“Tooth To Tail” Ratio

During World War Two, Winston Churchill complained that LSTs (Landing Ships, Tank) were missed named. Instead they should be LSVs because the Americans seemed to land many more vehicles than the tanks.

In ancient times, armies generally carried or foraged for everything except their ammunition. Modern warfare seeks to supply the front-line combatant with all the necessities: ammo, food, shelter, fuel and electricity. We also supply command and control, intelligence, weather reports and the myriad of data modern armies think they require. Even Internet connectivity. It’s what military planners call the tooth to tale ratio.


Supporting long-term combat (even without “boots on the ground”) is expensive and risky. Supporting carrier strike groups and forward-located air fields requires rivers of logistics. Those rivers require rivers to support them. And it all has to be highly organized. “The line between disorder and order lies in logistics…” – Sun Tzu, circa 500 B. C.

Extended combat operations against the ISIL will cost enormously. And when/if the operation is over, the engaged forces must be brought home, refitted with new equipment, retrained for the next mission, and maybe even reorganized to accommodate upgraded equipment of tactics resulting from lessons learned. Ships and planes and support equipment will likewise require extensive and expensive retrofit before ready for the next fire alarm.

None of this, of course, was considered by the Commander-in-Chief when he decided to destroy ISIL. That’s what the Department of Defense was designed to do. And they tend to do it well. Maybe too well. Because the cost in people, money, lost opportunities is seldom compared to the immediate threat to be countered. But someone eventually pays what old time soldiers called “the butcher’s bill.” That at least acknowledged that there’s a cost in blood which no amount of sweat and tears can offset.

How much will the war against ISIL cost? Nobody has even guessed yet because no one knows what winning looks like, much less how to achieve that state.

“Suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.” Jesus of Nazareth, circa 30 A. D.