Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
United States Technology

How Technology Failed in Iraq 942

Posted by michael
from the sand-gets-into-everything dept.
synthespian writes "US troops in Iraq were supposed to have a clear superiority in the battlefield because of sensors and networking devices such as aircraft- and satellite-mounted motion sensors, heat detectors, as well as image and communications eavesdroppers. On April 3, 2003, the task to take over a key Euphrates River bridge about 30 kilometers southwest of Baghdad turned into a bloody hell as 'between 25 and 30 tanks, plus 70 to 80 armored personnel carriers, artillery, and between 5,000 and 10,000 Iraqi soldiers coming from three directions. This mass of firepower and soldiers attacked a U.S. force of 1,000 soldiers supported by just 30 tanks and 14 Bradley fighting vehicles. (...) "'We got nothing until they slammed into us"''(...). Read more about this story and the troubles and challenges the US military is experiencing in networking troops from Technology Review."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

How Technology Failed in Iraq

Comments Filter:
  • by Dancin_Santa (265275) <DancinSanta@gmail.com> on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:05AM (#10607048) Journal
    Perhaps we wouldn't have been in that kind of trouble if we hadn't been in Baghdad in the first place.

    Technology is the least of our Middle East problems. Support for Israel may be the greatest cause of our problems.
    • by MagicDude (727944) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:18AM (#10607095)
      I can only imagine the backlash that's going to come from this comment.

      "Can you say that the world is better with Saddam in power?"

      "Don't you see the need to support our troops in this time of crisis??"

      Nobody's disputing that first fact, but it was accomplished the Max Power way. If you don't know what the Max Power way is, it's from the Simpsons, when Homer changes his way to Max Power.

      Homer (Max Power) - "Kids, there are three ways to do things; the right way, the wrong way, and the Max Power way!!"

      Bart - "Isn't that the wrong way??"

      Homer (Max Power) - "Yeah, but faster."


      Bush assumed that the US would be hailed as liberating heros when conquering Iraq, and didn't even comprehend the notion of an organized resistance, and now people are dying because of his lack of foresight. But that's not even the point I'm getting at. The point is that people can be against the war and still want the best for the troops overseas. To say that someone who is anti-war is not supporting the troops is like saying people who are anti-crime aren't supporting the work of prision guards. People do recognize the necessity of their work, but you also hope for a world where their services aren't needed, and when they are needed, you certainly don't send them out to die because of some preconceived notion that it's their job to die.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:55AM (#10607221)
        "Can you say that the world is better with Saddam in power?"
        One might observe that the equivalent hyperbolic reply is, "So you're in favor of killing american soldiers then?"

        Also when talking about Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their expectations of kisses and rose pettels, one should mention General Shinseki and others, who before congress testified that this was not going to happen, and we needed approximately 3 times as many troops to secure the country. One should also point out that the initial attack on Fallujia that went so awry, was at the objection of the Marine commander and the insistance of the politicians. These are the kinds of things that marked the failures in Somalia and Vietnam. This deficit of leadership has a high price tag, and the purpetual willingness to finance it via a merry-go-round of short term loans does little to bolster my confidence.

        As a person who really supports our troops, I think maybe we should do the favor of not manufacturing crises. And how John Kerry handled himself and held a government accountable during a previous deficit of leadership, really gives me something significant to think about. Were I O'Neal, I'd want to think carefully about how well my aims were served by calling people's attention to that period.
      • by Black Parrot (19622) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @03:10AM (#10607282)


        > Bush assumed that the US would be hailed as liberating heros when conquering Iraq, and didn't even comprehend the notion of an organized resistance, and now people are dying because of his lack of foresight.

        Indeed, months into the reality zone Rumsfeld was still scolding reporters for calling it a resistance movement.

        Some people just can't distinguish between what they want and reality.

        • by WindBourne (631190) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @01:49PM (#10609568) Journal

          To this day, they still avoid the words "Guerilla War" since that was associated with 'nam. Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush will chide anybody using it.

          Yet, in 'nam, the enemies were a small group of citizens that had backing from nearby nations. They hid amongst the locals and were able to operate freely.

          But nah, that does not apply to Iraq.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 23, 2004 @04:45AM (#10607568)
        "To say that someone who is anti-war is not supporting the troops is like saying people who are anti-crime aren't supporting the work of prision guards. People do recognize the necessity of their work, but you also hope for a world where their services aren't needed, and when they are needed, you certainly don't send them out to die because of some preconceived notion that it's their job to die."

        Sending solders to war and your quote are different. Think it as following. There are hostages in a warehouse filled many thugs and such. So, the police send in the SWAT team to remove the bad guys, but while doing so people are yelling that that it was wrong to send in the SWAT team in the first place.

        What your quote is about is having a military force to begin with. You may be anti-war, but agree to needing a military while hoping it is never needed. Having a military and using it is a different concept.

        Also, it is not the "preconceived notion" that solders can be sent of to die. But being in the military, I know it is my job to fight war. Also, you must understand that while people are protesting the war, that gives the people we are fighting hope to stick it out longer. The longer they stick out, the more of my buddies they blow holes into.

