Recently I received a review from James Jago that included this line:

"I'm no military expert, though I would dispute that you are either..."

Being a military buff I couldn't just let that go unanswered. No, James, I'm not a military expert. I never claimed to be. As I said once in answer to another review: "I'm not a real Admiral. I just play one on the Internet." For the record, I have never been in the military. I'm just a wanna-be writer that really likes reading and writing about warfare. Most of what I know about it comes from media sources available to the general public. I will never be called upon by some network news organization to be a "military analyst". I will never chair some symposium on the future of warfare. I happily concede your point.

That said, I'm absolutely certain I can outstrategize YOU with half my brain tied behind my back (Just to make it "fair").

I don't expect anybody reading this to take my word for it, so I offer evidence. What follows is a recent email exchange between me and James Jago. His part is used with permission. It had the subject line "Some thoughts on the Imperialist." It goes like this:

"I've given the above esay a little thought over my summer holiday, and

I've reached the following conclusion.

If the United States attempted to implement this proposal, it would fail

at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.

I will concede that you might well be able to subvert the whole of the

American continent, but what about the rest of the world? How are you

going to accomplish it without forward bases of any kind?

Let's take Great Britain as an example, if only because I happen to live

there. The second we got any hint of a US takeover bid, every US airbase

in the country would be either overrun by our troops or levelled by

airstrikes and artillery. It isn't humanly possible to retain a base

completely encircled in unfriendly territory without more forces than the

USA maintains in Britain.

So, a carier battle group is sent to commence your trademark laser light

show. It encounters attack submarines the equal of anything in the US

Navy, guided missiles and repeated air attacks from pretty much all of

Europe- we might not be popular acros the Channel, but if they think

they're next they'll throw everything they've got at you.

Your strike aircraft will come up against modern, sophisticated air

defence systems and interceptor aircraft; the first time in quite a while

that this has happened, if I'm any judge. Hell, your military buys the

Rapier SAM from us, and it's our standard air defence missile system.

If your ground troops succeed in landing on British soil they will come

up against up to about fifty thousand well trained and equiped infantry,

tanks which are widely regarded as better than the Abrahms, and maybe

even strategic weapons. And of course, if you somehow gain the upper hand

I imagine that the last thing our government will do is order any intact

nuclear ballistic missile bases and submarines to blow the East Coast to


And that's just one country. It'll be the same in France, Germany and

just about everywhere else, or maybe even worse.


James Jago."


Not quite. It was actually this:

"I'm thoroughly dismayed, James. I'm well aware that you and your friends

on the left seem to think I'm not too bright, but I'm still surprised

that you seem to be fixated on the idea that I know nothing about

warfare, I didn't think of the potential risks before I wrote the essay

and that it's never occurred to me in my life to pick up a copy of

'Jane's Fighting Ships' once in a while.

Yes, you have modern submarines. Yes, you have great submarine

commanders. Here's the thing: the most modern things about your subs--the

Pressurized Water Reactors, the Harpoon anti-ship missiles, the Tomahawk

missiles--were designed by us, which means we know how they all work. Our

commanders have also been to your Undersea Warfare schools, so we know

how you'll use them. Intelligence and technology on both sides offset, so

it comes down to attrition. Do the arithmetic. You have sixteen subs

TOTAL, and only twelve are built specifically to sink other subs and

ships. The US Navy operates 25 Los Angeles-class attack subs in the

Atlantic alone. Your next generation attack sub isn't due off the ways

till 2006. We already operate three, the Seawolf-class, and by the time

Astute launches we'll be operating a squadron of SSGNs, converted boomers

with the capacity to carry Special Forces, over a hundred Tomahawks and

lots of Mark48s and Harpoons. Just one of these guys could toast every

submarine home port and tender you own and blockade your coast, leaving

your submariners no choice but to stay at sea and fight or run to France.

I think they'll fight. That's fine by me. We'll just have two thirds of

SUBLANT in the Atlantic waiting for them. BTW, none of this takes into

account all the long-range aircraft we have aboard our carriers and

stationed on the Eastern Seaboard designed to hunt down and kill enemy

subs before our ships ever have to worry about them. And frankly, there's

a LOT of damage the US Navy can do to the UK that doesn't involve sitting

in the Irish or North Seas and letting themselves get picked off by

Tigerfish or Spearfish torpedoes, and your Navy simply doesn't have

enough resources to counter every potential threat.

