You are on page 1of 4

ABSTRACT

The Loss of Strength Gradient (LSG) demonstrates how military power brought to
bear against an opponent weakens with distance. But this, along with the advantage
provided by forward basing, has been under attack. Proximity is supposedly becoming
less important for prevailing in war. It is a widely held view that has been expressed
not only by President George W. Bush but even by the person who devised the LSG;
Kenneth Boulding. As a result, it is being used as reason for the withdrawal of US
forces back to the American homeland.

One line of attack upon the LSG is that transport is becoming easier. Another is that
combatants have achieved sufficient capacity to defeat the opponent from afar
through strategic air and missile power. According to Boulding, improvements to
transport and the range of the deadly projectile amounted to a “military revolution” in
the 20th century. In addition, there is a further view which does not affect the slope of
the Gradient but undermines it by arguing that forward bases are losing viability
because of enemy threats and the reluctance of other states to host them.

This work uses Boulding’s 20th century timeframe to show that the LSG has retained
its importance, excepting only temporary circumstances, and that forward basing is no
more vulnerable than in the past. It finds that this is the result of two enduring factors.
These are the competitive nature of war and the impermanence of Great Power status.
Both were recognised by Boulding, but he failed to apply them to the LSG.

This work shows that the Bush administration cannot take lasting advantage from a
belief that distance is of declining importance. No country can withdraw forces to its
homeland and expect to maintain permanently the same power projection capabilities.

i
CONTENTS

1. INTRODUCTION 1

Forward locations for logistics 4


Forward positions for fighting 8
Methodology 15

2. THE ADVANTAGE OF FORWARD LOCATIONS FOR LOGISTICS 18

Cost of transport has not weakened the LSG 20


Speed of transport has not permanently altered the LSG 31
Forward located transport infrastructure continues to be needed to avoid
bottlenecks 47
The LSG is not permanently affected by attempts to reduce the load and increase
advance warning 51
A reduced load can deter, but not permanently 55

3. THE ADVANTAGE OF FORWARD POSITIONS FOR FIGHTING 57

Air power has not permanently altered the LSG 58


Nuclear weapons and the LSG 78
Forward bases are not becoming more vulnerable to enemy attack 83
Base access on foreign territory is not getting harder 86
Fighting from the sea continues to be disadvantageous 94

4. A SUPERPOWER AT THE BEGINNING OF THE 20TH CENTURY:


BRITAIN AND THE BOER WAR 1899-1902 100

Historical overview of the war 101


PART 1 – THE ADVANTAGE OF FORWARD LOCATIONS FOR
LOGISTICS 104
Use of forward located supplies 104
Cost of transport 106
Speed of transport 110
Infrastructure and bottlenecks 115
Reducing the load and increasing advance warning 123
A reduced load and deterrence 127
PART 2 – THE ADVANTAGE OF FORWARD POSITIONS FOR FIGHTING 131
Use of artillery bombardment 131
Threat to the forward base from asymmetric warfare 137
Base access on foreign territory 139
Fighting from the sea 143

ii
5. A SUPERPOWER AT THE END OF THE 20TH CENTURY:
THE UNITED STATES AND THE GULF WAR 1990-1991 145

Historical overview of the war 147


PART 1 – THE ADVANTAGE OF FORWARD LOCATIONS FOR
LOGISTICS 150
Use of forward located supplies 150
Cost of transport 152
Speed of transport 154
Infrastructure and bottlenecks 166
Reducing the load and increasing advance warning 174
A reduced load and deterrence 176
PART 2 – THE ADVANTAGE OF FORWARD POSITIONS FOR FIGHTING 178
Use of aerial bombardment 178
Threat to the forward base from asymmetric warfare 184
Base access on foreign territory 185
Fighting from the sea 188

6. THE IMPORTANCE OF FORWARD BASING TO A FALLEN


SUPERPOWER: BRITAIN AND THE FALKLANDS WAR 1982 191

Historical overview of the war 193


PART 1 – THE ADVANTAGE OF FORWARD LOCATIONS FOR
LOGISTICS 197
Use of forward located supplies 197
Cost of transport 198
Speed of transport 200
Infrastructure and bottlenecks 208
Reducing the load and increasing advance warning 214
A reduced load and deterrence 217
PART 2 – THE ADVANTAGE OF FORWARD POSITIONS FOR FIGHTING 220
Use of aerial bombardment 220
Threat to the forward base from asymmetric warfare 228
Base access on foreign territory 229
Fighting from the sea 235

7. CONCLUSION 245

The continuing advantage of forward locations for logistics 247


The continuing advantage of forward positions for fighting 255
Keeping forces forward based 260

BIBLIOGRAPHY 261

iii
DIAGRAMS

Figure 1. Boulding’s Loss of Strength Gradient 1


Figure 2. The advantage of the forward location for sourcing supplies 28
Figure 3. The advantage of the forward location for positioning pre-paid supplies 30
Figure 4. The advantage of the forward location for saving time 34

iv