“Irregular warfare is more intellectual than a bayonet charge”
In 2050 historians analyzing the reasons for the disastrous defeat of the United States Army at the hands of the Turkish and Iranian militaries in 2016 over the fate of Kurdistan seem to have reached a consensus that it was due to nearly 15 years of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan that had so depleted the Army’s material, moral, and organizational capacities that it simply lost the ability to fight against a sophisticated enemy.
In 2011 senior American Army Generals were able to show enough relative progress on the ground in Afghanistan that they persuaded lawmakers and the American President that the United States needed to maintain a significant ground presence for at least five more years in Afghanistan. Meanwhile the situation in Iraq began to deteriorate significantly to the point where the Shia government after a string of high-casualty producing bombings declared war on AlQueda in Iraq and its Sunni insurgent allies. As the civil war in Iraq thawed and reached the levels of 2007 again certain neo-conservative pundits combined with a bevy of senior American Army officers and counterinsurgency experts made a concerted argument to reinsert five American combat brigades to quell the violence. It didn’t work, they couldn’t stop it, and the civil war had to run its course. Sadly these brigades over the next two years took combined casualties of upwards to 70 a month. By the end of 2015 the Iraqi Shia Government had finally crushed, albeit brutally, their sunni resistance. It was at that point when the US presence in Iraq ended. The reinjection of combat brigades into Iraq combined with the ongoing operations in Afghanistan meant that over the course of three years close to two thirds of the American Army’s combat brigades were deployed, meaning that they spent a year deployed with only 6 months back at home station. Afghanistan, by 2015 and the American Army’s departure was really no different than it was in 2011 when senior Army Generals made their pitch to congress; the corrupt Afghan government controlled parts of the country like Kabul and other areas while the Taliban controlled much of the rest. In 2015 Afghanistan resembled the Balkans, a rough but still stable peace followed until the present day.
Then in early 2016 the war started between the United States and Turkey and Iran over the fate of Kurdistan. Both Turkey and Iran had become fed up with the constant attacks and concomitant separatist movements of their Kurdish populations and decided to ally together and act once and for all to crush Kurdish desires for independence. The Iraqi government requested American assistance and only a short while after pulling its remaining brigades out of Iraq sent in Brigades from the 101st and 82nd Airborne, 1st Cavalry and 4th Infantry Divisions; many of these Brigades had just returned from deployments to either Iraq or Afghanistan. The outcome was not pretty. American commanders, so long accustomed to training and operational deployments that involved stability and counterinsurgency operations were unable to perform the most basic tasks of combined arms synchronization. The Army’s soldiers too lacked essential individual skills of fire and movement; artillery battalions were unable to mass fires, and even though the Navy and Air Force had substantial amounts of airpower in the region the Army on the ground was unable to coordinate it against an enemy who stood and fought. Operational level logistics quickly collapsed due to the fact that a majority of it had been conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan by contractors, and those contractors refused to deploy again to Iraq to fight the Turks and Iranians. The Army under the zeitgeist of counterinsurgency had bought into Lawrence’s quip and had come to place priority for its senior commanders to be able to build trusting relationships with local populations instead of how to conduct combined arms maneuver.
The American Army was beaten and bloodied badly. It lost nearly as many soldiers in this short three month war against the Turks and Iranians than it did in almost 15 years of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It took it another twenty years to recover from this disaster but by 2050 China and Russia had established dominance in Asia, Europe, and Africa to the detriment of vital American interests.
Such is the fate, historians concluded in 2050, of Armies that become seduced by the promise of nation building at the barrel of a gun. There are such things as savage small wars of peace, but there are also savage wars of war, and the latter tends to be much bloodier if armies are unprepared.