Archive for the ‘Military’ Category
Americans “remember the Alamo”–but usually for the wrong reasons.
Some historians believe the battle should have never been fought.
The Alamo was not Thermopylae–a narrow mountain pass blocking the Persian march into ancient Greece. Santa Anna could have simply bypassed it.
Mexican troops advancing on the Alamo
In fact, several of Santa Anna’s generals urged the Mexican dictator to do just that–leave a small guard to hold down the fort’s defenders and wipe out the undefended, widely-separated Texas settlements.
But pride held Santa Anna fast to the Alamo. His brother-in-law, General Perfecto de Cos, had been forced to surrender the old mission to revolting Texans in December, 1835. Santa Anna meant to redeem the fort–and his family honor–by force.
In almost every movie made about the Alamo, its two co-commanders, James Bowie and William Barret Travis, are portrayed as on the verge of all-out war–with each other.
William B. Travis
In John Wayn’e heavily fictionalized 1960 film, The Alamo, Bowie and Travis agree to fight a duel as soon as they’ve whipped the Mexicans besieging them.
In fact, the frictions between the two lasted only a short while. Just before the siege, some of Bowie’s volunteers–a far larger group than the regular soldiers commanded by Travis–got drunk. Travis ordered them jailed–and Bowie ordered his men to release them. Bowie then went on a roaring drunk.
The next day, a sober Bowie apologized to Travis and agreed they should share command. This proved a wise decision, for just as the siege started, Bowie was felled by worsening illness–typhoid-pneumonia or tuberculosis.
In Wayne’s film, Bowie repeatedly leaves the Alamo to ambush unsuspecting Mexicans.
In reality, he stayed bed-ridden and lay close to death throughout the 13-day siege.
Most people believe the Texans intended to make a suicidal stand.
Not true. From the first day of the siege–February 23–almost to the last–March 6, 1836–messengers rode out of the Alamo seeking help. The defenders believed that if they could cram enough men into the three-acre former mission, they could hold Santa Anna at bay.
It’s widely believed that no reinforcements reached the Alamo.
Not so. On March 1, 32 men from Gonzalez–the only ones to answer Travis’ call–sneaked through the Mexican lines to enter the Alamo. Meanwhile, the largest Texan force lay at Fort Defiance in Goliad, 85 miles away.
This consisted of 500 men commanded by James Walker Fannin, a West Point dropout. Fannin was better-suited for the role of Hamlet than military commander. Upon receiving a plea of help from Travis, he set out in a half-hearted attempt to reach the mission.
But when a supply wagon broke down, he returned to Fort Defiance and sat out the rest of the siege.
After it became obvious that the Alamo would not be sufficiently reinforced, the Texans still refused to evacuate. “I’ll die before I run” might have been their official motto.
The Alamo garrison was fully prepared to confront the Mexican army.
When the Mexicans suddenly arrived in San Antonio on the morning of February 23, 1836, they caught the Texans completely by surprise.
The previous night, they had been celebrating the birthday of George Washington. The Texans rushed headlong into the Alamo, hauling all the supplies they could hastily scrounge.
Santa Anna sent a courier under a flag of truce to the Alamo, demanding unconditional surrender. In effect, the Texans were being given the choice of later execution. Travis replied with a shot from the fort’s biggest cannon, the 18-pounder.
Santa Anna ordered the hoisting of a blood-red flag and the opening of an artillery salvo. The siege of the Alamo was on.
Many Americans believe that San Houston, who was elected general of the non-existent army of Texas, desperately tried to relieve the siege.
At Washington-on-the-Brazos, 169 miles east of San Antonio, Texan delegates assembled to form a new government. When news reached the delegates that Travis desperately needed reinforcements, many of them wanted to rush to his defense.
But Houston and others declared they must first declare Texas’ independence. On March 2, 1836, they did just that. Houston spent a good deal of the time drunk.
Did Travis draw a line?
Easily the most famous Alamo story is that of “the line in the sand.” On the night of March 5–just prior to the final assault–there was a lull in the near-constant Mexican bombardment. Travis assembled his men and gave them a choice:
They could surrender and hope that Santa Anna would be merciful. They could try to escape. Or they could stay and fight.
One of these was bed-ridden James Bowie. He asked that his sick-bed be carried over to Travis.
The other was a veteran of the Napoleonic wars–Louis Rose.
