I finally got around to watching Restrepo — Sebastian Junger’s depressing documentary about the US Army platoon holding an outpost in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley — a couple months ago, but I didn’t get around to sharing my rather scattered thoughts.
It’s hard to watch the film without finding their predicament ludicrous. Who thought these kids should be sent to gain the trust of the local population? Would you send your local community college rugby team to do that? That’s basically who these kids are.
Less strategically and more tactically, the combat footage reinforces how rare it is to see the enemy — and I can’t imagine that assault rifles and light machine-guns are terribly effective against enemies with good cover, somewhere out there.
If the real role of small arms in combat is to suppress enemy infantry, then perhaps we also need weapons better designed to neutralize troops behind cover. Back in World War I, sniper H.W. McBride lamented that he didn’t have a rifle that shot a slow enough round with a high enough trajectory to plunge down into trenches.
Speaking of WWI, I also find it odd that we don’t have weapons better designed to shoot from cover. Wouldn’t a telescopic and periscopic sight go a long way?
And if you don’t have the high ground, and your barriers don’t provide cover from all angles, how about draping some camouflage netting or tarps for concealment?
And, as always, there’s nothing light about our light infantry. It would be funny, watching them waddle through wadies, if they weren’t our guys.
(I made some of these points while discussing the Battle for Marjah.)