NATO and the Warsaw Pact: A Combat Assessment

NATO and the Warsaw Pact: A Combat Assessment

NATO and the Warsaw Pact: A Combat Assessment

NATO and the Warsaw Pact: A Combat Assessment

Excerpt

Predicting how an army will perform in battle is, to say the least, a risky business. Although most nations spend millions of dollars a year on their intelligence communities to obtain just such predictions, in truth most efforts tend to fail. Consider, for example, the surprise that greeted the West when the army of the Shah rapidly disintegrated under minimal pressure from an adversary that was almost unarmed. The performance of the Chinese in their engagement with the North Vietnamese was so surprising as to raise serious questions about the ability of the West to truly understand its adversaries. More recently, the performance of the Argentines in the Falklands, the Israelis in Lebanon, the Iranians in Iraq--to say nothing of a number of terrorist organizations--all threw into sharp relief the difficulties encountered in predicting how a military force would actually perform when finally forced to take the field.

As a rule, wars are not neat affairs. Clausewitz's description of battle as the "fog of war" was echoed a century later by Helmuth von Moltke's famous dictum that most war plans could not survive twelve hours' contact with the enemy. The number of variables that affect an army's showing in battle is simply staggering.

One such variable is the performance of military equipment. For instance, almost 50 percent of the bombs that actually hit British warships during the Falklands War failed to detonate. After the war, the British task force commander asserted that he would have withdrawn the fleet rather than allow it to suffer the number of casualties that would have occurred had those bombs actually exploded. In the Israeli-Lebanon War, Soviet-made advanced ground-to-air missiles proved far less effective in battle than they were thought to be, as did the much-heralded T-72 tank with its long-range gun. Even defensive weapons often prove defective. During the Falklands War British naval defenses, heavily laden with missiles, were supplemented by the curious device of having fleet helicopters fly around target ships towing large sheets of tinfoil beneath them. The hope was that enemy . . .

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