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U.S. needs ground artillery to support troops in Afghanistan

By WILLIAM S. LIND   |   March 26, 2009 at 3:26 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, March 26 (UPI) -- I have received more thoughtful responses from readers to my recent columns on the consequences of the poor tactics that U.S. ground forces have been using in Afghanistan.

Sven Ortmann writes, "The light infantry approach doesn't help much in a terrain that doesn't offer enough concealment, though. It's no solution for all problems. ... Tanks in an assault-gun role could handle the problems that plague light infantry in open terrain."

This is correct, in that light infantry is terrain-dependent. That is why it seldom fights "pure," but rather is mixed with heavy infantry -- now motorized/mechanized -- units. However, those heavy infantry forces also need third-generation war tactics, which are simpler versions of Jaeger tactics.

In the 1980s, some military reformers, including John Boyd, asked legendary World War II German Gen. Hermann Balck why so many of the best Panzer commanders in the war had been light infantry officers in World War I. He replied, "Because it was the same."

As to tanks, I would say instead, "infantry guns." These may be tanks, wheeled assault guns or towed pieces, depending on the situation. Their purpose is to provide heavy direct fire, which in many cases could replace air strikes with less risk of collateral damage.

Max writes, "Somebody was saying there's no way the current U.S. force of occupation in Iraq could be seriously imperiled by any force on earth." That bit of hubris is common in Washington, and it has given me many a bad night. If either the United States or Israel attacks Iran, the American people could lose the whole army they have in Iraq.

Such a defeat would be America's Adrianople -- the battle in 378 A.D. that destroyed the best and core military forces of the Roman Empire in the West.

Or given the degree to which the United States now resembles Imperial Spain in the 16th and 17th centuries, it would be America's Rocroi, the battle in 1643 that wiped out elite forces of the Spanish army and destroyed Spain's military power in Europe.

Readers have also queried my admiration for Kaiser Wilhelm II of Imperial Germany.

R.M. Hitchens wrote, "I've always wondered why the very serious Mr. Lind would invoke the spirit of the utterly unserious and notoriously shallow Kaiser Bill."

The respected Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld agrees with me that this common view of Kaiser Wilhelm is unfounded. On the contrary, the kaiser was right far more often than were his advisers. He deferred to them too much, it is true, but he explains that in his memoirs on the not-unreasonable ground that he was a constitutional monarch.

In fact, Kaiser Wilhelm was the most intelligent head of state in Europe in 1914. The greatest fool among the key players in that fateful year was Sir Edward Grey, the British foreign secretary who was the key figure in propelling Britain to join World War I and thereby extending it for four years, leading to the total ruin of Europe.

Nimbus 48 wrote, in kindly fashion, "For many years I have profited from Bill Lind's articles, but I can't help wonder just what the structure of his ideal monarchy would be."

As conservatives know, there is no ideal structure, in the abstract, for any government. A country's government must be shaped by its own culture and traditions. For Saudi Arabia, that means an absolute monarchy, and for Britain, a constitutional monarchy, although the House of Commons has grown so powerful compared to the queen and the House of Lords that it has effectively abolished the British Constitution. I also suspect heaven wants two countries to be republics, Switzerland, to show that it can be made to work, and the United States, as a warning to everyone else.

Finally, as the rector of my church in Cleveland, St. James' Anglican Catholic Church (if you want to see how a high mass should be done, visit us some Sunday), says, "I am a monarchist because God is." And I am by choice a subject of Kaiser Wilhelm II because, in all probability, the very last chance Western civilization had of surviving was a victory by the Central Powers in World War I.

--

(William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation.)

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