- NEW YORK (PRNewswire)
- The Pentagon is looking at the battle for the Chechan capital of Grozny
-- which was long and bloody for Russian attackers and Chechen defenders
-- as a preview of urban warfare of the future that the U.S. military is
not prepared nor equipped for. "I'm not so sure that we'd do a whole
lot better than the Russians," one senior Pentagon official says in
the current issue of Newsweek.
- Instead of the high-tech, laser-guided munitions which
worked in the gulf war, U.S. military planners say they need equipment
such as handheld sensors to detect an enemy in the next room, and the sort
of trolley that mechanics use to go under cars to rescue wounded comrades.
In the last couple of weeks, a company of Marines has been "fighting"
their way through the houses and office blocks of Fort Ord, Calif., an
Army base abandoned in 1994. If the results mimic those at a similar exercise
last spring, they won't be encouraging. In "attacks" on a naval
hospital in Oakland, Calif., the Marines took casualty rates as high as
70 percent, reports National Security Correspondent John Barry in the February
21 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, February 14).
- In the past, the U.S. Army avoided cities because the
cost of street-fighting casualties was just too steep, Barry reports. If
cities couldn't be avoided, then the other option was to flatten them.
Now, neither option exists.
- The New Urban Battlefield U.S. Troops Don't Do Cities.
But Someday They'll Have To By John Barry
- The battle of Grozny was long and bloody -- for Russian
attackers as well as the Chechen defenders. But you won't see any condescending
head-wagging in the U.S. military. As one senior Pentagon official said
last week, "I'm not so sure that we'd do a whole lot better than the
Russians." That's a problem; in the view of many military analysts,
the killing grounds of Grozny offer a hellish view of tomorrow's warfare.
- The U.S. Army used to have a simple way of dealing with
cities: avoid them. The cost in street-fighting casualties was just too
steep. That was one reason that, in 1945, the Army didn't try to take Berlin,
a battle that Gen. Omar Bradley told Dwight Eisenhower "might cost
us 100,000 men." Bradley was right. The Red Army, which did fight
its way into Berlin, lost 102,000 men doing so; 125,000 German civilians
died in the battle, and 150,000 to 200,000 German troops. If cities couldn't
be avoided, U.S. military doctrine had a fallback plan: flatten them, which
is what, in 1968, 8,000 shells from offshore warships did to the Vietnamese
city of Hu_.
- Neither option now exists. In a 1996 essay in Parameters,
the journal of the Army War College, Lt. Col. Ralph Peters argued, "The
future of warfare lies in the streets, sewers, high-rise buildings, and
sprawl of houses that form the broken cities of the world." The article
hit a raw nerve. Three years earlier, in a battle in the back alleys of
Mogadishu, Somalia, 18 U.S. Rangers were killed and 73 wounded -- a 60
percent casualty rate. All the high-tech equipment that the Rangers were
meant to have at their disposal -- satellite images, laser-guided munitions
and the like -- were largely useless in the teeming streets. After Vietnam,
the military spent billions of dollars developing the kill-at-a-distance
weapons that looked so good in the desert fighting of the gulf war. Trouble
is, such weaponry does no good when an enemy soldier is just a few feet
away. A 1994 Pentagon study after Mogadishu baldly concluded, "Our
current capability was developed for a massive, rural war . . . Since the
future looks much different, new capabilities will have to be developed."
- What might those new capabilities be? In the last couple
of weeks a company of U.S. Marines has been trying to find out. The Marines
have been "fighting" their way through the houses and office
blocks of Fort Ord, Calif., an Army base abandoned in 1994. If the results
mimic those at a similar exercise last spring, they won't be encouraging.
In "attacks" on a naval hospital in Oakland, Calif., the Marines
took casualty rates as high as 70 percent.
- For the new urban warfare, the military needs new equipment.
On its long wish list: handheld sensors to detect an enemy in the next
room, and the sort of trolley that mechanics use to go under cars. Why?
To rescue wounded buddies. In Grozny, Chechen snipers deliberately aimed
at the legs of Russian soldiers, waited patiently for a rescue squad --
then shot them, too. Some gear on the wish list is high tech -- like robots
-- but none has the big price tags that attract lobbyists and congressmen.
Still, unless the money is found, the price will likely be paid in American
blood. ((c) 2000 PRNewswire)
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