Zone of Control

I’m given to understand that Trump is going to send, not 800 as was initially floated, but a a full 5,000 Troops to the U.S./Mexican Border to defend us against the horde of MS-13 Gang Members and Islamic Terrorists coming from Honduras to murder us all in our sleep after they rape our wives and daughters in front of our eyes and make us buy Crystal Meth and Oxycontin, using Babies as Human Shields.

I feel stupider just typing that, but you know it’s the narrative.

You know what you should do Jon, go into the middle of the caravan, take your camera and search. No no, Jon take your camera, go into the middle, and search. You’re going to find MS-13, you’re going to find Middle Eastern, you’re going to find everything. And guess what, we’re not allowing them in our country.- October 22, 2018

There are at least 2 things wrong with this concept outside its fundamental irrationality and counter-factual basis (We have sent cameras to the middle of the Caravan Mr. Trump. There are no MS-13 Gang Members and no “Middle Eastern”).

First, the U.S. Military is barred from enforcing domestic policies inside the borders of the United States by the Posse Comitatus Act and to use them outside the border is an Act of War. Loopholes are why the units initially tasked with this duty were entirely National Guard (technically they’re State Militias under the direction of their Governors) and, because the Army hasn’t completely lost its marbles, focused on logistical and medical support for the Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (as I’ve pointed out before, the Agency of Redundant Redundancies).

But the second thing is that it’s not how you deploy Military Units.

A lot of people operate under the delusion that Soldiers stand in a line and the more you have the closer together they are and the thicker the line is. This is stupid. It allows the opposing force to easily establish local superiority at any point and create a breakthrough. You, meanwhile, can’t do the same because all your soldiers are stationed in places you’re not being attacked and they have nothing to shoot at.

Read Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence or his 1929 commentary for Encyclopedia Brittanica

The actual Turkish flank ran from their front line to Medina, a distance of some 50 miles: but, if the Arab force moved towards the Hejaz railway behind Medina, it might stretch its threat (and, accordingly, the enemy’s flank) as far, potentially, as Damascus, 800 miles away to the north. Such a move would force the Turks to the defensive, and the Arab force might regain the initiative. Anyhow, it seemed the only chance, and so, in Jan. 1917, Feisal’s tribesmen turned their backs on Mecca, Rabegh and the Turks, and marched away north 200 miles to Wejh.

This eccentric movement acted like a charm. The Arabs did nothing concrete, but their march recalled the Turks (who were almost into Rabegh) all the way back to Medina. There, one half of the Turkish force took up the entrenched position about the city, which it held until after the Armistice. The other half was distributed along the railway to defend it against the Arab threat. For the rest of the war the Turks stood on the defensive and the Arab tribesmen won advantage over advantage till, when peace came, they had taken 35,000 prisoners, killed and wounded and worn out about as many, and occupied 100,000 square miles of the enemy’s territory, at little loss to themselves.

The text books gave the aim in war as “the destruction of the organized forces of the enemy” by “the one process battle.” Victory could only be purchased by blood. This was a hard saying, as the Arabs had no organized forces, and so a Turkish Foch would have no aim: and the Arabs would not endure casualties, so that an Arab Clausewitz could not buy his victory. These wise men must be talking metaphors, for the Arabs were indubitably winning their war…and further reflection pointed to the deduction that they had actually won it. They were in occupation of 99% of the Hejaz. The Turks were welcome to the other fraction till peace or doomsday showed them the futility of clinging to the window pane. This part of the war was over, so why bother about Medina? The Turks sat in it on the defensive, immobile, eating for food the transport animals which were to have moved them to Mecca, but for which there was no pasture in their now restricted lines. They were harmless sitting there; if taken prisoner, they would entail the cost of food and guards in Egypt: if driven out northward into Syria, they would join the main army blocking the British in Sinai. On all counts they were best where they were, and they valued Medina and wanted to keep it. Let them!

