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PENTAGON GADGET FETISH QUESTIONED

As America is poised to launch into a high-tech war in Iraq, a growing group of military thinkers is questioning the U.S. military's reliance on gadgetry.U.S. precision weapons, Predator drones, and the like were less responsible for recent victories in Afghanistan and in the first Gulf War than is generally assumed, they argue. And increasing American dependence on technology leaves U.S. troops dangerously vulnerable to low-tech attacks.In Afghanistan, the conventional wisdom goes, all it took was a handful of Special Forces, some spy sensors, and a few thousand smart bombs to roll over al Qaeda and the Taliban. But that's a myth, according to Army War College professor Stephen Biddle.Predator drones and other advanced spy sensors were only sporadically effective in Afghanistan, Biddle argues in a recent study.Before the battle of Takur Ghar -- one of the bloodiest in the Afghan campaign -- a massive U.S. reconnaissance effort "focused every available surveillance system on a tiny, 10-by-10 kilometer battlefield," Biddle notes. But despite all the technology used, Americans couldn't find more than half of the al Qaeda positions there before the fight.Smart-bomb attacks did little to alter the equation, either. In the battles of Takur Ghar and Bai Beche, day after day of American precision bombing failed to take out dug-in al Qaeda defenders. Only American and Northern Alliance ground forces could evict bin Laden's troops from their positions.That's evidence, in Biddle's eyes, that Afghanistan was a "surprising orthodox" military campaign, one determined largely by in-close, on-the-ground effort of our allies' infantry...Check out my Wired News story for more.

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