It starts with making certain assumptions. There is no point in preparing for an overwhelming attack by an invincible enemy. If it happens, we’ll wake up in heaven and maybe somebody will tell us what it was all about. Similarly we can’t engage anyone in deep or midspace and even in near
(orbital) space. Our prospects for doing anything significant to an enemy are minimal. If they want to “nuke us from orbit, since it’s the only way to be sure,” then we are toast.
We have to hope that whoever is coming wants the planet in relatively good condition, infrastructure and environment intact. In short, they are going to have to come down, get out of the ships, and engage us directly. This will play to the only strengths we will have in such a situation. We know this planet and we were specially made to live and fight here. Beyond that, we will have the numbers.
Here’s where you can do some high-level conflict planning. Everything depends on the exchange ratios. You may divide these into high, medium and low:
At the low level the alien’s technology is only marginally better than ours. They either lucked into
stardrive or it’s the main area where the technology is better. This makes us competitive with them. Take an analogy that makes this simple. Swedish King Gustav Adolphus in 1631won the battle of Breitenfield (Thirty Years’ War) with a force of 40,000 men using the weapons of the day which included matchlock-firing musketeers and cannon. If his force of 40,000 encountered a modern American infantry battalion of 1000, what would the result be? In essence the
weapons of the 16th century Swedes are the same as the weapons of the 101st Airborne, gas-operated projectile weapons of various calibers firing bits of accelerated metal. What differs
is the efficiency.
If the doughty Swedes pressed home their attack, expecting annihilation of their homes and even
of the species should they fail, they will cause casualties. If the rate is less than forty to one at the end of the day, the Swedes win. While the modern battalion’s firepower gives casualties at fantastic rates undreamt of by Adolphus, that battalion takes them the same way as the Swedes do. Here’s where numbers matter. A dead Swede is 1/40,000 of Adolphus power. A dead modern trooper is 1/1000.
We see this in current warfare. The armies of the Third World crumble under the impact of New World or Old World modern armies. Iraq was the fourth largest Army in the world each time the US and its allies shredded it. But the Western armies suffer disproportionate disruption from casualties. Though the casualties are almost never militarily significant in themselves, they are
demoralizing. Western troops are far from home and attrition by low tech ambushes is more of a danger than the enemy’s best troops. In addition, they are surrounded by unfriendly and uncooperative natives, who see them as aliens and will help the insurgent. Send 100 men down a road, they find nothing. Send five men, they don’t come back.
If it takes twenty-two “first line” fighter aircraft, or forty attack helicopters, to drop one Martian fighting machine, then the war-planner knows his needs. Submarines won’t do us any good, so don’t build them. Airfields will be too vulnerable to an enemy that holds the high ground
of near orbit, so VTOL fighters will be more valuable. These calculations can be made now with the assumption of a low level of technological imparity.
One area that the planner will have to consider is quislings and “peace at any pricers.” The higher the toll for humanity, the more humans there will be, who for reasons of expediency, belief or practical desire to survive, will aid and abet the enemy. Some will hope to gain power and privilege in what they see as the inevitable alien victory. Some will worship aliens for religious
and sociological reasons. Others will cooperate because the outside of the concentration camp looks better than the inside. Better to be the overseer than the field hand. Sometimes when we meet the enemy he will be us. Anticipate it and be ready to deal with effectively. You can guess what that means.
On a larger grand strategic scale if it takes us 100,000,000 human casualties to extinguish and alien invasion force of 1,000,000 that leaves only about 4,900,000,000 to carry on. We won’t like it and the planet won’t be much fun for a while but we will still hold title to it.
On a medium level, their technology is substantially better than ours and the practical effect is that
our current military is useless. Then we are reduced to developing new technology; as in “Earth versus the Flying Saucers” with sonic disruptors, or chemical and biological effects or weapons such as did for H.G Wells’ Martians, or finally, there is always the wonderful option of nuking ourselves and them. It is hard to imagine that any level of technology or metallurgy will provide protections against a ten-megaton bomb. If deflector screens are a reality…well, ouch.
Then there is the high level. Frankly we just lose. The only way we can affect the aliens then is follow the tactics of insurgents. “Hang on their belt buckle,” be too close to them for their superior
weapons to be used effectively. In this scenario we may have to decide between going out in a blaze of glory, where we all meet at Fiddler’s Green for a few brews at the Valhalla bar, or living on our knees in the hope that eventually something brings down our occupiers. Maybe we get their technology. Maybe as in John Christopher’s Tripod books, the other side gets old and sloppy. Perhaps out in the deeps of space our enemies have enemies who will be our friends. Or perhaps as in Brian Aldiss’ “Bow Down to Null” all we are capable of is inconsequential acts of defiance that keep our hope alive for another day.
I approached the Department of Defense to ask if there were such plans for possible alien incursions. I assume that there are at least theoretical plans in the Pentagon for conflict with every nation that exists. Perhaps that is an incorrect assumption but I would like to think that if the Belgians wake up cranky tomorrow, there is a plan to deal with that. Ihave not received a reply as yet. On the other hand there’s been this black suburban parked on my block all this week…;-)
Author Edward McKeown is a writer and editor