Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Apocalypse Now - Apocalypse Again

The recent deaths in Afghanistan of eight young soldiers has brought calls for increased helicopter capability in that sad country.

Country is, perhaps, too strong a word. Hostile territory and the graveyard of invaders for the last 2000 years would be a more accurate description.

An old joke. What's the difference between the Army and the Boy Scouts? Answer – the Boy Scouts have adult leaders.

Ask the Army chiefs for answers and all you get are calls for more mobility and a way of keeping their soldiers out of harm's way – more helicopters.

This is nonsense.

Do they not study the Vietnam conflict at Staff College?

Remember that great tableau in Apocalypse Now where Robert Duvall is leading the Air Cavalry into battle to the strains of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, and searching for a good place to surf?

Not only is this great cinema, it is also a lesson in how not to conduct operations in a hostile environment where it is impossible to distinguish the enemy from the civilian population.

Put your troops into helicopters and you cede the ground to the enemy. You lose the element of surprise. You alienate the civilian population who no longer see you as a person – just a malignant, hovering beast spitting shells at them. You have already lost the war.

Not only that but you immediately increase casualties. Helicopter today are much larger that the Huey. The Chinooks can take up to 40 troops at a time into harm's way. The Taliban can and will shoot them down. Casualties will increase, not decrease.

We are in the hole. Stop digging.

No comments: