Swans Commentary » swans.com November 19, 2007  



The Home Court Advantage


by Philip Greenspan





(Swans - November 19, 2007)  How could a couple of basket cases like Afghanistan and Iraq check the world's sole superpower for so many years? How could a Third World country like Vietnam stave off three major world powers -- Japan, France, and the U.S.? How were all those African and Asian colonies of the major powers able to throw off their yokes since WWII? The odds of any one of those upsets was substantial. Yet underdogs in wars -- the vastly underrated underdogs -- have quite often upset their more formidable attackers!

Statistical analysis has proven that the home team has an advantage. Calculations have determined the numeric point advantage for teams playing in any sport in high school, college, or a professional league. A few examples of recent calculations provide the following: the National Basketball Association, 3.2; NCAA college basketball, 4.2; National Football League, 1.44; NCA college football, 1.94; and National Hockey League, 0.31.

I am no expert but from casual and limited knowledge of major wars it would seem that a definite and substantial home team (invaded country) advantage exists. Mighty military powers were unable to win some wars that initially seemed to be sure things. The American colonies revolted against the mighty British to gain their independence. Napoleon got beaten when he took on the Russians as did the ferocious German Army in WWII. The North Koreans were able to hold off the U.S. and its allies. And as mentioned above, the Vietnamese withstood three major powers; and currently both Iraq and Afghanistan are tying up the awesome US superpower.

Carl von Clausewitz, the famed Prussian military historian and theorist, correctly pointed out that ". . . war is simply a continuation of political intercourse, with the addition of other means." It is therefore necessary to know what the ultimate political objectives of the belligerents are to determine who is the victor. If toppling Saddam was the US's objective as was often initially claimed, the U.S. would have won the war early on. But the real objective is to take control of the country by installing a puppet government that would grant the U.S. whatever it wanted. This has become an impossible challenge.

There are several reasons to account for the home team advantage in sports. Similarly there are reasons why the battlefield gives an advantage to the locals. Recent wars have increasingly involved civilian populations. The horrors that kill, maim, and abuse their family members and friends spawn burning hatred of the enemy forces -- hatreds so intense, unflagging, and persevering that it exceeds and outlasts the motivations of the invaders and will not cease until the occupiers are forced out. There are the ongoing logistical problems of moving men and equipment to suitable areas adjacent to the enemy country -- the greater the distance and difficultly of reaching that area the greater the home country's advantage becomes.

It took two and a half years after the U.S. entered WWII to move sufficient troops and equipment to augment the British for an attack on the home continent of the Nazi enemy via fortress Europe, the quickest route to the German heartland. Heavy bombardments of the Normandy coast by the navy and the air corps preceded the landing of 156,000 men who hit the beaches after the 26-mile crossing of the English Channel. The D-Day operation on June 6, 1944, was the largest amphibian landing in history. By that date the Wehrmacht had been battered on the Russian front and was still engaged there and in Italy. Therefore they were unable to station crack troops and adequate equipment along the thousands of miles of the Atlantic coast where old and tired reserves anticipating the attack were stretched. Yet those defenders, realizing the Fatherland had become vulnerable, dug into the now familiar territory and within the first 24 hours inflicted 10,200 allied dead and wounded casualties.

The fresh, fearsome US military force that began Bush's War on Terrorism in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, has been worn down. Personnel and equipment have taken a beating. Those two pushover opponents have not been subdued. Expeditious and acceptable resolutions of these wars seem inconceivable. The megalomaniac war hawks now in control have learned nothing and spurned the wise advice offered. Don't expect anything different from the idiots in both parties who are the front-runners to win the next election. The current policies will continue so long as the GIs will obediently respond to their idiocy.

Engineers know that even steel subjected to repetitive stresses will eventually fracture from metal fatigue. What happens to steel happens to the GIs who undergo the wartime stresses. A sizeable portion of the current war's veterans suffer from Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder. Eventually more and more troops will have had enough of war and will no longer want to play soldier! Vietnam saw an unprecedented mutiny take place. It will occur again if the insane war is not stopped.

The Armed Forces Journal of June 7, 1971, had an article by Col. Robert D. Heinl, Jr. titled "The Collapse of the Armed Forces." Some pertinent statements from that article are:

. . . The issue of "combat refusal," an official euphemism for disobedience of orders to fight -- the soldier's gravest crime has only recently been again precipitated . . . "Search and evade" . . . (meaning tacit avoidance of combat by units in the field) is now virtually a principle of war, vividly expressed by the GI phrase, "CYA (cover your ass) and get home!"

These were some of the mutinous actions that helped to terminate that war. Similarly-phrased activities are occurring in Iraq. A recent article by Dahr Jamail entitled "Ill-Equipped Soldiers Opt for 'Search and Avoid'" states:

Iraq war veterans now stationed at a base here say that morale among U.S. soldiers in the country is so poor, many are simply parking their Humvees and pretending to be on patrol, a practice dubbed "search and avoid" missions. . . . "So we would go find an open field and park, and call our base every hour to tell them we were searching for weapons caches in the fields and doing weapons patrols and everything was going fine." . . . Other active duty Iraq veterans tell similar stories of disobeying orders so as not to be attacked so frequently. . . . The "search and avoid" missions appear to have been commonplace around much of Iraq for years now. . . . Millard told IPS "search and avoid" missions continue today across Iraq.

Thus mutinies already exist. The officers are probably aware of what is occurring but having learned that zealous and unsympathetic officers were "fragged" (murdered) in Vietnam so they deliberately don't see, hear, or know what's happening. Inevitably and fairly soon the mutinies will increase and become too obvious to be ignored. How will the government and the simpatico media react?


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About the Author

Philip Greenspan on Swans (with bio).



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Published November 19, 2007