On March 2, 1836–179 years ago today–Texas formally declared its independence from Mexico, of which it was then a province.
Sixty-one delegates took part in the convention held at Washington-on-the-Brazos. Their signed statement proclaimed that the Mexican government had “ceased to protect the lives, liberty, and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived.”
Meanwhile, 169 miles away, the siege of the Alamo–a crumbling former Spanish mission in the heart of San Antonio–had entered its ninth day.
The Alamo. The mission that became a fortress. The fortress that has since become a shrine.
The Alamo Chapel
The combatants: 180 to 250 Texans (or “Texians,” as many of them preferred to be called) vs. 2,000 Mexican soldiers.
On the Texan side three names predominate: David Crockett, James Bowie and William Barret Travis. “The Holy Trinity,” as some historians ironically refer to them.
Crockett, at 49, was the most famous man in the Alamo. He had been a bear hunter, Indian fighter and Congressman. Rare among the men of his time, he sympathized with the Indian tribes he had helped subdue in the War of 1812.
He believed Congress should honor the treaties made with the former hostiles and opposed President Andrew Jackson’s effort to move the tribes further West.
Largely because of this, his constituents turned him out of office in November, 1835. He told them they could go to hell; he would go to Texas.
James Bowie, at 40, had been a slave trader with pirate Jean Lafitte and a land swindler. His greatest claim to fame lay in his skill as a knife-fighter.
This grew out of his participating in an 1827 duel on a sandbar in Natchez, Mississippi. Bowie was acting as a second to one of the duelists who had arranged the event.
After the two duelists exchanged pistol shots without injury, they called it a draw. But those who had come as their seconds had scores to settle among themselves–and decided to do so. A bloody melee erupted.
Bowie was shot in the hip and then impaled on a sword cane wielded by Major Norris Wright, a longtime enemy. Drawing a large butcher knife he wore at his belt, he gutted Wright, who died instantly.
The brawl became famous as the Sandbar Fight, and cemented Bowie’s reputation across the South as a deadly knife fighter.
William Barret Travis had been an attorney and militia member. Burdened by debts and pursued by creditors, he fled Alabama in 1831 to start over in Texas. Behind him he left a wife, son, and unborn daughter.
William Barret Travis
From the first, Travis burned to free Texas from Mexico and see it become a part of the United States.
In January, 1836, he was sent by the American provisional governor of Texas to San Antonio, to fortify the Alamo. He arrived there with a small party of regular soldiers and the title of lieutenant colonel in the state militia.
On the Mexican side, only one name matters: Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, president (i.e., absolute dictator) of Mexico. After backing first one general and would-be “president” after another, Santa Anna maneuvered himself into the office in 1833.
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna
Texas was then legally a part of Mexico. Stephen F. Austin, “the father of Texas,” had received a grant from Spain–which ruled Mexico until 1821–to bring in 300 American families to settle there.
The Spaniards wanted to establish a buffer between themselves and warring Indian tribes like the Comanches.
These immigrations continued after Mexico threw off Spanish rule and obtained its independence.
But as Americans kept flooding into Texas, the character of its population changed, alarming its Mexican rulers.
The new arrivals did not see themselves as Mexican citizens but as transplanted Americans. They were largely Protestant, as opposed to the Catholic Mexicans. And many of them not only owned slaves but demanded the expansion of slavery–a practice illegal under Mexican law.
In October, 1835, fighting erupted between settlers and Mexican soldiers. In November, Mexican forces took shelter in the Alamo, which had been built in 1718 as a mission to convert Indians to Christianity. Since then it had been used as a fort–by Spanish and then Mexican troops.
Texans lay siege to the Alamo from October 16 to December 10, 1835. With his men exhausted, and facing certain defeat, General Perfecto de Cos, Santa Anna’s brother-in-law, surrendered. He gave his word to leave Texas and never take up arms again against its settlers.
Texans rejoiced. They believed they had won their “war” against Mexico.
But others knew better. One was Bowie. Another was Sam Houston, a former Indian fighter, Congressman and protégé of Andrew Jackson.
Still another was Santa Anna, who styled himself “The Napoleon of the West.” In January, 1836, he set out from Mexico City at the head of an army totaling about 7,000.
He planned the 18th century version of a blitzkrieg, intending to arrive in Texas and take its “rebellious foreigners” by surprise.
