War Theater

Every war is different. Every nation is different, and things can change from region to region. Wars may be over resources, territory, economics, religion or whatever, they all have one thing in common and that is people are involved. People are not simple and everyone reacts different under pressure.

In essence people will react differently to warfare. War is not about killing the enemy, that is only the most visible aspect of warfare. War is about wills clashing violently. People don’t fight over nothing, there is always something to gain and something to lose.

Most of the time when natives encounter foreigners in their land the foreigners are viewed as invaders, but all wars are different. Attackers can be seen as invaders or saviors, in France during World War Two, Allied troops were seen as liberators. In Germany Allied Troops were seen as invaders.

Every theatre of conflict is different and that difference will have a profound effect on the warriors involved. For example, in Afghanistan, Soviet troops had been trained to fight the United States, Great Britain, West German, France and their allies. The US was the Soviet’s main enemy, all her attention was focused on being able to defeat the US in a major confrontation. Then the Soviet Union decides to make Afghanistan a puppet state, like Romania and Czechoslovakia. Suddenly the Soviet soldiers found themselves fighting a different, and very dangerous enemy. Like Vietnam affected the United States, so did Afghanistan affect the Soviet Union.

When writing about war a lot of different things should be taken into consideration about the area of conflict;

How are the combatants perceived by locals? Do the locals see them as invaders or saviors, what do they do about it?

How is the conflict perceived by people in the homeland? Are they against it like during the Vietnam war, or for it like in Desert Storm.

What is the National Will? What is the war about? Why are two or more sides fighting? If the conflict is perceived negatively by the people at home then why is the war still going on?

What is the Endurance and Fortitude of the combatants? How strongly is the clash of wills and desire to win? Guerrillas are often willing to fight for ten to twenty years, or more to free their homeland (or establish their government/religion). National armies are usually interested in ending the fight more quickly, goals and missions are usually more defined. Had the liberation of Kuwait turned sour and casualties began to mount the National Will would probably have turned against the war. As it was, the Iraqi’s will faded first.

What is the availability of Military Intelligence? How much do the combatants know about each other? The availability of information on the enemy can quickly turn the tide of a war.

What are the unit strength levels? Are all the units at full strength? Have casualties crippled units? How has this affected tactics and offensive/defensive operations.

Are combat units able to get Rest & Recuperation? Are the troops starting to burn out or are they able to be rotated back to a rear echelon area to recover their mental sanity?

How is National Policy affecting the war? This can turn a possible victor into a battlefield cripple. National Policy might prohibit returning fire with artillery, or mortars so civilian won’t be endangered. Certain areas (which the enemy is hiding out in) might be off limits for any number of reasons. In Vietnam, National Policy was notorious for protecting the enemy. Sometimes when they were in plain view.

Where are the logistical supplies coming from? A neighboring nation, an orbiting starship? Hidden caches? Ammunition (with a few futuristic exceptions) is not unlimited and combat units will need more. Iraq was getting supplies from Jordan. In Afghanistan the Mujadeen were mostly supplied by looting the bodies of the dead. It varies but there must be a source.

What are the Offensive/Defensive goals? Does the military have a target to attack? Why and what is the plan?

How are casualties evacuated and where do they go? This is very important for the morale of the troops.

What method are the combatants using to wage war? Attrition warfare like the European Theatre in World War One and Two. Maneuver Warfare, like Gordon R. Dickinson’s The Dorsai? or Revolutionary Warfare like Afghanistan and Vietnam?

How do recruits replace combat losses? This is a tricky one. By assigning them to a unit while that unit is conducting a mission is perhaps the worst method. The United States used it frequently during Vietnam. The best method is to pull the unit back for a period of time to rest, recuperate and train. During training recruits are integrated into the unit. This allows the unit to establish Standard Operating Procedures that everyone knows. It dramatically increases the professionalism of the unit.

Are there Allies and what are they like? Does the enemy have allies? How do the allies affect the battle. In Vietnam the United States had the South Vietnamese (or vice versa), there were also the Canadians, the Koreans, the British and many others. In Afghanistan the Soviets had local allies. In Desert Storm, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Saudi, British, French troops and others fought beside the Americans. Are allied troops superior or inferior to other troops?