        It may seem that there is no problem with openly having angst to an armed conflict, but the people who are in Iraq at this moment, bad comments, although indirect to you, affect then directly.

        If America was really pro-war, the troops would get more equipment, and our enemy's moral would break sooner. I am not saying that you should not be able to talk against the war, but the sad truth is when an insurgent reads on the internet that half of America hates the war and political parties want to just "up and leave", well that gives him the hope to shoot another few people in camouflage, and abduct a few more reporters because if it lasts long enough, America might just "up and leave" just like Vietnam.

        This is not a clear cut world, and this is certainty not a clear cut issue. What everyone says effects this conflict as a whole, and the people in Iraq (the troops, and the people who want the insurgents to give up) are the ones who feel it the most.
        • by feinorgh (127281) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @05:33AM (#10607699) Homepage

          Also, you must understand that while people are protesting the war, that gives the people we are fighting hope to stick it out longer. The longer they stick out, the more of my buddies they blow holes into. [...] but the sad truth is when an insurgent reads on the internet that half of America hates the war and political parties want to just "up and leave", well that gives him the hope to shoot another few people in camouflage"

          To the resistance in Iraq, does it really matter if they know that the American in public in general is "pro-war", "anti-war" or undecided? A U.S.-led force invaded their country, occupied it, killed many of their buddies and family, broke normality and turned their reality into chaos. It doesn't matter whether the resitance has some kind of "right" to fight back or not, or if they were or are "pro-Saddam" or "pro-dictatorship" or muslim or christians or agnostics or whatever. If we think about it, wouldn't they fight back with whatever means necessary for as long as they can, just as you would? It is simply not possible to 'break' the moral of resistance like that psychologically, which has been proved over and over again. The Romans did not succed anywhere. The crusades did not succeed in Jerusalem. Israel has not succeded doing just this in Gaza. Germany did not succeed anywhere in World War II. We might ask ourselves this a retorical question: If the situation would be reversed; if a technologically superior force invaded and occupied the country we live in and enforced the same type of government that exist in Iraq today, wouldn't you try to fight back until the enemy was gone, no matter what?

          • by Skinny Rav (181822) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @07:28AM (#10607933)
            The Romans did not succeed anywhere.


            Well, I wouldn't call creation of a state which lasted some 1000 years, more than 400 of it pretty close to its maximum size, "lack of success". Galia: completely latinised, Spain - the same, (Northern) Africa, including Egypt - the same. Hell, 1000 years after the Fall of the Western Empire, Greeks in Byzantium still called themselves "Romans". I would say Romans were doing pretty well as occupants. Of course, we have to remember their few remarkable failures: German tribes (due to huge political and diplomatic mistakes during the rule of Tyberius), Palestine (due to incredible resistance of Jews, based mostly on Jews' sense of being "the Chosen Nation", so based on religion) and few others. But as a whole Romans did pretty well.

            What was their way?

            - "divide et impera": play on disputes between your opponents
            - be cruel to rebels but reward loyalty
            - don't destroy, rather modify (for example: don't change customs, religion, just add yours)
            - leave local elite in charge, just add some control over them
            - show possibility of becoming "a Roman" - with all good things coming with it.

            And so on...

            So basically as little change as possible, as long as they pay the taxes, let Roman goods in, provide soldiers, and don't talk about seccesion. And let "the Roman way" creep in into their lifes, slowly...

            I think it worked, especially considering means of communication in those times: it is in some way much closer now from NY to Baghdad than it was from Rome to Lyon or Athenes.

            Raf
      • by killjoe (766577) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @04:58AM (#10607608)
        ""Can you say that the world is better with Saddam in power?""

        Objectively speaking you can definately say that the world was a better place with Saddam in power. Just in the last month there have been bombings in France, Egypt, indonesia, israel, palestine, and of course all over Iraq. That's just in one month. Since the start of the war (when saddam left power) there have been devestating bombings all over the world. remember Bali, Spain, and the hotel bombing in kenya.

        The world is much worse off since Saddam has been removed from power no matter how you measure it.
      • by gidds (56397) <slashdot.gidds@me@uk> on Saturday October 23, 2004 @06:25AM (#10607812) Homepage
        'Support our troops'... Hmmm... Here's a quick multiple -hoice question for the folks who can say that with a straight face. If you really cared about your troops, if you really wanted to 'support' them, would you:
        • a) Let them stay at home, in (relative) comfort, and (relative) safety, or
        • b) Send them out into the most unstable part of the world, surrounded by tens of thousands of natives who resent their presence and spend much of their time shooting at them, bombing them, and otherwise making their lives a misery?
        Huh?
    • by composer777 (175489) * on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:49AM (#10607197)
      Exactly. What I find strange is that we're talking about the idea of improving "efficiency" on the battlefield as if it's a good thing. War should be difficult. It shouldn't be a cakewalk to go in and kill a bunch of people. Killing people, especially innocent civilians, SHOULD be difficult, if not because your conscience is stopping you, then maybe because the technology has problems, or it's not practical..

