by Larry Johnson
I would love to take credit for the following words, but they belong to a new friend. A now retired journalist who had an exemplary career. He reached out to me recently and expressed his appreciation for what I was writing and encouraged me to keep it up. It is humbling when a legend takes the time to tell you that you are doing good work.
I will leave his name out of this for now (unless he grants me permission to reveal his identity). But he is spot on in his analysis of what has happened to the U.S. military. While U.S. politicians keep insisting, like the Evil Queen in Snow White staring into the Magic Mirror, that the United States is the fairest of them all, the truth is otherwise.
19th century Britain went almost a century after Waterloo with no major war (beside Crimea). Its military became an expeditionary force dispatched on brief wars against various Fuzzy Wuzzie without first class weapons or even good tactical discipline. Rather like the US since Vietnam.
What Trump calls the “forever wars” (and I call the wars of sheer imperialism), after the fall of the USSR the Pentagon shifted planning and operations to what had been the stepchild of DOD for years — “Special Operations.” The Special Operations Command (aka SOCOM) came into being and the battle doctrine became dominated by Rangers, Special Forces, SEALS, etc and our military arsenal shrunk accordingly to support light operations with air control and total domination of the battle field. War by XVIII Airborne Corps.
Fielding of weapons became a lost art. Even paying attention to the Air Defense leapfrog by the Russians and Chinese, which we are seeing chew up Ukraine and NATO support weapons, became too much trouble. Now the Russians are exposing the paper tiger of American and NATO military power as they “demilaratize” us as well as Ukraine. Our response to the huge new challenge to carrier groups and old fashioned manned bombers is the Idiotic B 21. We are strangled by past legends, an arrogant assumption of continued postwar hegemony, and are sliding towards becoming a 2nd rate power.
Whatever US staff planned the support operation for Ukraine should be shot. We sent them the wrong armaments (lacking the right ones) and sat by while they ran through all the warehoused support we had like a drunken teenager. Now we can no longer support them. And they are hanging on the ropes.
After Napoleon, the Russians are the best artillerymen in the world. This war was always going to come down to artillery. And we sent them a air deliverable special operations design basic howitzer M777 that wasn’t tough enough for the job and easily disabled from excessive use and then ran out of ammo.
We should have seen all this coming up front. We not only proceeded on an arrogant basis without proper study, We knew we were in an industrial war and that was a game we couldn’t play for long. This was a military catastrophe from the beginning. Any planner worth his salt would recommend against it. Looks like DOD is scared now and is going to resist Biden Administration neocon pressure to “escalate.” The muttering about Crimea indicates the Administration is beginning to think about the end game.
I have had the honor of working with U.S. military Special Operations Forces for 37 years. These units have some remarkable capabilities in conducting hostage rescue and raids. What makes them “special” is the selection process the various units employ for qualifying men (and some women) to carry out the missions. Notwithstanding their skill and smarts, these units cannot turn the tide of battle in a peer-to-peer war. They do not have magic powers to withstand sustained artillery bombardments. They may be able to endure the hardship better than a regular Army or Marine troop, but when confronted with a foe that commands the air and dominates with artillery and armor they are as susceptible to being killed or wounded as the average grunt.
I believe we are witnessing the end of America’s days as the World’s Policeman. The U.S. military is an expensive expeditionary force. Deploying troops and equipment to foreign countries to wage war is a costly business. Not just in terms of lives lost, but it requires, as we have seen in Afghanistan and Iraq, billions of dollars that are burned up on battlefields without achieving any significant political outcome that strengthens the security of the United States.
We are witnessing a new phase of this reality in Ukraine. U.S. weapons on the battlefield on the Donbas are not game changers. The war in Ukraine has exposed the weakness of the logistics capability of both the United States and the NATO members. We have reached a point where the United States defense contractors can only produce 20,000 artillery shells in a month while Russia is firing that many in one day and is able to continue supplying its troops.