The President has said that he will destroy the Caliphate, but there hasn’t been much shock or awe yet, Jerry Pournelle notes:
Of course one can only send what one has. What is really needed is Delta Force ground units with several squadrons of Warthogs (A-10 Thunderbolt). Actually, P-47 Thunderbolts would do, but we don’t have any of those. Ground units with adequate sir support under and air supremacy umbrella is generally successful in any kind of war, whether the enemy is the Wehrmacht of the North Vietnamese Army of 1972 when it invaded the South. Note that in that campaign, the North Vietnamese lost over 100,000 in killed, disabled, or captured; the US lost under 500 troops total in battles involving more enemy armor than many World War II engagements.
What is really needed is to form a new United States Army Air Corps with a 3-star general in command; its mission would be to design, develop, procure, train, and generally plan operations of air weapons suitable for support of the field army. That structure would provide a career path for those who wish to specialize in air/ground war. Of course USAF will never allow this, although they don’t understand or want the ground support operations mission, even though that is what is decisive in this kind of war.
USAF has one of the world’s best civil engineering capabilities: they build and operate bases. Perhaps the Army could borrow USAF construction units to build bases in Peshmurga controlled Iraq; the Army would have to provide security. Under present USAF/US Army turf treaties, the Army has to use helicopters, which are far more vulnerable to ground based opposition. This gives hot USAF pilots more missions, since air supremacy (which includes elimination of ground based anti-air weapons) is an Air Force specialty and they are very good at it. The problem is that when it comes to any budget crises, it’s the Thunderbolts that go first, leaving the Army stuck with vulnerable helicopters.
An American ground/air expeditionary force with unified command structure sounds like the Marines, but they don’t have optimum ground army support aircraft either.
Four squadrons of Warthogs and a regiment of Green Berets would eliminate the Caliphate in short order, recapturing or destroying the expensive weapons we gave the ineffective Iraqi forces which threw them down in their retreat from ISIS. Of course it would be hard on the areas that must be reconquered, but so is occupation by the Caliphate.
Regarding the President’s speech, in the wake of our operations since Benghazi, I am not sure that the Caliphate has been impressed. Had dawn come up over Iraq to reveal massive air strikes including carpet bombing by B-52’s, along with a maximum effort from Navy and Marine aircraft, the result might be different.
We have Delta Force, the CIA teams, and the Green Beret forces; we have ground support aircraft, and we have an Air Force that, once it is told unmistakably that the mission is to support our Legionnaires who will guide the Peshmerga, can do this job. Of course that is expensive. Perhaps we can take some of the profits from the oil fields we will liberate. I am sure the Kurds will be glad to share that revenue with us. And the sight of a US-Kurdish cooperative venture resulting in victory should provide a salutary lesson to the new Iraqi government – as well as give Iran something to think about.
Of course nothing of this sort will happen under President Obama. One does wonder what Vice President Biden would do if put in charge. At least he has said that we will pursue the Caliphate to the gates of Hell.