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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Essay on US Military Readiness

It is undeniable that experience is still the best teacher.  Perhaps nobody would argue against the importance of past experiences to our present and future.  Experience serves as a light that illuminates our dark path and guides us to making correct decisions.  The importance of having a vast experience is more significant in war.  It bears stressing that the lessons learned by a young soldier from military schools would pale in comparison to lessons that he will learn in actual battle.   Indeed experience when used well gives a decisive edge in war.  

It is therefore important for a country to be able to learn from the mistakes that it has committed in the past so as to avoid making the same mistakes.   It must be emphasized that a mistake in military tactics is crucial as it could lead to the death of young soldiers who have decided to risk their lives in their attempt to represent and fight for their country.  On the other hand, past history had revealed to us that a well-executed plan and a prepared army can easily bring down a larger army even if it has more sophisticated weaponry.  Who could ever forget the Israeli forces which defeated a larger and ill-trained Arab forces or the case of well-trained British forces defeating Argentinean force miles away from British territory.  (George, 1999, p.5)

This argumentative essay deals with the issue of the United States’ military readiness during the World War II and the Battle of Mogadishu.  A brief description on the situation of the armed forces of the United States prior to World War II will be used to prove that the United States Armed Forces were not ready to engage in World War II and that despite the adjustments immediately before the war there was not enough time for the United States Army to gather enough military force and equipment to decisively win the battle.  The same situation happened during the Battle of Mogadishu.  Despite the experiences of the United States military in World War II and in other wars, the United States army committed similar mistakes in Somalia.  The soldiers were physically and psychologically unprepared for the enemies they faced in these two battles. 

World War II
 Before the World War II, there was already a marked stagnation and decline in the military forces of the United States (Spencer, 2000, p.3).  The size of its army dwindled to point that that it became questionable whether it will be able to gather enough force during World War II.  The economic depression that followed World War I and the dwindling appropriations for the military force also affected the ability of the US Military to respond to an immediate war (Jack Spencer, p.4).  The question that haunted the US government prior to the commencement of World War II was whether there would be enough time to gather enough troops and train them for battle.  Because of these conditions, the US Army was seriously undermanned and under-equipped to the point of ranking 17th in size among the armies in the world. 

In addition to these conditions, there were other obstacles encountered by the US Army at the outbreak of World War II.  During the World War II, the doctrinal policies adopted were still reminiscent of the World War I. Proficiency in the rifle and bayonet was given emphasis.  Despite the improvements in weaponries, there was a priority on headlong attacks and preference to fighting the enemy by physical encounter.   The troops sent to battle in Kasserine Pass were also inexperienced and had no proficiency in using newly developed weapons such as the bazooka.  The commanders, McQuillin and Stark, known as Old Mac and Old Stark, were inefficient and slow in reacting to the situation.  Their leadership style was not suited to the kind of battle that the US was engaged in.  The air-ground coordination was poor and often the ground troops were hit by friendly fire.  In contrast, the Axis was powered experienced soldiers, superiority of equipment and the excellent coordination between the air and groups troops.      

The US military lost in the Battle of Kasserine Pass.  The Battle of Kasserine Pass manifests the possible consequences to an army if it cones to battle unprepared.  Having come to the battle unprepared, the battle was considered as a disaster both strategically and tactically for the United States.  It was said that German losses in this battle totaled 1,000 casualties – 200 men were killed, 550 were wounded and 250 were missing.   In contrast, the United States army’s casualties were much worse – 300 were killed, 2000 wounded and 3, 000 missing.

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Mogadishu Battle

The Mogadishu battle was different from the earlier battles since the US forces entered the country not for the purpose of engaging in battle but to help in the relief operations and in the rebuilding of their country.  While it was not their intention to wage war, they knew however that there was an important operation in Somalia.  They also knew that the armies in Somalia were well-armed.  The United States Army did not take the necessary precaution to prepare and protect itself against what may happen in Somalia.  As a result, what started as a humanitarian mission to deliver relief goods and to help rebuild the nation had worsened into an actual full scale battle.

was a country that suffered from serious internal conflicts and wars among different groups and clans.  The continued conflicts and poor economic and social conditions within the country have all contributed to the hardships among the Somali people.  The political situation was likewise turbulent. In 1991, Mohammed Siad Barre, who led the country after a successful coup, was overthrown by a coalition called the United Somalia Congress.  After the revolution, the coalition was divided into two groups, the first was led by Ali Mahdi and the second was led by Mohammed Farah Aidid, who is both seeking to lead the country.  This constant and incessant battle between these two opposing groups caused the destruction of the country’s agriculture which affect the food supply in the country and led to the starvation and poverty of many Somali people.      

