We still need soldiers, and we’ll need more of them

A comment from Buckethead on the NLOS-C post:

We want to be the equivalent of British colonial troops with maxim guns going up against the unwashed with spears. We want qualitative superiority, force multipliers out the wazoo.

But the other side is troops. All the high tech in the world does not, and will not for the foreseeable future, replace boots on the ground.

We need more soldiers, more marines. (A few more in the navy, no more airmen, and a space force.) All the networked, semi-autonomous weapons, sensors and defenses will be orbiting around the battlefield. So that when a highly trained infantryman needs the hammer of god, it’s there waiting for him to smite whatever needs smiting.

The soldier will be the focal point of all this firepower. He won’t carry it, but he will direct it. We still need soldiers, and we’ll need more of them.


And note the front page picture at DefendAmerica.mil today:

(Click for better look)

There’s probably very little on earth scarier than a US soldier or Marine with a map and a radio.


  1. But regarding the meat of Buckethead’s essay, there is no modern equivalency to colonial enemies. That is, today the brutes with spears have the sympathies of organizations with global reach, as well as a significant portion of the great power’s population. Today’s Fuzzy Wuzzy has a satellite TV and a cellphone, and is using them to greater effect than the assegai of his ancestors. Yes by sheer force of arms the West cannot be defeated. But our enemies don’t use force of arms to achieve their objectives.

  2. True enough, but they have to engage eventually, and when they do, having the capability to immediately call down a good ‘smiting’ from heaven will not only demoralize them, but also thin them out. A prime example of properly applied force would be one of the 1000 yard shots that was related in the latest issue of SOF. The ‘Johnny Jihads’ were calling in morter strikes on a cell phone on our troops from a roof in Falluja. They didn’t even know they were getting shot at till a .50 BMG round set off the bomb vest one of them was wearing. The second one would have gotten away except he stood up and looked back at the remains of his buddy. Funny, the morter fire thinned out right after that.

  3. Coolhand, Strictly speaking, they really don’t *have* to engage at all. Car bombs and suicide vests do plenty of damage, by and large, and only lose one attacker in order to harm perhaps dozens. The bad guys use the weapons at their disposal- explosives, ambushes, and importantly, media- very well. And however effective the American military is in a firefight, it is largely impotent against unfriendly media. No sniper team can change the spin at Al Jazeera; make Le Monde consider American force of arms a net positive; or convince the NY Times that good things can happen in the long term in Iraq. Even though the US kills bad guys dead whenever they stand and fight, it does little to change popular perception. So long as the enemy retains sympathetic media, he won’t be defeated- regardless of the tactical truth.

  4. Don’t forget that the only really viable target for suicide bombings and such are civilians and/or locals, and that’s not a great way to get support either. If it’s too hard to actually fight the military and they get desperate and resort to blowing up the people they pretend to represent then how are they going to win? True, it will become bloody and there will be plenty of senseless violence, I’m just pointing out that it’s no way to win anything.

  5. That comment was intended, in part, as a corrective for any perception that I am a starry-eyed, dome-headed technology advocate that who thinks that every military problem has a high tech answer. I think that in the near future (10-20 years) every line infantryman in the US army will individually command more effective firepower than whole WWII divisions. But they will be still be doing jobs like Iraq. You need a human face, a well trained mind and lots of backup for a job like that. But suicide bombers aren’t the only enemies we’ll ever have. While the Iraqi army wasn’t much, there are other hostile nations who have more credible armed forces. Like France. Or, more seriously, China. And if China has access to the advanced Sukhoi or god forbid, eurofighter technology, we’ll need every advantage we can get, because we’ll never match them with numbers. Also, I realized right after I posted the comment that ‘smiting’ should have been ‘smote.’ It sounds better that way.

  6. Given the current strategic, demographic and economic realities, the odds of a US Chine war are slim. That said, IMO the chances for such a war would be the highest between say 2010 and 2030. At this time, the US could attack China with a realistic chance to achieve significant tactical victory. Conversely, during this time, China would have its best chance to achieve it primary military goal, the subjugation to Tiawan. Beyond 2030, as best I can tell, a military confrontation would be remote. The combat capasity of both China and US would cancel out and the stratigic reality would set in. Simply put, neither the US or China, can be invaded with a realistic chance of success without first destroying the country. After the current period of significant military imballance is ended, the threat of open warfare between China and the US would be minimal. Akin to the threat of US and Soviet Union going to war. The US cannot be contained strategically without a blue water navy or significant space based military. Currently China can contained, but only until such time that China manages to annex Siberia. After that point, both countries would be effectively invulnerable.

  7. I don’t know if China will ever be able to become powerful in a technological sense: The mentality of the people is wrong for inventing; although correct for mindless, and complete dedication to the state. I know someone well who went to china, along with others to go to teach some kids somewhere for a while. He said that the kids were awsome at solving problems for which they knew how to go about solving, but when given tasks where personal inspiration is necessary, they were hopeless. This kind of thought is hopeless for invention, this guy who went there is an inventor (and has several products which have been selling for many years). No surprise, even after numerous years, they still have not produced a successful jet-engine, aircraft, etc. (by themselves that is). As always, the biggest threat from China is the large mass of people that it has, that could do the Soviet style mass production if necessary.

  8. I’ve been a Radio Operator in both the Marine Corps and Army. A Marine with a radio is a hell of a lot more dangerous than a Soldier. (Excepting Special Forces) A Marine Lance Corporal has at least as much authority to call for fire or air strikes as an Army Captain – not an exaggeration. It’s a mindset thing.