His forced march proved costly in lives, but met his objective. He arrived in San Aotonio with several hundred soldiers on February 23, 1836.
The siege of the Alamo–the most famous event in Texas history–was about to begin.
On the September 28, 2014 edition of 60 Minutes, President Barack Obama spoke about his recent decision to commit American troops to fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“When trouble comes up anywhere in the world,” said Obama, “they don’t call Beijing. They don’t call Moscow. They call us.”
And, according to former CIA agent Michael Scheuer, that’s the problem: America can’t learn to mind its own business.
Scheuer is a 20-year CIA veteran–as well as an author, historian, foreign policy critic and political analyst.
From 1996 to 1999 he headed Alec Station, the CIA’s unit assigned to track Osama bin Laden at the agency’s Counterterrorism Center.
He is currently an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies.
He’s also the author of two seminal works on America’s fight against terrorism:Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror (2003) and Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam after Iraq (2008).
Scheuer says that Islamics don’t hate Americans because of “our way of life”–with its freedoms of speech and worship and its highly secular, commercialized culture.
Instead, Islamic hatred toward the United States stems from America’s six longstanding policies in the Middle East:
- U.S. support for apostate, corrupt, and tyrannical Muslim governments
- U.S. and other Western troops on the Arabian Peninsula
- U.S. support for Israel that keeps Palestinians in the Israelis’ thrall
- U.S. pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low
- U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan
- U.S. support for Russia, India, and China against their Muslim militants
Scheuer contends that no amount of American propaganda will win “the hearts and minds” of Islamics who can “see, hear, experience, and hate” these policies firsthand.
But there is another danger facing America, says Scheuer, one that threatens “the core of our social and civil institutions.”
And in Marching Toward Hell he bluntly indicts that threat: The “profound and willful ignorance” of America’s “bipartisan governing elite.”
Scheuer defines this elite as “the inbred set of individuals who have influenced…drafted and conducted U.S. foreign policy” since 1973.
Within that group are:
- civil servants
- military officers
“Some are Republicans, others Democrats; some are evangelicals, others atheists; some are militarists, others pacifists; some are purveyors of Western civilization, others are multiculturalists,” writes Scheuer.
But for all their political and/or philosophical differences, the members of this governing elite share one belief in common.
According to Scheuer, that belief is “an unquenchable ardor to have the United States intervene abroad in all places, situations and times.”
And he warns that this “bipartisan governing elite” must radically change its policies–such as unconditional support for Israel and corrupt, tyrannical Muslim governments.
Otherwise, Americans will be locked in an endless “hot war” with the Islamic world.
During his September 28 appearance on 60 Minutes, President Obama admitted that the mostly Sunni-Muslim Iraqi army had refused to combat the Sunni army of ISIS.
Then followed this exchange:
Steve Kroft: What happens if the Iraqis don’t fight or can’t fight?
President Obama: Well…
Steve Kroft: What’s the end game?
President Obama: I’m not going to speculate on failure at the moment. We’re just getting started. Let’s see how they do.
It was precisely such a mindset that led the United States, step by step, into the Vietnam quagmire.
As in the case of Vietnam, the United States lacks:
- Real or worthwhile allies in Iraq or Syria;
- A working knowledge of the peoples it wants to influence in either country;
- Clearly-defined goals that it seeks to accomplish in that region.
America rushed to disaster in Vietnam because its foreign policy elite felt it had to “do something” to fight Communism anywhere in the world.
And it is continuing to rush toward disaster in the Middle East because its foreign policy elite once again feels is must “do something.”
During his interview with the “Today” show, Carl Mueller–the father of Kayla, who went to Syria to help Syrians caught up in their own civil war–said:
“How many mistakes have we all made in life that were naïve and didn’t get caught at? Kayla was just in a place that was more dangerous than most. And she couldn’t help herself. She had to go in there and had to help.”
But there were plenty of communities within the United States that could have used the help of a truly caring social activist. And plenty of organizations–such as Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Habitat for Humanity and Catholic Relief Services–that would have been thrilled to have her services.
And she could have made lives better without constantly facing the dangers of kidnapping by Islamics determined to humiliate and slaughter Americans.
Michael Sheuer is right: The United States should learn to mind its own business and quit intervening in the affairs of Middle Eastern governments and peoples.
