reply to post by Skelkie3
This question was examined in the context of a few narrow but detailed scenarios in Col John Antal's tactical decision game books (you make decisions
after each chapter and proceed to different chapters depending on those decisions (and sometimes random chance)). I remember two of them were
Infantry Combat: The Rifle Platoon
, and The Combat Team
Infantry Combat examines a situation similar to the gulf war: hostile forces invade a mid eastern US ally and a thin line of light infantry is
immediately deployed to the border while forces are still being gathered for a counter-invasion. The reader is placed in the position of an army
platoon leader guarding a small pass on his batallion's flank. Because the US line is stretched thin and undersupplied this early in the war, and
your superiors expect the enemy to be stupid and undisciplined, they give your platoon the short shrift on AT-4s, Javelins, and the artillery priority
of fire, and just hope that all the enemy tanks come hey diddle diddle, right up the middle.
The book concludes that these circumstances are plausible, and that there would be no way to hold the position- the enemy would gain the rear of the
American unit and probably destroy most of the company. The reader's job is to make sure that his unit lives to fight again when reinforcements
The book allows this to be accomplished only if the reader sets himself up to get lucky- you have to identify orders that will get you killed and
disobey them, you have to smooth out problems with your NCOs to make sure they'll take the time to convince you when you're making a mistake, you
have to anticipate that you might lose the battle and designate alternate lines of defense as well as rally points, and you have to send out patrols
to find any snipers or artillery spotters watching your position, and even then there are a couple of points in the book where you have to roll dice
to decide key factors (such as whether a lucky tank round takes out both the platoon leader and platoon sergeant, turning a fighting retreat into a
disorganized run for dear life that costs the life of every man in the company.)
If you do that, the way the book plays out is that you are driven out of the pass, and simultaneously an enemy air assault overruns your company
headquarters, leaving it up to you to fire and retire through several backup positions, allowing survivors to reform the company under your command
and lead a counterattack several days later.
Antal ignores the fact that Operation Desert Shield was partially insulated against an Iraqi armored attack by the desert. Iraq didn't even want to
punch it out with Saudi ground troops alone over the Hama oil fields because of it was a lot of miles over a lot of sand and not a lot of roads to
move an army in the face of the Saudi Airforce and two US carriers, (and similar situations exist on many mid-eastern borders) but his point would be
valid at points on the Iraq-Iran border and for most of Israel.
I think Antal tends to overestimate the abilities of both sides at different points, and almost constantly underestimates both the amount and the
potency of "friction" (summed up in the original murphy's law, and proven to be nearly infinite by the ever-growing collection of "murphy's laws
of combat") but since these are neutral forces it is possible that his point still stands and that yes, the US could get a bloody nose if it made its
characteristic mistakes at a crucial moment and against a very technically and tactically proficient foe.