Yes, there are risks in forward basing. That's why we operate 12 ships

capable of carrying air wings bigger than some peoples' Air Forces in the

first place. It's also why we keep six thousand Marines, along with their

armor and air support, at sea at all times. It's also why we train those

Marines to evacuate and relieve Americans stationed in hostile territory

when it hits the fan. It's why we preposition forces on small islands we

either own outright or can easily defend. It's why we have a merchant

marine. It's why we have Naval Engineers that can build ports and air

bases wherever we please. We learned all this stuff in World War Two.

Where have YOU been? And your notion that 'It isn't humanly possible to

retain a base completely encircled in unfriendly territory without more

forces than the USA maintains in Britain' is wrong. Your own country's

history proves it. Have you ever seen the movie 'Zulu'? It's based on the

account of a short company of British Regulars stationed in Natal

Province in the late Nineteenth Century. Those men held off an attack by

four THOUSAND Zulu warriors. And it wasn't just because the Brits had

guns. Those same Zulus had already dusted a much bigger British force

earlier. In warfare the advantage is ALWAYS with the defender, and a

smart commander can hold out against anything, especially if he knows

support is on the way. And your contention assumes that a)No one would

supply the extra force necessary in advance of hostilities, or b)We would

WANT to defend the bases when it's much easier to let you have them and

evacuate our people before the showdown. Tactically speaking, losing a

forward base in a country WE'RE TAKING OVER ANYWAY is a setback, not a


'[G]uided missiles and repeated air attacks from pretty much all of

Europe' don't frighten me. In some ways their militaries are in worse

shape than yours, so in order for them to use those 'guided missiles'

effectively they'd need to be stationed safely in the English Channel and

the North Sea. I've already explained why you can't guarantee that. As

for their aircraft, the most advanced airplanes deployed by Europe's air

forces are still at least half a generation behind the planes in the US

Air Force and Navy. The most advanced planes you've built are still

mainly in the testing and development stages, and by the time they're

deployed in numbers America will be flying the F-22 Raptor and Joint

Strike Fighter in squadron and wing strength. And let's be honest. "All

of Europe" isn't going to come to the rescue. If they really are afraid

they'll be next, then most nations will husband their resources so that

they can make sure they have enough to defend themselves. Think about it:

What if they throw everything into the defense of Britain and STILL lose?

They'll have enough problems banding together to defend the continent

with intact forces, much less ones attrited in the defense of Britain.

The neutral countries, like Switzerland, most likely WON'T fight until

their own borders are threatened. Some will probably make side deals,

trading some sovereignty for security and a piece of the action. There

are a few that might actively support us, like the former Eastern Bloc

countries, who might figure being part of US Europe would be better than

kissing French ass to be part of the EU. Turkey may just sit back and

Laugh Their Asses Off while all the infidel imperialists throw down on

each other, then make moves on the winners. And the Russians? Hey, you

have to pay your troops before they'll fight hard for you. If they even

deploy before we hit the Norwegian Sea or Eastern Germany I'll have a

heart attack and die from the surprise. Germany may end up the UK's best

friend in the battle, but every time Germany has tried to be more than

the landlocked regional power it is it's been knocked back to the drawing

board. I can't see them wanting to have their "Reset" button hit again by

going up against the United States. Look for them to deal.

And then there's France. Noble France, Great France, La Belle

France...which hasn't mounted a single successful military campaign since

the start of the 20th Century. It couldn't stop Germany without

Anglo-American help in World War One. It was Germany's butt-monkey till

America came along in WWII. France and Britain combined couldn't take

back one canal without American approval and using Israel as a scapegoat.

The Vietminh handed the Gauls their rear ends in Indochina. THIS is who

you're counting on to Save Britannia when the Big Bad Yanks come sailing

in? Face it, James. If it ever comes down to the US vs the UK, it WILL

just be the US vs. the UK. It's not just a matter of whether or not the

mainland countries like you.