Kayla Mueller is proof of the rightness of that assertion.
Sometimes your worst enemies aid you in ways you could never help yourself.
From July 10 to October 31, 1940, hundreds of badly-outnumbered pilots of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) fought off relentless attacks by Germany’s feared Luftwaffe.
But Adolf Hitler wasn’t prepared to give up. He believed he could so terrorize Britons that they would demand that their government submit to German surrender demands.
From September 7, 1940 to May 21, 1941, the Luftwaffe subjected England–and especially London–to a ruthless bombing campaign that became known as The Blitz.
The undamaged St. Paul’s Cathredal, December, 1940
More than 100 tons of high explosives were dropped on 16 British cities. During 267 days (almost 37 weeks):
- London was attacked 71 times;
- Birmingham, Plymouth and Liverpool were attacked eight times;
- Bristol was attacked six times; Glasgow, five; Southampton four; and
- There was also at least one large raid on another eight cities.
Between 40,000 and 43,000 British civilians were killed. About 139,000 others were wounded.
Clearly, what Great Britain desperately needed most was a miracle.
Exactly that happened on June 22, 1941.
With 134 Divisions at full fighting strength and 73 more divisions for deployment behind the front, the German Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union.
German tank commander
Joseph Stalin, the longtime Soviet dictator, was stunned. The invasion had come less than two years after Germany had signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union.
Now they were locked in a fight to the death.
People in England were also surprised–but also suddenly hopeful. Britain now had an ally whose resources might tip the balance against Hitler.
Fast-forward to 2015.
On February 18, news reports surfaced that members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) may have burned to death 45 people in the western Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi.
Al-Baghdadi lies just five miles from an air base stafffed by several hundred U.S. Marines. The victims might have included members of the security forces that clashed with ISIS for control of the town.
This latest atrocity comes only days after ISIS released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.
And still earlier this month–on February 3–ISIS released a a video showing the barbaric “execution” of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kasaesbeh.
Al Kasaesbeh, locked in a steel cage like an animal, could only watch stoically as an ISIS member ignited a trail of flammable liquid leading directly to him. The pilot stood upright throughout the ordeal until the flames at last consumed him.
In response to the beheadings of the 21 Egyptians, Egypt carried out a series of airstrikes against ISIS militants in Libya.
And two days after the murder of its pilot, Jordanian fighter jets launched airstrikes against ISIS training centers, arms and ammunition depots.
“This is just the beginning and you shall know who the Jordanians are,” the armed forces said in a statement on state TV.
Today–just as England was saved by the misjudgment of Nazi Germany in attacking the Soviet Union– the United States faces just such an opportunity.
The Islamic world–which has been at war with the United States for 36 years–is now at war with itself.
In Syria, it’s Hezbollah (Party of God) vs. Al-Qaeda (The Base).
United Nations officials estimate that more than 191,000 people have died in Syria’s civil war since conflict began on March 15, 2011. The trigger: Protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Hezbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims, who form a minority of Islamics. A sworn enemy of Israel, it has kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans.
Flag of Hezbollah
Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of that religion. It is intolerent of non-Sunni Muslims and has instigated violence against them. It denounces them as “takfirs”–heretics–and thus worthy of extermination.
Al-Qaeda has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other non-Sunnis. Examples of sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.
Flag of Al-Qaeda
While Islamic nations wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources–and incentive–to launch attacks against the United States.
Every dead Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda member makes the United States that much safer.
Every dead supporter of Hezbollah or Al-Qaeda makes the United States that much safer.
Every dead ISIS member makes the United States that much safer.
And every ISIS victim stirs up greater hate against ISIS.
No American could instill such hatred against Al-Qaeda or Hezbollah or ISIS. This is entirely a war of religious and sectarian hatred. A war where each fighter is convinced that “Allah is on my side.”
These conflicts could easily become the Islamic equivalent of “the Hundred Years’ War” that raged from 1337 to 1453 between England and France.
When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”
As Congress and President Obama move ever closer to committing American forces to yet another Middle East conflict, it’s well to remember Truman’s words.