      War should be difficult, to keep people from using it as a solution to problems that could be solved in another way, or in this case, by admitting that the problem of WMD's in Iraq doesn't even exist.
      • by servognome (738846) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @03:24AM (#10607330)
        Killing people, especially innocent civilians, SHOULD be difficult, if not because your conscience is stopping you, then maybe because the technology has problems, or it's not practical..
        Where have you been? Improved technology has allowed a political climate to make killing civilians more difficult.
        In ancient times, logistical issues meant armies could raze cities, rob food stores, etc., because they needed to survive. WWII the technology to only hit military targets didn't exist so carpet bombing killing tens of thousands of people was an accepted convention of war. Now a bomb goes awry and kills a half dozen people and the news jumps all over it.
        • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@NOspAm.hotmail.com> on Saturday October 23, 2004 @04:57AM (#10607603) Journal
          Where have you been? Improved technology has allowed a political climate to make killing civilians more difficult.

          You might need to ask yourself the same question.
          About 50% of those who died in WW2 were civilian, up from 10% in WW1. In the US invasion of Panama in 1989 about 13 civilians were killed for every military death.

          Iraq's ratio of civilian to miltary fatalities is currently running at about 33 to 1, and there is no reason to think that trend will not continue.
    • > Perhaps we wouldn't have been in that kind of trouble if we
      > hadn't been in Baghdad in the first place.

      As much as that's an argument for another time, I will say this. What trouble? The article starts out on the premise that there were massive failures in iraq, and goes to state some info about one in particular.

      Without comparing to what has happened in the past.

      30 years ago it wouldn't be uncommon for 10,000 iraqi soldiers and 1000 american soldiers meeting to end up with most of the americans a

    • MODERATORS: Whoever moderated the parent comment as Flamebait is not smart enough to be called ignorant, he is iggerunt.

      The parent comment says, "Support for Israel may be the greatest cause of our problems." The king of Jordan says this is so. The foreign minister of Iran says this is so. (They were both interviewed on the Charlie Rose show.) Osama bin Laden said U.S. government support for Israeli violence was one of the two reasons he attacked the United States. (The other reason was U.S. government s
  • by SuperKendall (25149) * on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:07AM (#10607054)
    They seem to base a lot of things around the idea that units are always connected.

    But the problem came about because tey cannot always be, that while in motion or at great distances they pretty much lost the network meant to make tem most effective.

    They need to figure out how to better keep intact the lines of communication, but also how to operate more effictively in a disconnected mode, and make the most of connectivity when it is degraded (seems like if they had email links up some primitive but useful data could have been transmitted to them as well - like an OGRE style text map of the area with enemy uints marked!).
    • I read the article, and it sounds like a failure to Keep It Simple Stupid. They loaded out the troops with tons upon tons of high-tech gear, seemingly for the sake of loading them out with high-tech gear. What good is a radio antenna that only works when you're stopped, on a tank that can go 60-100 MPH on rough terrain?

      There are supposed to be wargames and field testing of these sorts of technologies, but it almost sounds like none of that was done here. Did these technologies get screwed up the same way t
      • by fsterman (519061) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:55AM (#10607215) Homepage
        Yes there were, and they failed. The general who was brought out of retirement to run the war game didn't play by the rules. He used guerrilla warfare tactics instead of just engaging with a superiorly armed enemy. He won the first round, after that they scripted the entire thing; giving emails, PowerPoint presentations, and memos daily to show what would happen. To save face the people in charge said it was a demonstration of what the technological effect was, not a real war game.

        Loading people up with technology to fight guerrilla warfare is like using touch screens to fix voting problems. The current push in warfare before and after Sept. 11 is to make the Armed forces leaner and meaner. So they do things like load the shit out of the army with tech, make a missile defense system, etc. Hoping it will help them enough in battle they can do with less men.

        What happened in Vietnam? What happened during the American Revolution? It was guerilla warfare! "Better" tech. failing to a leaner, meaner, smarter force. Now called "Terrorism."

        Why did they rig the tests? Why do they keep pushing an incompetent missile defense system? Because there are no government contracts to be won for fighting real guerilla warfare.
        • by nounderscores (246517) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @03:21AM (#10607316)
          I read that article.

          It was called Battle Plan Under Fire [pbs.org]

          and the guys's name was U.S. Marine Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper - he gets talked about halfway down the transcript.

          Makes you wonder - what would happen if in the next war, a whole bunch of what looks like "Coca Cola" delivery trucks pull up in major cities of the enemies of america, and then the Pres gets on TV and says that if the enemy country doesn't aquesce to demands of oil and abandonment of nuclear weapons programmes, those trucks will blow up at say 1000lbs of TNT each. Closer inspection of the trucks shows that they're highly sophisticated robot drones, monitored from space, with fake drivers, and rigged to explode if tampered with.

          Plenty of time to get civilians out of the area, and it would smash things like major factories and what not.

