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August 17, 2010


Joseph Fouche

It seems that after the bloodletting at Meuse-Argonne that American military doctrine and civilian sensibilities moved towards emphasizing firepower over manpower. This was a rip-roaring success in World War II where 90% of enemy casualties were inflicted by artillery or tactical airpower. Max Hastings' point that soldier for soldier the American infantryman or tanker was not the equal of his German counterparts is probably true. But American tactical airpower and indirect fires were far superior to their German equivalents by Normandy so German manpower superiority was not sufficient.

This pattern of mostly indifferently trained infantry coupled with superior tactical airpower and indirect fires was the American norm until Vietnam. America's opponents eventually found strategies and tactics that countered this advantage helpeShifts in domestic norms, some intentionally fed by America's enemies, helped this along. This has created the dilemma that, in order to counter these tactics and norms, some self-imposed, American tactics have become more manpower intensive as its sensitivity to casualties has increased and its capacity to expend manpower has decreased. This despite the fact that American firepower has never been so potent.

Unless this situation changes, American tactics will be drawn in the direction of being more manpower intensive and less firepower intensive. Nagl's basic insight that after the Gulf War I that no one will ever try and fight us that way again is true, though his particular response to that insight may or may not be universally valid. In the meantime, Fulda Gap purists are just blowing wind until then.


Yeah, a lot of COINtras protest that they aren't for the Fulda Gap, but none of their writings reference the Army as it was during the 90s, when it was changing into the Force XXI, Army After Next, and then the Modular Force. Seems to be either COIN or AirLand Battle...

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