If you haven’t done a schedule of fires for at least three artillery battalions in the field using live rounds while maneuvering, I’m probably not interested in your military opinion about Ukraine.
The above tweet was written three days before Russia initiated its “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine. The specific targets for this tweet were the multitudes of former “special forces” types (I put that in quotations, because on Twitter, one can take nothing for granted) who were opining about the Russian military, drawing upon their own (alleged/assumed/manufactured/genuine) military service, all of which, if it indeed occurred, was spent chasing goat herders, farmers, and wedding parties around Iraq and Afghanistan.
These so-called “operators,” whose time in service ranged from zero to twenty years, had never trained to fight the Russian threat, knew nothing about large-scale ground combat or maneuver warfare, and had never experienced sustained combat larger than a platoon-sized firefight. For them, fire support came in the form of helicopters, A-10’s and fast-attack aircraft which operated free from worry of any modern integrated air defense system. Artillery or heavy mortar support was delivered, when available, from fixed fire support bases, without fear of any meaningful counterbattery fires.
Their ”war” was fought on their timetable, against a lightly-armed enemy, usually at night, where they US forces enjoyed the advantages of night-vision technology. Intelligence information was derived from a collection plan which made use of the best technology, and communications whose only limitations were derived from the mistakes made by the operators themselves. These elite warriors staged from air-conditioned bases where they had access to hot food, showers and other peace-time amenities, including internet connectivity and video games.
They earned medals for heroism by the fistful, some of them justified, many of them not. They spent two decades losing two conflicts against an enemy whose only advantage was local knowledge and tenacity. They never faced a modern foe capable of contesting every aspect of a battle space these operators assumed would be dominated by their own side. They never were bombed by enemy aircraft, shelled by massed artillery fires, confronted by tanks, and armored fighting vehicles in significant numbers, or had their communications jammed by hostile forces. In short, they had never been to war—not the kind that was shaping up to be waged in Ukraine.
Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer whose service over a 20-plus-year career included tours of duty in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control agreements, serving on the staff of US Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf during the Gulf War and later as a chief weapons inspector with the UN in Iraq from 1991-98. His new book is Disarmament in the Time of Perestroika: Arms Control and the End of the Soviet Union.