That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing off each other. Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been in the news a great deal lately–and for reasons most organizations try to avoid. Or at least cover up. It has been designated as a terrorist organization by
- the United States
- the European Union
- the United Nations
- the United Kingdom
- Saudi Arabia
- the United Arab Emerites
- India and
It been condemned by such well-known human rights organizations as Amnesty International. And a major reason for this is the evidence of its brutalities that ISIS has proudly supplied. Among this evidence are its own Internet videos of
- the beheadings of soldiers, civilians, journalists, and aid workers;
- the burning of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot;
- demands for extortionate ransoms for kidnapped Japanese and American captives;
- the wholesale shooting of captured Iraqi soldiers; and
- the selling of captured children.
The release on February 3 of a video showing the barbaric “execution” of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kasaesbeh, underscored ISIS reputation for cruelty
Al Kasaesbeh, locked in a steel cage like an animal, could only watch stoically as an ISIS member ignited a trail of flammable liquid leading directly to him. The pilot stood upright throughout the ordeal until the flames at last consumed him.
ISIS burning of captured Jordanian fighter pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh
Terrorism experts believe that the elaborately-staged video was meant to weaken the morale of Jordan and other Sunni Arab members of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS.
But it violated a fundamental rule of public relations: If you commit atrocities, do it secretly so you can deny it if the truth ever comes out.
That’s how the members of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s dreaded secret police–the N.K.V.D.–the predecsssors to the later-named KGB–operated throughout their brutal history.
In 1939, when the Soviet Union seized the eastern half of Poland, the N.K.V.D. executed 22,000 Polish army officers in the dense Katyn forest.
The government of Nazi Germany announced the discovery of mass graves in the forest in 1943. The Soviet Union furiously denied responsibility, claiming the victims had been executed by the Germans.
The Soviets continued to deny responsibility for the massacres until 1990, when the government finally admitted its guilt.
ISIS has turned out videos of its brutalities which film experts have declared are almost up to the quality of Hollywood spectaculars. But ISIS leaders have apparently forgotten–if they ever knew–the truth of the saying: “You can make a throne of bayonets, but you can’t sit on it.”
Niccolo Machiavelli, in his classic work, The Discourses, offered a telling example of how magnanimity can triumph over brutality.
Camillus was besieging the city of the Faliscians, and had surrounded it….A teacher charged with the education of the children of some of the noblest families of that city [to ingratiate himself] with Camillus and the Romans, led these children…into the Roman camp.
And presenting them to Camillus [the teacher] said to him, “By means of these children as hostages, you will be able to compel the city to surrender.”
Camillus not only declined the offer but had the teacher stripped and his hands tied behind his back….[Then Camillus] had a rod put into the hands of each of the children…[and] directed them to whip [the teacher] all the way back to the city.
Upon learning this fact, the citizens of Faliscia were so much touched by the humanity and integrity of Camillus, that they surrendered the place to him without any further defense.
This example shows that an act of humanity and benevolence will at all times have more influence over the minds of men than violence and ferocity. It also proves that provinces and cities which no armies…could conquer, have yielded to an act of humanity, benevolence, chastity or generosity.
What Machiavelli doesn’t say–but what history offers plenty of examples to substantiate–is this: The brutality of aggressors will be met–and sometimes overcome–with brutality by their past or intended victims.
Nowhere was this better proved than during the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
Without warning, three million German soldiers–backed up by overwhelming air and tank support–attacked their “ally” on June 22, 1941.
The Wehrmacht blitzed its way across Russia–to the gates of Moscow and as far south as Stalingrad on the Volga River. In its path it left devastated cities and at least 20 million dead Russians.
German soldiers moving into a burning Russian village
Russian women were gang-raped, then shot, or blown up with hand grenades. Tens of thousands of captured Russian soldiers were allowed to die of hunger, sickness and freezing cold behind barbed wire. Other captured POWs were brutally beaten, tortured and/or shot.
But then the tide of war turned and the Russians launched their own offensives in 1943. And they kept going–all the way to Berlin.
Russians raped tens of thousands of German women–and nailed others to barn doors. Cossacks cut off the raised hands of Germans trying to surrender. Tanks crushed retreating German soldiers and civilians unlucky enough to be in their path.
Thus do those who practice barbarism often find themselves being repaid with it–usually ten-fold.
Victory Through Air Power is a 1943 Walt Disney animated Technocolor feature film released during World War II. It’s based on the book–of the same title–by Alexander P. de Seversky.