          When confronted with using "Terrorist Tactics", the Pres smiles disarmingly and says "Well, we've had it up to here with you. We figured, if you can't beat 'em, become exactly like them."
          • Makes you wonder - what would happen if in the next war, a whole bunch of what looks like "Coca Cola" delivery trucks pull up in major cities of the enemies of america, and then the Pres gets on TV and says that if the enemy country doesn't aquesce to demands of oil and abandonment of nuclear weapons programmes, those trucks will blow up at say 1000lbs of TNT each

            There would be more enemies of America. How do you think Americans would feel if other people destroyed their cities? Besides, you would need mo

          • by ozborn (161426) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @09:23AM (#10608223)
            When confronted with using "Terrorist Tactics", the Pres smiles disarmingly and says "Well, we've had it up to here with you. We figured, if you can't beat 'em, become exactly like them.
            Like the US doesn't already use "Terrorist Tactics" or their equivalents. The only reason US troops don't act as suicide bombers is because 1)They can't 2)They don't have to

            They can't because US grunts will refuse the order to blow themselves up. They don't have to because the US air force can drop bombs from the sky at will.

            In terms of threats/exhortions the US has repeatedly threatened to bomb and attack countries unless their demands are met. This is a standard tactic of any military organization / State with sufficient muscle and is no different in principle from terrorist demands.
    • by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75&yahoo,com> on Saturday October 23, 2004 @03:59AM (#10607448)
      They need to figure out how to better keep intact the lines of communication, but also how to operate more effictively in a disconnected mode

      If you'd read page 5 of the article, you'd know that they fought pretty damn well in "disconnected mode". The battle mentioned as being a "bloody hell" in the original post was a bloody hell for the Iraqis, not the Americans. The Americans only had 8 wounded, and none seriously. This despite being almost totally isolated and without real-time information.

      There is no substitute for good training and good equipment, and that's what won the battle that day. The danger, and this is how the article concludes, is that the plan is a total change of the structure and equipment of the army in order to take advantage of this new technology, and if the technology then fails, watch out. The Americans succeeded in the battle on that bridge because they had their M-1 tanks that were able to take out vehicle after vehicle while absorbing Iraqi fire - in the new networked army, heavy tanks will play little or no role and the army will really be little more than roving bands of lightly armed and lightly armored guys carrying PDA's.

      The idea is if everybody knows where everybody is all the time, there's no need to travel in these long armored columns, there's no need for heavy armor to spearhead a major battle and there's no need for lengthy and vulnerable supply lines. When massive numbers are needed to counteract an enemy force, these smaller units can quickly swarm from all directions to surprise, surround and kill that force, coordinated with air support that's got the same info as the ground units. The problem is, if everybody in such an army doesn't know where everybody else is, then you're back to simply being completely outnumbered by an enemy who's no worse off for real-time info than you are.

      This new, networked army is one of those ideas that sounds good on paper (and it's the idea the Republicans have latched onto), but will probably never really work in practice - every war is different, and every layer of technology you add is simply one more thing with the potential to break. Technology will continue to play a major role in the future, and new weapons will continue to be developed - time marches forward, not backward. But in the end, when you're talking killing somebody or destroying a vehicle in a straight fight, the guy with the bigger gun, the thicker armor and the better training is the guy who's going to win. And the advantages of networking are really limited when you're talking about insurgencies, when you've got basically civilians just leaving explosive devices on the side of the road to get run over by the next passing Humvee, or guys who open fire from an otherwise nondescript house or building.

      I think the Iraq war will temper some of the rush in transforming the army, because the only thing that saved us in Iraq was the fact that we were fighting such a poorly trained and poorly equipped force. If we start downgrading our reliable weapons and armor in favor of unreliable technology, we're going to be in a heap of trouble. I think the way things are going now with the insurgency basically prove that we need more guys than we have at the moment, not less, and this article basically proves that we won the war initially despite the technology, not because of it.
  • by mOoZik (698544) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:07AM (#10607055) Homepage
    There is no substitute for adequate/superior manpower, that is, quantity is in some cases - including this one - more important than any amount of silicon packed by the armed forces. At least, IMO

    • Faith is... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ImaLamer (260199) <john.lamar@gUMLAUTmail.com minus punct> on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:33AM (#10607146) Homepage Journal
      There is no substitute for adequate/superior manpower, that is, quantity is in some cases

      Don't forget about heart. Many times in history the smaller force has won because they believed in their cause. I'm not trying to say this is 'wrong war' or 'wrong time' but people who join a fight because they believe it's the fight of their generation often win.

      Many of the soldiers in Iraq are inexperienced (National Guard), naive ("We'll roll over Bagdad") or they think they don't belong there (Blood for Oil). Take into account the belief that Iraq was nothing more than an upscale Afghanistan - it's far from it. More like Western Europe with sand. When Saddam "fell" they faced resistance from militias and that depressed them (because civilians were kicking their asses).

      All in all, the soldiers were lied to. Not so much about why they were fighting, but who they were fighting. A war against Saddam has turned into a war against Iraq - something they were never prepared to fight.
  • by EraseEraseMe (167638) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:10AM (#10607066)
    Once you become accustomed to what the technology is providing to you, you lose the skills that the technology was either enhancing or replacing. There's no reason, when satellites, sensors, and networks fail, that good old scouts and binocs, pieces of paper and pens can't get this information (Maybe not as readily, but at least some form of smart war-making).

