The Best Defense

What are the chances of joint Israeli-Saudi airstrikes against Iran in about a year?

I know it sounds bizarre, but we are at a point where the Israelis are more aligned with Saudi Arabia on the crucial question of the day -- what to do about Iran -- than they are with the government of the United States. "For the first time, Saudi Arabian interests and Israel are almost parallel. It's incredible." That's a Saudi prince talking. So what is the logical consequence of that realignment?

Well, other Saudis are in Washington quietly but clearly saying they would permit an Israeli overflight through their airspace. And that may be just a first step. Where does it lead? I think, possibly, to the concept of Israeli and Saudi strikes launched from the bases in Saudi Arabia where the U.S. Air Force used to operate. Stranger things have happened. The Saudi and Israeli F-15s even have interchangeable parts. Flying out of Saudi would make striking Iran far simpler than trying to stage it out of Israel and doing a bunch of aerial refueling on the back and forth. Being that much closer, the joint Israeli/Saudi force could hit many more targets -- i.e., we'll do the nuclear sites, you do the air defense sites and then their missile launchers. Then we'll do an air cap against retaliatory strikes. It would be interesting to see if Israeli jets were tasked to intercept Iranian warplanes in Saudi airspace. Maybe, along the lines of the old Russian move in various wars, Israeli pilots would fly Saudi F-15s.

Of course, as a friend points out, Iran would be likely to respond with a series of its own attacks, some of them pretty hard to intercept. We'd see at least some retaliatory missile strikes against Tel Aviv, Riyadh, and Jeddah. And likely some cyberhits on Saudi bank accounts around the world.

And then we'd be off to the races. What would the next step be? Closing the Persian Gulf? Attacks on oil facilities? Hezbollah messing up Lebanon? How would the Syrian civil war be affected?

And, of course, the effects on the world economy would be interesting.

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The Best Defense

A few words in favor of the much-derided individual replacement system for soldiers

As MajRod knows, I sometimes like to take a look at icons like readiness and ask, Do we really need to do it that way? I especially like to do that on Fridays so we can talk about it over the weekend. But I am doing it today because I don't plan to post on Thanksgiving or the day after. 

So I was pleased to read an essay on the individual replacement system by Robert S. Rush, the only retired command sergeant major I know who has a Ph.D. from Ohio State, one of the best military history departments in the country. Now, "everyone knows" that, just as readiness is "good," so is unit rotation. Or at least that unit rotation is better for cohesion, and so for military effectiveness, than the stinking individual replacement system used in World War II and Vietnam.

Or so I thought. Then I read CSM Rush's essay "The Individual Replacement System: Good, Bad or Indifferent?" (It was presented at a conference about 10 years ago, but I don't believe it has been published.) Among his surprising findings, based on an intense study of the replacement system in the U.S. Army in Europe in late World War II:

  • "Units fail most often when not maintained at strength, not because the soldiers lack long-term bonds with one another."
  • "Units are more combat-efficient when there are combat-wise veterans within the unit."

His bottom line is worth quoting at length:

  • "Success results NOT from rotating organizations in and out of combat but from sustaining those organizations while in combat. Battalions fighting at near battalion strength can accomplish missions that battalions fighting at company strength cannot, even when it is a company of grizzled warriors. It is only when the veteran cadre is sustained by a continual influx of new soldiers who in turn coalesce around this battle-hardened core that a unit's combat power increases."

U.S. Army