So let's game out the US vs. the UK. Compared to our Navy, you don't have

one. The combat power simply is not there. All three of your carriers and

your helicopter amphib combined don't carry as many useful tactical

aircraft as one Nimitz-class carrier usually deploys with (70) or is

capable of deploying with (90-100). Also, in a pinch our helicopter

amphibs can be used to deploy a large wing of tactical

aircraft--Harriers, like yours--to do anti-ship and anti-air duties. I

already described how the undersea battle could go, and if we thought

you'd ever use your sublaunched nukes we'd go after the boomers FIRST.

We've been practicing to do it since the Cold War. New enemy, same

mission. Let's say we sweeten the pot by beefing up the bases we left in

Iceland. (They've got no military at all. How could they stop us?)

Station an extra Navy wing there, along with an Air Force composite wing,

some Orions and some Sentries, deploy a carrier with a wing and a half

aboard with two replenishment ships and escorted by a pair of Ticonderoga

cruisers, a pair of Arleigh Burke destroyers, a pair of Perry frigates

and four Spruance destroyers mounting about eighty Tomahawk TASMs each in

their vertical launchers and we could establish an Anti-Brit Kill Zone

between the Iceland-UK part of the GIUK Gap. That, mind you, is nowhere

near all of the US Navy's combat power, yet you'd need practically all of

the Royal Navy's combat power to counter it, and you'd be committing

suicide trying to do it on the open sea. You'd have to resort to a

coastal defense and hope that land based air power is enough to help turn

the tide. So let's game the air war. Tactically speaking the only useful

aircraft you have are Harriers, Tornados and Nimrods. These would be

going up against Tomcat-Ds and Hornet-Cs, -Es and -Fs. Both sides would

have AMRAAM and Sidewinder but the 'Cats would have Phoenix, which can

kill well outside the other missiles' range. We'd also have a short term

long-range assist from the Eagles (F-15) and Falcons (F-16) on Iceland.

You'd have the numbers, but that could be offset by our planes working in

concert with the Ticos and Burkes by luring the Brit planes into Standard

Missile kill zones. (See, we managed to build a couple of modern air

defense systems of our own.) And our fighters would only have to hold out

long enough for our attack planes to render your air fields useless. And

your "modern" air defenses? We know you have them and we know how they

work, so, as usual, we'll go after them before we hit the air fields. Or

have you never heard of "Wild Weasel" techniques, or the F-117A

Nighthawk? You live in the country where Fred T. Jane was born. Do a

little more digging and see who really wins this second "Battle of


So, your Navy's stymied (and probably sunk), your air force is neutered

and now we have to face, what, 50,000 grunts and some really cool tanks?

Actually, I think you're selling your army short on that infantry number,

and you didn't even mention the Royal Marines, the Paras or the Special

Air or Boat Services. But I digress. The point here is that we now have

to face a dreaded LAND WAR! Lawsy Me...What is we gonna DO??!! Well, if

we already own the sea and the air around Britain we can pretty much do

whatever we want on the land. We can use a couple of Marine MEUs (SOC) to

secure an air base and a port and start bringing in heavier forces

through them, like assets of the Special Operations Command, some Armored

Cavalry Regiments and Mechanized Infantry Units and, oh yeah, some A-10s,

AH-1Zs and AH-64s to knock out all those "superior" tanks of yours.

Look, Junior, the bottom line here is that your example is flawed. No,

even if everybody in the United States voted 'Yes' on the World Takedown

Referendum tomorrow we would not have enough manpower to overthrow the

entire planet in one fell swoop. That does not automatically translate

into 'We can't take Great Britain.' If the UK were the ONLY target we

could make it the 51st State any time we pleased. Remember: Hawaii was a

Kingdom once, too. And Japan was an Empire."

So there it is. Feel free to pick the scenarios apart, scrutinize them, nitpick the daylights out of them, then you decide which of us has a better strategic grasp of the situation.

Armchair Generalship is not hard. You just have to know three things:

1) Everyone has a goal.

2) There are always obstacles in the way.

3) To achieve the goal, the obstacles must be removed.

Keep these principles in mind and apply them to the battlefield before your enemy does and you can win any battle. You do not have to be a "military expert" to know that. It's the essence of warfare. It's the essence of LIFE.