Syria: Plenty of Nuthin'
By Gary Brecher
First, a little endzone gloating: I scooped the big papers' military correspondents once again. And all I did was sit at home and watch the networks' war coverage. But I watched smart. I watched careful. Not like a lot of you guys, who believe every crap story out of the Pentagon press/psyops factory.
In my last column, 'Lynch Mobs and Apaches,' I said the AH-64 Apache attack chopper that was supposed to replace armor in the original Rumsfeld GW II plan didn't cut it in battle. And sure enough, a week later, Slate ran an article by Fred Kaplan titled, 'Chop the Chopper: the Army's Attack Helicopter Had A Bad War.'
The good part about the Kaplan article was he was 'embedded' so he got the skinny on what happened. Here's his version:
'The U.S. Army's only disastrous operation in Gulf War II (at least the only one we know about) took place on March 24, when 33 Apache helicopters were ordered to move out ahead of the 3rd Infantry Division and to attack an Iraqi Republican Guard regiment in the suburbs of Karbala. Meeting heavy fire from small arms and shoulder-mounted rocket-propelled grenades, the Apaches flew back to base, 30 of them shot up, several disablingly so. One helicopter was shot down in the encounter, and its two crewmen were taken prisoner:.After that incident, Apaches were used more cautiously - on reconnaissance missions or for firing at small groups of armored vehicles. Rarely if ever did they penetrate far beyond the front line of battle.'
Kaplan went on to say how it was the poor old A-10 that did CAS for the rest of the war: 'Though the statistics aren't yet in, the A-10s seemed to do well in Gulf War II, especially now that the Army, Air Force, and Marines are more inclined to coordinate their battle plans.'
I should find a bookie to take my bets. I'd be making money on this war.
Meanwhile I've been checking out the Syrian Army, because Syria's being set up as the next target. Bush's people are claiming Saddam and his WMDs are in Syria. By the way, have you seen any proof of WMDs in Iraq? I haven't. Nobody even seems to ask any more. That's what I mean about how trusting you suckers are.
But if Bush's people want to invade, they'll invade. Trying to stop them right now would be like a girl telling Mike Tyson that second base was as far as he was getting on a first date.
If they do hit Syria, it'll be because of this idea they have in DC: make a 'crescent of democracy' stretching from Iraq to Syria and on to Lebanon, all the way from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. Now that democracy is bursting out in Iraq, all we have to do is franchise it out to Lebanon, the bloodiest, most messed-up country this side of Afghanistan. Should be a piece of cake. That was sarcasm, by the way.
But the first part of it, blasting the Syrian Army-that part really will be pretty easy, as far as I can tell. Like a lot of Arab countries, Syria has a decent-sized army: 215,000 fulltime soldiers and another 200,000 reserves. But then, as you may remember, we were all supposed to be scared because Iraq had 'the fourth-biggest army in the world.' That was before we found out that it was more like the fourth-biggest looting and fleeing team.
If I was commanding an American unit, I'd rather fight 100,000 Iraqis or Syrians than 100 North Koreans or Vietnamese. Because the Asians would fight, and the Arabs wouldn't, no matter how many there were.
The only time the Syrian Army even looked good was in the first days of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when they took the Israeli lines in the Golan Heights. Judging by what I've read, it wasn't so much that the Syrians attacked well as that the Israelis' intelligence had failed totally. So the Israeli lines were nearly empty, everybody on leave for the holiday, and the Syrian tanks just had to drive in. But the Syrians were so weirded out at the easy way they'd rolled in that they sat there, jabbering about how it must be some clever Israeli trick. They Egyptians, who really were fighting well down in Sinai, supposedly begged the Syrian commanders to do their part of the coordinated attack by sweeping down from the Heights and attacking the Galilee. But the Syrians just sat there on their plateau, scared shitless. The Israelis finally woke up, warmed up the tanks and rolled back the Syrians in a few days. They would've headed all the way to Damascus if the US hadn't ordered them to stop.
Once the Syrians were sure the Israelis weren't going to Damascus, they started talking big again, trying to get the Egyptians to attack Israel. I read a great line in one Egyptian's story about this. He said, 'The Syrians were willing to fight Israel right down to the last Egyptian.' And the Egyptians weren't buying it anymore. They made peace and left the Syrians to deal with Israel on their own.
The Syrians' next showing was their worst. In 1982 the Israelis invaded Lebanon to force out the PLO. The Syrian Air Force sent 90 of their Russian fighters to take on the Israeli AF. The result was the biggest turkey shoot since the last battles in the Pacific in '45. The Israelis shot down every one of those Syrian planes without losing a single plane themselves. 90-0. That's what you call a decisive score.
Then The Israelis went after the big, expensive, Soviet-built Syrian air-defense network. They knocked out 17 of 19 Syrian SAM sites in a day-and yep, they didn't lose a single of their own planes doing it. From there on, it just got worse for the Syrian armed forces. For one thing, they depended on the Soviets more than any other country. All their hardware was Russian, and they haven't been able to maintain or repair it since the USSR went out of business. Like a lot of Russian client states, they went for the big, impressive numbers instead of coming up with a sensible force mix. They bought 5,000 Soviet tanks, but half of them are T-55s, old enough to draw a pension. The newer ones, T-62s and T-72s, could be tough with real soldiers manning them. But the Syrians turned most of them into wheeled artillery, basically put them up on breeze blocks like old cars in a Mexican neighborhood, and let them rust.
The AF is in even worse shape. Losing 90 planes out of 90 in your last war can't be good for morale. Besides, the Syrian AF is all-Soviet, nothing but Sukhois and MiGs. And they can't get Soviet repairmen to make house calls to Damascus anymore.
Tanks can run for a while without an overhaul (especially Russian tanks) but fighters take more fuss than racehorses. You can pretty much take it for granted that the Syrian AF won't be flying if there's a war. And once you give an American invasion force total air supremacy, it's all over.
There's one wild-card, and that's WMDs. Saddam didn't have any, but the Syrians might. After their air force and SAM network got smashed in '82, they invested in bio- and chemical-weapon components. It was like a poor man's nuke program-a last-ditch Hell weapon to use if anyone invaded.
Thing is, even if the Syrians do have some chemical weapons, there's no way they'll ever use them. They're not crazy. They're cowards, but they're sane cowards.
There's only one country on earth that really would use everything it's got against us, and that's the one country nobody wants to talk about: North Korea.
Syria: Plenty of Nuthin'
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