In 1992, a ceasefire agreement was signed between the two opposing groups.  The United Nations immediately provided relief operations called the UNOSOM I.  The problem however was that these missions were mainly unsuccessful because the food was stolen even before they were sent to their destinations.    The United States then proposed that its armed forces will lead the relief operations. 

In 1993, the mission was renamed UNOSOM II, indicating that the UN has taken over the operation.  The objectives of UNOSOM II were to disarm the Somali people, restore peace and order and improve infrastructure.  Since the UN has taken over the mission, plans to reduce the number of US forces in Somalia were also undertaken.  Meanwhile, in June 1993 while UNOSOM II was being implemented, 24 Pakistani soldiers were ambushed and killed.  The United Nations passed a resolution ordering the immediate apprehension of Aidid who was believed to be responsible.  In July 1992, an attack was made by the US helicopters against a house in Mogadishu where several clan leaders were conducting a meeting.  The US forces believed that the clan leaders were planning more violent attacks against US and UN forces
This attack resulted in the death of many Somali people.  This signaled the start of war between the group of Aidid and the United States troops.  Several days after United States soldiers were being killed and ambushed. 

In October 1993, a plan was hatched to capture two of the top leaders of Aidid.  What was supposed to be an easy abduction escalated into a 17 hour battle involving more than a hundred American soldiers and several hundreds of Aidid’s followers?  Two Black Hawk Attack helicopters were hit by rocket-propelled grenades and the soldiers it carried were locked in a fierce battle against Somali people.  After a grueling 17 hours of battle, 18 young American soldiers were killed and 70 were seriously injured (Bowden, 1997).

The Mogadishu battle created such an impact in the hearts and minds of the American people because US forces entered the country not to engage in battle but to help in the relief operations and in the rebuilding of their country.  What started as a humanitarian mission to deliver relief goods and to help rebuild the nation had worsened into an actual full scale battle.  The effort to reduce the number of the US solders in Somalia proves that they had not intention to engage in a war against the Somali people. 

However, it is also the lack of sufficient manpower that was deployed to Somalia that caused this tragic event to happen (Bowden, 1997, p.4).  Perhaps the military commanders thought that the Somali people who had no military training and expertise would not directly engage into combat with the more powerful US Army.  Perhaps the military commanders neglected the possibility of the Somali people launching an attack against its helicopters.  Perhaps the military commanders were oblivious to war between the Somali people and the US troops that had started several months before when they started ambushing the latter and when the latter conducted an attack in a Mogadishu house that led to the death of several Somali clan leaders. 

Indeed, the US army not only ignored the clear signs of a possible battle but they had once again underestimated their enemy (Bowden, 1997, p.4).  The attacks against US soldiers several months before this incident should have alerted the army that they are in for a serious battle.  The US Army also lacked equipments that would have been very useful in Somalia (Bowden, 1997, p.4).  A report on the Mogadishu battle revealed that the US army officials committed a mistake in not sending tanks and armored vehicles.  These armored vehicles not only could have helped in the rescue operations that would have reduced the casualty but it could have also avoided the whole incident.  (“Report of Senate Armed Services Committee Investigation on Battle of Mogadishu.”)

The report also emphasized the mistakes in military tactics committed by US Officials.  It revealed that the reduction in the number of US Armed Forces in Somalia was a serious mistake.  US Officials should not have sent US Armed Forces for the dangerous mission of abducting the leaders of Aidid.  Reports said that this mission was conducted against the advice of top military commanders.  (“Report of Senate Armed Services Committee Investigation on Battle of Mogadishu.”)  Clearly, US troops were sent to the stronghold of Aidid despite the reality of the situation that the operation had little chance of success.  

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