    We come back, again, to the difference between intelligence and wisdom. Intelligence is knowing how to fix your external camera feed, wisdom is knowing that you can look out the window.
    • by MMaestro (585010) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:48AM (#10607191)
      devices such as aircraft- and satellite-mounted motion sensors, heat detectors, as well as image and communications eavesdroppers

      In the past a bigger bomb or a better gun had clear understandable benefits and results in a war. However in modern times, people seem to have this belief that better technology will result in better results. Aircraft and satellite motion sensors? Gee, wow like thats helpful in a dense urban area like Baghdad when you have to worry about ambushs, which means your opponents are staying still waiting. Heat detectors? Again, useless in a dense area (is that red blob holding 'something' a policeman or an insurgent preparing to launch an ambush?) Eavesdropping gear? Nice, but we're not talking about spying on the Soviet Union anymore, we're talking about trying to spy on Casual Muhammad while he talks to his next door neighbor.

      Sometimes the most basic solution is the best one, having men on the ground handing these situations face to face. Having two or three extra billion dollars worth of aircraft in the air won't do you any good when you're too scare to open fire in fear of killing civilians.

      • Technology works well, but it has to be properly used. Some examples of technology that is useless or difficult to properly in urban warfare:

        * Motion radar/ladar: Too many targets to track, not enough information passed back about targets.
        * Heavy explosives: Collateral damage is bad -- it pisses off the locals. You may also compromise integrity of structures that you need to be able to take.
        * Jamming equipment: If the enemy relies on passed notes, hand signals, and other subtle methods, you're just wasti
    • by killjoe (766577) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @03:02AM (#10607248)
      It may be overconfidence more then anything else. These guys went to war thinking they were going to fight a conventional war and the citizens would throw roses on them. It never occured to them they were invading a country and that the populace might object.

      Think of it. We have soldiers fighting iraqis so we can make them obey Allawi instead of somebody else. That does not seem right to me. If the people of sadr city don't want to be ruled by Allawi and instead want to follow Muqtada why should we care? Better yet why should we kill them just to make them obey allawi?

      Finally everything I have read about Allawi seems to indicate that he a pretty brutal guy. Maybe not as bad as Saddam but definately has the makings of a mini Saddam.
  • Superiority.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by uarch (637449) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:12AM (#10607074)
    "US troops in Iraq were supposed to have a clear superiority in the battlefield..." I think the someone's forgetting that we rolled over the entire country in about a week.
  • by nounderscores (246517) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:12AM (#10607076)
    the technology review pasted this flash ad right in the middle of the page --

    "See How IBM Middleware connects people, processes and information.

    Middleware is Everywhere. Can You See It?"



    sheesh.
  • by dedazo (737510) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:14AM (#10607086) Journal
    And it's never, ever going to go away. Clausewitz (I think) once said that no plan ever survives contact with the enemy. His words are true today as they were in the 16th century.

    It's a simple algorithmic problem. The more advanced warfare becomes, the faster and deadlier it is. Military technology will probably always end up trying to reach the speed it has itself dictated for the battlefield.

    • by SuperKendall (25149) * on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:20AM (#10607105)
      They gave a great example at the end of the article about a time when the connectivty model really worked, with great coordinating from a number of units including ground and air led to the very quick destruction of a convoy in Afganistan just because a pilot saw lights flashing out the window on a plane.

      One of the things they nated was that Afgan special forces units were independant nodes just wired together - and that connection was maintained by an "Ubergeek" of the group. So perhaps what they needed in Iraq was a few more UberGeeks in units to ensure the maximum transmission flow possible for the situation.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:16AM (#10607090)
    Is that when you're fighting guerilla warfare, adding more technology doesn't work. That's the entire point of guerilla warfare, is it makes traditional responses impotent.

    I think the problem here isn't that the Technology failed. I think the problem is that the American administration is completely misuing it. The technology the American army is based around is designed for very specific things: long-range strikes and getting a specific job done quickly and completely. The War in Iraq really vindicated this-- the beginning of the war was masterful. The problem was what happened once the "war" ended and the "occupation" began. At this point America started using a bunch of technology designed for one purpose for a purpose it just wasn't any good for-- holding territory. Um, this doesn't work so well. The Bush administration should know this, many of the people in the administration are the same people who campaigned within the defense department for these technologies in the first place. When you start trying to take an army that's equipped and trained to do one thing and then send them to do something totally other, you get situations like the ones described in this article.
    • Tech can help you take out the enemy on the battlefield.

      Tech will not help after the war.

      To re-establish order, you need people on the ground. Lots of them. You need leadership. You need a strategy.

      Destruction is easy. It's re-building that is the problem.
  • by targo (409974) <targo_t@hotCHEETAHmail.com minus cat> on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:19AM (#10607099) Homepage
    I read one of the blogs about life in Baghdad a few months ago and there was one observation that captured my mind:
    Americans are basically like aliens from a different world. They even don't look human with all the body armor and gear. And if they patrol in a city then everyone escapes from their way, the society opens up before them and closes immediately after they have passed. The patrol moves essentially in a vacuum, the streets desert at the sight of a Bradley, and they don't have any contact with the real world around them.
    It is similar to shooting an octopus with a shotgun - the bullet passes right through the soft tissue and doesn't do any significant damage.
    So it makes me wonder - would we have been any more successful if we didn't put that much effort into technology but human contact instead?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:36AM (#10607157)
      You might find this article interesting [nytimes.com]

      (Visit bugmenot [bugmenot.com] to circumvent registration)
      • by horza (87255) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @08:09AM (#10608029) Homepage
        I remember an interview with a British officer, where they explained why they were wearing berets instead of helmets. He said the moment they arrived they switched from helmets to berets to appear more human and 'with' rather than 'against' the local population. They received a bulletin where it was stated there was an increased risk to troops. They wore helmets for one day and the officer ordered them back into berets, despite the increase in risk to British lives, as they instantly perceived increased hostility from the locals. This kind of intelligence is worth its weight in gold.

