor on vehicles, train the troops to spot the bombs beforehand and, in general, deal with it. Some 90 percent of the roadside bombs are thus rendered harmless. But the rest cause substantial casualties. While the casualty rate for American troops in Iraq is the lowest of any similar campaign in the last few generations, the roadside bombs stand out. These weapons were a surprise, and unexpected. Commanders did what they could, but was it enough?

When it comes to force protection, too much ain't enough. In wartime, if you set the bar high enough, you can hang just about every officer in sight for being inadequate to the task. There have been similar, but worse, situations, in the past. What happened back then? Did they court martial anyone for what happened at Omaha Beach (it was not noted that an additional German division moved in to beef up the Normandy defenses at the last minute)? Or in the hedgerows (which were different from the hedgerows in Britain, where the troops trained, and made defense much easier for the Germans in Normandy)? Or the Battle of the Bulge (where allied intel had missed the German buildup because the Germans used no wireless commo during preparations, rendering Ultra useless)? Or Arnhem (where intel missed the two German divisions in the drop zone area)? Or all those friendly fire incidents involving Allied aircraft? What about Tarawa, where the Japanese defenses, and the slope of the beaches was misjudged? MacArthur refusing to believe the Chinese would intervene in Korea? What about letting the Republican Guard get away in 1991? Of course, in Vietnam, the army didn't want to be there at all. Should we prosecute the generals for not resigning in protest?

Soldiers fight the war, and journalists judge their competence. Who judges the judges?

 


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