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Why the US fights the way it does

There is a lengthy article on USS Clueless about why the US military is the best practitioner of high initiative warfare, tracing it to the empowering influence of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. I disagree on many levels starting with the fact I do not think the US military is the best (or even particularly remarkable) at ‘high initiative warfare’.

The US military does not achieve its results as Steven Den Beste suggests, by empowering individual soldiers and harnessing their brains and initiative more than any number of armies I could mention, but rather it achieves results by maximising its true advantages: firstly a huge economy and therefore sheer firepower (it can afford to shoot more bullets/drop more bombs) and secondly, its advanced technology (it can make its aeroplanes hard to shoot down and therefore safely drop smart bombs on people they don’t like from 20,000 feet). In simply wins by dumping large numbers of expensive smart bombs and cruise missiles on the enemy where it hurts most, followed by precise massed artillery if required. The job of America’s infantry and tank jockeys is to pick their way through the crater pocked remnants to what gets left over after the aerial (and maybe artillery) bombardment. Factor out the high tech long range bombardment capabilities, which is unique in the world at the moment, and whilst the US army is a fine one, it is not particularly exceptional in the way it fights compared to many other armies.

There are many armies in the world who are better than the US at the sort of small unit tactics that rely on ’empowered’ soldiers at low level (such as Israel, Britain, Germany, Australia, New Zealand). Frankly France’s 2eme REP is probably more optimised for what Steven thinks is a “new approach” to fighting than the much higher firepower US 82nd Airborne, precisely because it has less firepower and thus is forced to rely on élan et cran as well as to fight smart… and with very little help from 20,000 feet. It is in the ‘big stuff’ that no one can match the US, i.e. when it comes to the Godzilla-like ‘grid square removal’ that characterized the Gulf War.

This is not to denigrate the US military, far from it actually: that is a highly rational way to fight if you can afford it. But please realise that the way the USA fights is just the confluence of technology and economy, added to a particularly American political horror of friendly casualties, rather than some emerging ‘First Amendment Powered’ super soldiers. The German Fallschimjägers landing on Crete in 1941 displayed all the characteristics of low level high initiative fight smart upward info-flow empowerment yet it would be safe to say they were not benefiting from the First Amendment of the US Constitution or democracy.

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