        Phillip.
    • by torpor (458) <jayv@NoSpam.synth.net> on Saturday October 23, 2004 @04:05AM (#10607469) Homepage Journal
      Yeah. What if all those kids just walked into town, let their beards grow a little, took their weapons off, and just hung out with the locals, instead of treating them like "The Enemy" (tm)?

      I'll tell you: the war would be over. Iraqi's would get to know Americans. Americans would get to know Iraqi's.

      Right now, the war is perpetuated by the thin layer that exists between Iraqi and America (uniform, weapon, ammo, base camp). Get rid of that layer, and you'll have no more war.

      Human contact is highly effective at finishing war. Imagine if those cruise missiles were delivering water pump parts to Darfur, instead?

      And, before the hard-ass warmongers come down on me as a 'non-realist', and try to remind me that if you throw away your weapons, you're setting yourself up for a headshot, let me just say that its a damned good thing that your type haven't figured out how to weaponize human relationships .. yet.
      • Yes and no (Score:3, Insightful)

        by beakburke (550627)
        Sure it helps when the "insurgent" or whomever is an Irate Iraqi, but some of them aren't. The are a large number (50%?) of the "resistance" are really just jihadists from neighboring countries that are there to "kill the infidels". The Iraqi's don't want them there, not even many of the native Iraqi insurgents.
  • yep yep (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mshurpik (198339) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:20AM (#10607102)
    Just read the whole article over the dinner table. It conspicuously leaves out any discussion of the merits of armor until the final paragraph. Far more interesting was a retired corporal on C-SPAN last night. He pointed out that if your enemy is coming at you with AK-47s and improvised bombs, putting on LESS armor is pretty much the stupidest thing you can do.

    The TR article does mention hours-long downloads and network outages for soldiers in the field, making it sound like our info-warfare is not yet ready for demo, let alone rollout.
    • Re: yep yep (Score:3, Informative)

      by Black Parrot (19622)

      > The TR article does mention hours-long downloads and network outages for soldiers in the field, making it sound like our info-warfare is not yet ready for demo, let alone rollout.

      I know a guy who works on Army technoprojects, and he says the bandwith problem was because of too much crap on the network, especially with endemic rank-pulling to grab bandwith for things that may have been useful, but weren't within the scope of what the system was designed for. By the time it got down to the guys on the

  • by nounderscores (246517) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:23AM (#10607118)
    Perversely, in three cases, U.S. vehicles were actually attacked while they stopped to receive intelligence data on enemy positions.

    Oh great. All that money and all we get is someone yelling "BEHIND YOU!!!"
  • by Cid Highwind (9258) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:25AM (#10607124) Homepage
    There was a time when five to ten *thousand* Iraqi soldiers massed together to defend something? They had tanks and artillery and an honst-to-god opposition force? Where were the American press and their "embedded reporters" when this happened? All we ever saw of the invasion over here was M1 tanks driving to Baghdad on cruise control!
    • If you'd RTFM, you might have noticed that the US troops essentially did roll right over them (zero fatal casualties against a multi-thousand man enemy force). ....which I think was the main point here. They were extremely luck they were fighting with better hardware, because their software was completely useless.
    • by spagetti_code (773137) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @04:10AM (#10607484)
      The american press (and others, wasn't just them) was only there to provide propaganda for the war. There was little real reporting going on.

      For example: it has been estimated that several thousand civilians died in the first few days of the war (http://www.iraqbodycount.net/ [iraqbodycount.net]). You would think that this was a major tragedy and worth talking about. What was reported? Little. Where were the pictures of the effects of the war, the analysis?

      Both NBCs Dan Rather http://www.guardian.co.uk/bush/story/0,7369,717097 ,00.html [guardian.co.uk] and NPR's Morning Edition host Bob Edwards http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2003/cyb20030423.as p#3 [mrc.org] have questioned the propaganda that they (the media) delivered to us. Dan Rather called it "patriotism run amok" and said that it was in danger of trampling freedom of the press.

      Another example: why did the woman who photographed soldier's coffins returning lose her job? Because the war news is being controlled by spin doctors, not being reported in the sense that you and I think of reporting.

  • Friend or Foe (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BooRadley665 (516266) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:32AM (#10607144)
    Forget being able to spot 30 tanks and 70 APCs. I'm sure they were well hidden..
    Amongst all that sand and stuff... ..*cough*..

    I'm sure many nations would just be happy if they got some Friend or Foe recognition technology. Then maybe they'd stop bombing allied troops.

    Aswell.. a device that would show them the difference between the home of a family of 6 and a rebel/freedom-fighter safe house might be handy.