Its thesis is summed up in its title: That by using bombers and fighter aircraft, the United States can attain swift, stunning victory over its Axis enemies: Germany, Italy and Japan.
Although it’s not explicitly stated, the overall impression given is that, through the use of air power, America can defeat its enemies without deploying millions of ground troops.
The movie has long since been forgotten except by film buffs, but its message has not. Especially by the highest officials within the U.S. Air Force.
The Air Force regularly boasted of the tonage of bombs its planes dropped over Nazi Germany, but it failed to attain its primary goal: Break the will of the Germans to resist.
On the contrary: Just as the German bombings of England had solidified the will of the British people to resist, so, too, did Allied bombing increase the determination of the Germans to fight on.
Nor did the failure of air power end there.
On June 6, 1944–D-Day–the Allies launched their invasion of Nazi-occupied France.
It opened shortly after midnight, with an airborne assault of 24,000 American, British, Canadian and Free French troops. This was followed at 6:30 a.m. by an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armored divisions on the French coast.
The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in history. More than 160,000 troops landed–73,000 Americans, 61,715 British and 21,400 Canadians.
Allied air power bombed and strafed German troops out in the open. But it couldn’t dislodge soldiers barricaded in steel-and-concrete-reinforced bunkers or pillboxes. Those had to be dislodged, one group at a time, by Allied soldiers armed with rifles, dynamite and flamethrowers.
American soldier using flamethrower
This situation proved true throughout the rest of the war.
Then, starting in 1964, the theory of “Victory Through Air Power” once again proved a dud–in Vietnam.
Air Force General Curtis E. LeMay said, “We should bomb Vietnam back into the Stone Age.” And the bombers under his command did their best to achieve this.
From 1964 to 1975, 7 million tons of bombs were dropped on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia–more than twice the amount of bombs dropped on Europe and Asia in World War II.
Yet the result proved exactly the same as it had in World War II: The bombing enraged the North Vietnamese and steeled their resolve to fight on to the end.
American bomber dropping its cargo over North Vietnam
The belief that victory could be achieved primarily–if not entirely–through air power had another unforeseen result during the Vietnam war. It gradually sucked the United States ever deeper into the conflict.
To bomb North Vietnam, the United States needed air force bases in South Vietnam. This required that those bombers and fighters be protected.
So a force to provide round-the-clock security had to be maintained. But there weren’t enough guards to defend themselves against a major attack by North Vietnamese forces.
So more American troops were needed–to guard the guards.
North Vietnam continued to press greater numbers of its soldiers into attacks on American bases. This forced America to provide greater numbers of its own soldiers to defend against such attacks.
Eventually, the United States had more than 500,000 ground troops fighting in Vietnam–with no end in sight to the conflict.
Then, in 2014, with forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) launching a blitzkreig throughout Iraq, President Barack Obama caught the “Victory Through Airpower” disease.
ISIS had thrown the American-trained Iraqi Army into a panic, with soldiers dropping their rifles and running for their lives.
This led Republicans to accuse the President of being about to “lose” Iraq.
As a result, he shipped at least 300 American “advisors” to Iraq, to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the American Embassy in Baghdad.
And he authorized American Predator drones to traverse Iraq, keeping tabs on the advancing ISIS forces.
Then, in September, 2014, Obama ordered airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.
Yet that didn’t alter the balance of power in Iraq. Nor had it worked for America in the 1991 and 2003 wars against Iraq.
Both wars opened with massive barrages of American missiles and bombs. The 1991 war saw the first use of the vaunted “stealth bomber,” which could avoid detection by enemy radar.
The 2003 war opened with an even greater bombardment intended to “shock and awe” the Iraqis into surrendering. They didn’t.
Baghdad under “shock and awe” bombardment
Nor did air power prove effective on the Iraqi insurgency that erupted after American forces occupied Baghdad and much of the rest of the country.
That war had to be fought by U.S. Army regulars and Special Operations soldiers–especially Navy SEALS. It was a dirty and private effort, marked by nightly kidnappings of suspected Iraqi insurgents.
Finally, on February 11, 2015, Obama called on Congress to formally authorize the use of ground forces against ISIS. This would include supporting and training Iraqi forces and Syrian insurgents on the ground
Obama stressed that his request for authorization does not call for deploying American ground troops in Syria or Iraq.
The rerun of the Vietnam/Iraq experience will begin showing in the months ahead.