Murphy’s Law: 21st Century War, How It Will Be Different And Why

Marine Corps RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial vehi...

Marine Corps RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial vehicle launches from Speedbag Airfield (Photo credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery)

January 24, 2014: The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were different in a lot of ways many people didn’t expect, understand, or even notice. For example, the three week conquest of Iraq was not facilitated so much by high tech weapons, but largely by Cold War era gear using World War II tactics. The most crucial weapons were the decades old M-1 tank and M-2 infantry vehicle, with the 1960s vintage M-109 self-propelled artillery provided most of the artillery support. The 1950s era B-52 bomber was still the most cost effective way to deliver bomb attacks.

And what was so unique about conquering Iraq in three weeks while outnumbered? The British did this in 1941, using only two divisions under similar circumstances (and with far fewer armored vehicles). Not only that, the 1941 Iraqis also had the support of Germany, France and Russia. Made no difference.  Afghanistan featured a handful of American Special Forces troops calling in air strikes while deep in enemy territory. That was standard practice during the 1960s Vietnam War. But change is in the air, it’s just a bit more complex a wave of change than most pundits are trying to describe.

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American Warships Mass Off China

US Navy 040728-N-7631T-067 Out-going Commander...

US Navy 040728-N-7631T-067 Out-going Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Rear Adm. James M. Zortman, center, and incoming Rear Adm. H. Denby Starling, II, salute Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Adm. William J (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

June 10, 2012: The U.S. announced that it will have 60 percent of its 270 warships in the Pacific by the end of the decade. Actually, this is just a continuation of a process that began when the Cold War ended in 1991. But these changes move slowly. Largely this is the result of political problems that arise when you try to transfer the home ports (where the ships are when not at sea and where the families of the crews live, and spend their money) from one coast to another. The politicians representing states on the east coast raise a major stink when the navy tries to move the home ports. It’s taken the navy a decade to muster the political clout to make the changes happen. Meanwhile, more and more ships based in east coast ports were serving temporarily in the Pacific or Middle East. Now the big shift has been taking place officially. There have been other indicators that this was happening.

For example, six years ago the U.S. Navy eliminated the Atlantic Fleet, after a century of existence. First established in 1906, the Atlantic Fleet was the first, world class, high seas, naval force from the Americas. At the time, there was fear that Germany’s ambitious warship building program might someday endanger the United States. The Atlantic Fleet did go to war with the Germans in 1917, and again in 1941.

After 1945, the Atlantic Fleet remained a mighty force, in preparation for a potential battle with the growing naval power of the Soviet Union. But when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, their fleet wasted away within a decade. So the American Atlantic Fleet no longer had a major opponent. Meanwhile, China, North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran provided plenty of work for the Pacific Fleet (which normally supplied ships for Middle East and South Asian emergencies.)

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