  • Fog of war... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oddwick11 (446434) <slashdot@vim-vigor.net> on Saturday October 23, 2004 @02:50AM (#10607200)
    Despite my faith in technology, I recognize cutting-edge tech does not operate well in uncontrolled environments. Technology did not fail these soldiers, thier leadership did. Clearly some buzzword spouting contractor dazzled the military leadership, and the military leaders failed to cut through the bullshit.

    War is the harshest of all conditions, this has been known for thousands of years. Anything that can go wrong, will. Go back to Sun Tzu. Go back to Militaides. The basic principles of war will not change, regardless of your technology. I dont care it it is recurve bows, steel, cannons, or satellite imagery.

    Don't blame technology, blame those who blindly relied on it.
  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @03:06AM (#10607265)
    Tiger I tank wiped the floor with everything. The Tiger II was heavier, more advanced, broke down even more and they couldn't build them fast enough. Eventually the massively inferior Shermans and T34s won due to sheer numbers, they were cheap and easy to make, as well as reliable.

    Then there's the AK47. Just works, desert or jungle. M16?

    War's rough on kit. Highly advanced stuff tends to be relatively fragile and takes a lot of manufacture. If I was buying kit for an army, I'd be putting words like robust, standardised/interchangable components, ease of manufacture at the very the top of the list of desirable features.

  • by dopaz (148229) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @03:32AM (#10607364) Homepage
    I see alot of comments about how we are stupid for getting into this conflict, but when reading the article I see that it wasn't much of a battle.

    "In the early-morning hours of April 3, it was old-fashioned training, better firepower, superior equipment, air support, and enemy incompetence that led to a lopsided victory for the U.S. troops. "When the sun came up that morning, the sight of the cost in human life the Iraqis paid for that assault, and burning vehicles, was something I will never forget," Marcone says. "It was a gruesome sight. You look down the road that led to Baghdad, for a mile, mile and a half, you couldn't walk without stepping on a body part."

    Even when our troops were grossly outnumbered we still did quite well:

    Yet just eight U.S. soldiers were wounded, none seriously, during the bridge fighting. Whereas U.S. tanks could withstand a direct hit from Iraqi shells, Iraqi vehicles would "go up like a Roman candle" when struck by U.S. shells, Marcone says.

    Technology did not fail in Iraq, it allowed us to kill lots of enemies even when those enemies were completely unexpected.
  • by RealProgrammer (723725) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @03:42AM (#10607395) Homepage Journal
    Bottom line, they took the bridge and the airport. Something must have worked.

    So, rather than saying that American forces overcame an ambush by an overwhelming force, the magazine spins this as the failure of the vaunted U.S. technology.

    It's a load of crap.
  • by jeti (105266) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @03:56AM (#10607435) Homepage
    I now this is somewhat offtopic.

    But while some people do at least try to count the civilian victims of te latest Iraq war (here [iraqbodycount.net]),
    I never heard any estimates on the number of Iraq military victims.

    Does anyone now of any estimates?
    • by jgardn (539054) <jgardn@alumni.washington.edu> on Saturday October 23, 2004 @12:23PM (#10609060) Homepage Journal
      The problem with the IBC numbers is that they don't distinguish between combatant and civilian numbers. It's impossible to do so. We found out quickly that one of the terrorist tactics is to go through after a conflict and take the weapons, making it look like America just slaughtered a bunch of civilians; the Americans swear on the Bible that they were being fired at, but the weapons and such are gone.

      Then there is the problem of getting a count of the dead. When Americans do their business in a serious conflict, all that is left is giblets. How do you count bodies when there are no bodies left?

      Add to that the fact that terrorists are killing more civilians than Americans, and you see another problem. Are we supposed to be held responsible for people that the terrorists kill? If we get in a firefight, and they start shooting children, are we responsible for the children's death? Of course not. That is absurd.

      Will there ever be an accurate count? Unfortunately, no. While I admire IBC's ambition, I doubt their method's accuracy.

  • by Baldrson (78598) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @04:04AM (#10607465) Homepage Journal
    Of course you don't remember Viet Nam. You probably weren't even born yet. Well, as draft lottery #42 in 1972, I remember a few things about Viet Nam:

    1. The US had vastly "superior" technology to the Viet Cong.
    2. The US government couldn't keep its story straight about why "we" were there.
    3. The US couldn't stay the course.

    The big difference between that conflict and the present one is a major player other than the US is in the region and has a whole lot of nukes.

  • Fascinating article (Score:5, Interesting)

    by marktaw.com (816752) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @04:07AM (#10607471) Homepage
    US troops were moving too fast, and a mix of high and low tech meant they couldn't get what they needed. "Hey, we have a 7 megabyte detailed map of the area, do you have 3 days to download it?" This is a classic sign of tech growing pains that nearly every industry faces.

    Assuming everyone had working satellite phones, and perhaps that was how they were getting email, it seems to me that throwing more people at it could be at least a temporary solution. Simply call up or send an email "Approaching 3 degrees north by 73 west, please advise" might elicit a human reply "20 tanks and 60 vehicles within 5 miles, may be transport. At your current speed, you will intercept them in 30 minutes, they are 4 miles north by northwest of you."

