Say what you will about the Marines- I’ll say plenty, but I’ll save it for later- they produce some good speakers. The only speaker I have seen who could compare was G. Gordon Liddy in his pre-born again phase. (I saw him at USC around 1980, I don’t know what is like now.)
In particular I remember an instructor at OCS, Captain Hernandez. He could turn a half-dead class of candidates into a howling mob. I guess charisma can’t be discounted as a leadership quality- throughout the ages soldiers have been tired, hungry, bored, agitated, and of course frightened. I would not rank fear high as a factor in soldiering though- I always thought that after a few months at Camp Lejeune any war would seem like a welcome relief. Eugene Sledge and his comrades actually believed boredom was a tool used by the military establishment to motivate them. Trust me, nobody over the rank of lieutenant in the Marines is that smart. But I can see where they got the idea.
Anyway, back to Capt. Hernandez. He once lectured on fire support. His thesis was that fire support, as outlined in the fire support plan, was the most important factor in combat. “Remember the fire support plan! It’s not your karate lessons or your Fairburn-Banks fighting knife that’s going to save you, it’s the fire support plan! When you’re on your deathbed, surrounded by your family, with your last breath you’re going to pull your young grandson to you and tell him ‘Remember the fire support plan!’If, before an assault, the objective has received a large quantity of well aimed fire, you will only need to walk across the smoking ruins, collecting souvenirs.”
Standoff firepower- where we can hit them, but they can’t hit us- is the way of war for Western democracy in the modern era. We place a high value on the lives of our soldiers. (The WWII bombing of Germany involved horrendous casualties, and whether the same military effort in another form would have resulted in less Allied deaths is a good question, but I will leave that for someone else.)
Our enemies of course know this. The bombing of Germany was controversial in Britain as it was conducted, and I have to believe this came in part from the friends that Germany had there. The cry of “evil/civilian casualties” was constant in the Vietnam War.
The capability of doing this has improved incredibly with modern electronics. Accuracy allows the reduction of collateral casualties, but can’t eliminate them- if the target is in the same building as civilians you can’t avoid them. This is of course using human shields, and the onus is on those using the human shields, not those attacking a legitimate military target.
Politics override the law of war, always of course against the side of humanity and for the side of evil. The rules of engagement have been changed in Afghanistan. Indirect fire must be approved by higher ups- who will not approve it if they think there is any chance of civilian casualties. Since there is no greater coward on the planet than a man with an oak leaf on his collar who wants an eagle, or an eagle and wants a star, so it will be denied often.
Here’s a wire service story on denial of artillery support in an ambush-
Realistically, this policy will not change. Artillery is not irrelevant now. Air support is accurate but it is expensive, limited in quantity and limited by weather. GPS guided shells are now available- not cheap but far cheaper than the same munition delivered by an aircraft. I think aircraft are preferred because there is a second set of eyes, and a second scapegoat, involved.
This doesn’t look good. When the enemy gets to define the rules they win.