Now the Arab aim was unmistakably geographical, to occupy all Arabic-speaking lands in Asia. In the doing of it Turks might be killed, yet “killing Turks” would never be an excuse or aim. If they would go quietly, the war would end. If not, they must be driven out: but at the cheapest possible price, since the Arabs were fighting for freedom, a pleasure only to be tasted by a man alive. The next task was to analyse the process, both from the point of view of strategy, the aim in war, the synoptic regard which sees everything by the standard of the whole, and from the point of view called tactics, the means towards the strategic end, the steps of its staircase. In each were found the same elements, one algebraical, one biological, a third psychological. The first seemed a pure science, subject to the laws of mathematics, without humanity. It dealt with known invariables, fixed conditions, space and time, inorganic things like hills and climates and railways, with mankind in type-masses too great for individual variety, with all artificial aids, and the extensions given our faculties by mechanical invention. It was essentially formulable.

In the Arab case the algebraic factor would take first account of the area to be conquered. A casual calculation indicated perhaps 140,000 square miles. How would the Turks defend all that—no doubt by a trench line across the bottom, if the Arabs were an army attacking with banners displayed…but suppose they were an influence, a thing invulnerable, intangible, without front or back, drifting about like a gas? Armies were like plants, immobile as a whole, firm-rooted, nourished through long stems to the head. The Arabs might be a vapour, blowing where they listed. It seemed that a regular soldier might be helpless without a target. He would own the ground he sat on, and what he could poke his rifle at. The next step was to estimate how many posts they would need to contain this attack in depth, sedition putting up her head in every unoccupied one of these 100,000 square miles. They would have need of a fortified post every four square miles, and a post could not be less than 20 men. The Turks would need 600,000 men to meet the combined ill wills of all the local Arab people. They had 100,000 men available. It seemed that the assets in this sphere were with the Arabs, and climate, railways, deserts, technical weapons could also be attached to their interests. The Turk was stupid and would believe that rebellion was absolute, like war, and deal with it on the analogy of absolute warfare.

Let’s do some math. The length of the U.S. border with Mexico is 1,954 miles. If the 5000 Troops were evenly deployed that would give you roughly 2.5 Soldiers per mile, already a bad idea because the effective range of standard issue M16 A Series Rifles is about 440 yards (to be fair numerous studies show that almost all combat takes place at less than half that distance) and the very best sniper rifles have a range of 1.5 miles (also, Teams of 2 so cut your force in half).

So it’s technically possible that you could put lethal force on every inch provided you had Soldiers who could stay awake 24/7 for months at a time. Not that they’d need to, most of them will never see a target. Those that do will see too many to shoot.

Those smooth lines you see on Battle Maps are illusions. A military unit exercises a “Zone of Control” that surrounds it but the spaces between are empty. In conventional, stand up Warfare you set a defensive line (doctrine says you must outnumber your opponent by at least 3 to 1 for your direct attack to succeed), and steal away everything you can spare for a breakthrough where you can achieve 3 to 1 superiority at least locally and for a time. Then you pour your reserves through the gap to strangle your target logistically. No beans, no bullets, no fight.

The Classic Counter Insurgency variation of this is establishing “Bases of Support” and sending out Patrols to bait your enemy into exposing themselves so you can crush them with your Bases’ Firepower. As a Grunt this is kind of dangerous, most contact comes when someone is dropped to the ground in an ambush.

A current wrinkle is to take small teams of highly trained “operatives” and hurl them like guided bombs or Kamikaze to destroy high value Command and Control or Logistical targets. So far it’s worked about as well as Classic Counter Insurgency but the Soldiers feel ‘special’ and ‘elite’, not mere cannon fodder so I suppose that’s something.

Me? I think sending Troops to the Border in whatever quantity is ineffective and feckless and also morally wrong. I’m Ben Franklin White and not threatened by the idea that everyone should enjoy the Rights and Privileges I do.

I find it strange and confusing that so many have the deplorable idea that their personal status is dependent on the suppression of others.