The Last War

Falling through the universe at the speed of life

By David Glenn Cox

I had to read a book about World War One once, and to try and understand what made World War One, so lethal. How and why, it was different from all the wars which had come before. No more cavalry charges. No more men marching with bayonets shoulder to shoulder in ranks across an open field. No more secret military build ups or troops hidden in the woods.

A minor naval power with a few submarines, could tie up the greatest naval power the world had ever seen to date. Two men with a machine gun properly supplied, could kill thousands. One man in an airplane could learn more about the enemies plans than a hundred spies. The threat of the submarine was greater than the submarine itself. Not knowing where the bears were in the woods was worse than knowing. When you know that there are bears in the woods somewhere.

The old saying goes, the generals always fight the last war. But that’s only because they have to fight it, having never been trained for the current war. They fall back on all they know, which is the last war. If you want to find the future, find the unpopular in the military circles. Billy Mitchell proved you could take out a battleship with a couple of airplanes. The military didn’t like hearing that and Mitchell wouldn’t shut up about it, until they showed him the door.

Charles De Gaulle wrote a book on tanks that Irwin Rommel found fascinating, and a well spring of new ideas. Churchill in his role as First Lord of the Admiralty was working completely out of his sphere on tank development, which were dubbed by the military as “Winston’s Folly.”

Until the development of the bazooka, only a tank could take out another tank on the battlefield. The Germans saw the American bazooka and said, “good idea, but you need to  make it bigger!” Developing their own Panzer Faust which became the RPG, that are as necessary on the modern battlefield today as a rifle. Suddenly the predator is the prey. Missiles with a 96% kill rate, unescapable and undefendable. Charging in with twenty tanks is a good way to lose nineteen of them.

They’ve been watching you all along with their drones. They’ve been taking pictures of you and videos with their cell phones. The citizens call and report every Russian tank they see. And Russian soldiers routinely check Ukrainian cells phones for pictures of Russian tanks, so it is very important you remember to delete after sending.

And when asked, “What kind of tanks, how many?” They then send over the videos they took of the tanks rolling through town. Cameras are everywhere and since you know that cruise missiles fly in a straight line. With instant communication, it’s only minor rocket science and simple mathematics with a straight edge, to put a Stinger missile ahead of its course.

The aircraft carrier replaced the battleship; the tank replaced the cavalry, and the missile launcher replaced the bowmen. The tank that once proud champion that smashed through the enemy defenses in many a WW2 movie unstoppable in its power. Now hides in the woods or is buried in a hole in the ground. The little drone is more lethal than the forty-million-dollar airplane. And when lost, you don’t lose the pilot.

The Russians have hurled themselves on to a very, very large school of piranha. The electronic warfare equipment works really well, when joined together with radar guided missiles. But once the radar is struck by the little drone it missed, its 1918 all over again. We have an expression in the south, “He’s hell when he’s well, but he’s sick so often.”

Estimates of Russian losses as high as 125 aircraft lost, or six years of production at full production strength. The Russians can replace all their losses in aircraft by 2028. The Russian air force will be back at full strength, right where they were in February 2022, by 2028. But in the meantime, as they have burnt through the cream of their air force. The overtaxed aircraft remaining, will now begin to fail at an ever-accelerating rate from overuse. Without control of the air, you control nothing.

Those big jets and radar guided missiles can’t protect you from a drone the size of a Frisbee. They can’t protect you from citizenry with instant communications. The tanks can’t protect themselves from a missile the size of a baseball bat, fired from a mile away. And they can’t hide in the woods from the infrared or the heat seeking.

World War Two is over, the tanks won’t be rolling down the Steppe as once imagined, during the cold war after all. Russia should melt those tanks down and sell the steel to General Motors to build more Buicks. Speed, stealth, and interconnectivity. A Subaru with a backseat full of Javelins and a cell phone is way better than a Russian tank.

On that day in Hampton Roads, when the ironclad Monitor met the Confederate Ironclad (CSS Virginia) Merrimack, all of the wooden navies of the world became obsolete in a single day. After banging cannon balls off iron plates at each other until the sailor’s ears bled. It was decided to call it a draw and begin research into stronger naval guns. General Custer chose the good ole reliable field gun, over the newfangled technology of the Gattling gun, deciding rather to leave them behind at the fort. Why, after all, who wouldn’t respect those shiny brass cannons, gleaming in the sun?

War plans all over the world are being torn up. History has turned a page. No more calvary charges and no more bayonet assaults. Russia has broken her teeth on the curb of technology. Fighting Stalin and Khrushchev’s war of the 1950s and 60s. Back before they had cellphones and shoulder fired rockets that turn tanks into flaming barbeque grills. Tiny, little drones that turn multimillion dollar antiaircraft systems into nothing more than glorified high value targets.

History called it, the attack of the lobsterman. The last great charge of men in iron suits of armor. The French knights charged uphill about a quarter mile on a warm day. The British waited patiently at the top of the hill. They then unleashed their new secret weapon, the long bow. Hurling hundreds of missiles at a greater speed, distance and violence than had ever before been imaged. They were the shoulder launched missiles of their day. The French suffered grievously but quickly learned, speed is better than armor when attacked from the air.

The British infantry tapped its foot waiting at the top of the hill, saying, “come on, come on. We haven’t got all day here.” And the few survivors in their iron suits who survived the missiles, and made it to the top of the hill were already exhausted by the weight of their own weapons.

“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”
― Winston S. Churchill

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