Iraq reversals and Close Air Support

Back in the day, close air support implied identification of targets by compass coordinates and visual features, largely by ground observers without specialist training, relayed in real time to loitering aircraft. This is an obsolete conception. For a suitable replacement, think of an embedded team that provides air traffic control, and electronically determined target coordinates created by a variety of designation gadgets, suitable for direct input into the launch system of a precision guided weapon.

“Advisers in Iraq: What They Do, What They Can Do” offers examples of how deployment of a Tactical Air Control Party can positively modify the effectiveness of ground troops. With rag-tag militias, the effect can be so profound as to almost verify the discredited notion that wars can be won with air power. Wars cannot be so won, but battles can.

The precision and scope of a Tac Air Support Party is readily evident on the ground. A precision guided strike leaves a characteristic footprint, and Iraqi troops are talkers. The absence of the talk suggests that  Iraqi troops have not had more than occasional benefit of this force multiplier.

The taking of Ramadi by ISIS forces that are reported to have formed a massed concentration before the attack suggests that something is missing from U.S. strategy.  Concentrations are targets of opportunity. This does not immediately lead to the conclusion by Lindsay Graham that 10,000 U.S. ground troops are appropriate. But the Administration strategy contains an undefined hole.  To date, responses  have  provisioned  inadequate force, and deferred too much to the forms imposed on our thinking by the traditions of Western diplomacy. Although relevant to us, those traditions are irrelevant to the actors.


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