Tom Clancy would have loved this

Ukrainian reservists practice combat movement drills. Photo: Justin Yau/Sipa USA

If you are at all interested in military tactics or, more specifically, in how the Ukrainians are doing so well in their fight against the Russians, you must read Tom Friedman’s editorial “Free Advice for Putin: ‘Make Peace, You Fool’” in the New York Times. He recounts a lengthy conversation with John Arquilla, who recently retired as a distinguished professor of defense analysis at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. 

The tactics being employed by the Ukrainians make fascinating reading, even if they are mostly born of necessity. If you’ve wondered how the Ukrainian fighters have done so well against the much larger Russian army, read Friedman’s piece and wonder no more.

Arquilla recounts his three rules of new-age warfare being fought in Ukraine and explains each: 1. Many and small beats large and heavy. 2. Finding always beats flanking. 3. Swarming always beats surging.

I particularly enjoyed learning that one advantage the Ukrainians have is that so many civilians have smartphones and make excellent use of them to report Russian troop locations and movements. “[I]t’s their human sensors — the informal Ukrainian observer corps — that are devastating the Russians. Grandmas with iPhones can trump satellites.” D’oh. New age, indeed.

Tom Clancy would have loved this stuff.

Banner photo: A Russian armored personnel carrier burns amid damaged and abandoned military vehicles after fighting in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Marienko Andrew/AP

12 thoughts on “Tom Clancy would have loved this

    1. Me too. I had a general idea about the Ukrainians using small, fast, hit-and-run attacks, but this more detailed description was, as you say, fascinating.

    1. Absolutely! People defending their homes and homeland will fight like no one else. Reports have said many of the Russian soldiers aren’t even sure why they are in Ukraine. Putin lied to them.

      1. Obviously, morale is an enormous factor in warfare, probably even more so in the current tech era, e.g., drones and portable smart weapons. I have read that the Red army suffered from very poor logistics and also lacks an experienced mid-manager NCO corps which is traditional in US forces, so no wonder they have been feckless.

        1. I saw something about that too … that most of Russia’s on-scene top officers had been killed and they have no “middle management” on scene (that’s civilian talk for what you said, I think). I continue to be amazed at how inept the Russians seem to be. Very old-school. There’s more to modern warfare than just mindless thuggery.

  1. The Russian lack of pro NCO’s have always factor in how to make war against Moscow. But some history…some American political factions during the Red Scare fifties feared the “collective nature” of organizations including the PTA, thinking maybe all those Ladies might turn all those future Sergeants and Top Kicks into momma boys.

    1. Well, I was in my teens in the Fifties and don’t recall giving international politics a second thought. But of late, possible war against Moscow is something I wish I could stop giving a thought to. Hopefully our military has advanced a lot more than theirs has, but Putin is making nasty noises about the consequences of our continuing aid to Ukraine. There’s a pretty fine line between providing weapons and providing men to use them, and a pissed-off Putin may not see that line … especially if Sweden and Finland join NATO. Of course now I can’t help thinking like the grandmother of a Marine …

      1. I certainly understand your current concern…it should give is all a reason to pause, if not downright shiver….but to move off topic…sorta…you’re a subscriber to NYT…right…me too…so why do I feel that the layout just sucks…you don’t get the above the fold feel, that hierarchy of importance, nor the subject sectional context. You would think that two decades in…they would have a better UI…allowing for a greater context of the daily news flow…any thoughts…

        1. Yes, I’m an NYT subscriber. I’m ambivalent about their layout. There are so many options for onscreen layouts and there are conflicting objectives when deciding those layouts. NYT, of course, has the resources to do anything they want (unlike, say, yours truly). I haven’t read a printed newspaper in about 20 years, so that old above-the-fold thing is a distant memory. And they have considerations beyond just what should be the featured story (these days that decision alone would be mind-boggling). And a top consideration must always be is the layout user-friendly and easy, natural to naviagate — things I never even thought about in paper publications. A reader can move around on-screen pages and publications in a number of different ways that weren’t even possible with paper, where all you can do is turn the page.

          You’re probably missing the old visual hierarchy and natural flow down the page. I agree, their front page looks cluttered. It’s functional, but busy. If you don’t trust readers to look through menus, you have to put all those teasers up front. When I changed themes I went from having everything visible on the home page to a clean home page that trusts readers to use a drop-down menu to find what they want. I’m not sure which I prefer, or which readers prefer, but I keep thinking most people who come here do so via a link directly to what they want to see, rather than landing on the home page first and navigating from there.

          Oh, and another consideration — the different screen sizes your readers will be using. What you see on a full-sized computer monitor is going to have to be pared down and rearranged in some way for viewing on laptops, tablets, and phones. Pity the WP designers, for example, whose single theme design must work on all those different sized screens, not to mention on different computers, different browsers, etc. Similar for anyone creating computer pages these days. The stuff of nightmares.

          You might try viewing on a smaller screen. You’ll see more of a hierarchy that way. But you’ll miss the beautiful big photography, and those wonderful graphics presentations may not be as impressive. Hell, on this 15″ laptop I have to wonder what I lost by giving up my big monitor.

          Hmm, I do ramble on, don’t I? Sorry about that.

          1. No sorry needed. Your reply was both concise and informative. And yes, I empathize with the myriad options that digital news delivery now presents, but I can’t help but think, irrespective of the picayune nature of my online efforts, that with all the resources the Old Gray Lady has, a more intuitive way to provide context to the news of the day would have, by now, presented itself.

            Yep, I miss the above or below the fold clue of editorial import, and the sideways glance of a headline via routing a jump page. And I know various screen sizes need to be accommodated, but I sometimes think, the NYT fits the news to an “on-line smartness,” instead of seeking a “smart”utilitarian approach to better inform their readers.

            Thanks so much for taking the time, Susan.

          2. “Intuitive!” Damn, that’s the word I tried to think of for several hours, and failed. (Little memory glitches like that are driving me crazy these days.) Yes, the best interfaces are user friendly and intuitive. Or should be. And NYT’s home page isn’t. IMHO.

... and that's my two cents