There has been much hilarity this week over comments by Tom Head, a Texan judge who predicts that President Obama is going to authorize a United Nations invasion of Texas in his second term.
Head vowed to personally stand “in front of [the UN’s] personnel carriers and say, ‘You’re not coming in here.’ And I’ve asked the sheriff. I said, ‘Are you going to back me on this?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I’m going to back you.’ Well, I don’t want a bunch of rookies back there who have no training and little equipment. I want seasoned veteran people who are trained that have got equipment. And even then, you know we may have two or three hundred deputies facing maybe a thousand UN troops. We may have to call out the militia.”
The UN says that this is “ridiculous”. But I think there is a bigger question here: if the UN invaded Texas, could it win? To answer that, I turned to past editions of the Annual Review of Global Peace Operations to compare statistics on current UN missions with data on the forces that might rally to the defense of Texas.
Here are some working assumptions. Texas is pretty big (nearly 270,000 square miles) so if the UN wanted to send in a force, it would probably be comparable to its current large-scale mission in Darfur, which involves over 20,000 soldiers and police officers.
So, going on data from Darfur from late 2012, I think that Judge Head and his fellow Texans are likely to face an invasion force consisting of about 17 infantry battalions with just over 600 combat vehicles and 5,000 support vehicles. Note that “combat vehicles” typically means armored cars, not actual battle tanks.
Looking at Darfur and a couple of other recent UN ops, I estimate that the force would have an air component of just over 30-40 helicopters and 10-20 fixed-wing aircraft. But again, note that fewer than 10 of the helicopters would be attack rather than transport aircraft, and the force would have no fighters, bombers or ground-attack aircraft.
Let’s compare that to what’s available in Texas. The backbone of the defense would be the Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard – presumably supported by the volunteers of the Texas State Guard plus police, etc., across the state. There are lots of regular US military forces in Texas too, but let’s assume that President Obama could compel them not to resist the UN.
So what have the Texans got? Here is data culled from from various bits of Wikipedia:
- “The Texas Army National Guard is composed of approximately 19,000 soldiers, and maintains 117 armories in 102 communities.”
- The Army National Guard also fields a battalion of attack/recon helicopters – this can add up to 24 Apaches – and a separate support battalion.
- The Texas Air National Guard includes one airlift wing plus a fighter wing flying F-16s.
So, in terms of numbers the UN and Texan National Guard would be fairly evenly matched, although this would be off-set by the large number of law enforcement officials and well-armed citizens who would fight for the Lone Star state.
But this numerical issue is quite irrelevant. What matters is that the Texans would have immediate air superiority. The F-16s could deal with the UN’s puny attack helicopter component on day one of the campaign. The National Guard Apaches could then go after the UN ground forces at their leisure.
The UN invasion would almost certainly be hampered by the UN’s generally weak command and control systems – designed for day-to-day peacekeeping rather than war-fighting – patchy communications technology and very limited night-fighting capabilities. If the Apaches and Texan ground forces could mount a counter-offensive under the cover of darkness, the UN would soon be in disarray.
My guess is that a UN invasion of Texas would collapse in 24-48 hours. This doesn’t really tell us much about President Obama’s plans for the UN or Texas. But it is worth asking why the Security Council thinks that forces with very limited military capabilities – and especially negligible air assets – can take on cases like Darfur.