    Farther in the future, a computer should be able to extrapolate that information from the satellite images and transform it into plain text that the troops can then download by logging in to a website or something, or perhaps vector graphics and low resolution images could supply them with the information they need. All they need to know is the enemy's position relative to theirs. While this might sound like some sort of tank game from the mid 80's, based on the article it would seem that this rudimentary level if information would have been invaluable to them.

    This whole thing reminds me of the book Human Error [amazon.com]. Tight coupling (C depends on B, which depends on A, so objective Z will fail to be met if any of the previous 25 points fail) meant that the otherwise available information was unavailable to the people who needed it the most. A looser system, like the one used in Afgahnastan would have worked in a wider range of situations. The methods of communication were flexible rather than fixed, and could therefore be used in a wider range of situations.

    Hopefully the next generation of military technology will fail gracefully. That is, still be usable even when bandwidth is low.

    I also have to wonder about what will happen, as it always does, when the current cutting edge technology is commonly available. Okay, it's not likely anyone else will have satellites any time soon, but when our enemies can track our movements quickly and easily, share information amongst themselves and have their own un-manned vehicles, what strategic advantage will we have? Once you reach the point of dimishing returns (just how detailed a map can you download if you have broadband in your tank? How detailed does it need to be? Can it have real time satellite images? etc.) what happens to our advantage?

  • Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Goonie (8651) * <robert.merkel@benamb r a . org> on Saturday October 23, 2004 @04:09AM (#10607482) Homepage
    The US military may have problems, but winning conventional battles isn't one of them. There is no evidence this is likely to change any time soon.

    What it has demonstrated it's absolutely useless at is occupying a country and dealing with an insurgency. I'm no expert, but from what I've read a fair whack of blame should be placed on the political leadership that didn't do any planning for this. However, there is also an issue that the US doesn't train or prepare its military for such jobs. That's just asking for trouble.

  • Being in the (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vyke4lyfe (816605) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @04:37AM (#10607546)
    armed forces myself I don't thing its technology we should be most concerned with...Its 99% leadership. I can't tell how many times things have been screwed up because our senior ranking officals thought their way was better. Just because you have technology doesn't always equate to the right choice. Good leadership and well trained troops well always win the war. (Unless China develops a Death Star.) ex...Patton, Washington...just to name a few
  • another view (Score:3, Informative)

    by J. Random Luser (824671) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @05:21AM (#10607672)
    while Googling refs from posts here I came across an Asian view [mindef.gov.sg] on the reliance of modern warfare on ancient experience...
  • PBI still needed. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Arimus (198136) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @06:09AM (#10607769)
    Think alot of the more senior military types have forgetten with all their joy over their new toys that there is only thing that can take and hold teritory - and that is the PBI.

    Sure the airforce, artilery and technology all have their place in helping take and hold ground but without training in dealing with whatever will be encountered - from conventional warface to counter-terrorism, pacification (ideally by getting locals on your side rather than alienating them) - technology is worth bugger all.
  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @12:50PM (#10609210) Homepage
    The TechReview article is titled "How technology failed in Iraq".

    The failure? As the /. blurb quotes: "Between 25 and 30 tanks, plus 70 to 80 armored personnel carriers, artillery, and between 5,000 and 10,000 Iraqi soldiers coming from three directions. This mass of firepower and soldiers attacked a U.S. force of 1,000 soldiers supported by just 30 tanks and 14 Bradley fighting vehicles."

    The result of this failure? 8 American soldiers wounded in a battle that left a mile to a mile and a half stretch of road toward Baghdad so choked with Iraqi casualties that you couldn't walk without stepping on body parts.

    Maybe the intelligence layer failed to warn the US, but that's only one technology. The US tank armor is also a technology, and it held up against direct hits by the Iraqi tanks. US tank rounds blew the Iraqi tanks to smithereens.

    The Iraqis got slaughtered, the US took eight wounded, and this is a "failure"? With failure like that, who needs victories?

    Surely there's other, better examples where intelligence failures cost the US more, but this ain't it.
  • Military flash mobs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chiph (523845) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @01:30PM (#10609465)
    With enough warning, the US forces will be able to concentrate troops in a location to defeat the enemy. How? Military flash mobs -- a message goes out to small units to meet at a certain GPS coordinate at a certain time. In the case of needing heavy armor, the lead time would have to be even longer due to the limited numbers of Abrams available. But in the short term, the gap can be filled with ground-attack craft such as rotary-wing aircraft and A-10 Thunderbolt II's.

    The idea is to distribute decision making, such as what ocurred in Afghanistan, and to Keep It Simple, by using robust technologies such as email and web browsers.

    The big problem that the troops encountered in Iraq was outrunning the capabilities of the microwave-based communications systems. They even outran line-of-sight communications.

    One solution to that would be to plant "trees" in the desert. The idea would be to air-drop large numbers of communications relays that would have a spike on the bottom. When it hits the ground, the spike keeps it upright, and the batteries run it for a couple of days. The "trees" form a resiliant packet-driven communications mesh much like the internet.

    Chip H.

"Engineering without management is art." -- Jeff Johnson

Working...